Clarke wants all testimony, records declassified
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former White House counterterrorism aide Richard Clarke, whose criticism of the Bush administration's antiterrorism policy has triggered a ferocious response from the White House, said Sunday that he supports Republican calls to declassify testimony he gave Congress in 2002.
At issue is testimony Clarke gave behind closed doors at a July 2002 hearing of the House and Senate intelligence committees jointly investigating the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Clarke said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that the release of the testimony would prove false any claims that his earlier testimony contradicts statements in his new book, "Against All Enemies."
"I would welcome it being declassified," he said. "But not just a little line here and there -- let's declassify all six hours of my testimony."
Clarke called on the White House to end what he called "vicious personal attacks" and "character assassination," and focus on issues.
"The issue is not about me. The issue is about the president's performance in the war on terrorism," he said on CNN's "Late Edition."
"And because I had the temerity to suggest he didn't do much of anything before 9/11, and [that] by going into Iraq he's actually hurt the war on terrorism after 9/11, the White House has geared up this personal attack machine and is trying to undermine my credibility."
Clarke also testified Wednesday before the independent National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States and harshly criticized Bush antiterrorism policies.
On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee called for Clarke's 2002 congressional testimony to be declassified, insisting Clarke "has told two entirely different stories under oath." Other Republicans echoed his call.
Clarke said on NBC that he wants even more information declassified, including national security adviser Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 commission.
The top two members of the 9/11 panel called on Rice to reconsider her refusal to appear before the panel in public to rebut Clarke's testimony. (Full story)
The White House argues that Rice, as a member of the White House staff, should not be called to testify publicly under the principle of executive privilege. She has given four hours of private testimony to the commission.
Clarke also called for a document mentioned in the commission's staff report last week to be declassified: a "strategy paper" he sent to Rice shortly after she assumed office in January 2001.
Clarke said it shows the administration's failure to act on urgent calls for action. Rice characterized it as largely a list of antiterrorism steps left over from the Clinton administration.
"Let's declassify that memo I sent on January 25. And let's declassify the national security directive that Dr. Rice's committee approved nine months later, on September 4. And let's see if there's any difference between those two, because there isn't," Clarke said.
"Let's go further," he told NBC. "The White House is now selectively finding my e-mails, which I would have assumed are covered by some privacy regulations, and selectively leaking them to the press.
"Let's take all of my e-mails and memos that I sent to the national security adviser and her deputy from January 20 to September 11, and let's declassify all of it."
In his book and in testimony to the commission last week, Clarke said the Bush administration did not act on repeated warnings before September 11, 2001, that an al Qaeda attack could be imminent.
He told the commission that the administration considered terrorism an important issue, but not an "urgent" issue.
He reiterated that assessment on NBC.
"They had 100 meetings before they were willing to have one on terrorism," he said.
Although the administration denied Clarke's assessment, Clarke quoted President Bush, in an interview with reporter Bob Woodward, as acknowledging that before September 11, 2001, he did not consider terrorism an "urgent" issue.
When you're in the White House, you spin. I have no obligation any more to spin.
-- Richard Clarke, former White House counterterrorism aide
Speaking on NBC and CNN a week after his interview on the CBS news magazine "60 Minutes" jolted the former counterterrorism aide into the public eye, Clarke was armed with several documents to support his statements and rebut the administration's allegations.
Among them was a handwritten note from Bush when he resigned in early 2003.
"Dear Dick, you will be missed. You served our nation with distinction and honor," the note said, according to Clarke. "You have left a positive mark on our government."
The positive sentiments contrast with statements from top officials that Clarke was not in the loop on security issues, may hold a personal animus against Rice and could have timed his book for political purposes, to support Democratic Sen. John Kerry's bid for the White House.
Clarke rejected all those arguments. He told CNN he wanted the book released in December, but it had to be approved by the White House to ensure it did not include classified material.
"The White House held it up," he said. Beyond that, he said, he had no control over when the publisher would release it.
Clarke, who has served under four presidents, said he would support neither Bush nor Kerry in November and would not accept a position in a possible Kerry administration.
His "actual motivation" for writing the book, he told NBC, was to help advise the country on how not to repeat certain mistakes. He knew important information and "had to get it off my chest," he said.
As for Rice, he said, "I have great respect" for her. "I've known Condi a long time, I think she's a very good person."
But he said her statements that she told him to assemble domestic agencies for terrorism preparations in June 2001 are false.
"No, I told her I was going to do it," he said.
Whereas her predecessor in the Clinton administration, Samuel Berger, held daily meetings after being warned of a possible terrorist attack, "Dr. Rice chose not to do that," he said.
Clarke acknowledged having spoken positively about the administration's actions in the war on terrorism during a background briefing to reporters in 2002, reiterating what he told the commission this week: that top officials asked him to accentuate the positive, and it wasn't his place at the time to publicly criticize.
"When you're in the White House, you spin," he said. "I have no obligation any more to spin."