Saturday | January 25, 2003
Another Interesting Resignation
Anyone who has read the numerous books recently on the government’s failures to catch up to Bin Laden and Al Qaeda in the months leading up to 9/11 will be familiar with the name Richard Clarke, who was currently serving the Bush Administration as a cyber-terrorism adviser. Not as much is known about Clarke’s thoughts in the first few months of the Bush Administration on their preparedness and commitment to counterterrorism, but that may soon change. With the first set of 9/11 Commission hearings to begin next week, Clarke will soon resign from his post with the Bush Administration.
One month after the 9/11 catastrophe, Clarke was reassigned by the Bushies away from his position leading the government's secretive Counter-terrorism and Security Group, made up of senior officials from the FBI, CIA, Justice Department and armed services, who met several times each week to discuss foreign threats. He is also one of the two people in the government in the months leading up to 9/11 who knew the most about Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, the other being FBI Special Agent in Charge John O’Neill.
Both O’Neill and Clarke had been warning all who would listen in the FBI and CIA during the last part of the Clinton Administration and the first few months of the Bush Administration about the imminent threat posed by Al Qaeda, a threat that Clinton was quite convinced of. O’Neill quit the FBI in frustration in August 2001, fed up with being kept from pursuing a Saudi connection to Al Qaeda by the new Bush Administration and from being passed over for the senior counter-terrorism job in the FBI. Tragically, O’Neill went to work as chief of security for the World Trade Center and died in the 9/11 catastrophe. The story on O’Neill’s frustrations was well told in a recent PBS Frontline special that featured Clarke.
The two most interesting subjects for post-employment interviews over the next several months will be Clarke and Paul O’Neill, who will be talking to Ron Susskind soon for a long essay. Given O’Neill’s distaste for some of the Bush economic plan that eventually came out, the timing of the essay and anything from Clarke in the coming months on 9/11 will be the best reads of the Spring.