CHAIRMAN KEAN: Our next
witness is Mr. Richard Clarke, who served as a former National
Coordinator for counter-terrorism at the National Security Council.
Mr. Clarke served on the National Security Council staff with great
dedication. We are pleased to have him here with us, to join us. Mr.
Clarke could I ask you to raise your right hand -- so we place you
under oath? [Do] you swear or affirm to tell the whole truth and
nothing but the truth?
MR. CLARKE: I do.
CHAIRMAN KEAN: Thank you
very much, sir. Now Mr. Clarke, your written remarks will be entered
into the record in full. We'd ask you sort of to summarize your
statement -- and please proceed.
MR. CLARKE: Thank you, Mr.
Because I have submitted a written
statement today, and I've previously testified before this
commission for 15 hours, and before the Senate-House Joint Inquiry
Committee for six hours, I have only a very brief opening statement.
I welcome these hearings because of the
opportunity that they provide to the American people to better
understand why the tragedy of 9/11 happened and what we must do to
prevent a reoccurrence.
I also welcome the hearings because it
is finally a forum where I can apologize to the loved ones of the
victims of 9/11.
To them who are here in the room, to
those who are watching on television: Your government failed you;
those entrusted with protecting you failed you; and I failed you. We
tried hard, but that doesn't matter because we failed.
And for that failure, I would ask --
once all the facts are out -- for your understanding and for your
With that, Mr. Chairman, I'll be glad to
take your questions.
CHAIRMAN KEAN: The questioning will be led by
Are you leading off, or Commissioner
MR. GORTON: Tim is.
CHAIRMAN KEAN: Commissioner Roemer?
MR. ROEMER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Welcome, Mr. Clarke. I want to thank
you, as I start my questions, for your 30 years of public service to
the American people. I want to thank you for your sworn testimony
before the 9/11 commission: over 15 hours.
And I really want to say, Mr. Clarke,
that there are a lot of distractions out there today -- the books, a
lot of news media, a lot of accusations flying back and forth.
I want you to concentrate, to the degree
you can, on the memos, on the e-mail, on the strategy papers and on
the time that we're tasked to looking at on this 9/11 commission,
between 1998 and September the 11th.
MR. ROEMER: You coordinated counterterrorism
policy in both the Clinton and the Bush Administrations. I want to
know, first of all: Was fighting Al Qaida a top priority for the
Clinton Administration from 1998 to the year 2001? How high a
priority was it in that Clinton Administration during that time
MR. CLARKE: My impression was that fighting
terrorism, in general, and fighting Al Qaida, in particular, were an
extraordinarily high priority in the Clinton Administration --
certainly no higher priority. There were priorities probably of
equal importance such as the Middle East peace process, but I
certainly don't know of one that was any higher in the priority of
MR. ROEMER: With respect to the Bush
Administration, from the time they took office until September 11th,
2001, you had much to deal with: Russia, China, G-8, Middle East.
How high a priority was fighting Al Qaida in the Bush
MR. CLARKE: I believe the Bush
Administration in the first eight months considered terrorism an
important issue, but not an urgent issue.
Well, President Bush himself says as
much in his interview with Bob Woodward in the book
Bush at War.
He said, "I didn't feel a sense of urgency."
George Tenet and I tried very hard to
create a sense of urgency by seeing to it that intelligence reports
on the Al Qaida threat were frequently given to the President and
other high-level officials. And there was a process under way to
address Al Qaida. But although I continued to say it was an urgent
problem, I don't think it was ever treated that way.
MR. ROEMER: You have said in many ways --
you've issued some blistering attacks on the Bush Administration.
But you've not held those criticisms from the Clinton
Administration, either. We heard from Mr. Berger earlier that you
were critical of the Clinton Administration on two areas: not
providing aid to the Northern Alliance, and not going after the
human conveyor belts of jihadists coming out of the sanctuaries in
Are there more in the Clinton
Administration years -- the
USS Cole, the response there?
MR. CLARKE: Well, I think first of all, Mr.
Berger is right to say that almost everything I ever asked for in
the way of support from him or from President Clinton, I got. We did
enormously increase the counterterrorism budget of the federal
government, initiated many programs, including one that is now
called Homeland Security.
Mr. Berger is also right to note
that I wanted a covert action program to aid Afghan factions to
fight the Taliban, and that was not accomplished. He's also right to
note that on several occasions, including after the attack on the
Cole, I suggested that we bomb all of the Taliban and Al Qaida
infrastructure, whether or not it would succeed in killing bin
Laden. I thought that was the wrong way of looking at the problem. I
think the answer is essentially Mr. Berger got it right.
MR. ROEMER: OK. With my 15 minutes, let's
move into the Bush Administration.
On January 25th, we've seen a memo that
you've written to Dr. Rice urgently asking for a principals' review
of Al Qaida. You include helping the Northern Alliance, covert aid,
significant new '02 budget authority to help fight Al Qaida and a
response to the USS Cole. You attach to this document both the
Delenda Plan of 1998 and a strategy paper from December 2000.
Do you get a response to this urgent
request for a principals meeting on these? And how does this affect
your time frame for dealing with these important issues?
MR. CLARKE: I did get a response, and the
response was that in the Bush Administration I should, and my
committee, counterterrorism security group, should report to the
deputies committee, which is a sub-Cabinet level committee, and not
to the principals and that, therefore, it was inappropriate for me
to be asking for a principals' meeting. Instead, there would be a
MR. ROEMER: So does this slow the process
down to go to the deputies rather than to the principals or a small
group as you had previously done?
MR. CLARKE: It slowed it down enormously, by
months. First of all, the deputies committee didn't meet urgently in
January or February.
Then when the deputies committee did
meet, it took the issue of Al Qaida as part of a cluster of policy
issues, including nuclear proliferation in South Asia,
democratization in Pakistan, how to treat the various problems,
including narcotics and other problems in Afghanistan, and launched
on a series of deputies meetings extending over several months to
address Al Qaida in the context of all of those inter-related
That process probably ended, I
think in July of 2001. So we were ready for a principals meeting in
July. But the principals calendar was full and then they went on
vacation, many of them in August, so we couldn't meet in August, and
therefore the principals met in September.
MR. ROEMER: So as the Bush Administration is
carefully considering from bottom up a full review of fighting
terrorism, what happens to these individual items like a response to
the USS Cole, flying the Predator? Why aren't these decided in a
shorter time frame as they're also going through a larger policy
review of how this policy affects Pakistan and other countries --
important considerations, but why can't you do both?
MR. CLARKE: The deputies committee, its
chairman, Mr. Hadley, and others thought that all these issues were
sufficiently inter-related, that they should be taken up as a set of
issues, and pieces of them should not be broken off.
MR. ROEMER: Did you agree with that?
MR. CLARKE: No, I didn't agree with much of
MR. ROEMER: Were you frustrated by this
MR. CLARKE: I was sufficiently frustrated
that I asked to be reassigned.
MR. ROEMER: When was this?
MR. CLARKE: Probably May or June. Certainly
no later than June.
And there was agreement in that time
frame, in the May or June time frame, that my request would be
honored and I would be reassigned on the 1st of October to a new
position to deal with cybersecurity, a position that I requested be
MR. ROEMER: So you're saying that the
frustration got to a high enough level that it wasn't your
portfolio, it wasn't doing a lot of things at the same time, it was
that you weren't getting fast enough action on what you were
MR. CLARKE: That's right.
My view was that this Administration,
while it listened to me, didn't either believe me that there was an
urgent problem or was unprepared to act as though there were an
And I thought, if the Administration
doesn't believe its national coordinator for counterterrorism when
he says there's an urgent problem and if it's unprepared to act as
though there's an urgent problem, then probably I should get another
I thought cybersecurity was and I still
think cyber security is an extraordinary important issue for which
this country is very underprepared. And I thought perhaps I could
make a contribution if I worked full time on that issue.
MR. ROEMER: You then wrote a memo on
September 4th to Dr. Rice expressing some of these frustrations
several months later, if you say the time frame is May or June when
you decided to resign. A memo comes out that we have seen on
September the 4th. You are blunt in blasting DOD for not willingly
using the force and the power. You blast the CIA for blocking
Predator. You urge policy-makers to imagine a day after hundreds of
Americans lay dead at home or abroad after a terrorist attack and
ask themselves what else they could have done. You write this on
September the 4th, seven days before September 11th.
MR. CLARKE: That's right.
MR. ROEMER: What else could have been done,
MR. CLARKE: Well, all of the things that we
recommended in the plan or strategy -- there's a lot of debate about
whether it's a plan or a strategy or a series of options.
But all of the things we
recommended back in January were those things on the table in
September. They were done. They were done after September 11th. They
were all done. I didn't really understand why they couldn't have
been done in February.
MR. ROEMER: Well, let's say, Mr. Clarke -- I
think this is a fair question -- let's say that you asked to brief
the President of the United States on counterterrorism.
MR. CLARKE: Yes.
MR. ROEMER: Did you ask that?
MR. CLARKE: I asked for a series of
briefings on the issues in my portfolio, including counterterrorism
MR. ROEMER: Did you get that request?
MR. CLARKE: I did. I was given an
opportunity to brief on cybersecurity in June. I was told I could
brief the President on terrorism after this policy development
process was complete and we had the principals meeting and the draft
national security policy decision that had been approved by the
MR. ROEMER: Let's say, Mr. Clarke, as gifted
as you might be in eloquence, and silver-tongued as anyone could be,
and let's say -- let's imagine -- that instead of saying no, you
asked for this briefing to the President -- you said you didn't get
it after 8 months of talking -- let's say you get this briefing in
February, after your memo to Dr. Rice on September the 25th, and you
meet with the President of the United States in February and you
brief him on terrorism, tell me how you convinced the President to
move forward on this and get this principals meeting that doesn't
take place until September the 4th moved up so that you can do
something about this problem?
MR. CLARKE: Well, I think the best thing to
have done, if there had been a meeting with the President in
February, was to show him the accumulated intelligence that Al Qaida
was strong and was planning attacks against the United States,
against friendly governments. It was possible to make a very
persuasive case that this was a major threat and this was an urgent
MR. ROEMER: And you think this would have
sped up the deputies' process and the principals' process?
MR. CLARKE: No.
MR. ROEMER: Do you think the President would
have reached down then and said something to the national security
MR. CLARKE: I don't know...
MR. ROEMER: ... to expedite this? What...
MR. CLARKE: Don't know.
MR. ROEMER: ... You worked for President
Clinton. You saw what meetings with Presidents could do there. Is
this a magical solution? Or is it something that President might say
right back to you, "Listen, Dick, I've got many other things I've
got to do here, in the Middle East peace process Bosnia, Kosovo, the
Korean peninsula"? How likely is it that we are able to see some
kind of result from a meeting like that?
MR. CLARKE: I think in depends, in part, on
President Bush was regularly
told by the director of Central Intelligence that there was an
urgent threat. On one occasion -- he was told this dozens of times
in the morning briefings that George Tenet gave him. On one of those
occasions, he asked for a strategy to deal with the threat.
Condi Rice came back from that meeting,
called me, and relayed what the President had requested. And I said,
"Well, you know, we've had this strategy ready since before you were
inaugurated. I showed it you. You have the paperwork. We can have a
meeting on the strategy any time you want."
She said she would look into it. Her
looking into it and the President asking for it did not change the
pace at which it was considered. And as far as I know, the President
never asked again; at least I was never informed that he asked
again. I do know he was thereafter continually informed about the
threat by George Tenet.
MR. ROEMER: Let me ask you, with my yellow
light on, a question about the summer 2000 alert. You were saying,
the CIA was saying, everybody was saying something spectacular is
about to happen. Spiking in intelligence, something terrible is
about to happen. You've told us in some of our interviews you only
wish you would have known at that time in that summer what the FBI
knew with regard to Moussaoui, the
Phoenix memo, and terrorists in
the United States.
What could you have done with some of
that information, with the spiked alerts, with the spectacular
attack on the horizon in the summer of 2001?
MR. CLARKE: Congressman, it is very easy in
retrospect to say that I would have done this or I would have done
that. And we'll never know. I would like to think that had I been
informed by the FBI that two senior Al Qaida operatives who had been
in a planning meeting earlier in Kuala Lumpur were now in the United
States and we knew that and we knew their names. And I think we even
had their pictures.
I would like to think that I would have
released, or would have had the FBI release, a press release with
their names, with their descriptions, held a press conference, tried
to get their names and pictures on the front page of every paper,
"America's Most Wanted," the evening news, and caused a successful
nationwide manhunt for those two of the 19 hijackers, but I don't
know because you're asking me a hypothetical and I have the benefit
now of 20/20 hindsight.
MR. ROEMER: Thank you, Mr. Clark.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for patience and
CHAIRMAN KEAN: Thank you, sir.
MR. GORTON: Mr. Clarke, you got the position
as the head of this counterterrorism and security group, CSG, when
and about May of 1998. Is that correct?
MR. CLARKE: No, Senator. Actually, I got it
in the first Bush Administration in the fall of 1992.
MR. GORTON: But it got the level of being up
there at the White House and being a very important position in
MR. CLARKE: What happened in 1998 -- let me
go back. The counterterrorism security group, the CSG, goes back to
the Reagan Administration. It's been around for that long. I started
chairing it during the last few months of the Bush Administration in
1992; continued to chair it throughout the Clinton Administration
and into the second Bush Administration.
In 1998, President Clinton signed a
Presidential directive that created a new title for the chairman of
that group. The chairman had always been a special assistant to the
President; that was the title. Under the new directive in 1998 the
title became national coordinator for counterterrorism.
But I think there's something I need to
say about that title. The actual title was national coordinator for
security, infrastructure protection and counterterrorism. And the
press, thinking that that title was too long and not sexy enough,
immediately turned it into terrorism czar.
If you look at the Presidential decision
directive in 1998 that created this position, it is replete with
what the national coordinator cannot do and what resources the
national coordinator would not have. It was not a counterterrorism
czar, especially when compared to people like the drug czar. It gave
MR. GORTON: It was a staff position, not an
action position in other words.
MR. CLARKE: It gave me all of the
responsibility and none of the authority.
MR. GORTON: And later in 1998, of course, we
had the explosions, the attack on the two embassies.
MR. CLARKE: Right.
MR. GORTON: And shortly after that the
Administration took its one military response to terrorism in the
attacks on Afghanistan and the Sudan. Were those actions taken on
your recommendation? Were you a part of the decision-making process
in calling for that reaction?
MR. CLARKE: Senator, I was. But if I may be
a little picky, this was not the Administration's first or only use
of military action in response to terrorism.
The Administration began in the first
five months -- the Clinton Administration -- the first five months
of the Administration, six months to use military force in response
MR. GORTON: The first to Al Qaida.
MR. CLARKE: The first time that we had an Al Qaida attack on the United States facilities -- it was the first
time that Al Qaida had attacked us and we had been told it was Al
In retrospect, many years after these
attacks occurred, FBI and CIA began to say that things like the
World Trade Center attack in 1993 might have been done by an early
stage Al Qaida.
MR. GORTON: In August of 1998, did you
recommend a longer-lasting military response or just precisely the
one that, in fact, took place?
MR. CLARKE: I recommended a series of
rolling attacks against the infrastructure in Afghanistan. Every
time they would rebuild it, I proposed that we blow it up again much
like, in fact, we were doing in Iraq, where we had a rolling series
of attacks on their air defense system.
And shortly after that, you came up with
the so-called Delenda Plan, as I understand it. And is our staff
report accurate in saying that it had four principle approaches --
diplomacy, covert action, various financial members and military
action? Is that a reasonable summary?
MR. CLARKE: Yes, sir.
MR. GORTON: Also, is our staff accurate in
saying that the strategy was never formally adopted, but that you
were authorized in effect to go ahead with the first three, but not
with the fourth?
MR. CLARKE: Yes, sir.
MR. GORTON: And at various times thereafter
you did recommend specific military responses under specific
circumstances, did you not?
MR. CLARKE: Yes, sir.
MR. GORTON: Each of which was rejected for
one reason or another?
MR. CLARKE: That's correct.
MR. GORTON: Then in the early winter of
1999, when the CIA came up with a plan to attack a hunting camp in
Afghanistan, which it felt that Osama bin Laden was present or was
not present, that recommendation, or that plan, was ultimately
aborted. Did you recommend against that plan?
MR. CLARKE: Yes, Senator.
What I did was to call the director of
Central Intelligence and say that I had finally been presented with
satellite photography of the facility. And it was very clear to me
that this looked like something other than a terrorist camp. It
looked like a luxury hunting trip. And I asked him to look into it,
personally. When he did, he called back and he said that he was no
longer recommending the attack.
MR. GORTON: OK. So you never recommended
either for or against an attack on that camp?
MR. CLARKE: Well, I think -- I don't want to
split hairs. By calling the director of Central Intelligence and
suggesting to him that this did not look to me like a terrorist
facility and urging him to look into it, he certainly had the
impression that I wasn't in favor of it. Absolutely.
MR. GORTON: Well, did it make any difference
as to what kind of camp it was, if it was likely that Osama bin
laden was there?
MR. CLARKE: Well, it did in two respects.
The Administration had adopted a policy with regard -- let me back
After the bombings in 1998, we kept
submarines off the coast of Pakistan, loaded with cruise missiles,
for the purpose of launching a follow-on attack when we could locate
bin Laden. The intelligence that we got about where bin Laden was,
was very poor. The DCI, Mr. Tenet, characterized that intelligence
himself on repeated occasions as very poor.
On one occasion, we thought we knew
where he was, and there were two problems. One, the intelligence was
poor, according to George Tenet. And two, the collateral damage
would have been great, according to the Pentagon.
When I looked at this facility, it
looked to me like the intelligence was, again, poor, because it
didn't look like a terrorist camp. And the probability of collateral
damage would have been high, I thought, since I believed, based on
the satellite photography, that people other than terrorists were
The decision ultimately was George
Tenet's, and George Tenet recommended no action be taken. I don't
know, in retrospect -- your staff might. But I don't know, in
retrospect, whether it proved to be true that bin Laden was in the
vicinity or not.
MR. GORTON: In any event, every
recommendation for military action or covert action, from late 1998
until the year 2000, ran up against the objection of actionable --
that it was not based on actionable intelligence, that wonderful
phrase we've heard in the last two days. Is that not correct,
because of the uncertainty as to whether bin Laden was present,
uncertainty about collateral damage, et cetera?
MR. CLARKE: That's true in describing
actions aimed at Osama bin Laden himself. There were other covert
action activities taken which we obviously can't go into here. But,
there was a pre-existing finding on terrorism under which CIA was
And the CIA was able to do some
things outside of Afghanistan against the Al Qaida network using
MR. GORTON: And at the very end of the
Clinton Administration after the attack on the Cole, there was
triggered, either by the Cole or by everything else, a new set of
initiatives resulting in what is called a Blue Sky memo, is that
MR. CLARKE: That's right.
MR. GORTON: And were you a part of that? Did
you draft it? Was it your plan?
MR. CLARKE: The Blue Sky memo I believe
you're referring to was part of an overall update of the Delenda
Plan. And it was a part generated by the Central Intelligence
Agency. We, my staff, generated the rest of the update.
MR. GORTON: And the goal of that plan was to
roll back Al Qaida over a period of three to five years, reducing it
eventually to a rump group like other terrorist organizations around
MR. CLARKE: Our goal was to do that to
eliminate it as a threat to the United States, recognizing that one
might not ever be able to totally eliminate everybody in the world
who thought they were a member of Al Qaida. But if we could get it
to be as ineffective as the Abu Nidal organization was toward the
end of its existence; it didn't pose a threat to the United States.
That's what we wanted. The CIA said that if they got all the
resources they needed, that might be possible over the course of
three years at the earliest.
MR. GORTON: And then Delenda and that Blue
Sky proposal, I take it, were pretty much the basis of what you
recommended to Condoleezza Rice in January of 2001: covert
assistance to the Northern Alliance, you know, more money for CIA
activities, something called choosing a standard of evidence for
attributing responsibility for the Cole, new Predator reconnaissance
missions and more work on funding?
MR. CLARKE: That's right, Senator. The
update to the Delenda Plan that we did in October, November,
December of 2000 was handed to the new national security adviser in
January of 2001. It formed the basis of the draft national security
Presidential directive that was then discussed in September of 2001.
It formed the basis of the draft national security Presidential
directive that was then discussed in September of 2001 and signed by
President Bush as NSPD-9, I believe, later in September.
MR. GORTON: What do you mean by a standard
of evidence? I'm troubled by this fuzzy phrase, "actionable
intelligence." And let's take the Cole from that. As we've heard
from Director Tenet in November and then more precisely in December
of 2000, they pretty much concluded that the Cole took place through
Al Qaida people, but they couldn't prove that it had been directed
Osama Bin Laden.
MR. GORTON: Was the amount of intelligence
available in November, December of 2000 and 2001, in your view,
actionable intelligence that could have been the appropriate basis
for a specific response to the Cole?
MR. CLARKE: The phrase that you read, "the
standard for actionable," was a way of my addressing this problem.
And I wanted to get us away from having to prove either in a court
of law legal standard or even in some fancy intelligence community
standard that went through a prolonged process that took months.
I thought we could disassociate the
attack on the Cole from any attacks that we did on the Taliban and
Al Qaida. If people wanted to further study who was guilty of
attacking the Cole -- and the FBI had deployed hundreds of people to
do that, and CIA was saying that there were some people involved who
might have been Al Qaida -- I thought fine. If you want to have that
kind standard and you want to have that kind of process, fine. Then
let's separate that and let's bomb Afghanistan anyway and not tie
the two together.
But it seemed to my staff, looking at
the same intelligence that the CIA was looking at, it seemed to us
within two days of the attack on the Cole that we could put together
an intelligence case that this was an Al Qaida attack by the local
Al Qaida cell in Yemen. And that is, of course, the conclusion that
the CIA came to in January or February of the next year based on
pretty much nothing but the evidence that we had available to us
within two days.
MR. GORTON: Now, since my yellow light is
on, at this point my final question will be this: Assuming that the
recommendations that you made on January 25th of 2001, based on Delenda, based on Blue Sky, including aid to the Northern Alliance,
which had been an agenda item at this point for two and a half years
without any action, assuming that there had been more Predator
reconnaissance missions, assuming that that had all been adopted say
on January 26th, year 2001, is there the remotest chance that it
would have prevented 9/11?
MR. CLARKE: No.
MR. GORTON: It just would have allowed our
response, after 9/11, to be perhaps a little bit faster?
MR. CLARKE: Well, the response would have
begun before 9/11.
MR. GORTON: Yes, but there was no
recommendation, on your part or anyone else's part, that we declare
war and attempt to invade Afghanistan prior to 9/11?
MR. CLARKE: That's right.
MR. GORTON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
CHAIRMAN KEAN: Thank you, Senator. I just have
one question. Taking it back further, you've been there more than
anybody, really, in this particular slot in looking at terrorism and
looking at it well. Is it resources, is it change of policy, what is
it over the years, taking all your years there through 2
Administrations or 3 Administrations even -- what could we have
I'm trying to find not only what we
could have done, but what should we be doing perhaps in the future?
Because we were beaten. I mean, we were really beaten by these guys,
and 3,000 people died. And is there anything you can think of in
that long period, had we done differently as a country, as a policy,
what have you, that could have made a difference?
MR. CLARKE: Well I think, Governor, there's
a lot that, in retrospect, with 20/20 hindsight...
CHAIRMAN KEAN: Yes, I'm asking 20/20 hindsight,
because we have that opportunity now.
MR. CLARKE: I think Al Qaida probably came
into existence in 1988 or in 1989, and no one in the White House was
ever informed by the intelligence community that there was an Al
Qaida until probably 1995.
The existence of an organization like
that was something that members of the National Security Council
staff suspected in 1993. National Security Adviser Anthony Lake
urged CIA to create a special program to investigate whether there
was some organization centered around bin Laden.
It was not done because CIA decided
there was probably an organization, it was done because the national
security adviser thought there was probably an organization.
Had we a more robust
intelligence capability in the last 1980s and early 1990s, we might
have recognized the existence of Al Qaida relatively soon after it
came into existence. And if we recognized its existence and if we
knew its philosophy and if we had a proactive intelligence covert
action program -- so that's both more on the collection side and
more on the covert action side -- then we might have been able to
nip it in the bud.
But as George Tenet I think explained
this morning, our
HUMINT program, our spy capability, had been
eviscerated in the 1980s and early 1990s. And there was no such
capability either to even know that Al Qaida existed, let alone to
And there is something else that I think
we need to understand about the CIA's covert action capabilities.
For many years, they were roundly
criticized by the Congress and the media for various covert actions
that they carried out at the request of people like me and the White
House -- not me, but people like me. And many CIA senior managers
were dragged up into this room and others and berated for failed
covert action activities, and they became great political footballs.
Now, if you're in the CIA and you're
growing up as a CIA manager over this period of time and that's what
you see going on and you see one boss after another, one deputy
director of operations after another being fired or threatened with
indictment, I think the thing you learn from that is that covert
action is a very dangerous thing that can damage the CIA, as much as
it can damage the enemy.
Robert Gates, when he was deputy
director of CIA, and when he was director of CIA, and when he was
deputy national security adviser, Robert Gates repeatedly taught the
lesson that covert action isn't worth doing. It's too risky. That's
the lesson that the current generation of directorate of operations
managers learned as they were growing up in the agency.
Now, George Tenet says they're not
risk-averse, and I'm sure he knows better than I do.
But from the outside, working with the
D.O. over the course of the last 20 years, it certainly looks to me
as though they were risk- averse, but they had every reason to be
risk-averse, because the Congress, the media, had taught them that
the use of covert action would likely blow up in their face.
CHAIRMAN KEAN: Thank you very much, sir.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: Good afternoon, Mr. Clarke.
I want to focus on the role of the national security adviser and
your relationship with the national security adviser in the Clinton
Administration as compared with the Bush Administration. Can you
point to any similarities or differences?
MR. CLARKE: Well, I think the similarity is
that under all four national security advisers for whom I worked, I
was told by each of the four, beginning with Brent Scowcroft, that
if I ever had any -- I hate to use the word, Senator, "actionable
intelligence," the phrase -- if I ever had reason to believe that
there was something urgent that they could act on that I could
interrupt anything that they were doing, that I have an open door
any time I needed it day or night if there was something about to
I think the difference between the two
national security advisers in the Clinton Administration and the
national security adviser in the Bush Administration is that on
policy development, I dealt directly with the national security
advisers in the Clinton Administration. But policy development on
counterterrorism I was told would be best done with the deputy
national security adviser. So I spent less time talking about the
problems of terrorism with the national security adviser in this
MR. BEN-VENISTE: Let me move to substance in
terms of the level of threat during the summer of 2001 and your
involvement in coordination of both foreign and domestic
intelligence. That was definitely a part of your function, was it
MR. CLARKE: Yes, sir.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: And before I get to that
and before I forget doing so, I want to express my appreciation for
the fact that you have come before this commission and state in
front of the world your apology for what went wrong. To my
knowledge, you are the first to do that.
This does not detract from
the fact that there were so many people who we have met over this
past year who were engaged in trying to keep our country safe and to
have worked tirelessly to achieve that goal.
In the millennium threat we
knew, and we covered this with Sandy Berger to some considerable
extent, that sleeper cells in North America had been activated, and
we had rolled them up and prevented, among other things, an attack
on the Los Angeles International Airport.
With respect to the level of threat and
the intelligence information that you were receiving, is it fair to
say that in the summer of 2001, the threat level either approached
or exceeded anything that you had previously been receiving?
MR. CLARKE: I think it exceeded anything
that George Tenet or I had ever seen.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: And I think the phrase
which has received some currency in our hearings of someone's hair
being on fire originated with you, saying that basically you knew
that something drastic was about to happen and that the indicators
were all consistent in that regard.
MR. CLARKE: That's right.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: Did you make a
determination that the threat was going to come from abroad, as an
exclusive proposition? Or did you understand that given the fact
that we had been attacked before and that the plans had been
interrupted to attack us before that the potential existed for Al Qaida to strike at us on our homeland?
MR. CLARKE: The CIA said in their
assessments that the attack would most likely occur overseas, most
probably in Saudi Arabia, possibly in Israel. I thought, however,
that it might well take place in the United States based on what we
had learned in December '99, when we rolled up operations in
Washington state, in Brooklyn, in Boston.
The fact that we didn't have
intelligence that we could point to that said it would take place in
the United States wasn't significant in my view, because, frankly,
sir -- I know how this is going to sound but I have to say it -- I
didn't think the FBI would know whether or not there was anything
going on in the United States by Al Qaida.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: Well, the FBI was a
principal agency upon which you had to rely, is that not the case?
MR. CLARKE: It is.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: Now, with respect to what
you were told -- you were the principal coordinator for
counterterrorism for the chief executive flowing up and down through
MR. CLARKE: Yes, sir.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: Did you know that the two
individuals who had been identified as Al Qaida had entered the
United States and were presently thought to be in the country?
MR. CLARKE: I was not informed of that, nor
were senior levels of the FBI.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: Had you known that these
individuals were in the country, what steps, with the benefit of
hindsight, but informed hindsight, would you have taken, given the
level of threat?
MR. CLARKE: To put the answer in context, I
had been saying to the FBI and to the other federal law enforcement
agencies and to the CIA that because of this intelligence that
something was about to happen that they should lower their threshold
of reporting, that they should tell us anything that looked the
slightest bit unusual.
In retrospect, having said that over and
over again to them, for them to have had this information somewhere
in the FBI and not told to me, I still find absolutely
MR. BEN-VENISTE: And I will have to end it
here although I'd like to go further. Was the information with
respect to Moussaoui and his erratic behavior in flight school ever
communicated to you?
MR. CLARKE: Not to me.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: Given the fact that there
was a body of information with respect to the use of planes as
weapons within the intelligence community's knowledge, had you
received information about Moussaoui training to fly a commercial
airplane? Would that have had some impact on the kind of efforts
which might be made to protect commercial aviation?
MR. CLARKE: I don't know. The information to
which you refer, information in the intelligence community's
knowledge about Al Qaida having thought of using aircraft as
weapons, that information was old relatively speaking -- five years,
six years old -- hadn't reoccurred to my knowledge during those five
or six years -- and has to be placed -- to give the intelligence
community a break -- it has to be placed in the context of the other
The volume of intelligence
reports on this kind of thing, on Al Qaida threats and other
terrorist threats, was in the tens of thousands, probably hundreds
of thousands over the course of the five or six years.
Now, in retrospect, to go back and find
a report six years earlier that said perhaps they were going to use
aircraft as weapons, it's easy to do now. But I think the
intelligence community analysts can be forgiven for not thinking
about it given the fact that they hadn't seen a lot in the five or
six years intervening about it and that there were so many reports
about so many other things.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: And yet -- with your
indulgence, Mr. Chairman...
CHAIRMAN KEAN: Short indulgence.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: And yet, an FAA advisory
went out. The FAA advised on the potential for domestic hijackings.
MR. CLARKE: I asked them to.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: And had you known on top of
that that there was a jihadist who was identified, apprehended in
the United States before 9/11 who was in flight school acting
MR. CLARKE: I would like to think, sir, that
even without the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, I could have connected
MR. BEN-VENISTE: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN KEAN: Commissioner Kerrey?
MR. KERREY: Mr. Clark, first of all, let me
thank you for doing what I think all of us who had any
responsibilities during the late 1990s, early 2000, have
responsibility to do, which is to apologize to the families for
letting them down. I think it was a courageous gesture. And I think
it would be a lot easier for us to, in a nonjudgmental fashion,
figure out what went wrong and what to do in the future if we'd all
sort of start off our inquiries with that declaration. I appreciate
very much the sincerity of that.
Let me also say that I feel badly,
because I presume that you are, at the moment, receiving terrible
phone messages and e-mail messages. And I hope you don't take it
personal because you're just caught in one of these moments. I can
barely see you because of all the cameras I'm having to look
through. No, it's OK, I'm just kidding.
I'm just trying to illustrate
the attention that's being paid to you, and...
MR. CLARKE: Senator, I think I knew what the
price would be.
MR. KERREY: Well, you're a smarter man than
most of us, then, because I think you can kind of know it
theoretically. But until you get in it, it can be quite surprising.
And let me also thank you for over a
quarter century of public service. I mean, you really in many ways
are an example of a single individual coming into government and
demonstrating that you can make a difference over a long period of
time. And you have.
And I think as badly as you feel toward
the families that are sitting behind you, there are many families
that are today, unknowingly, the recipient of your service. Because,
we did, thanks to you and thanks to many others who were working
with you, prevent an awful lot of bad things from happening as well.
So let me start off with that and start
off by saying that I think one of the things we got to try to do is
get to a point where we can have honest disagreements and let those
disagreements permit us to discover where, in fact, we've got common
ground. I find, in fact, arguments almost being necessary. And you
are, again, a very good demonstration of that. You almost always,
with your declaratories, provoke a good argument. And it's those
arguments that allow us to discover where our common ground is.
Let me say that in one area I disagree
with you is on the Delenda. You said in response to Senator Gorton
earlier that it would not have prevented 9/11, it was not a
declaration of war, you weren't advocating declaring war.
I believe Delenda would have
necessitated a declaration of war, and it was probably one of the
reasons it was rejected as well as other options that I think would
have substantially reduced the risk of 9/11 had we followed your
One of the reasons it was probably not
taken up by the National Security Council and the President was that
it would have required that draconian of a step -- and you've heard
me say it before, but I think it's one of the mistakes that we made.
Let me ask you, just specific to the use
of airplanes as a weapon, because it seems so obvious, and again it
seemed so obvious after the fact. It was such a simple and easy
strategy that was put in place.
But, in your case, in '96 with the
Olympics, you raised a concern about a small Cessna being used to
attack the Olympics in Atlanta. And I think it was '98 -- in
December '98 -- you were head of the CSG, chairing the CSG, when
there was a big concern on the East Coast about the possibility of
someone connected to Osama bin Laden hijacking a commercial aircraft
out of New York City.
That warning went out.
the millennium scare, as well, you sent a memo to Berger discussing
the possible domestic threats. And the quote is that, "Is there a
threat to civilian aircraft?" In March 2001 another CSG item on the
agenda mentions, "the possibility of alleged bin Laden interest in
targeting U.S. passenger planes at the Chicago Airport," end quote.
And it seems to me that we had a broad,
general understanding that it was possible that hijacking might be
on the list of things that were going to be used. And I remember
Administrator Garvey, when she became before this commission a month
or so ago, all their attention was overseas, she said. I mean, if
you listen and look at the documents on the day of 9/11, it just
inescapably leads to the conclusion that we were surprised by a
And I wonder if you've got a perspective
on how it's possible that we were surprised by hijacking, let alone
a multiple hijacking simultaneously occurring at the same moment?
MR. CLARKE: Well, sir, I would distinguish
between hijackings in general and hijackings that then turn the
aircraft into suicide weapons. There have been hijackings by
terrorists going back for 20- 25 years, and the United States had
some programs in place to deal with that.
In 1996, after the TWA 800, crash the
President appointed a commission on aircraft safety and security
that looked at whether we needed to augment our protection against
And it made several recommendations.
Most of those recommendations were carried out, not all of them.
One of the things it rejected was
federalizing the aircraft searching process that is now done by the
Transportation Security Agency, because it would have cost so much
money and it would have required such a big federal bureaucracy.
At the time where there had been no
recent hijacking, I assume that commissioners on that commission
thought they were making the right recommendation. Many of their
recommendations for increased security, however, were carried out.
But as to your question about
using aircraft as weapons, I was afraid beginning in 1996, not that
a Cessna would fly into the Olympics, but that any size aircraft
would be put into the Olympics.
And during my inspection of the Atlanta
Olympic security arrangements a month or two before the games, I was
shocked that the FBI hadn't put into effect any aircraft -- air
defense security arrangements. So I threw together an air defense
for the Atlanta games somewhat quickly, but I got an air defense
system in place.
We then tried to institutionalize that
for Washington to protect the Capitol and the White House. And that
system would have been run by the Secret Service. It would have
involved missiles, anti-aircraft guns, radar, helicopters.
Secret Service developed all the plans
for that. Secret Service was a big advocate for it, but they were
unable to get the Treasury Department, in which they were then
located, to approve it. And I was unable to get the Office of
Management and Budget to fund it.
MR. KERREY: Just a two-sentence response. I
mean, the papers were full of stories about men and women using
suicide as a device in carrying out terrorist objectives. The second intifada was in full force beginning in late 2000 through 2001.
So perhaps on the second question, if I
get the chance, we can continue this discussion.
MR. CLARKE: I'd enjoy that.
The bottom line here is, I thought I --
I agree with you. And I thought I had made a persuasive case that we
needed an air defense system as well as an airport system, not just
to stop hijackers at baggage inspection, but to deal with them if
they got through that and were able to hijack an aircraft.
I thought we needed an air defense
system. And we got a little of that air defense system implemented,
but only a little.
MR. KERREY: Put me on the list if we have a
chance to do a second round.
CHAIRMAN KEAN: Will do.
MR. THOMPSON: Mr. Clarke, as we sit here
this afternoon, we have your book and we have your press briefing of
August 2002. Which is true?
MR. CLARKE: Well, I think the question is a
The press briefing you're referring to
comes in the following context: Time magazine had published a cover
story article highlighting what your staff briefing talks about.
They had learned that, as your staff briefing notes, that there was
a strategy or a plan and a series of additional options that were
presented to the national security adviser and the new Bush team
when they came into office.
Time magazine ran a somewhat sensational
story that implied that the Bush Administration hadn't worked on
that plan. And this, of course, coming after 9/11 caused the Bush
White House a great deal of concern.
So I was asked by several people in
senior levels of the Bush White House to do a press backgrounder to
try to explain that set of facts in a way that minimized criticism
of the Administration. And so I did.
Now, we can get into semantic games of
whether it was a strategy, or whether it was a plan, or whether it
was a series of options to be decided upon. I think the facts are as
they were outlined in your staff briefing.
MR. THOMPSON: Well, let's take a look, then,
at your press briefing, because I don't want to engage in semantic
games. You said, the Bush Administration decided, then, you know,
mid-January -- that's mid- January, 2001 -- to do 2 things: one,
vigorously pursue the existing the policy -- that would be the
Clinton policy -- including all of the lethal covert action findings
which we've now made public to some extent. Is that so? Did they
decide in January of 2001 to vigorously pursue the existing Clinton
MR. CLARKE: They decided that the existing
covert action findings would remain in effect.
MR. THOMPSON: OK. The second thing the
Administration decided to do is to initiate a process to look at
those issues which had been on the table for a couple of years and
get them decided. Now, that seems to indicate to me that proposals
had been sitting on the table in the Clinton Administration for a
couple of years, but that the Bush Administration was going to get
them done. Is that a correct assumption?
MR. CLARKE: Well, that was my hope at the
time. It turned out not to be the case.
MR. THOMPSON: Well, then why in August of
2002, over a year later, did you say that it was the case?
MR. CLARKE: I was asked to make that case to
the press. I was a special assistant to the President, and I made
the case I was asked to make.
MR. THOMPSON: Are you saying to be you were
asked to make an untrue case to the press and the public, and that
you went ahead and did it?
MR. CLARKE: No, sir. Not untrue. Not an
untrue case. I was asked to highlight the positive aspects of what
the Administration had done and to minimize the negative aspects of
what the Administration had done. And as a special assistant to the
President, one is frequently asked to do that kind of thing. I've
done it for several Presidents.
MR. THOMPSON: Well, OK, over the course of
the summer, they developed implementation details. The principals
met at the end of the summer, approved them in their first meeting,
changed the strategy by authorizing the increase in funding
five-fold. Did they authorize the increase in funding five-fold?
MR. CLARKE: Authorized but not appropriated.
MR. THOMPSON: Well, but the Congress
appropriates, don't they, Mr. Clarke?
MR. CLARKE: Well, within the executive
branch, there are two steps as well. In the executive branch,
there's the policy process which you can compare to authorization,
which is to say we would like to spend this amount of money for this
program. And then there is the second step, the budgetary step,
which is to find the offsets. And that had not been done. In fact,
it wasn't done until after September 11th.
MR. THOMPSON: Changing the policy on
Pakistan, was the policy on Pakistan changed?
MR. CLARKE: Yes, sir it was.
MR. THOMPSON: Changing the policy on
Uzbekistan, was it changed?
MR. CLARKE: Yes, sir.
MR. THOMPSON: Changing the policy on the
Northern Alliance assistance, was that changed?
MR. CLARKE: Well, let me back up. I said yes
to the last two answers. It was changed only after September 11th.
It had gone through an approvals process. It was going through an
approvals process with the deputies committee. And they had approved
it -- The deputies had approved those policy changes. It had then
gone to a principals committee for approval, and that occurred on
September 4th. Those three things which you mentioned were approved
by the principals. They were not approved by the President, and
therefore the final approval hadn't occurred until after September
MR. THOMPSON: But they were approved by
people in the Administration below the level of the President,
moving toward the President. Is that correct?
MR. CLARKE: Yes, so over the course of many,
many months, they went through several committee meetings at the
sub-Cabinet level. And then there was a hiatus. And then they went
to finally on September 4th, a week before the attacks, they went to
the principals for their approval. Of course, the final approval by
the President didn't take place until after the attacks.
MR. THOMPSON: Well is that eight-month
MR. CLARKE: It is unusual when you are being
told every day that there is an urgent threat.
MR. THOMPSON: Well, but the policy involved
changing, for example, the policy on Pakistan, right? So you would
have to involve those people in the Administration who had charge of
the Pakistani policy, would you not?
MR. CLARKE: The secretary of state has, as a
member of the principals committee, that kind of authority over all
foreign policy issues.
MR. THOMPSON: Changing the policy on the
Northern Alliance assistance, that would have been DOD?
MR. CLARKE: No. Governor, that would have
been the CIA.
But again, all of the right people to
make those kinds of changes were represented by the five or six
people on the principals committee.
MR. THOMPSON: But they were also represented
on the smaller group, were they not, the deputies committee?
MR. CLARKE: But they didn't have the
authority to approve it. They only had the authority to recommend it
further up the process.
MR. THOMPSON: Well, is policy usually made
at the level of the principals committee before it comes up?
MR. CLARKE: Policy usually originates in
working groups. Recommendations and differences then are floated up
from working groups to the deputies committee. If there are
differences there, policy recommendations and differences are then
floated up to the principals. And occasionally, when there is not a
consensus at the principals level, policy recommendations and
options, or differences, go to the President. And the President
makes these kinds of decisions.
By law, in fact, many of the kinds of
decisions you're talking about can only be made by the President.
MR. THOMPSON: And you said that the strategy
changed from one of rollback with Al Qaida over the course of five
years, which it had been, which I presume is the Clinton policy, to
a new strategy that called for the rapid elimination of Al Qaida,
that is in fact the time line. Is that correct?
MR. CLARKE: It is, but it requires a bit of
elaboration. As your staff brief said, the goal of the Delenda Plan
was to roll back Al Qaida over the course of three to five years so
that it was just a nub of an organization like Abu Nidal that didn't
threaten the United States.
I tried to insert the phrase early in
the Bush Administration in the draft NSPD that our goal should be to
eliminate Al Qaida. And I was told by various members of the
deputies committee that that was overly ambitious and that we should
take the word "eliminate" out and say "significantly erode."
And then, following 9/11, we
were able to go back to my language of eliminate, rather than
significantly erode. And so, the version of the national security
Presidential decision directive that President Bush finally got to
see after 9/11, had my original language of "eliminate," not the
interim language of "erode."
MR. THOMPSON: And you were asked when was...
CHAIRMAN KEAN: Governor, one more question.
MR. THOMPSON: When was that presented to the
President? And you answered: the President was briefed throughout
MR. CLARKE: Yes. The President apparently
asked, on one occasion that I'm aware of, for a strategy. And when
he asked that, he apparently didn't know there was a strategy in the
works. I, therefore, was told about this by the national security
I came back to her and said, well, there
is a strategy; after all, it's basically what I showed you in
January. It stuck in the deputies committee. She said she would tell
the President that, and she said she would try to break it out of
the deputies committee.
MR. THOMPSON: So you believed that your
conference with the press in August of 2002 is consistent with what
you've said in your book and what you've said in press interviews
the last five days about your book?
MR. CLARKE: I do. I think the think that's
obviously bothering you is the tenor and the tone. And I've tried to
explain to you, sir, that when you're on the staff of the President
of the United States, you try to make his policies look as good as
MR. THOMPSON: Well, with all respect, Mr.
Clarke, I think a lot of things beyond the tenor and the tone bother
me about this.
CHAIRMAN KEAN: Thank you, Governor. Commissioner Gorelick.
MR. GORELICK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And
thank you, Mr. Clarke, for your testimony today. You have talked
about a plan that you presented to Dr. Rice immediately upon her
becoming national security adviser, and that in response to
questions from Commissioner Gorton, you said elements of that plan,
which were developed by you and your staff at the end of 2000 --
many elements -- became part of what was then called NSPD-9, or what
ultimately became NSPD-9.
When Dr. Rice writes in the Washington
Post, "No Al Qaida plan was turned over to the new
is that true?
MR. CLARKE: No. I think what is true is what
your staff found by going through the documents and what your staff
briefing says, which is that early in the Administration, within
days of the Bush Administration coming into office, that we gave
them two documents. In fact, I briefed Dr. Rice on this even before
they came into office.
One was the original Delenda
Plan from 1998, and the other document was the update that we did
following the Cole attack, which had as part of it a number of
decisions that had to be taken so that she characterizes as a series
of options rather than a plan. I'd like to think of it as a plan
with a series of options, but I think we're getting into semantic
MR. GORELICK: Thank you.
I'd like to turn NSPD-9, the document
that was wending its way through the process up until September 4th.
The document is classified so I can only speak of it in
But as I understand it, it had three
stages which were to take place over, according to Steve Hadley, the
deputy national security adviser, over a period of three years.
The first stage was, we would warn the
Taliban. The second stage was we would pressure the Taliban. And the
third stage was that we would look for ways to oust the Taliban
based upon individuals on the ground other than ourselves, at the
same time making military contingency plans.
Is that correct?
MR. CLARKE: Well, that's right. The military
contingency plans had always been around, but there was nothing in
the original draft, NSPD, that was approved by the principals to
suggest U.S. forces would be sent into Afghanistan on the ground.
MR. GORELICK: In addition to that, Director
Tenet was asked to draft new additional covert action authorities.
Is that right?
MR. CLARKE: That's right, in part because
Mr. Hadley found the existing six memorandums of covert action
authority to be talmudic -- it's actually I think Mr. Hadley who
gets credit for that word.
But it wasn't really meant to expand
them significantly other than providing direct aid to Afghan
MR. GORELICK: Now you have just described,
then, the skeleton, if you will, of what was approved by the
Administration as of September 4th. And we know that no further
action was taken before September 11th.
And so I would read to you --
and these are questions I would have put to Dr. Rice had she been
here, and I will put to her, the White House designee, Secretary Armitage. She says our strategy, which was expected to take years,
marshalled all elements of national power to take down the network,
not just respond to individual attacks with law enforcement
measures. Our plan called for military options to attack Al Qaida
and Taliban leadership, ground forces and other targets, taking the
fight to the enemy where he lived.
Is that an accurate statement, in your
MR. CLARKE: No, it's not.
MR. GORELICK: In addition to the items that
were left hanging during this period of time that we've talked
about, in your view -- the predator, the issue of aid to the
Northern Alliance, the response to the Cole -- the other item that
we have heard about that was deferred until the policy emerged was
action on the set of covert authorities or the draft of covert
authorities that Director Tenet supplied to the NSC in I believe it
was March of '01. Is that true?
MR. CLARKE: Yes.
MR. GORELICK: And no action was taken on
those until after 9/11. Is that correct?
MR. CLARKE: That's correct.
MR. GORELICK: After the millennium, you were
asked by Sandy Berger, and he testified about it this morning, to do
an after-action report. And he described how there were 29
recommendations and a huge supplemental, et cetera. The report
doesn't address some of the systemic issues.
And you, above maybe anybody else, saw
the systemic problems. I mean you have described, yourself, the
problems with the FBI, the wall between the FBI and the CIA. We've
heard about the disconnect between the State Department watch list
and the FAA no-fly list. We've heard about really the inadequacy of
our visa program and our consular effort.
So my question for you is this: You had
a great shot after the millennium to take a whack at these problems
which you no doubt must have seen or maybe -- I'll give you the
benefit of the doubt -- perhaps there are some you hadn't seen. Why
wasn't the after-action report, post-millennium, as modest as it
was. Why didn't it address these fissures and these gaps in the
MR. CLARKE: Well, it made 28 or 29
recommendations. Had all of those recommendations been easy to do,
they would have been implemented, before or after the after-action
Many of the 28 or 29
recommendations were implemented, but some of them weren't, because
we went pretty far in the art of the practical, the art of the
possible, with those recommendations.
That's probably why some of them never
got done. And some of them still haven't been done. I've learned
over time that if you go for the perfect solution, the best
solution, you don't get very far in actually achieving things. You
can write nice reports if you're the Brookings commission or
something, but if you want to get something done in the real world,
you do what is doable and you try to do a little bit more. But you
don't shoot for the moon.
And I think some of systemic things that
are obvious to you and -- I know they are -- were more practical
after 9/11 than they were after the millennium. Remember, in the
millennium, we succeeded in stopping the attacks. That was good
But it was not good news for those of us
who also wanted to put pressure on the Congress and pressure on OMB
and other places because we were not able to point to -- and I hate
to say this -- body bags. You know, unfortunately, this country
takes body bags and requires body bags sometimes to make really
tough decisions about money and about governmental arrangements.
And one of the things I would hope that
comes out of your commission report is a recommendation for a change
in the attitude of government about threats, that we be able to act
on threats that we foresee, even if acting requires boldness and
requires money and requires changing the way we do business, that we
act on threats in the future before they happen.
The problem is that when you make that
recommendation before they happen, when you recommend an air defense
system for Washington before there has been a 9/11, people tend to
think you're nuts. And I got a lot of that. You know, when the
Clinton Administration ended, 35 Americans had died at hands of Al
Qaida over the course of eight years. And a lot of people said,
behind my back and some of them to my face, why are you so obsessed
with this organization? It's only killed eight Americans over the
course -- 35 Americans over the course of eight years. Why are you
making such a big deal over this organization?
That's the kind of mind set that made it
difficult for us, even though the President, the national security
adviser, and others, the DCI, knew there was a problem and were
supporting me. But the institutional bureaucracy and the FBI and DOD
and then CIA and OMB and on the Hill -- because I spent a lot of
time up here trying to get money and trying to change authorities --
couldn't see the threat because it hadn't happened.
MR. GORELICK: Well, that's a very sobering
statement, particularly from someone whose reputation is as
aggressive as your reputation is. And it makes me think that
individuals who are less of a pile driver -- to use Sandy Berger's
words -- must feel even less able to push for change.
MR. GORELICK: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN KEAN: Secretary Lehman?
MR. LEHMAN: Thank you.
Dick, since you and I first served 28
years ago in the MBFR delegation, I have genuinely been a fan of
yours. I've watched you labor without fear of favor in a succession
of jobs where you really made a difference. And so when you agreed
to spend as much time as you did with us in, as you say, 15 hours, I
was very hopeful.
And I attended one of those all-day
sessions and read the other two transcripts, and I thought they were
terrific. I thought here we have a guy who can be the Rosetta Stone
for helping this commission do its job, to help to have the American
people grasp what the dysfunctional problems in this government are.
And I thought you let the chips fall
where they may. You made a few value judgments which could be
debated. But by and large, you were critical of the things,
institutions, and people that could have done better and some that
did very badly.
And certainly the greater weight of this
criticism fell during the Clinton years simply because there were
eight of them and only 7 1/2 months of the Bush years. I don't think
you, in the transcripts that we have of your classified interviews,
pulled punches in either direction. And, frankly, a lot of my
questioning this past two days has been drawn from some of the
things that you articulated so well during the Clinton years,
particularly, because they stretched from the first, as you pointed
out, attempt by Saddam to assassinate President Bush 41 right up
through the end of the Administration.
But now we have the book. And I've
published books. And I must say I am green with envy at the
promotion department of your publisher.
MR. LEHMAN: I never got Jim Thompson to
stand before 50 photographers reading your book. And I certainly
never got "60 Minutes" to coordinate the showing of its interview
with you with 15 network news broadcasts, the selling of the movie
rights, and your appearance here today. So I would say, "Bravo."
Until I started reading those press
reports, and I said this can't be the same Dick Clarke that
testified before us, because all of the promotional material and all
of the spin in the networks was that this is a rounding, devastating
attack -- this book -- on President Bush.
That's not what I heard in the
interviews. And I hope you're going to tell me, as you apologized to
the families for all of us who were involved in national security,
that this tremendous difference -- and not just in nuance, but in
the stories you choose to tell -- is really the result of your
editors and your promoters, rather than your studied judgment,
because it is so different from the whole thrust of your testimony
And similarly, when you add to it the
inconsistency between what your promoters are putting out and what
you yourself said as late as August '05, you've got a real
And because of my real genuine long-term
admiration for you, I hope you'll resolve that credibility problem,
because I'd hate to see you become totally shoved to one side during
a Presidential campaign as an active partisan selling a book.
MR. CLARKE: Thank you, John.
Let me talk about partisanship here,
since you raise it. I've been accused of being a member of John
Kerry's campaign team several times this week, including by the
White House. So let's just lay that one to bed. I'm not working for
the Kerry campaign. Last time I had to declare my party loyalty, it
was to vote in the Virginia primary for President of the United
States in the year 2000. And I asked for a Republican ballot.
I worked for Ronald Reagan with
you. I worked for the first President Bush. And he nominated me to
the Senate as an assistant secretary of state, and I worked in his
White House, and I've worked for this President Bush. And I'm not
working for Senator Kerry.
Now, the fact of the matter is, I do
co-teach a class with someone who works for Senator Kerry. That
person is named Randy Beers. Randy Beers and I have worked together
in the federal government and the White House and the State
Department for 25 years.
Randy Beers worked in the White House
for Ronald Reagan. Randy Beers worked in the White House for the
first President Bush, and Randy Beers worked in the White House for
the second President Bush.
And just because he is now working for
Senator Kerry, I am not going to disassociate myself from one of my
best friends and someone who I greatly respect and worked with for
And, yes, I will admit, I co-teach a
class at the Harvard University and Georgetown University with Mr.
Beers. That, I don't think, makes me a member of the Kerry campaign.
The White House has said that my book is
an audition for a high- level position in the Kerry campaign. So let
me say here as I am under oath, that I will not accept any position
in the Kerry Administration, should there be one -- on the record,
Now, as to your accusation that there is
a difference between what I said to this commission in 15 hours of
testimony and what I am saying in my book and what media outlets are
asking me to comment on, I think there's a very good reason for
In the 15 hours of testimony, no one
asked me what I thought about the President's invasion of Iraq. And
the reason I am strident in my criticism of the President of the
United States is because by invading Iraq -- something I was not
asked about by the commission, it's something I chose write about a
lot in the book -- by invading Iraq the President of the United
States has greatly undermined the war on terrorism.
CHAIRMAN KEAN: Commissioner Fielding?
MR. FIELDING: Mr. Clarke, thank you for
I shared John's feelings when I read
your interviews with the staff as well, because it gave a
perspective of something that bridged different Administrations and
really had a chance to see it. And of course, you were looking at it
from different level than some of the other people we had
And likewise, I was a little taken back
when I saw the hoopla and the promotion for the book and when I saw
this transcript that just came forward today.
MR. FIELDING: But what's bothering me now is
that not only did you interview with us, but you also spent more
than six hours with the congressional joint inquiry. And I've read
your information, and, I mean, that's a very serious body and very
serious inquiry -- not that we're not. But I can't believe over six
hours you never expressed any concern to them that the Bush
Administration didn't act with sufficient urgency to address these
horrible potential problems if you felt that way.
Did you ever list for the joint inquiry
any of the measures that you thought should have been taken that
MR. CLARKE: I think all the measures that I
thought should have been taken were in the plan that I presented in
January of 2001 and were in the NSPD that the principals approved in
September, September 4th, 2001. There were no additional measures
that I had in mind other than those that I presented. And as I did
explain, both to the commission and to the joint inquiry, those
proposals, which ultimately were adopted by the principals
committee, took a very, very, very long time to make it through the
policy development process.
MR. FIELDING: Well, I understand that, but I
think the charges that you've made are much more -- I think they're
much deeper than that.
Let me ask you a question, because it's
been bothering me as well. You've been involved intimately in PDD-39
and in PDD-62. The latter certainly very much implicates your own
position. How long did it take for those to be developed and signed?
MR. CLARKE: I'm not sure I could recollect
that answer. Perhaps the staff could find that.
To your general answer about how long
does it take PDDs to be signed, I've seen them signed in a day and
I've seen them take three years.
MR. FIELDING: Well, of course. I mean, we've
all seen that. But these were -- obviously 62 was a very important
one, but obviously the one that we're talking about that was
developed was an extremely important one, and it was one that you
put a lot into yourself. And it was in the beginning of a new
MR. CLARKE: Sir, if I may?
MR. FIELDING: Yes?
MR. CLARKE: There's also the issue that was
raised earlier by another member of the commission was to whether
all of the pending decisions needed to be rolled up into a national
security Presidential directive or whether, based on the urgency of
the intelligence, some of them couldn't -- like arming the Predator
to attack and kill bin Laden -- why did that have to wait until the
entire policy was developed?
Weren't there pieces like that
that could have been broken off and decided right away? Now I
certainly urged that. I urged that beginning in February when I
realized that this policy process was going to take forever.
MR. FIELDING: I understand. And I understand
your testimony that you did that. What I don't understand is, if you
had these deep feelings and deep concerns about the lack of ability
and urgency within the Bush Administration, that you didn't advise
the joint inquiry. And I mean, did you feel it unnecessary to tell
them that the Bush Administration was too preoccupied with the Cold
War issues or Iraq at that point?
MR. CLARKE: I wasn't asked, sir. I think I
provided the joint inquiry, as a member of the Administration at the
time, please recall, I provided the joint inquiry all the facts it
needed to make the conclusions which I've made about how long it
took and what the development of the policy process was like and the
refusal of the Administration to spin out for earlier decision
things like the armed Predator.
MR. FIELDING: Well, it obviously will be up
to the members of the joint inquiry to make that decision and
But, you must agree that it's not like
-- going before a joint inquiry is not like going before a press
background briefing. As you said, I think your description was I
tried to highlight the positive and play down the negative. But the
joint inquiry wasn't asking you to do that, they were asking you to
come forward, weren't they?
MR. CLARKE: I answered very fully all of the
questions the joint inquiry had asked. They said that themselves in
their comments to me, and in their report. I testified for six
hours. And I testified as a member of the Bush Administration.
And I think, sir, with all of your
experience in this city, you understand as well as I do the freedom
one has to speak critical of an Administration when one is a member
of that Administration.
MR. FIELDING: I do understand that. But I
also understand the integrity with which you have to take your job.
But thank you, sir.
MR. CLARKE: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN KEAN: We're starting on the second round
now questioning. Congressman Roemer?
MR. ROEMER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Having
served on the joint inquiry, the only person of this 9/11 panel to
have served on the inquiry, I can say in open session to some of Mr. Fielding's inquiries that as the joint inquiry asked for information
on the National Security Council and we requested that the National
Security Adviser Dr. Rice come before the joint inquiry and answer
She refused. And she didn't
come. She didn't come before the 9/11 commission.
And when we asked for some questions to
be answered, Mr. Hadley answered those questions in a written form.
So I think part of the answer might be
that we didn't have access to the January 25th memo. We didn't have
access to the September 4th memo. We didn't have access to many of
the documents and the e-mails. We're not only talking about Mr.
Clarke being before the 9/11 commission for more than 15 hours, but
I think in talking to the staff, we have hundreds of documents and
e-mails that we didn't previously have, which hopefully informs us
to ask Mr. Clarke and ask Dr. Rice the tough questions.
And I have some more tough questions for
you, Mr. Clarke.
On the FBI, you've said that the FBI did
not do a very good job. I think I'm paraphrasing you in much easier
language than you have used. But that during the millennium, which
may be the exception to the rule, they performed extremely well in
sharing information. How do we get the FBI to do this on a regular
basis? We still have problems here today. Or is that not an option
We don't have time, Mr. Clarke. I mean,
I appreciate everybody going after everybody in Washington, D.C. We
don't have time to make these kinds of arguments and attacks if
we're going to get this situation right in the future in this
country and prevent or hopefully prevent the next one.
Well, we do know something for certain,
and that is that groups like Al Qaida want to get dirty bombs, they
want to get chemical and biological weapons, and they want to come
So how do we get this situation solved,
Mr. Clarke? What do we do with the FBI? What's your recommendation?
MR. CLARKE: In the perfect world, I believe
we could create a domestic intelligence service that would have
sufficient oversight that it would not infringe on our civil
liberties. In a perfect world, I would create that domestic
intelligence service separately from the FBI.
In the world in which we live, I think
that would be a difficult step to go directly to. And so what I
proposed, instead, is that we create a domestic intelligence service
within the FBI and, as fast as we could, develop it into an
I am very fearful that such an
agency would have potential to infringe on our civil liberties. And
therefore, I think we would have to take extraordinary steps to have
active oversight of such an agency. And we would have to explain to
the American people in a very compelling way why they needed a
domestic intelligence service, because I think most Americans would
be fearful of a secret police in the United States.
But frankly, the FBI culture, the FBI
organization, the FBI personnel are not the best we could do in this
country for a domestic intelligence service.
MR. ROEMER: We will certainly be looking to
people in future hearings for their recommendations in a host of
different areas. So I hope that you might think through this area a
little bit more and be available to us.
Mr. Clarke, let me ask you some
difficult questions for you to get at the complexity of our
relationship with the Saudis.
One the one hand, I think there's a
great deal of unanimity that the Saudis were not doing everything
they could before 9/11 to help us in a host of different areas; 15
of the 19 hijackers came from there. We had trouble tracking some of
the financing for terrorist operations. But we still have too many
of the madrassas and the teachings of hatred of Christians and Jews
and others coming out of some of these madrassas.
We need to broaden and deepen this
relationship. I will ask you a part A and a part B.
Part A is where do we go in this
difficult relationship? And part B is to further look at the
difficulty here. You made a decision after 9/11 to, I think -- and
I'd like to ask you more about this -- to allow a plane of Saudis to
fly out of the country. And when most other planes were grounded,
this plane flew from the United States back to Saudi Arabia. I'd
like to know why you made that decision, who was on this plane, and
if the FBI ever had the opportunity to interview those people.
MR. CLARKE: You're absolutely right that the
Saudi Arabian government did not cooperate with us significantly in
the fight against terrorism prior to 9/11. Indeed, it didn't really
cooperate until after bombs blew up in Riyadh.
Now, as to this controversy about the
Saudi evacuation aircraft, let me tell you everything I know, which
is that in the days following 9/11 -- whether it was on 9/12 or
9/15, I can't tell you -- we were in a constant crisis management
meeting that had started the morning of 9/11 and ran for days on
end. We were making lots of decisions, but we were coordinating them
with all the agencies through the video teleconference procedure.
Someone -- and I wish I could
tell you, but I don't know who -- someone brought to that group a
proposal that we authorize a request from the Saudi embassy. The
Saudi embassy had apparently said that they feared for the lives of
Saudi citizens because they thought there would be retribution
against Saudis in the United States as it became obvious to
Americans that this attack was essentially done by Saudis, and that
there were even Saudi citizens in the United States who were part of
the bin Laden family, which is a very large family, very large
The Saudi embassy therefore asked for
these people to be evacuated; the same sort of thing that we do all
the time in similar crises, evacuating Americans.
The request came to me and I refused to
approve it. I suggested that it be routed to the FBI and that the
FBI look at the names of the individuals who were going to be on the
passenger manifest and that they approve it -- or not.
I spoke with at that time the number two
person in the FBI, Dale Watson, and asked him to deal with this
The FBI then approved -- after some
period of time, and I can't tell you how long -- approved the
Now, what degree of review the FBI did
of those names, I cannot tell you. How many people there are on the
plane, I cannot tell you.
But I have asked since: Were there any
individuals on that flight that in retrospect the FBI wishes they
could have interviewed in this country. And the answer I've been
given is no, that there was no one who left on that flight who the
FBI now wants to interview.
MR. ROEMER: Despite the fact that we don't
know if Dale Watson interviewed them in the first place.
MR. CLARKE: I don't think they were ever
interviewed in this country.
MR. ROEMER: So they were not interviewed
here. We have all their names. We don't know if there has been any
follow up to interview those people that were here and flown out of
MR. CLARKE: The last time I asked that
question, I was informed that the FBI still had no desire to
interview any of these people.
MR. ROEMER: Would you have a desire to
interview some of these people that...
MR. CLARKE: I don't know who they are.
MR. ROEMER: We don't know who they are...
MR. CLARKE: I don't know who they are. The
FBI knew who they were because they...
MR. ROEMER: Given your confidence in your
statements on the FBI, what's your level of comfort with this?
MR. CLARKE: Well, I will tell you in
particular about the ones that get the most attention here in the
press, and they are members of the bin Laden family.
I was aware, for some time, that
there were members of the bin Laden family living in the United
And, let's see, in open session I can
say that I was very well aware of the members of the bin Laden
family and what they were doing in the United States. And the FBI
was extraordinarily well aware of what they were doing in the United
States. And I was informed by the FBI that none of the members of
the bin Laden family, this large clan, were doing anything in this
country that was illegal or that raised their suspicions.
And I believe the FBI had very good
information and good sources of information on what the members of
the bin Laden family were doing.
MR. ROEMER: I've been very impressed with
your memory, sitting through all these interviews the 9/11
commission has conducted with you. I press you, again, to try to
recall how this request originated. Who might have passed this on to
you at the White House situation room? Or who might have originated
that request for the United States government to fly out -- how many
people in this plane?
MR. CLARKE: I don't know.
MR. ROEMER: We don't know how many people
were on a plane that flew out of this country. Who gave the final
approval, then, to say yes, you're clear to go, it's all right with
the United States government to go to Saudi Arabia?
MR. CLARKE: I believe, after the FBI came
back and said it was all right with them, we ran it through the
decision process for all of these decisions we were making in those
hours, which was the Interagency Crisis Management Group on the
I was making or coordinating a lot of
decisions on 9/11 and the days immediately after. And I would love
to be able to tell you who did it, who brought this proposal to me,
but I don't know. Since you pressed me, the two possibilities that
are most likely are either the Department of State, or the White
House Chief of Staff's Office. But I don't know.
MR. ROEMER: Thank you. Thank you, Mr.
CHAIRMAN KEAN: Senator Gorton?
MR. GORTON: One more question on that
subject. When the approvals were finally made and when the flight
left, was the flight embargo still in effect? Or was that over; were
we flying once again?
MR. CLARKE: No, sir. No, Senator. The reason
that a decision was needed was because the flight embargo, the
grounding, was still in effect.
MR. GORTON: OK. We talked a little bit in my
earlier round of questioning about this frustrating phrase
"actionable intelligence." And one of your recommendations to the
new Administration, according to our staff report, was to choose a
standard of evidence for attributing responsibility for the Cole and
deciding on a response.
Did that express a frustration that you
had had, now, for the previous several years, that the phrase
"actionable intelligence" often seemed to be an excuse for people
not doing anything, that perhaps they had other reasons for not
wanting to do? Did you want a broader definition, either of how much
intelligence was needed, or how broad action should be?
MR. CLARKE: Yes.
MR. GORTON: Yes to both?
MR. CLARKE: OK.
MR. GORTON: Could you tell me what your
previous frustrations had been, and what kind of test you would have
MR. CLARKE: Well, I think if you go back to
1993, when the attempted assassination on the first President Bush
occurred in Kuwait, the process we put in place then was to ask the
FBI, working with the Secret Service, to develop a set of evidence
and CIA to develop separately an intelligence case. And that took
from February of '93 through the end of May.
And it was done in a way that was
reminiscent of a criminal process, at least the FBI case was.
The CIA case was an intelligence case
and had different sources of information, different standards for
what was admissible and a more lenient standard for making a
Well, I think beginning then, I was
frustrated by that kind of evidentiary process.
Now, I heard Sandy Berger this morning
point out that immediately following the Pan Am 103 terrorist
attack, the assumption in the intelligence and law enforcement
communities was that it was a Syrian attack. And I recall that. He's
quite right. And it turned out not to be a Syrian attack.
He pointed out that in the days and
weeks after the TWA 800 crash, we assumed it was a terrorist attack.
There were eyewitnesses of what appeared to be a missile attack. But
after exhaustive investigations that went on for years, in the case
of the NTSB and the FBI, a determination was made that it was not a
terrorist attack. And I believe that that is the accurate
Mr. Berger made other examples --
Oklahoma City and whatnot. I think we have to distinguish between
rushing to judgment after a terrorist event, which as Mr. Berger
said, is a mistake because sometimes the evidence changes, sometimes
the evidence develops.
We saw this in Spain just two weeks ago
where for the first day after the attacks in Madrid, the evidence
really looked like it was the Basque separatist group. And I know
there are political charges against the Spanish government for
having distorted intelligence, but there was a lot of intelligence
the first day that suggested that it was the Basque terrorist group.
So we do need to be careful not to rush
to judgment after a terrorist attack. On the other hand, what I was
suggesting in that paper that you referred to is that we not
necessarily have to wait for a terrorist attack in order to attack a
But when you sometimes do that,
you get into trouble. President Clinton got into a lot of trouble, a
lot of criticism for blowing up a chemical plant in Sudan. To this
day there are a lot of people who believe that it was not related to
a terrorist group, not related to chemical weapons. They're wrong,
by the way.
But the President had decided in PDD-39
that there should be a low threshold of evidence when it comes to
the possibility of terrorists getting their access, getting their
hands on chemical weapons. And he acted on that basis. And when he
acted on that basis, he and his advisers were all heavily
So what I was suggesting there and what
I am suggesting here now is that while Sandy Berger is right and we
should not rush to judgment after a terrorist attack as to who did
it until there is ample intelligence evidence, not criminal
evidence, on the other hand, we should feel free to attack terrorist
groups without waiting for them to attack us if we make a policy and
an intelligence judgment that they pose a threat.
MR. GORTON: One follow-up question on that.
Between January and September of 2001, was there any actionable
intelligence under either the narrow or broader definition that
caused you to recommend an immediate military response to some
MR. CLARKE: I suggested, beginning in
January of 2001, that the Cole case was still out there and that by
now, in January of 2001, CIA had finally gotten around to saying it
was an Al Qaida attack, and that therefore there was an open issue
which should be decided about whether or not the Bush Administration
should retaliate for the Cole attack.
Unfortunately, there was no interest, no
acceptance of that proposition? And I was told on a couple of
occasions, "Well, you know, that happened on the Clinton
I didn't think it made any difference. I
thought the Bush Administration, now that it had the CIA saying it
was Al Qaida, should have responded.
MR. GORTON: But there was no other January
to September incident that caused you to recommend a military
response, I gather?
MR. CLARKE: In the general definition, I
think there was. What we had discussed in the general definition was
not waiting for the terrorist attack, but feeling free to use
military activity -- or covert action activity, doesn't have to be
military -- covert action activity as a way of taking the offensive
against terrorist organizations that look like they threaten the
And what our plan or strategy or
list of options, included was covert action activity to be taken, to
go on the offensive against Al Qaida in Afghanistan.
MR. GORTON: Through surrogates or through
MR. CLARKE: That was a combination of both.
But the determination of how that would be structured would be left
to the CIA.
MR. GORTON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
CHAIRMAN KEAN: Senator Kerrey?
MR. KERREY: Well, Mr. Clarke, let me say at
the beginning that everything that you've said today and done has
not damaged my view of your integrity. It's very much intact as far
as I'm concerned. And I hope that your pledge earlier not to be a
part of the Kerry Administration did not preclude you from coming to
New York sometime and teaching at the new schools.
And let me also say this document of Fox
News earlier, this transcript that they had, this is a background
briefing. And all of us that have provided background briefings for
the press before should beware. I mean, Fox should say "occasionally
fair and balanced" after putting something like this out.
Because they violated a serious trust.
All of us that come into this kind of an
environment and provide background briefings for the press I think
will always have this as a reminder that sometimes it isn't going to
happen, that it's background.
Sometimes, if it suits their interest,
they're going to go back, pull the tape, convert it into transcript
and send it out in the public arena and try to embarrass us or
So I object to what they've done, and I
think it's an unfortunate thing they did.
Let me say as well that you and I have
some disagreements and I'm going to get into them.
First of all, I do not want to go back
to the bad old days when covert operations could be done in an
environment where the people thought they could do something in
violation of U.S. law or that they'd come to Congress and lie about
it, thinking that that was okay. I mean, that's what we're directing
our attention to.
Perhaps there were some personnel
mistakes that were made in the response to the problems in Guatemala
But I don't want to go back to the bad
old days where guys could go out there and operate and not have to
worry about U.S. law, not have to worry about whether or not they
came and lied to Congress.
MR. CLARKE: Nor do I, Senator.
MR. KERREY: And secondly, I don't see it as
you do, that the war in Iraq has increased the threat of terrorism.
I honestly don't.
Unless you say that the threat of
terrorism in Iraq is unquestionably gone up as a consequence of Al
Qaida feeling even more opposition to freedom in Iraq than they do
in freedom in the United States.
They feel much more threatened by having
an Arab democracy than they do by having a democracy in the United
And so I don't see it that way.
And although I don't go as far as the Administration has done with
drawing the connection to Al Qaida, I do think that the presence of
Abdul Rahman Yasin in Iraq certainly causes some suspicions to be
raised. I presume you know who Abdul Rahman Yasin is, and I wonder
if you can comment on that.
I mean, what conclusions do you draw by
the fact that we have an individual who we believe was part of the
conspiracy to attack the World Trade Center I in February of 1993
associated with Ramzi Yousef, who was connected at least indirectly
to the second attack. I wonder what conclusions you draw from the
fact that Yasin has been given, at the very least, a place that it
could hang out, and he is on the lam again. We're still hunting him
and trying to find out where he is in Iraq today.
MR. CLARKE: Let me go back into the history
of 1993, which is when we first heard about this man.
In 1993, when the truck bomb exploded at
the World Trade Center, we didn't know there was an Al Qaida. No one
had ever said that. In the initial reports, and I mean initial by
the sense of about a year or two, the initial reports from the FBI's
investigation of that attack, suggested that the attackers were
somehow a gang of people from five or six different countries who
had found each other and come together almost like a pick-up
basketball team, that there was no organization behind it.
Eventually, in retrospect, the FBI and
CIA were able to discover that there was an organization behind it
and that organization is what we now call Al Qaida.
Most of the people directly involved in
that conspiracy were identified and tracked down by the FBI and CIA,
were arrested or snatched and brought back to the United States. Mr.
Yasin was the one who wasn't. And the reason he wasn't was he was an
Iraqi. He was the only Iraqi in the group. There were Egyptians and
there were other nationalities. He was an Iraqi and therefore when
the explosion took place and he fled the United States, he went back
MR. CLARKE: And we were, obviously, for
obvious reasons, unable to either snatch him or get him to be
extradited to the United States.
But the investigation, both the CIA
investigation and the FBI investigation, made it very clear in '95
and '96 as they got more information, that the Iraqi government was
in no way involved in the attack.
And the fact that one of the 12 people
involved in the attack was Iraqi hardly seems to me as evidence that
the Iraqi government was involved in the attack. The attack was Al
Qaida; not Iraq. The Iraqi government because, obviously, of the
hostility between us and them, didn't cooperate in turning him over
and gave him sanctuary, as it did give sanctuary to other
But the allegation that has been made
that the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center was done by the Iraqi
government I think is absolutely without foundation.
MR. KERREY: Can you see where a reasonable
person might say that if Yasin is given a safe haven inside of Iraq,
prior to 9/11, that the Iraqis are at least unwilling to do what is
necessary to bring someone that we believe is responsible for
killing Americans in 1993 to justice?
MR. CLARKE: Absolutely. The Iraqis were
providing safe haven to a variety of Palestinian terrorists, as
well. Absolutely -- as were the Iranians, as were the Syrians.
MR. KERREY: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN KEAN: Commissioner Ben-Veniste?
MR. BEN-VENISTE: I just wanted to say that
having sat in on two days of debriefings with you, Mr. Clarke, and
having seen excerpts from your book, other than questions you
weren't asked, I have not perceived any substantive differences
between what you have said to us and what has been quoted from your
published work. Having said that, I'll cede my time to Congressman
Roemer, if he'll give me his time with Condoleezza Rice.
MR. CLARKE: That may not be a good deal.
CHAIRMAN KEAN: Is that all? Congressman Thompson?
MR. THOMPSON: Mr. Clarke, in this background
briefing, as Senator Kerrey has now described it, for the press in
August of 2002, you intended to mislead the press, did you not?
MR. CLARKE: No. I think there is a very fine
line that anyone who's been in the White House, in any
Administration, can tell you about. And that is when you are special
assistant to the President and you're asked to explain something
that is potentially embarrassing to the Administration, because the
Administration didn't do enough or didn't do it in a timely manner
and is taking political heat for it, as was the case there, you have
a choice. Actually, I think you have three choices. You can resign
rather than do it. I chose not to do that. Second choice is...
MR. THOMPSON: Why was that, Mr. Clarke? You
finally resigned because you were frustrated.
MR. CLARKE: I was, at that time, at the
request of the President, preparing a national strategy to defend
America's cyberspace, something which I thought then and think now
is vitally important. I thought that completing that strategy was a
lot more important than whether or not I had to provide emphasis in
one place or other while discussing the facts on this particular
The second choice one has, Governor, is
whether or not to say things that are untruthful. And no one in the
Bush White House asked me to say things that were untruthful, and I
would not have said them.
In any event, the third choice that one
has is to put the best face you can for the Administration on the
facts as they were, and that is what I did.
I think that is what most people in the
White House in any Administration do when they're asked to explain
something that is embarrassing to the Administration.
MR. THOMPSON: But you will admit that what
you said in August of 2002 is inconsistent with what you say in your
MR. CLARKE: No, I don't think it's
inconsistent at all. I think, as I said in your last round of
questioning, Governor, that it's really a matter here of emphasis
and tone. I mean, what you're suggesting, perhaps, is that as
special assistant to the President of the United States when asked
to give a press backgrounder I should spend my time in that press
backgrounder criticizing him. I think that's somewhat of an
unrealistic thing to expect.
MR. THOMPSON: Well, what it suggests to me
is that there is one standard of candor and morality for White House
special assistants and another standard of candor and morality for
the rest of America.
MR. CLARKE: I don't get that.
I don't think it's a question of
morality at all. I think it's a question of politics.
MR. THOMPSON: Well, I...I'm not a Washington insider.
I've never been a special assistant in the White House. I'm from the
Midwest. So I think I'll leave it there.
CHAIRMAN KEAN: Congressman Roemer?
MR. ROEMER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I
appreciate your patience.
This has been I'm sure a long day for
you, Mr. Clarke. I want to explore a little bit more, since we've
heard from Mr. Tenet on this issue today, the Predator issue.
As you know, the Predator first came out
of use in Kosovo, and it was used in various activities, with a
laser on it, to track Serb tanks, to help us go after those tanks.
It was flown in 2000 in the Clinton Administration as a recon
vehicle, unmanned recon vehicle.
In 2001, we had a debate, a complex
debate, that I can understand both sides of. Took several months to
try to resolve it. There are two issues here: on the recon Predator
and on the armed Predator.
Mr. Tenet said that they were not
blocking the armed Predator. You have said that they were blocking
the armed Predator.
How do we reconcile these two? And
please take us through a little bit of this. I want to ask you if it
would have made much of a difference getting the unarmed up, and if
the armed could have been put up earlier than October of 2001.
MR. CLARKE: Let me begin in the first few
months of the year 2000. President Clinton was enormously frustrated
because he had authorized, in effect, the assassination of bin Laden
and his lieutenants by CIA. He had also authorized, in principle,
the use of military forces, cruise missiles, to attack and kill bin
Laden and his lieutenants. And none of this had happened because the
CIA had been unable to use its human intelligence resources in
Afghanistan to provide -- I'm sorry, Senator -- actionable
On the occasions when we had things that
looked like actionable intelligence, the three or four occasions,
the director of CIA himself said the intelligence wasn't good
enough. So the President was very mad and he asked Sandy Berger and
me to come up with a better way.
I asked the director of the
joint staff, Admiral Fry, and the associate DCI, Charlie Allen, to
form a task force to come up with a better way. They proposed flying
the Predator in Afghanistan.
CIA's directorate of operations, the
director of the directorate of operations, opposed the use of
Predator in 2000 for reconnaissance purposes. He said that if there
were additional resources available to pay for the Predator
operation, he would prefer to use them on human intelligence.
MR. ROEMER: And how much are we talking
about, Mr. Clarke?
MR. CLARKE: Pennies, relatively.
MR. ROEMER: Hundreds of thousands of
MR. CLARKE: Some of it cost hundreds of
thousands. The whole program was in the low millions, I think.
In any event, this slowed things down,
Mr. Berger took up my cause with the
director of Central Intelligence and got their agreement that they
would fly the reconnaissance version. It was flown in September and
October of 2000, 11 flights. And the directorate of operations put a
lot of restrictions on those flights, in part because they were
afraid that the aircraft would be shot down and they would have to
pay for it. I tried to point out that even if the aircraft were shot
down, the pilot would return safety to home. But that didn't seem to
In any event, during those flights, at
CIA's insistence, they were designed as a proof of concept
operation, meaning that we could not have cruise missiles, other
military activity, other covert action capabilities cued to this so
that when the Predator did see bin Laden, as it did I think on three
occasions, but clearly on one in that time frame, there were no
military assets available, there were no covert action assets
available, at the insistence of the CIA, because they wanted this
only as a proof of concept operation.
Fast forward to 2001: The flights had
been suspended because of the winter during which they couldn't fly.
We then became aware that there was a
long-term program in the Air Force to arm the Predator. Johnny
Jumper, the head of the Air Force, thought that it might be possible
to crash -- probably the wrong word -- to accelerate this program
and arm the Predator right away.
General Jumper directed that happening.
It happened in a matter of months, not a matter of years. And it
appeared to work in tests in the western United States.
When on September 4th we held the
principals meeting that's been discussed, the issue on the table
was: Would CIA fly the armed Predator?
And CIA took the view, in the
principals meeting, that it was not their job to fly armed UAVs.
They did not want to fly the armed Predator under their authority.
I was informed by people who were in the
CIA that during the discussions inside CIA, people in the
Directorate of Operations had raised objections. Saying, for example
that if CIA flies the armed Predator, and it kills bin Laden, then
CIA agents all around the world will be at risk of retaliation
attacks by Al Qaida.
I didn't think that was a very
persuasive reason because I thought CIA agents were already at risk
of attack by Al Qaida.
In any event, as the September 4th
principals meeting ended, CIA had not agreed to fly the mission.
September 11th happened. CIA then agreed to fly the armed Predator
mission. It went into operation very quickly in Afghanistan. It
MR. ROEMER: Within a month?
MR. CLARKE: ... the military commander -- I
think within the month. It found the military commander of Al Qaida.
And because it was armed, then, it could not only find things it
could kill them. And it launched a missile, a Hellfire missile, at
the military commander of Al Qaida and killed him and his
associates. If that answers the question.
MR. ROEMER: That answers the question. Thank
you, Mr. Chairman.
CHAIRMAN KEAN: OK. Mr. Clarke, thank you very
much. Thank you not only for your testimony today, but thank you for
your extraordinary time you spent already with the commission and
your willingness to help us with our report.