Clarke, Richard A. 1951-
CLARKE, Richard A. 1951-
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.
CAREER: National security expert. Office of the Secretary of Defense, analyst for nuclear weapons and European security issues, 1973-79; Pacific Sierra Research Corporation, senior analyst, 1978-79; United States State Department, senior analyst, 1979-85; deputy assistant secretary of intelligence, 1985-89; assistant secretary of state for politico-military affairs, 1989-92; national security staff, chairman of the interagency counterintelligence committee, 1992-2003; special assistant to the president and senior director for global issues and multilateral affairs, 1993-98; national coordinator for security, infrastructure protection, and counterterrorism, 1998; first special assistant to the president for combating terrorism, 2001-03, special adviser to the president for cyberspace security.
Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, Free Press (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Richard A. Clarke began federal service in 1973 and served in the administrations of five presidents, ending with George W. Bush. Clarke, whose areas of expertise are national security and counterterrorism, became a household name when he published Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, a scathing indictment of the handling of the "war on terrorism."
By September 11, 2001, Clarke was what New York Times Book Review contributor James Risen called "the ultimate White House insider." He had served in the State Department during the Reagan years and the National Security Council for a decade. President Clinton named him counterterrorism coordinator in 1998. George W. Bush asked him to continue in that role when Bush replaced Clinton, but Clarke soon became frustrated because Bush and his team were not following up on the threat from Osama bin Laden, even though Sandy Berger, Clinton's national security advisor, counseled his successor, Condoleezza Rice, to concentrate on terrorism and Al Qaeda. As time passed, numerous intelligence reports containing ominous information were issued, including an August 6, 2001, secret briefing to the president that was clear in its assessment that bin Laden supporters were planning an attack within the United States and wanted to hijack airplanes, but it wasn't until immediately preceding 9/11 that any real plan to eliminate Al Qaeda was formed.
When the tragedies of September 11 occurred, Clarke was planning to leave his post and concentrate on an assignment that focused on security in cyberspace; that changed when he was ordered by Rice to take control in the White House situation room. Clarke describes how he enforced the doomsday rules that protect cabinet members and recommended that the president not return to Washington. Clarke communicated with key agencies that closed the country's borders, grounded commercial aircraft, put the military on high alert, and notified Russia.
The most controversial section of Clarke's book is about President Bush's insistence on blaming the September 11 attacks on Iraq's Saddam Hussein. Clarke says that on the evening of September 12, Bush told him to "go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam did this." Clarke writes that he was "taken aback, incredulous." He responded to Bush, "Al Qaeda did this." According to Clarke, Bush said, "I know, I know, but . . . see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred." At which point the president ended the conversation and walked away.
The White House dismissed Clarke's book based on the alleged fact that he wasn't involved with the plans to attack Iraq. Clarke was also severely criticized by those who said his previous statements and his book contradict each other. These critics included Senate majority leader Bill Frist, who accused Clarke of lying under oath, a claim from which he later distanced himself. Political pundit Al Franken said on his Web site that "Richard Clarke is an honorable man who served his country well for decades. He doesn't deserve this kind of garbage. Perhaps we should admire him all the more because he knew he was going to face it. The memory of Clarke in the public mind will be clouded by innuendo and blatant falsehoods that were intended to discredit him without addressing the substance of his story. We won't forget it."
Risen wrote that "the key allegation in this book—that the Bush team was obsessed with Iraq even when faced with overwhelming evidence that it was Al Qaeda that was attacking the United States—can't be dismissed by assertions that [Clarke] was out of the loop. During those days, Richard Clarke was the loop."
Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times that what Clarke has written about Bush policy on terrorism "isn't controversial. The fact that terrorism was placed on the back burner before 9/11 and that Mr. Bush blamed Iraq despite the lack of evidence are confirmed by many sources." Krugman noted that "new evidence keeps emerging for Mr. Clarke's main charge. . . . That's why the administration responded to Mr. Clarke the way it responds to anyone who reveals inconvenient facts: with a campaign of character assassination."
Clarke extends his criticisms beyond the current and past administrations to include the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Pentagon. Paul Magnusson wrote for BusinessWeek Online that in Clarke's book, the CIA under Director George Tenet "is less James Bond and more Caspar Milquetoast," FBI Director Louis J. Freeh "appears here and there in the narrative as a grandstanding dunderhead, attended by secretive and uncooperative FBI agents," and "as for the Pentagon brass, they either won't take risks or, worse still, ignore intelligence that doesn't precisely fit their worldview."
Michiko Kakutani wrote in the New York Times that "at the end of the book, Mr. Clarke argues that the war against Iraq has undermined the war against Al Qaeda and spawned further hatred of the United States in the Islamic world. He also argues that the Bush administration should have been paying more attention to four other volatile countries in the region: Afghanistan (where the Taliban is now resurgent), Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran."
The breakdown in communications between agencies had been reported by the investigative media for several years, but when Clarke testified to the 9/11 Commission in April, 2004, he was clear in noting that two years before the tragedies, the CIA had identified two of the hijackers as suspected terrorists and tracked their movements to the United States. If the CIA had shared this information with the White House and the FBI, which it did not, the plot to bomb United States landmarks would might have been disrupted.
Clarke's book came out approximately one year into the investigation by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (9/11 Commission). The Commission's chair, former New Jersey Governor Thomas H. Kean, said, "A central aspect of our commission's mission is counterterrorism policy: what options senior officials considered before September 11, 2001, and what choices they made."
Clarke testified during a public hearing before the commission on March 24, 2004, and as Slate's Fred Kaplan noted, "delivered a stunning blow to the Bush administration—the political equivalent of a first-round knockout. The blow was so stunning, it took a while to realize that it was a blow. Clarke thanked the members for holding the hearings, saying they finally provided him 'a forum where I can apologize' to the victims of 9/11 and their loved ones. He continued, addressing those relatives, many of whom were sitting in the hearing room: 'Your government failed you and I failed you. We tried hard, but that doesn't matter because we failed. And for that failure, I would ask for your understanding and for your forgiveness.'"
Clarke was confronted for having different views in the book from those he had expressed while working for the administration. His response was that at that time, he was, like Rice and others were now doing, representing the president he was serving. And of his earlier testimony, he said that no one had then asked him his opinion of the president's handling of Iraq. On the previous and following days, testimony was heard from Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, CIA Director Tenet, FBI Directory Robert Mueller, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Attorney General John Ashcroft, former Attorney General Janet Reno, former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, former Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, former FBI Director Louis Freeh, and former National Security Advisor Samuel (Sandy) Berger. President Bush and Vice President Cheney later testified together, in a closed session that was unsworn and unrecorded. Clarke's book had clearly turned up the heat on the administration.
Leslie Stahl spoke with Clarke on 60 Minutes. The interview provoked criticism because the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) did not disclose that the book is published by the Free Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, which is a member of the CBS corporate family. Executive producer Don Hewitt said he hadn't even known that the Free Press was part of the larger publishing group. After the program was seen by more than sixteen million viewers, the book went to number one on the nonfiction lists. Film rights to Against All Enemies were purchased by Sony Pictures.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Newsmakers, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2002.
New York Times, March 26, 2004, Rachel L. Swarns, "Ex-Aide's Book Corners Market in Capital Buzz," p. A1; March 30, 2004, Paul Krugman, review of Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, p. A21; April 1, 2004, Michiko Kakutani, review of Against All Enemies, p. E11; April 18, 2004, David Johnston and Jim Dwyer, "Pre-9/11 Files Show Warnings Were More Dire and Persistent."
New York Times Book Review, April 11, 2004, James Risen, review of Against All Enemies, p. 9.
Al Franken Home Page,http://www.ofrankenfactor.com/ (April 19, 2004).
BusinessWeek Online,http://www.businessweek.com/ (April 1, 2004), Paul Magnusson, review of Against All Enemies.
Slate,http://slate.msn.com/ (March 24, 2004), Fred Kaplan, "Richard Clarke KOs the Bushies."*