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Clarke ‘would welcome’ open testimony

Richard Clarke, the former chief counterterrorism adviser at the White House, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that he “would welcome” the attempt by Republicans to declassify his testimony before Congress.
/ Source: NBC News and news services

Richard Clarke, the former chief counterterrorism adviser at the White House, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that he “would welcome” the attempt by leading Republicans to declassify his two-year-old testimony before Congress.

Clarke, who has criticized the Bush administration’s preparedness for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, also said Rice’s private testimony before the commission should be declassified, as well as e-mails, memos and all other correspondence between Rice and Clarke.

“Let’s declassify all of it,” Clarke said to NBC's Tim Russert, moderator of the program, “ ... because the victims' families have no idea what Dr. Rice has said. There weren't in those closed hearings where she testified before the 9-11 Commission. They want to know.”

He also accused the administration of waging a “campaign to destroy me professionally and personally,” and called on the White House to “raise the level of discourse.”

Clarke, author of “Against All Enemies,” a book assessing the Bush White House efforts to defuse terrorism, also fired back at the administration by reading Bush’s response to his resignation letter.

Noting it was in the president’s handwriting, Clarke said the letter read that he would “be missed. You served our nation with distinction and honor,” and had “left a positive mark on our government.”

“He thinks I served with distinction and honor,” Clarke said, while “the rest of his staff is out there trying to destroy my professional life, trying to destroy my reputation, because I had the temerity to suggest that a policy issue should be discussed.”

Clarke's “Meet the Press” comments also included a comparative analysis of how the threat of terrorism was handled by the Clinton administration and the current Bush administration, with Clarke concluding that, in some respects, efforts against terrorism were stronger under Clinton.

Clarke characterized for Russert the state of readiness against terrorism in June 2001.

'Hair on fire'Clarke said that “on June 21, I believe it was, George Tenet called me and said, 'I don't think we're getting the message through. These people aren't acting the way the Clinton people did under similar circumstances.' And I suggested to Tenet that he come down and personally brief Condi Rice, that he bring his terrorism team with him.

“And we sat in the national security adviser's office. And I've used the phrase in the book to describe George Tenet's warnings as ‘He had his hair on fire.’ He was about as excited as I'd ever seen him.

“And he said, ‘Something is going to happen.’”

'Find out all that you can'
Clarke went on, “Now, in retrospect, we now know that there was information in the FBI that hadn't bubbled to the top, that two of the hijackers were in the United States.

“If we had had that kind of process in the summer of 2001 that we had in December '99, where the national security adviser was every day in the White House asking the FBI director and the attorney general and the secretary of defense, ‘Go back to your building, find out all that you can’ ... maybe the information that was in the FBI would have shaken loose.”

“We had Iraqi-sponsored terrorism against the United States; he used military force, and they stopped. We had Iranian-sponsored terrorism against the United States; he used covert action against them, and they stopped,” Clarke told Russert.

“We had al-Qaida attempts to blow up things in the United States during the millennium period, attempts to blow up embassies around the world, attempts to take over Bosnia during the jihad in Bosnia. And all of those attempts were thwarted.”

“Now, that doesn't mean that he did everything he should have done, but the president of the United States was active on these issues in the Clinton administration. The president of the United States was not active on these issues prior to 9/11 in the Bush administration,” Clarke said.