Condi's Credibility Gap
- By David J. Sirota and Christy Harvey and Judd Legum, The Progress
Report March 29, 2004 -
(Posted here by Wes Penre for Illuminati News, April 3, 2004)

Pre-9/11 Intelligence

CLAIM: "I don't think anybody could have predicted that they would
try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a
missile." - National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, 5/16/02

FACT: On August 6, 2001, the President personally "received a one-and-
a-half page briefing advising him that Osama bin Laden was capable of
a major strike against the US, and that the plot could include the
hijacking of an American airplane." In July 2001, the Administration
was also told that terrorists had explored using airplanes as
missiles. [Source: NBC, 9/10/02; LA Times, 9/27/01]

CLAIM: In May 2002, Rice held a press conference to defend the
Administration from new revelations that the President had been
explicitly warned about an al Qaeda threat to airlines in August
2001. She "suggested that Bush had requested the briefing because of
his keen concern about elevated terrorist threat levels that summer."
[Source: Washington Post, 3/25/04]

FACT: According to the CIA, the briefing "was not requested by
President Bush." As commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste disclosed, "the
CIA informed the panel that the author of the briefing does not
recall such a request from Bush and that the idea to compile the
briefing came from within the CIA." [Source: Washington Post,

CLAIM: "In June and July when the threat spikes were so high - we
were at battle stations." - National Security Adviser Condoleezza
Rice, 3/22/04

FACT: "Documents indicate that before Sept. 11, Ashcroft did not give
terrorism top billing in his strategic plans for the Justice
Department, which includes the FBI. A draft of Ashcroft's 'Strategic
Plan' from Aug. 9, 2001, does not put fighting terrorism as one of
the department's seven goals, ranking it as a sub-goal beneath gun
violence and drugs. By contrast, in April 2000, Ashcroft's
predecessor, Janet Reno, called terrorism 'the most challenging
threat in the criminal justice area.'" Meanwhile, the Bush
Administration decided to terminate "a highly classified program to
monitor Al Qaeda suspects in the United States." [Source: Washington
Post, 3/22/04; Newsweek, 3/21/04]

CLAIM: "The fact of the matter is [that] the administration focused
on this before 9/11." - National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice,

FACT: President Bush and Vice President Cheney's counterterrorism
task force, which was created in May, never convened one single
meeting. The President himself admitted that "I didn't feel the sense
of urgency" about terrorism before 9/11. [Source: Washington Post,
1/20/02; Bob Woodward's "Bush at War"]

CLAIM: "Our [pre-9/11 NSPD] plan called for military options to
attack al Qaeda and Taliban leadership, ground forces and other
targets - taking the fight to the enemy where he lived." - National
Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, 3/22/04

FACT:  9/11 Commissioner Gorelick: "There is nothing in the NSPD that
came out that we could find that had an invasion plan, a military
plan." Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage: "Right."
Gorelick: "Is it true, as Dr. Rice said, 'Our plan called for
military options to attack Al Qaida and Taliban leadership'?"
Armitage: "No, I think that was amended after the horror of 9/11."
[Source: 9/11 Commission testimony, 3/24/04]

Condi Rice on Pre-9/11 Counterterrorism Funding

CLAIM: "The president increased counterterrorism funding several-
fold" before 9/11. - National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice,

FACT: According to internal government documents, the first full Bush
budget for FY2003 "did not endorse F.B.I. requests for $58 million
for 149 new counterterrorism field agents, 200 intelligence analysts
and 54 additional translators" and "proposed a $65 million cut for
the program that gives state and local counterterrorism grants."
Newsweek noted the Administration "vetoed a request to divert $800
million from missile defense into counterterrorism." [Source: New
York Times, 2/28/04; Newsweek, 5/27/02]

Richard Clarke's Concerns

CLAIM: "Richard Clarke had plenty of opportunities to tell us in the
administration that he thought the war on terrorism was moving in the
wrong direction and he chose not to." - National Security Adviser
Condoleezza Rice, 3/22/04

FACT: Clarke sent a memo to Rice principals on 1/24/01
marked "urgent" asking for a Cabinet-level meeting to deal with an
impending al Qaeda attack. The White House acknowledges this, but
says "principals did not need to have a formal meeting to discuss the
threat." No meeting occurred until one week before 9/11. [Source: CBS
60 Minutes, 3/24/04; White House Press Release, 3/21/04

CLAIM: "No al Qaeda plan was turned over to the new administration." -
 National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, 3/22/04

FACT: "On January 25th, 2001, Clarke forwarded his December 2000
strategy paper and a copy of his 1998 Delenda plan to the new
national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice." - 9/11 Commission staff
report, 3/24/04

Response to 9/11

CLAIM: "The president launched an aggressive response after 9/11." -
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, 3/22/04

FACT: "In the early days after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the Bush
White House cut by nearly two-thirds an emergency request for
counterterrorism funds by the FBI, an internal administration budget
document shows. The papers show that Ashcroft ranked counterterrorism
efforts as a lower priority than his predecessor did, and that he
resisted FBI requests for more counterterrorism funding before and
immediately after the attacks." [Source: Washington Post, 3/22/04]

9/11 and Iraq Invasion Plans

CLAIM: "Not a single National Security Council principal at that
meeting recommended to the president going after Iraq. The president
thought about it. The next day he told me Iraq is to the side." -
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, 3/22/04

FACT: According to the Washington Post, "six days after the attacks
on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush signed a 2-
and-a-half-page document marked 'TOP SECRET'" that "directed the
Pentagon to begin planning military options for an invasion of Iraq."
This is corroborated by a CBS News, which reported on 9/4/02 that
five hours after the 9/11 attacks, "Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
was telling his aides to come up with plans for striking Iraq."
[Source: Washington Post, 1/12/03. CBS News, 9/4/02]

Iraq and WMD

CLAIM: "It's not as if anybody believes that Saddam Hussein was
without weapons of mass destruction." - National Security Adviser
Condoleezza Rice, 3/18/04

FACT: The Bush Administration's top weapons inspector David
Kay "resigned his post in January, saying he did not believe banned
stockpiles existed before the invasion" and has urged the Bush
Administration to "come clean" about misleading America about the WMD
threat. [Source: Chicago Tribune, 3/24/04; UK Guardian, 3/3/04]

9/11-al Qaeda-Iraq Link

CLAIM: "The president returned to the White House and called me in
and said, I've learned from George Tenet that there is no evidence of
a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11." - National Security Adviser
Condoleezza Rice, 3/22/04

FACT: If this is true, then why did the President and Vice President
repeatedly claim Saddam Hussein was directly connected to 9/11?
President Bush sent a letter to Congress on 3/19/03 saying that the
Iraq war was permitted specifically under legislation that authorized
force against "nations, organizations, or persons who planned,
authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred
on September 11." Similarly, Vice President Cheney said on 9/14/03
that "It is not surprising that people make that connection" between
Iraq and the 9/11 attacks, and said "we don't know" if there is a
connection. [Source: BBC, 9/14/03]


Mis-Covering Clarke
By Danny Schechter,
March 29, 2004

Please raise your hand if the name Richard Clarke rang a bell for you
three weeks ago. How many of us knew who he was or what he did? And
who among us can cite examples of TV stories or news commentators
discussing in any detail his contention that the War on Iraq
undermined the war on terror?

Yes, there were discussions of the problems with the Iraq war and the
lack of priority paid to the search for Al Qaeda, but not of the
direct relationship between the two as framed by Clarke.

The question now is whether any one is going to raise the issue of
the media's failure to discuss these issues in detail before Richard
Clarke pointed to intelligence failures and apologized to the
victims' families for the government's inability to prevent the
attack. More importantly, who in our media will have the courage to
apologize for giving the Bush administration a soft sell and a big

Insiders Only

It takes a silver haired, hawkish hardliner and Washington insider
and Securo-crat to finally put some, if not all, of the 9/11 issues
on the agenda. Clarke is hardly a dove. He wanted Clinton to bomb
more often. His analysis of the roots of what he calls Islamic
radicalism was superficial. He even expressed a wish that Fidel
Castro be taken out.

More liberal critics or people who reject the Washington cold war
foreign policy consensus are rarely heard or taken seriously. This is
not new. It is only defectors from the right - such as Treasury
Secretary O'Neil - that seem to be heard. Even Daniel Ellsberg, who
gave us the Pentagon Papers, was seen as credible by the Beltway
crowd because he'd worked for the Pentagon and Rand Corporation.

Before Clarke came forth, questions were being raised on hundreds of
websites and by independent investigators and groups of 9/11
families, who were marginalized and for the most part ignored. (Take
a look at 911 Citizen Watch for a sampling.) You have to be in "the
club" to be taken seriously.

The irony, of course is that the hearings only took place because of
the persistence of a handful of outsiders - for example, the activist
wives of 9-11 victims who lobbied for the investigation but later
walked out in disgust when many of their questions were sidelined.

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice has refused to testify in
front of the commission because of a bogus separation of
powers "principle." She made the same claim in an all too friendly
interview on 60 Minutes on Sunday. Surprisingly, neither
correspondent Ed Bradley nor other commentators have pointed out to
her that this commission was appointed by the President, and not by
Congress. It merely happens to hold hearings in a room on the Hill.
The reference to testifying before Congress is misplaced.

Rice did offer one valid insight during the interview when she
alluded to the kind of context and background that is missing in most
of the media coverage. "You have to go back into the 70's and 80's,"
she said, to understand the challenge of terrorism. While her reading
of that history is very selective, it is precisely what the 9-11
investigation and the media coverage need to consider.

Air Time for Attack Dogs

Ever since Clarke testified, the administration has cleverly changed
the subject from the issues he raised to that of his own credibility.
Is he a partisan? Did he write different things in a press release he
issued for the White House when he worked for President Bush than in
his book, which challenges the President? Tim Russert threw every
criticism that has been raised at him on "Meet the Press" this
weekend. Clarke held his ground.

It was like a game of ping pong, better known as 'they said/you

This politicizing of his testimony was aided and abetted by virtually
every show on the air. He has been on 15 or more news programs and on
most of them, the questions were the same, as commentator Harry
Browne notes on

"Providing their usual support for big government, TV and press
reporters repeated and discussed statements Clarke made in 2001 and
2002 - statements that seemed to back up the charge that Clarke was
an opportunistic hypocrite.

"But did you notice that every reporter showed us exactly the same
statements from Clarke? Some of the apparent 'statements' weren't
even complete sentences. Why did everyone who commented on Clarke's
apparent flip-flop focus on exactly the same fragments?

"They did so because those were the only fragments they had to work
with. The quotes were all provided by the Bush administration - and
they're the only quotes available. If the reporters had possessed the
original documents, some of them would have picked out other
statements or fragments from those documents.

Media programs bent over backward to provide a platform for
administration officials to respond to Clarke's claims - but to build
some heat for ratings rather than shed light on the issues;
to "balance" the debate rather than advance it. These interviews
aimed to provide Bush supporters with ammunition, not information.

Browne notes, "Top administration officials have already appeared on
numerous national news shows. Condoleezza Rice showed up on all five
national morning shows (on NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, and CNN). The attack
dogs said very little about the actual charges, preferring to attack
Clarke personally as a hypocrite who previously praised President
Bush's response to terrorism."

The coverage of Clarke is typical of a pattern where controversial
issues that challenge those in power invariably are personalized and
narrowed when they should be broadened and deepened.

Why the Media Cop-Out?

Why has the media establishment been unwilling or unable to take on
the political establishment? What accounts for the lack of bravery
and determination to seek the truth?

Some newspapers have done a good job, and independent muckrakers like
Greg Palast have dug up some dirt. But far too many TV reporters have
opted to become semi-official stenographers with American flags in
their lapel. No one explicitly censored the news, but the post-9/11
political climate, dominated by an administration that saw the world
in terms of "you are with us or against us," led to corporate
timidity and self-censorship. With Fox News functioning as "bully
boys," to use Christiane Amanpour's phrase, many networks muzzled

War correspondent Peter Arnett sees a psychological reason for this
timidity: "Don't forget the American media is based in NYC, and every
reporter in NYC saw the World Trade Towers collapse and they took it
personally. There was a sense of revenge and fear, which was
reflected in the coverage of Afghanistan and the War on Terror. As we
moved into Iraq, a more pre-emptive strike, the media maintained this
sort of romance, you might say with government."

CBS's Dan Rather embodied the kind of personal schizophrenia that
9/11 produced in many journalists. Just after the attacks, he went on
the Letterman show to profess his patriotism. He said: "I would
willingly die for my country at a moment's notice and on the command
of my president."

The following spring in May 2002 he went on BBC's Newsnight, their
version of "Nightline," and revealed the ways he pulled his punches
because of personal fears. Invoking the memory of black South
Africans "necklacing" informers with burning tires, he explained: "In
some ways, the fear is that you will be necklaced here, you will have
a flaming tire of lack of patriotism put around your neck. It's that
fear that keeps journalists from asking the toughest of the tough
questions and to continue to bore-in on the tough questions so often.
Again, I'm humbled to say I do not except myself from this

In England, it was considered big news that an anchor of Rather's
prominence would confess to not asking tough questions. Almost every
newspaper in London put the story on its front page.

In the U.S., the interview was mostly ignored, and certainly so on
Rather's own network. The only reference to it I saw was a quote in
The Los Angeles Times' Calendar Section

In short, it was buried - just like any serious discussion of the
9/11 attacks.

9/11 is not just about intelligence failures or mismanagement in the
White House, but also about deeper political failures on both sides
of the aisle.

As you watch the "Get Clarke" brigades do their thing on television,
remember that the same media outlets that did such a good job
covering the details of what happened on 9/11, have done little to
explain why it happened.

* * *

Danny Schechter writes the News Dissector Blog on
His book "Media Wars" discusses gaps in the media coverage of the
9/11 attack and news at a time of terror.

Updated/Revised: Saturday, April 03, 2004 00:00:00 -0800



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