FORMER WHITE HOUSE TERROR ADVISER SET TO BREAK SILENCE ON '60 MINS'; SAYS PRESIDENT ISNâ€™T DOING VERY GOOD JOB FIGHTING TERRORISM
Fri Mar 19 2004 17:49:30 ET
**Updated** Sat Mar 20 2004 09:52:43 ET
President Bushâ€™s former top terrorism advisor says the president isnâ€™t doing the best job fighting terrorism. The former advisor, Richard Clarke, discusses this and other observations he made while he was a White House insider in an interview with Lesley Stahl to be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday March 21 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
â€śFrankly, I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that heâ€™s done such great things about terrorism,â€ť says Clarke in tomorrow nightâ€™s interview. â€śHe ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11. Maybe. Weâ€™ll never know,â€ť he tells Stahl.
Clarke tells Stahl that on September 11, 2001 and the day after - when it was clear Al Qaeda had carried out the terrorist attacks - the Bush administration was considering bombing Iraq in retaliation.
Clarke was surprised that the attention of administration officials was turning toward Iraq when he expected the focus to be on Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. "They were talking about Iraq on 9/11. They were talking about it on 9/12," says Clarke.
The top counter-terrorism advisor, Clarke was briefing the highest government officials, including President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in the aftermath of 9/11. "Rumsfeld was saying we needed to bomb Iraq....We all said, 'but no, no. Al Qaeda is in Afghanistan," recounts Clarke, "and Rumsfeld said, 'There aren't any good targets in Afghanistan and there are lots of good targets in Iraq.' I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with [the 9/11 attacks],'" he tells Stahl.
Clarke goes on to explain what he believes was the reason for the focus on Iraq. "I think they wanted to believe that there was a connection [between Iraq and Al Qaeda] but the CIA was sitting there, the FBI was sitting there, I was sitting there, saying, 'We've looked at this issue for years. For years we've looked and there's just no connection,'" says Clarke.
Clarke, who advised four presidents, reveals more about the current administration's reaction to terrorism in his new book, "Against All Enemies."