What Fresh Hell Is This?

August 26, 2007

Jack Kelly Sunday

Take a look at today's column by Jack Kelly. It's only partially surprising that he trots out, at one point, the old war horse blaming of 9/11 on Bill Clinton at least in part. I say partially because that argument's been a standard of the wingnut right from about 9/12. Need some evidence? Here's Bill Press, then at CNN, writing in mid-October, 2oo1:

The attacks of September 11 were only a few hours old when conservative Congressman Dana Rohrbacher, R-California, blamed Clinton, not the terrorists: “We had Bill Clinton, backing off, letting the Taliban go, over and over again.”

Talk-show host Rush Limbaugh trumpeted on the pages of the Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Clinton can be held culpable for not doing enough when he was commander-in-chief to combat the terrorists who wound up attacking the World Trade Center and Pentagon.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who resigned in disgrace, also chimed in, citing Clinton’s “pathetically weak, ineffective ability to focus and stay focused.”

Jack begins his tale in Seattle. The FBI up there has been circulating the photos of a couple of men who they said were acting suspiciously on the state ferries up there. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer refused to publish the photos. The reason?
"We have no confirmation that these men's behavior was anything but innocuous, and to forever taint them by associating them with terrorism under these circumstances is not consistent with our policy," said managing editor David McCumber.
To Jack, that's enough. Those two guys were acting suspiciously and so their photos should be plastered all over the area, tagging them as terrorists. Jack's criticism is that they Seattle P-I is taking the "law enforcement approach" to terror. The FBI, he writes, thinks it's more important to keep a ferry from being bombed than it is to arrest the bombers afterward.

See? They're already bombers to Jack Kelly. Bombers that need to be stopped.

However, from the P-I's reporting earlier this week of the incident:

The FBI has no information suggesting that a terrorist attack on the ferry system is imminent, [Special Agent Robbie] Burroughs said.

For weeks, the FBI has been trying to identify the men through "normal law enforcement channels," she said.

So not only did the FBI have no information that a terrorist attack was imminent but the Bureau, too, seems to be taking the "law enforcement approach" in tracking down these guys.

Something Jack didn't tell us.

Also, I gotta ask: if the guys were actually planning to commit an act of terror, isn't that already a crime? So Jack's simple reasoning of "they think that until the bomb goes off, there's no crime" is just nuts, as his his projection of it onto Democrats in Congress.

But let's get to the meat of the column.
We were reminded of the weakness of the law enforcement approach by the release last week of the executive summary of the report of the CIA's inspector general on the CIA's performance before 9/11. The CIA was hamstrung in its efforts to fight al-Qaida by severe budget cuts imposed by the Clinton administration, but then CIA Director George Tenet did a poor job of managing the funds he had, and never developed an overall strategy to fight terror, the IG report said.
There it is! The CIA was hamstrung by budget cuts - and so it's CLINTON'S fault. I used to read Kelly's column always wondering how long it took him to blame whatever he was writing about on the Clinton Administration. This column he pushes the wingnut button in the 8th (out of 13) paragraph. By the way, here's what the report actually says:
Funding for the Agency's counterterrorism programs increased significantly from Fiscal Year (FY)1998 to FY2001 as a result of supplemental appropriations. These funds were appropriated, in part, because of the efforts of the CIA's director and senior leaders to convince the administration and Congress that the Agency was short of resources for counterterrorism and other resources.
That was page 6. On page 7 it says:
The Team did find, however, that during the same period they were appealing the shortage of resources, senior officials were not effectively managing the Agency's counterterrorism funds.
So Jack got it half right. The CIA's funds for counterterrorism, according to this report "increased significantly" from '98 to '01. Wasn't Bill Clinton president in 1998? 1999? 2000? In fact, the CIA was redistributing funds away from its counterterrorism programs though:
The Team found that the Agency made little use of the Reserve for Contingencies to support its counterterrorism effort. Finally CTC managers did not spend all of the funds in their base budget, even after it had been reduced by diversions of funds to other programs.

But to Jack Kelly, there were severe budget cuts during the Clinton Administration that lead to the CIA's failures to stop 9/11. Couldn't help himself, I guess.

Then there's this about Michael Scheuer:
Counter-terror efforts also were crippled by President Clinton's insistence that Osama bin Laden be arrested rather than assassinated, Michael Scheuer, who headed the CIA's bin Laden unit, has said. The IG report acknowledges this was a problem, but "concludes the Agency's covert action against bin Laden lay not in the language and interpretations of its authorities, but in the limitations of its covert action capabilities."
However, Michael Scheuer has also said:

But what troubles me most is Tenet's handling of the opportunities that CIA officers gave the Clinton administration to capture or kill bin Laden between May 1998 and May 1999. Each time we had intelligence about bin Laden's whereabouts, Tenet was briefed by senior CIA officers at Langley and by operatives in the field. He would nod and assure his anxious subordinates that he would stress to Clinton and his national security team that the chances of capturing bin Laden were solid and that the intelligence was not going to get better. Later, he would insist that he had kept up his end of the bargain, but that the NSC had decided not to strike.

Since 2001, however, several key Clinton counterterrorism insiders (including NSC staffers Richard A. Clarke, Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon) have reported that Tenet consistently denigrated the targeting data on bin Laden, causing the president and his team to lose confidence in the hard-won intelligence. "We could never get over the critical hurdle of being able to corroborate Bin Ladin's whereabouts," Tenet now writes. That of course is untrue, but it spared him from ever having to explain the awkward fallout if an attempt to get bin Laden failed. None of this excuses Clinton's disinterest in protecting Americans, but it does show Tenet's easy willingness to play for patsies the CIA officers who risked their lives to garner intelligence and then to undercut their work to avoid censure if an attack went wrong.

Setting aside the "Clinton's disinterest in protecting Americans" crap, Scheuer himself lays the blame at Tenet's feet.

The same George Tenet who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the current occupant of the Oval Office.

And it only took me that long to criticize dubya.


Anonymous said...

Tenent wasn't given a medal by Bush for nothing.

Why isn't anyone mentioning that the Reagan appointed ambassador to Yemen (Barbara Bodine) prevented the FBI from doing their jobs when they went to investigate those who bombed the Cole?

FBI agent John O’Neill and his team of 200 FBI investigators enter Yemen two days after the bombing of the USS Cole in an attempt to discover who was responsible. However, they are unable to accomplish much due to restrictions placed on them and due to tensions between O’Neill and US Ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine. All but about 50 investigators are forced to leave by the end of October. O’Neill’s boss Barry Mawn visits to assess the situation. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 237; New Yorker, 1/14/2002; Sunday Times (London), 2/3/2002] Mawn will later comment, “It became clear [Bodine] simply hated his guts.” After a ten day investigation, he concludes O’Neill is doing a fine job, tells Bodine that she is O’Neill’s “only detractor,” and refuses her request to recall him. [Wright, 2006, pp. 32] But O’Neill and much of his team are pressured to leave by late November and Bodine will not give him permission to return any time after that. The investigation stalls without his personal relationships to top Yemeni officials.


This the same Barbara Bodine who was a coordinator in Iraq.

Mission accomplished, dammit!

The Subversive Librarian said...

I think there should be a rule in civil discourse that as soon as you blame Clinton you automatically lose.

Sherry said...

i'll second that.