By Nicholas Stix
July 26, 2004
A Different Drummer, Enter Stage Right, Intellectual Conservative, etc.
The Dick Clarke Show
The MAAR, which was written on Sandy Berger's orders by then-counter terrorism czar Richard Clarke, reportedly detailed holes in America's anti-terror preparations, and suggested reforms to plug the holes. In Clarke's new book, Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, which he wrote in order to help the Democrats regain the White House, financially exploit his years of public service, make him and his cronies look good, and protect Bill Clinton's place in history, Clarke inaccurately depicted the Port Angeles Millennium Plot action, fabricated out of whole cloth a Clinton Administration role in foiling the plot, and dishonestly denigrated the Bush Administration's anti-terror preparations.
Clarke claimed that shortly before the arrest of Ressam, customs agents and other law enforcement officers had been ordered to exercise extra scrutiny, which led directly to his capture. That is nonsense on stilts.
It was without any directives from Washington, D.C., that on December 14, 1999, Port Angeles, WA Customs Agent Diana Dean took the initiative to check out an Arab man entering the country from British Columbia, Ahmed Ressam aka Benni Antoine Noris aka Reda, who was acting "hinky." In the trunk of Ressam's car, agents found nitroglycerin. The Algerian Ressam proved to be an al Qaeda terrorist.
In Customs Officer Diana Dean's Senate testimony, she mentioned nothing about a special directive, and emphasized the routine nature of the work she and her colleagues did, in questioning, searching, and arresting Ahmed Ressam.
"The fact is U.S. Customs Inspectors do things like this every hour of the day, every day of the week, every week of the year, at all 301 ports of entry in our nation. Some times we interdict dangerous drugs, sometimes guns, contaminated food, defective parts, the list goes on."
Dick Clarke also lied in his book and his 911 Commission testimony about his briefings of incoming Bush Administration officials, when he suggested he was a modern-day Cassandra, desperately seeking to get Bush advisors to take the dire threat posed by al Qaeda seriously, only to have his warnings fall on deaf ears. He has repeatedly insisted that everything was in place to fight terrorism when the Clinton Administration left office, but that the Bush people ignored all that invaluable work. In fact, it appears that Clarke sandbagged the new Administration. Did 3,000 innocent people die, so that Dick Clarke could protect his party from embarrassment, and gain partisan advantage?
In his book, Clarke was particularly vicious towards National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice and Attorney General John Ashcroft, claiming that Rice had never heard of al Qaeda before he mentioned the terror network to her in early 2001 (Rice had given a public lecture on al Qaeda prior to the 2000 election), and portraying Ashcroft as an imbecile:
"When I and one of my staff met with Ashcroft early in the Administration, we were left wondering if his discussion with us had been an act. My associate asked me on the drive back to the White House, "He can't really be that slow, can he? I mean, you can't get to be the Attorney General of the United States and be like that, right?'
"I wasn't sure. ‘I don't know,' I said. ‘Maybe he's just cagey, but after all, he did lose a Senate reelection to a dead man.'"
(In 2000, Missouri Sen. John Ashcroft ran for re-election against Democrat Gov. Mel Carnahan. Both men were immensely popular in Missouri, where Ashcroft was himself a former two-term governor, and before that a two-term attorney general, and the race was a tight one. Gov. Carnahan died in a plane crash less than three weeks before the election. Owing to the sympathy factor, with the understanding that Gov. Carnahan's widow, Jean, would serve in her husband's place, Missouri voters "elected" the dead governor.
While I can understand how it would be irresistible for Clarke to get a cheap laugh at Ashcroft's expense, his joke required that he misrepresent the actual situation, something he did with regularity in his book. As far as I can see, Jean Carnahan's election was illegal. Her name was not on the ballot, her husband's was. Missouri law stipulates that only those living in Missouri may legally run for election. Mrs. Carnahan could only have run legally, had she put her own name on the official ballot, and the deadline for doing that had passed. Hence, all votes for Mel Carnahan were invalid, and Sen. Ashcroft should have won re-election in a landslide. Ashcroft surely knew this, but in a show of chivalry that was wasted on the widow Carnahan -- not to mention on Dick Clarke -- chose not to contest the election. Democrat Acting Gov. Roger Wilson appointed Mrs. Carnahan senator, but again, according to Missouri election law, Wilson had no authority to do so. In 2002, Jean Carnahan lost her only election campaign to Republican Jim Talent. In December, 2000, president-elect George W. Bush nominated John Ashcroft Attorney General of the United States.)
As General Ashcroft testified before the 911 Commission in April, when the Bush Administration took over in January 2001, Dick Clarke withheld the MAAR, until after 9/11. If that charge is true, Clarke may be liable for federal prosecution.
You may ask why I believe Ashcroft over Clarke. While I called, in September 2002, for John Ashcroft's dismissal based on his persecution of scientist Dr. Steven Hatfill in the anthrax case, I have never had reason to consider him a liar. Conversely, I have caught Dick Clarke telling so many falsehoods, that I would not trust him to give me the correct time of day.
According to a July 21 MSNBC report combining material from NBC's David Gregory and Pete Williams and the Associated Press, "In his April 13 testimony to the Sept. 11 commission, Attorney General John Ashcroft said the [MAAR] ‘warns the prior administration of a substantial al-Qaida network' in the United States. Ashcroft said it also recommends such things as using tougher visa and border controls and prosecutions of immigration violations and minor criminal charges to disrupt terror cells.
"‘These are the same aggressive, often-criticized [by Democrats and their establishment media comrades – N.S.] law enforcement tactics that we have unleashed for 31 months to stop another al-Qaida attack,' Ashcroft told the panel. He added that he never saw the documents before the Sept. 11 attacks."
It was also Ashcroft alone who had the cojones to point out, in his commission testimony, the role in weakening America's defenses of 911 commissioner Jamie Gorelick, who as Clinton Administration deputy attorney general, erected the "wall" that kept the FBI and CIA from sharing intelligence (yet another matter that Dick Clarke failed to mention in his book). So, I guess Ashcroft wasn't so slow, after all.
(Many Midwesterners have a tendency to speak at a much slower tempo than folks from places like New York, California, or Washington D.C., a style that many "sophisticats" consider a sign of being intellectually challenged.)
As a July 21 Wall Street Journa editorial observed, "Ahmed Ressam was one of the would-be Millennium bombers whom the French had identified to U.S. intelligence agencies as an al Qaeda operative planning to attack America. But the ‘wall of separation' meant that when an alert U.S. customs officer stopped Ressam as he tried to enter the country from Vancouver, the Justice Department had no idea who he was. This helps illuminate the claim made in the missing [MAAR], according to Mr. Ashcroft's testimony, that our success in stopping these 1999 attacks was a result of sheer ‘luck.'"
Dick Clarke's unprofessional behavior, in not providing the MAAR to the incoming administration, i.e., in obstructing the Bush Administration's anti-terror precautions, is just one of countless matters that Clarke forgot to mention in his book. The MAAR was essential to formulating the new Administration's anti-terrorism strategy. Consider Clarke's heroic, West Wing-style depiction of is own behavior in the Bush Administration prior to and on 911, and his concealment of the MAAR. Consider, too, his classified 2002 Senate testimony, which caused no reaction, versus his sensational, book-selling public testimony in 2004, though Democrat politicians have denied that the testimonies contradicted each other. As the Sandy Berger Saga unfolds, someone may have to write a book about Clarke's book, just to set the story straight.
On the July 21 ABC News Nightline, where Clarke appeared as a paid ABC consultant, he embellished on his previous embellishments.
Host Chris Bury: "Under Pres. Bush, the  Commission report, at least what we know about it so far, seems to be hardest on this issue of not connecting the dots, particularly with the FBI, some of its agents knowing, possibly warning about a plot, that hijackers might be in the country training, not connecting the dots with Zacarias Moussaoui, who had already been detained.
"If you're going to name one thing under Pres. Bush that stands out in terms of sloppiness, is that it?"
Dick Clarke: "No, I think the one mistake that was made in the Bush Administration was actually made by the President, and that was when he was told repeatedly by the CIA over the course of June, July, and August that a major attack by al Qaeda was coming, that he didn't personally get involved, in trying to make his government work better, to stop it. Contrast that with the way Pres. Clinton did get involved, to try to stop a similar attack around the Millennium period, and by getting the cabinet members involved, Clinton was able to get the government to work better, and did prevent a series of attacks around that period."
The preceding passage from Clarke was an exercise in fiction. No person or agency, including the CIA and Dick Clarke provided Pres. Bush with any concrete information regarding where, when, or how an al Qaeda attack would be carried out. Indeed, in his book, Clarke mocks the idea of such vague warnings.
As for Pres. Clinton, there is no evidence that any actions he took helped prevent any Millennium terrorist attacks. All credit goes properly to people like Customs Agent Diana Dean and FBI Agent Fred Humphries. It was only after Agent Dean and her colleagues had caught Ahmed Ressam and his explosives, and after Agent Humphries had made him for an Algerian, and thus figured out that Ressam was not who he claimed to be, and with his colleagues cracked the case, that Pres. Clinton swung into action. Bill Clinton was a day late and a dollar short.
Clarke's July 21 Nightline claim that Pres. Clinton prevented a "series of attacks around that [Millennium] period" is contradicted by his own book. In Against All Enemies, Clarke shows that it was Jordanian intelligence that prevented the first of three simultaneous Millennium attacks, without any American aid, and who alerted us to the Millennium Plot, not the other way around. (Clarke writes in such an odd way, however, that he somehow transfers the credit from the Jordanians to his CIA crony, Cofer Black.) And the third and final simultaneous Millennium attack Clarke cites in his book, planned for the port of Aden, Yemen, failed not because of American derring-do, much less due to Bill Clinton's personal involvement, but due to al Qaeda's incompetence: "As they pushed the boat down the landing and into the water, however, it moved off a little into the harbor, and sank. The explosives weighed too much."
According to Attorney General Ashcroft, Clarke's July 21 claims about Pres. Clinton helping prevent the Millennium Plot are also contradicted by his own MAAR, which may have something to do with why so many drafts and copies of the document found their way into Sandy Berger's portfolio.
It is Dick Clarke's m.o. to give all credit, deserved or not, to his Democrat cronies and particularly to his Democrat president, and to allocate all blame to Republicans, particularly to the present Republican president.