Richard Clarke Faces 9-11 Commission

Richard A. Clarke, the former National Coordinator for Counterterrorism, National Security Council told the  9-11 Commission on Wednesday, "I believe the Bush administration in the first eight months considered terrorism an important issue, but not an urgent issue."

Clarke published a book on Monday Against All Enemies: Inside America's War On Terror, which accuses the Bush administration of being fixated on Iraq instead of Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda followers, both before and after September 11th.

In response to former Democratic congressman, Tim Roemer, Clarke confirmed he had sent a letter to national security advisor, Condoleeza Rice, on September 4 which stated, "You urge policymakers to imagine a day after hundreds of Americans lay dead at home and abroad after a terrorist attack and ask themselves what else they could have done."

Adminstration officials strongly disputed Clarke's claims on Monday claiming Clarke's allegations were made to sale more books and to help the Democrats in a presidential election year.  Republicans claims Clarke is a closet supporter of John Kerry.

For his part Clarke said, "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, under oath. "

Clarke has worked in Washington for 30 years and worked for both Republican and Democratic administrations.  Fuel was added to the fire on Sunday when Clarke went on CBS's 60 Minutes (both CBS and Simon & Schuster, Clarke's publisher are units of Viacom) and said, that it is "outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he's done such great things about terrorism — he ignored it."

White House spokesman Scott McLellan says of the accusations, "I think that his assertion that there is something that we could have done to prevent the September 11 attacks from happening is deeply irresponsible, it's offensive and flat out false."

Officials added Clarke scheduled his appearance on 60 Minutes and his book release on Monday to take advantage of his appearance before the 9-11 Commission on Wednesday.

CIA Director George Tenet said said even had the Bush administration gotten Osama bin Laden, "I do not believe we would have stopped this plot."

Tenet reiterated what Secretary of State Colin Powell had said on Tuesday about the perception the threat from Al-Qaeda was thought to be overseas, not in the United States.

"The predominant focus and thread of the reporting took us overseas," said Tenet.  "The data just didn't exist with any specificity to take you there."  According to Tenet, the "kind of specificity we needed...that would have led us to conclude the plot was inside the United States."

Like others giving testimony, Tenet reflected on the lack of a strong system of checks and balances, "The moral of the story is, if you take in those measures systemically over the course of time and closed seams, you might have had a better chance of succeeding, stopping, deterring or disrupting."

During Tuesday's testimony Secretary of State Colin Powell said, "Most of us still thought that the principal threat was outside the country...Anything we might have done against Al-Qaeda in this period or against Osama bin Laden may or may not have had any influence on these people who were already in this country, already had their instructions, were already burrowed in and were getting ready to commit the crimes that we saw on 9/11."

Powell also said that Al-Qaeda and others would continue to be a threat.  "Al-Qaeda has tentacles in many different parts of the world.  We've been very successful.  We've eliminated a significant portion of the senior leadership that we knew about.  This does not eliminate the entire organization, and it is not the only organization that means us ill."

Former Democratic Senator Bob Kerry was not satisfied with the testimony of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.  "I keep hearing the excuse we didn't have actionable intelligence.  Well, what the hell does that say to Al-Qaeda?  Basically, they knew - beginning in 1993 it seems to me - that there was going to be limited, if any, use of military and that they were relatively free to do whatever they wanted."

Albright says of the intelligence, "I reviewed it, and I am satisfied that we did what we could given the intelligence that we had and pre-9/11, if I might say.  We have to keep being reminded of that, because there were whole questions...that we overreacted, not the other way around."

Former Secretary of Defense William Cohen says Americans are too complacent.  "Even now after September 11, it is far from clear that our society truly appreciates the gravity of the threat we face or is yet willing to do what is necessary to counter it...After all, it is commonly noted, there have been no attacks since 9/11.  this is a dangerous delusion.  The enemy is not only coming, he has been here.  He is already amongst us."

Cohen also testified there had been three occasions when the Clinton administration was ready to take action against Osama Bin Laden.  "Each time, the munitions and people were spun up," Cohen told the commission. "They were called off because the word came back, 'We're not sure.' "

Current Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says there will be another attack.  "Another attack on our people will be attempted.  We can't know where or when, or by what technique."

Rumsfeld also said, "I knew of no intelligence during the 6-months leading up to September 11 that indicated terrorists would hijack commercial airliners, us them as missiles to fly into the Pentagon or the World Trade Center towers."

Absent from the public hearings will be National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice and President Bush, both of whom have agreed to speak to the commission privately, but not publicly.

In other controversies concerning the commission, a pair of public interest groups, The 9-11 Family Steering Committee and 9-11 Citizens Watch, have called for the resignation of the director of the independent 9-11 commission, Philip Zelikow.

The calls for resignation come after former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke revealed that Zelikow participated in Bush administration briefings on al Qaeda prior to Sept. 11.