Sunday, March 28, 2004

Clarke lands more blows to Bush facade

"When you're in the White House, you spin. I have no obligation any more to spin."

Former White House counterterrorism aide Richard Clarke, whose criticism of the Bush administration's anti-terrorism policy has triggered a ferocious response from the White House, said Sunday he supports Republican calls for declassifying testimony he gave Congress in 2002.

On Sunday, Clarke told NBC's "Meet the Press" that the release of his previous testimony will prove false any claims that his earlier testimony contradicts statements in his new book, "Against All Enemies."

"I would welcome it being declassified," Clarke said. "But not just a little line here and there -- let's declassify all six hours of my testimony."

Clarke called on the White House to end what he called "vicious personal attacks" and "character assassination" in response to his accusations.

"People on the taxpayers' rolls are engaged in a campaign to destroy me personally and professionally, because I had the temerity to suggest that the American people should consider whether the president has done a good job in the war on terrorism," he said.
Clarke also told NBC he wants even more information declassified, including National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 commission. The White House has said Rice cannot testify publicly because of her position, but the commission has disagreed and asked the administration to change its stance.

Clarke also called for a document mentioned in the commission's staff report this week to be declassified -- a "strategy paper" he sent to Rice shortly after she assumed office in January 2001. Rice and Clarke have characterized the document very differently, with Clarke insisting it shows the administration's failure to act on "urgent" calls for action and Rice saying it was largely a list of anti-terrorism steps left over from the Clinton administration.

"Let's go further," he told NBC. "The White House is now selectively finding my e-mails, which I would have assumed are covered by some privacy regulations, and selectively leaking them to the press. Let's take all of my e-mails and memos that I sent to the national security adviser and her deputy from January 20 to September 11, and let's declassify all of it."

In his book and in testimony to the commission this week, Clarke said the Bush administration did not act on repeated warnings before September 11, 2001, that an al Qaeda attack could be imminent. He told the commission the administration considered terrorism an important issue, but not an "urgent" issue.

He reiterated that assessment on NBC, adding, "They had 100 meetings before they were willing to have one on terrorism."

Although the administration vigorously denied Clarke's assessment, Clarke quoted Bush, in an interview with reporter Bob Woodward, acknowledging that before September 11 he did not consider terrorism an "urgent" issue.

Clarke arrived at NBC armed with several documents to support his statements and rebut what the administration said about him this week.

Among them was a hand-written note the president wrote him upon his resignation in early 2003. "Dear Dick, you will be missed. You served our nation with distinction and honor," the note says, according to Clarke. "You have left a positive mark on our government."

Clarke said the White House should end its attacks on his credibility and focus on the issues.

"This is about the president's job in the war on terrorism," he said. "This is about how going into Iraq hurt the war on terrorism. This is not about Dick Clarke," Clarke said.

Clarke denied having been demoted by the administration, saying he asked to be transferred to a position in charge of battling cybersecurity partly due to his frustration with "the administration's lackadaisical attitude" toward terrorism.

As for Rice, he said, "I have great respect" for her. "I've known Condi a long time, I think she's a very good person."

el - Finally he says something I disagree with - I have no respect for Rice, too many lies, too little talent. Someone who lies that much and that badly is not a good person.

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