Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Clinton Terrorism Record

Byron York over at National Review disputes President Clinton's claim to have left the incoming Bush administration an anti-terror strategy in Did Clinton Really Give Bush A “Comprehensive Anti-Terror Strategy?”. Most tellingly, he relies on the words of Clinton's point man on terror, Richard Clarke as he discussed this issue following a 2002 pro-Clinton story that appeared in Time Magazine (They Had a Plan) :

Finally, Richard Clarke himself debunked the story in a background briefing with reporters. He said he presented two things to the incoming Bush administration: “One, what the existing strategy had been. And two, a series of issues — like aiding the Northern Alliance, changing Pakistan policy, changing Uzbek policy — that they had been unable to come to any new conclusions from ‘98 on.”

A reporter asked: “Were all of those issues part of an alleged plan that was late December and the Clinton team decided not to pursue because it was too close to — ”

There was never a plan, Andrea,” Clarke answered. “What there was was these two things: One, a description of the existing strategy, which included a description of the threat. And two, those things which had been looked at over the course of two years, and which were still on the table.”

“So there was nothing that developed, no documents or no new plan of any sort?

“There was no new plan.”

“No new strategy? I mean, I mean, I don’t want to get into a semantics — “

“Plan, strategy — there was no, nothing new.”

“Had those issues evolved at all from October of ‘98 until December of 2000?”

“Had they evolved? Not appreciably.”
Doesn't sound like one, which is in-line with President Clinton's record of not responding to terrorist attacks, a record Richard Miniter recalls at the Wall Street Journal in What Clinton Didn't Do... which is worth quoting at length:
With that in mind, let us examine Mr. Clinton's war on terror. Some 38 days after he was sworn in, al Qaeda attacked the World Trade Center. He did not visit the twin towers that year, even though four days after the attack he was just across the Hudson River in New Jersey, talking about job training. He made no attempt to rally the public against terrorism. His only public speech on the bombing was a few paragraphs inserted into a radio address mostly devoted an economic stimulus package. Those stray paragraphs were limited to reassuring the public and thanking the rescuers, the kinds of things governors say after hurricanes. He did not even vow to bring the bombers to justice. Instead, he turned the first terrorist attack on American soil over to the FBI.

In his Fox interview, Mr. Clinton said "no one knew that al Qaeda existed" in October 1993, during the tragic events in Somalia. But his national security adviser, Tony Lake, told me that he first learned of bin Laden "sometime in 1993," when he was thought of as a terror financier. U.S. Army Capt. James Francis Yacone, a black hawk squadron commander in Somalia, later testified that radio intercepts of enemy mortar crews firing at Americans were in Arabic, not Somali, suggesting the work of bin Laden's agents (who spoke Arabic), not warlord Farah Aideed's men (who did not). CIA and DIA reports also placed al Qaeda operatives in Somalia at the time.

By the end of Mr. Clinton's first year, al Qaeda had apparently attacked twice. The attacks would continue for every one of the Clinton years.

• In 1994, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (who would later plan the 9/11 attacks) launched "Operation Bojinka" to down 11 U.S. planes simultaneously over the Pacific. A sharp-eyed Filipina police officer foiled the plot. The sole American response: increased law-enforcement cooperation with the Philippines.

• In 1995, al Qaeda detonated a 220-pound car bomb outside the Office of Program Manager in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, killing five Americans and wounding 60 more. The FBI was sent in.

• In 1996, al Qaeda bombed the barracks of American pilots patrolling the "no-fly zones" over Iraq, killing 19. Again, the FBI responded.

• In 1997, al Qaeda consolidated its position in Afghanistan and bin Laden repeatedly declared war on the U.S. In February, bin Laden told an Arab TV network: "If someone can kill an American soldier, it is better than wasting time on other matters." No response from the Clinton administration.

• In 1998, al Qaeda simultaneously bombed U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224, including 12 U.S. diplomats. Mr. Clinton ordered cruise-missile strikes on Afghanistan and Sudan in response. Here Mr. Clinton's critics are wrong: The president was right to retaliate when America was attacked, irrespective of the Monica Lewinsky case.

Still, "Operation Infinite Reach" was weakened by Clintonian compromise. The State Department feared that Pakistan might spot the American missiles in its air space and misinterpret it as an Indian attack. So Mr. Clinton told Gen. Joe Ralston, vice chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, to notify Pakistan's army minutes before the Tomahawks passed over Pakistan. Given Pakistan's links to jihadis at the time, it is not surprising that bin Laden was tipped off, fleeing some 45 minutes before the missiles arrived.

• In 1999, the Clinton administration disrupted al Qaeda's Millennium plots, a series of bombings stretching from Amman to Los Angeles. This shining success was mostly the work of Richard Clarke, a NSC senior director who forced agencies to work together. But the Millennium approach was shortlived. Over Mr. Clarke's objections, policy reverted to the status quo.

• In January 2000, al Qaeda tried and failed to attack the U.S.S. The Sullivans off Yemen. (Their boat sank before they could reach their target.) But in October 2000, an al Qaeda bomb ripped a hole in the hull of the U.S.S. Cole, killing 17 sailors and wounding another 39.

When Mr. Clarke presented a plan to launch a massive cruise missile strike on al Qaeda and Taliban facilities in Afghanistan, the Clinton cabinet voted against it. After the meeting, a State Department counterterrorism official, Michael Sheehan, sought out Mr. Clarke. Both told me that they were stunned. Mr. Sheehan asked Mr. Clarke: "What's it going to take to get them to hit al Qaeda in Afghanistan? Does al Qaeda have to attack the Pentagon?"

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Plame Kerfuffle Round-up

Victoria Toensing in the WSJ's OpinionJournal asks "What did Patrick Fitzgerald know, and when did he know it?" - What a Load of Armitage:
What Mr. Fitzgerald knew, and chose to ignore, is troublesome. Despite what some CIA good ol' boys might have told Mr. Fitzgerald, he knew from the day he took office that the facts did not support a violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act; therefore, there was no crime to investigate. Although he claimed in Mr. Libby's indictment that Ms. Plame's employment status was "classified," Mr. Fitzgerald refuses to provide the basis for that fact and, even if true, can point to no law that would be violated by revealing a "classified" (not covert) employment. It was this gap in the law that created the need to pass the act in the first place.

She also has questions for Armitage and Wilson as well:
Mr. Armitage also knew he had met with Bob Woodward on June 13, 2003, telling him about Mr. Wilson's wife's CIA employment and her role in her husband's trip to Niger. But when the FBI interviewed Mr. Armitage on Oct. 2, he admitted to the Novak conversation only, notably forgetting meeting with one of our country's premier investigative reporters. By attributing his longtime silence to Mr. Fitzgerald's request, Mr. Armitage must have forgotten Mr. Fitzgerald was not appointed until Dec. 30, 2003. If Mr. Armitage had come forward during those three months, there might never have been a special counsel.
Joseph Wilson. In July 2003, when he demanded an investigation of a White House cabal for violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act by "outing" his wife, Mr. Wilson knew Ms. Plame did not meet the factual requirements for covert status under the act. She was neither covert at the time of publication nor had a covert foreign assignment within five years. He acknowledged so in his book: "My move back to Washington [in June 1997] coincided with the return to D.C. of a woman named Valerie Plame." As the Senate negotiator for this 1982 act, I know a trip or two by Ms. Plame to a foreign country while assigned to Langley, where she worked in July 2003, is not considered a foreign assignment. I also know covert officers are not assigned to Langley.
David Corn was not happy with Ms. Toensing's charge that he was the first to reveal Valerie Plame's covert status, presumably based on information provided by her husband, Joe Wilson. Ms. Toensing replies in National Review - Hubris and Cliff May, who originally suggested that Corn exposed Plame's "covert" status backs her up with links to the primary documents in The Corner.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Assessing the Islamist Threat, Circa 1946

A precient analysis of the threat from Islam, prepared by the intelligence division of the U.S. War Department in 1946 and available at The Middle Eastern Forum - Assessing the Islamist Threat, Circa 1946 :
The Moslems remember the power with which once they not only ruled their own domains but also overpowered half of Europe, yet they are painfully aware of their present economic, cultural, and military impoverishment. Thus a terrific internal pressure is building up in their collective thinking. The Moslems intend, by any means possible, to regain political independence and to reap the profits of their own resources, which in recent times and up to the present have been surrendered to the exploitation of foreigners who could provide capital investments. The area, in short, has an inferiority complex, and its activities are thus as unpredictable as those of any individual so motivated.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

"Those Crafty Hebrews..."

Jonah Goldberg in National Review Online on the prevalence and danger of conspiracy theories - America the Treacherous:

This rough beast slouches toward sedition because it assumes not that our leaders are knaves or even mere criminals, but that they are murderous Supermen with no loyalty to nation, decency or law. Our Constitution is a fraud, a charade for the rubes some of us naively call citizens. If you disagree, you’re either fool or “in on it.” In his 1964 essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” Richard Hofstadter demonstrated that this fever of the mind is as old as America itself and its outbreaks flare up across the ideological landscape. What is so sad and frightening is that this diseased thinking is reaching epidemic proportions. More than a third of Americans believe the U.S. government was likely to have been involved in 9/11.

In the past, when these outbreaks occurred on the political right, liberal hand-wringers fretted about incipient fascism and rising McCarthyism. Today, the best we get from them is a bemused and sterile chuckle.