Wednesday, August 17, 2005

9/11 Commission Report – more unraveling

There are two different threads being pulled from the 9/11 Commission Report with regards to what the Clinton Administration did to capture Osama bin Laden and protect the homeland. It's possible these threads will do no damage, but it's also possible that the entire thrust of the Report's information on what was done during the 90s will unravel.

One thread is the Clinton White House's response to bin Laden's move from Sudan to Afghanistan in 1995. According to today's NY Times recently declassified documents show that the State Department recognized the threat bin Laden posed.
Before 1996, Mr. bin Laden was regarded more as a financier of terrorism than a mastermind. But the State Department assessment, which came a year before he publicly urged Muslims to attack the United States, indicated that officials suspected he was taking a more active role, including in the bombings in June 1996 that killed 19 members American soldiers at the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

Two years after the State Department's warning, with Mr. bin Laden firmly entrenched in Afghanistan and overseeing terrorist training and financing operations, Al Qaeda struck two American embassies in East Africa, leading to failed military attempts by the Clinton administration to capture or kill him in Afghanistan.
A second thread deals with "the Wall" that the Clinton Administration erected between intelligence and prosecutors. It seems that one Clinton appointee, US Attorney for Manhattan Mary White, was dead set against this policy when it was first proposed. Deborah Orin in today's NY Post provides some of the details from a memo that White sent to then deputy Attorney General and later a 9/11 Commission member, Jamie Gorelick.
"This is not an area where it is safe or prudent to build unnecessary walls or to compartmentalize our knowledge of any possible players, plans or activities," wrote White, herself a Clinton appointee.

"The single biggest mistake we can make in attempting to combat terrorism is to insulate the criminal side of the house from the intelligence side of the house, unless such insulation is absolutely necessary. Excessive conservatism . . . can have deadly results."

She added: "We must face the reality that the way we are proceeding now is inherently and in actuality very dangerous."
There is one other possibly related thread and that's the current "Able Danger" controversy. This one, too, may reflect very badly on the Clinton Administration or it might fizzle out or it might lead to fingers being pointed at Rumsfeld's Defense Department. We'll have to see.

Maybe all of this will blow over and maybe it won't, but a second edition of the 9/11 Commission Report is getting more probable by the day.