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GOP: Declassify Clarke's 2002 testimony


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate's top Republican demanded Friday that testimony former White House counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke gave before a congressional panel investigating the September 11 attacks in 2002 be declassified to determine whether he lied Wednesday to an independent commission probing the tragedy.

In a blistering floor speech, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee charged that Clarke "has told two entirely different stories under oath," and he castigated Clarke for cashing in on the 9/11 tragedy by writing a book.

"I personally find this to be an appalling act of profiteering, of trading on insider access to highly classified information and capitalizing on the tragedy that befell this nation on September 11th, 2001," Frist said, calling on Clarke to "renounce any plan to personally profit from this book."

At issue is testimony Clarke gave behind closed doors in July 2002 in a hearing before the House and Senate intelligence committees jointly investigating the attacks.

Frist said that during that testimony, Clarke was "effusive in his praise for the actions of the Bush administration," though the majority leader provided no details.

On Wednesday, Clarke testified publicly before an independent, bipartisan commission investigating the 9/11 tragedy known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States and charged that the Bush administration did not focus enough on the fight against terrorism before the attacks. He also wrote a book, "Against All Enemies," that leveled the same charges, which have been vigorously disputed by a host of administration officials.

Frist's comments were the latest attempts by Republicans to challenge Clarke's credibility. But the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time of the joint investigation, Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, expressed doubt Friday that Clarke's earlier testimony would do anything to establish that he lied under oath.

"To the best of my recollection, there is nothing inconsistent or contradictory in that testimony and what Mr. Clarke has said this week," Graham said in a statement.

After Frist made his demand, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, issued a statement saying he would also support declassification of Clarke's testimony. He said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss, R-Florida, plans to make that request.

"It is my view that Richard Clarke's testimony before the joint inquiry will shed light on the issues without compromising national security," Hastert said, adding that the independent 9/11 commission has already received Clarke's earlier testimony.

Graham, too, said he would support declassification. But he said if Clarke's testimony is released, the Bush administration should declassify it in full, rather than "selectively" editing it to only disclose material favorable to the White House.

He also said documents mentioned in Clarke's testimony should be declassified, and he pushed again for the White House to release 27 pages of the joint inquiry's final report that were held back on grounds of national security.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry, who has not commented in detail on Clarke's charges, waded gingerly into the fray Friday in an interview with CBS MarketWatch.

"My challenge to the Bush administration would be, if he's not believable and they have reason to show it, then prosecute him for perjury, because he is under oath," Kerry said. "They have a perfect right to do that."

Kerry said that he has read only "a couple of chapters" of Clarke's book and has not seen his testimony before the 9/11 panel.

"I think what he said raises very serious questions," Kerry said.

A senior Kerry adviser said the senator "thinks instead of answering the tough questions, the administration is playing scare tactics. ... Instead of answering tough questions, they're trying to tear down the messenger."

"They are clearly scared of this and want to try and quash this as quickly as possible," the adviser said. "The American people want answers, and saying Richard Clarke is a liar is not good enough."

In another development, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice -- who has taken the brunt of Clarke's criticism -- will appear Sunday night on CBS' "60 Minutes," the program where Clarke first discussed his allegations last week.

The White House offered to have Rice appear on "60 Minutes" after the program asked the White House for someone to comment on the week's developments, CBS said in a statement. The interview will be taped Sunday.

Rice has come under fire from members of the independent 9/11 commission for refusing to testify publicly before the panel. The White House maintains that it is inappropriate for her to testify because the doctrine of executive privilege precludes presidential staff members, such as Rice, from giving public testimony to panels formed by Congress.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, himself a former national security adviser, defended that position Friday.

"The president's personal staff has a unique role," Powell told "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" on PBS. "They're his intimate personal advisers, and the tradition and precedent has been ... that people in that position do not testify before the Congress."

"I know she would like to do it. She wants to tell the story, but she has to consider the precedent that would be created by this."

Rice provided more than four hours of private testimony to the 9/11 commission in February. Thursday, the White House made a formal request that the panel hold another private meeting with Rice so she can rebut Clarke's charges.

"There were clearly some statements and assertions that were made that were wrong," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Friday. "It's important to make sure ... that the commission has all the information they need to do their job."

CNN correspondents Kelly Wallace and Joe Johns contributed to this report.


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