Former Bush National Security Council’s counter-terrorism director wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post this past weekend, saying that "trauma of 9/11" was a piss-poor excuse for the response of Cheney and the Bush Administration in the weeks and months that followed (Iraq invasion, Gitmo detention, illegal wiretapping, etc.):
Yes, Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice may have been surprised by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — but it was because they had not listened. And their surprise led them to adopt extreme counterterrorism techniques — but it was because they rejected, without analysis, the tactics the Clinton administration had used. The measures they uncritically adopted, which they simply assumed were the best available, were in fact unnecessary and counterproductive.
Speaking at the National Press Club today, Cheney struck back at Clarke. When asked about Clarke’s argument, Cheney — once again — invoked the “burning ashes” of 9/11 and the victims who leaped to their deaths from the World Trade Center. Then, quite succinctly, Cheney pinned the entire blame for 9/11 on Clarke:
CHENEY: You know, Dick Clarke. Dick Clarke, who was the head of the counterrorism program in the run-up to 9/11. He obviously missed it. The fact is that we did what we felt we had to do, and if I had to do it all over again, I would do exactly the same thing.
Emails from the National Security Council's counter-terrorism director, Richard Clarke, showed that he had bombarded Rice with messages about terrorist threats. He was trying to get her to focus on the intelligence she should have been reading each morning in the presidential and senior briefings [all dates are 2001]
"Bin Ladin Public Profile May Presage Attack" (May 3)
"Terrorist Groups Said Co-operating on US Hostage Plot" (May 23)
"Bin Ladin's Networks' Plans Advancing" (May 26)
"Bin Ladin Attacks May Be Imminent" (June 23)
"Bin Ladin and Associates Making Near-Term Threats" (June 25)
"Bin Ladin Planning High-Profile Attacks" (June 30),
"Planning for Bin Ladin Attacks Continues, Despite Delays" (July 2)
All that before the infamous August 6 2001 PDB.
And did Rice heed Clarke's warnings?
When he finally got his security clearance and was allowed into the reading room, [9/11 Commission investigator historian Warren] Bass discovered he could make quick work of Rice's emails and internal memos on the al-Qaeda threat in the spring and summer of 2001. That was because there was almost nothing to read, at least nothing that Rice had written herself.
Either she committed nothing to paper or email on the subject, which was possible since so much of her work was conducted face-to-face with Bush, or terrorist threats were simply not an issue that had interested her before September 11. Her speeches and public appearances in the months before the attacks suggested the latter.
So Clarke didn't miss it; in fact, he was warning about an impending attack repeatedly.
Similarly, Time Magazine reported in 2002 that Clarke had an extensive plan to “roll back” al Qaeda — a plan that languished for months, ignored by senior Bush officials:
Clarke, using a Powerpoint presentation, outlined his thinking to Rice. … In fact, the heading on Slide 14 of the Powerpoint presentation reads, “Response to al Qaeda: Roll back.” … The proposals Clarke developed in the winter of 2000-01 were not given another hearing by top decision makers until late April, and then spent another four months making their laborious way through the bureaucracy before they were readied for approval by President Bush.
Cheney don't know Dick.