Friday, March 26, 2004

It looks like Clarke's description of events is accurate, and Rice is lying. But only extreme partisans thought otherwise.

The following is an AP report. Note the date: June 29, 2002. And it says EXACTLY what Clarke said.

Before 9 - 11, Terror Was Low Priority For Bush Administration
By The Associated Press

Saturday, 29 June, 2002

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush's national security leadership met formally nearly 100 times in the months prior to the Sept. 11 attacks yet terrorism was the topic during only two of those sessions, officials say. ...

Critics said the low number of terrorism meetings by the most senior members of the security council indicated the administration's priorities were elsewhere.

``What were the principals doing to bring this to the attention of the president?'' asked P.J. Crowley, council spokesman for the Clinton administration. ``Given our growing understanding of this threat that we built in '90s about the emerging threat of terrorism, they just didn't seem to get it.''

Clinton officials said their council principals met every two to three weeks to discuss terrorist threats after mid-1998. Those meetings increased during times of heightened terrorist concerns, such as immediately prior to the millennium celebrations, when the principals met nearly every day to discuss threat levels.

Bush's principals committee was focused on missile defense, Iraq, China, international economic policy, global warming and the U.S. stance toward Russia, a subject of particular interest to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, a Russian expert who has now worked for both Bush presidents.

One discussion on terrorism occurred July 3, amid escalating concerns about a likely attack by al-Qaida, one official said. But experts believed al-Qaida would attack American targets overseas, not inside the United States.

The other terrorism meeting occurred Sept. 4 as the security council put finishing touches on a proposed national security policy review for the president.

That review was finished Sept. 10 and was awaiting Bush's approval when the first plane struck the World Trade Center. ...

``This was a failure in the Bush administration to recognize the nature of terrorism and its impact on the United States,'' said Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA chief of counterterrorism operations and analysis. ``Everybody felt that it was a chronic phenomenon, it would continue and the best we could hope was to contain it.''

Rice has described the work of the council's Counterterrorism Security Group, directed by Special Assistant Richard Clarke, which met several times each week during July and August. By Aug. 6, Bush received a briefing report with the heading, ``Bin Laden Determined to Strike the United States.'' The report discussed the possibility of traditional airline hijackings.

``To say that the principals never talked about it before Sept. 4 is wrong,'' another official said. ``There were lots of conversations on the margins at meetings or informal meetings. But the first formal meeting was to review the draft policy.''

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