Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The meaning of the State Department's warning 

Bloggers are all over last night's revelation that the State Department warned the Clinton Administration of the threat posed by Osama Bin Laden in 1996.
State Department analysts warned the Clinton administration in July 1996 that Osama bin Laden's move to Afghanistan would give him an even more dangerous haven as he sought to expand radical Islam "well beyond the Middle East," but the government chose not to deter the move, newly declassified documents show.

In what would prove a prescient warning, the State Department intelligence analysts said in a top-secret assessment on Mr. bin Laden that summer that "his prolonged stay in Afghanistan - where hundreds of 'Arab mujahedeen' receive terrorist training and key extremist leaders often congregate - could prove more dangerous to U.S. interests in the long run than his three-year liaison with Khartoum," in Sudan...

The newly declassified documents ... go well beyond previous news and historical accounts in detailing the Clinton administration's active monitoring of Mr. bin Laden's movements and the realization that his move to Afghanistan could make him an even greater national security threat.

Several former senior officials in the Clinton administration did not return phone calls this week seeking comment on the newly declassified documents.

Captain Ed, for example, cites this story as another example of the Clinton administration's failures, and a huge gaping crater in the credibility of the 9/11 Commission. He is surely right about this.

It is also a huge gaping tear in Richard Clarke's tattered credibility. Clarke's election-year screed, Against all Enemies, identified Clinton as the only American president ever to have taken terrorism seriously. Clarke, who was the senior anti-terrorism official in four administrations, had to have known about this warning when he wrote his book in 2003. Obviously, he was not in a position to disclose the fact of the warning because it was still classified, but if he were principled -- which he apparently is not -- his knowledge of the warning would have tempered his barely qualified praise of Clinton's response to al Qaeda.

One is also forced to wonder who in the State Department made the decision to declassify the memo disclosing this warning now, and why, and who knew about it and declined to declassify it last year. The careerists in that department are famously opposed to Bush's foreign policy and its architects. Did they consciously avoid declassifying that memo, or disclosing it up the chain, prior to the election last year? The answer, it seems, is yes.

According to Judicial Watch, which released the documents to the press, these memos were produced pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request filed on December 11, 2001. Somebody in the State Department had to have made an affirmative decision to avoid the declassification and production of these documents until after the election. Who?

Had this memo been disclosed to the 9/11 Commission or otherwise last year, it would have been devestating to the Left's most scurrilous attacks on the Bush Administration, including Farenheit 911 and the now discredited accusations of Richard Clarke. It will be interesting to see whether the mainstream media has the gumption to identify who, precisely, knew about these memos and withheld their production to Judicial Watch (pursuant to its FOIA request) and the 9/11 Commission.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Aug 17, 03:44:00 PM:

Could the change of "heart" at State have anything to do with the accession of Condi Rice?  

By Blogger Counter Trey, at Wed Aug 17, 05:23:00 PM:

Rumor has it that this information is coming out now because Sandy Berger took his pants to the dry cleaners and accidentally left the pilfered documents in them.

Who can forget the news from from last year (7-20-04)? (thanks to Fox):

"WASHINGTON — Former President Clinton's national security adviser is under criminal investigation for taking highly classified terrorism documents that should have been turned over to the independent commission probing the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, FOX News has confirmed...

...However, some drafts of a sensitive after-action report on the Clinton administration's handling of Al Qaeda terror threats during the December 1999 millennium celebration are still missing, officials and lawyers said. Officials said the missing documents also identified America's terror vulnerabilities at airports to seaports. Berger and his lawyer said Monday night he knowingly removed the handwritten notes by placing them in his jacket, pants and socks, and also inadvertently took copies of actual classified documents in a leather portfolio.

'I deeply regret the sloppiness'...Berger said in a statement."  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Aug 17, 09:55:00 PM:

Prepare to be fact checked.

You see this is the problem with bloggers. They rely on news, then apply their own skewed analysis of it, rather than researching in other areas.

There was a book released awhile back entitled 'Ghost Wars' by Steve Coll. This book should be required reading for you political bloggers. Sadly it is not. The book has a number of interesting points:

1.) That Osama Bin Laden as a growing threat was first identified in the 1980's by Russian Intelligence. This was then known by the CIA.

2.) That the rise of transnational Islamic extremism has its roots as far back as the Carter and Reagan administrations. Possibly even further.

While Clinton definitely stuffed up, he is not entirely to blame for the whole fiasco. Failing to cover the other failures in a true historic fashion makes your blog come off sounding like partisan hackery rather than any sort of true news analysis.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Wed Aug 17, 10:33:00 PM:

Anon -

How much have my blog have you read? I've been writing about the ancestry of al Qaeda since almost the beginning. You can't touch every point in every post. As for your "fact checking," neither of your points responds to the issues that I raised in this post.

I am not particularly critical of the Clinton administration's handling of al Qaeda. They blew some calls, but they had a lot on their plate. I am, however, extremely critical of Richard Clarke's claim that the Clinton administration represented eight years of studied comprehension of the threat of radical Islam, bracketed by Republican incompetence. If inexcusable mistakes were made (and I'm not sure they were), they did not commence on January 20, 2001, as was routinely suggested by Clinton administration alumni last year.

There were two points in this post. First, Richard Clarke surely knew if the State Department's 1996 memo when he wrote his book complaining about all the warnings missed by Bush. One has to read between the lines of Clarke's book to find the warnings missed by Clinton. This memo is damaging to Clarke's credibility, since in his position he surely would have read it.

Second, I wonder who at the State Department decided not to release this memo to the 9/11 Commission and Judicial Watch last year, as opposed to waiting until this year. There is an obvious story there. The press should run it to ground, or if it cannot learn the answer complain of a cover-up.  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Thu Aug 18, 06:17:00 AM:

The press will do nothing to tarnish the reputation of their Golden Boy, the aptly-named Dick Clarke, just as they did nothing to tarnish Joe Wilson's name even though the SSCI report showed him to be a liar.

To this day, both the WaPo and the NYTimes continue to repeat both Wilson's and Clarke's lies on a daily basis both by omission and by cleverly-worded half-truths, as though neither of them had been proven to be false. It's as though the Butler Report, the SSCI, and Clarke's admission the it was *he* and not Bush who let the bin Ladens leave the US after 9/11 just "never happened".

Those two can lie all they want and the press will cover for them and continue to spread their falsehoods. I cannot understand how any reputable paper allows them to get away with it. It's professional malpractice.  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Thu Aug 18, 06:17:00 AM:

In case it's not evident, this infuriates me.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Thu Aug 18, 06:38:00 AM:

There was no risk that it wasn't evident.

*running away* (!)  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Aug 18, 12:50:00 PM:

I think Mark Steyn summarizes the situation quite nicely with regard to the 9/11 commission in http://daily.nysun.com/Repository/getmailfiles.asp?Style=OliveXLib:ArticleToMail&Type=text/html&Path=NYS/2005/08/15&ID=Ar01000 . Don't forget that most of the security and intelligence failures happened on Clinton's watch, and that is where the 'buck should stop'.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Aug 20, 05:26:00 AM:

Those two can lie all they want and the press will cover for them and continue to spread their falsehoods. I cannot understand how any reputable paper allows them to get away with it. It's professional malpractice.

Or it would be if being a journalist was a profession and not just an unregulated trade.  

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