Excerpts from Floor Speech by the Senate Majority Leader attacking the former counter-terrorism chief's testimony (3-26-2004)
There has been much fulminating in the media and by some senators on the other side about a new book by a former State Department civil servant named Richard Clarke. In this book, released for sale by the parent company of the CBS network, Mr. Clarke makes the outrageous charge that the Bush administration, in its first seven months in office, failed to adequately address the threat posed by Osama bin Laden. . . .
There are five points that I find absolutely inexplicable about Mr. Clarke's performance this past week.
First, in an e-mail to the national security adviser four days after the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Clarke expressed alarm that when the era of national unity begins to crack, an effort to assign responsibility for the 9/11 attacks will begin. In that e-mail, Mr. Clarke proceeds to lay out in detail a defense of his own actions before the attack and those of the entire administration.
Mr. Clarke was clearly consumed by the desire to dodge any blame for the 9/11 attacks, while at that same moment rescuers were still searching the rubble of the World Trade Center for survivors. In my mind this offers perfect insight as to what drove him to write his book.
Second, in the August of 2002 interview I just referred to [a background briefing Mr. Clarke gave to reporters], Mr. Clarke gave a thorough account of the Bush administration's active policy against Al Qaeda. Mr. Clarke now explains away that media performance by suggesting that he was simply telling lies in an interview as a loyal administration official.
A loyal administration official? Does Mr. Clarke understand the gravity of the issues being reviewed by the 9/11 commission and the gravity of the charges he has made? If, in the summer of 2001, he saw the threat from Al Qaeda as grave as he now says it was, and if he found the response of the administration as inadequate as he now says it was, why did he wait until the Sunday, March 21, 2004, to make his concerns known?
There is not a single public record of Mr. Clarke making any objection whatsoever in the period leading up to or following the 9/11 attacks. No threat to resign. No public protest. No plea to the president, the Congress, or the public, to heed the advice he now says was ignored. If Mr. Clarke held his tongue because he was loyal, then shame on him for putting politics above principle. But if he has manufactured these charges for profit and political gain, he is a shame to this government.
I, myself, have fortunately not had the opportunity to work with such an individual who could write solicitous and self-defending e-mails to his supervisor, the national security adviser, and then by his own admission lie to the press out of a self-conceived notion of loyalty only to reverse himself on all accounts for the sale of a book.
Third, Mr. Clarke has told two entirely different stories under oath. In July 2002, in front of the Congressional joint inquiry on the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Clarke testified under oath that the administration actively sought to address the threat posed by Al Qaeda during its first seven months in office.
It is one thing for Mr. Clarke to dissemble in front of the media. But if he lied under oath to the United States Congress, it is a far more serious matter. As I mentioned, the intelligence committee is seeking to have Mr. Clarke's previous testimony declassified so as to permit an examination of Mr. Clarke's two different accounts. Loyalty to any administration will be no defense if it is found that he has lied before Congress.
Fourth, notwithstanding Mr. Clarke's efforts to use his book first and foremost to shift blame and attention from himself, it is also clear that Mr. Clarke and his publishers adjusted the release date of his book in order to make maximum gain from the publicity around the 9/11 hearings. Assuming the controversy around this series of events does in fact drive the sales of his book, Mr. Clarke will make quite a bit of money for his efforts.
I find this to be an appalling act of profiteering, trading on his insider access to highly classified information and capitalizing upon the tragedy that befell this nation on Sept. 11, 2001. Mr. Clarke must renounce any plan to personally profit from this book.
Finally, It is understandable why some of the families who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks find Mr. Clarke's performance appealing. Simple answers to a terrible tragedy; to the very human desire to find an answer why; why on that beautiful fall day two and one half years ago a series of events happened that shattered their lives forever.
In his appearance before the 9/11 commission, Mr. Clarke's theatrical apology on behalf of the nation was not his right, his privilege or his responsibility. In my view it was not an act of humility, but an act of supreme arrogance and manipulation. Mr. Clarke can and will answer for his own conduct, but that is all.