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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Newsweek: Report Raises Questions About Bill Clinton's Statements

Anyone remember when Chris Wallace interviewed Bill Clinton and Clinton melted down on public television?

If you don't, I have the transcript of that interview from when we posted about it at the time, found here.

Flashback to interview:

CLINTON: No, no. I authorized the CIA to get groups together to try to kill him.

The CIA, which was run by George Tenet, that President Bush gave the Medal of Freedom to, he said, "He did a good job setting up all these counterterrorism things."

The country never had a comprehensive anti-terror operation until I came there.

Now, if you want to criticize me for one thing, you can criticize me for this: After the Cole, I had battle plans drawn to go into Afghanistan, overthrow the Taliban, and launch a full-scale attack search for bin Laden.

But we needed basing rights in Uzbekistan, which we got after 9/11.

The CIA and the FBI refused to certify that bin Laden was responsible while I was there. They refused to certify. So that meant I would've had to send a few hundred Special Forces in helicopters and refuel at night.

Even the 9/11 Commission didn't do that. Now, the 9/11 Commission was a political document, too. All I'm asking is, anybody who wants to say I didn't do enough, you read Richard Clarke's book.

WALLACE: Do you think you did enough, sir?

: No, because I didn't get him.


CLINTON: But at least I tried. That's the difference in me and some, including all the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try. They did not try. I tried.

So I tried and failed. When I failed, I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy and the best guy in the country, Dick Clarke, who got demoted.

So you did Fox's bidding on this show. You did your nice little conservative hit job on me. What I want to know is ...

WALLACE: Well, wait a minute, sir.

CLINTON: No, wait. No, no ...

WALLACE: I want to ask a question. You don't think that's a legitimate question?

: It was a perfectly legitimate question, but I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked this question of.

I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked, "Why didn't you do anything about the Cole?"

I want to know how many you asked, "Why did you fire Dick Clarke?"

I want to know how many people you asked ...

WALLACE: We asked — we asked ...

CLINTON: I don't ...

WALLACE: Do you ever watch "FOX News Sunday," sir?

CLINTON: I don't believe you asked them that.

WALLACE: We ask plenty of questions of ...

CLINTON: You didn't ask that, did you? Tell the truth, Chris.

WALLACE: About the USS Cole?

CLINTON: Tell the truth, Chris.

WALLACE: With Iraq and Afghanistan, there's plenty of stuff to ask.

CLINTON: Did you ever ask that?

You set this meeting up because you were going to get a lot of criticism from your viewers because Rupert Murdoch's supporting my work on climate change.

And you came here under false pretenses and said that you'd spend half the time talking about — you said you'd spend half the time talking about what we did out there to raise $7-billion-plus in three days from 215 different commitments. And you don't care.

WALLACE: But, President Clinton, if you look at the questions here, you'll see half the questions are about that. I didn't think this was going to set you off on such a tear.

CLINTON: You launched it — it set me off on a tear because you didn't formulate it in an honest way and because you people ask me questions you don't ask the other side.

WALLACE: That's not true. Sir, that is not true.

: And Richard Clarke made it clear in his testimony...

WALLACE: Would you like to talk about the Clinton Global Initiative?

CLINTON: No, I want to finish this now.

WALLACE: All right. Well, after you.

CLINTON: All I'm saying is, you falsely accused me of giving aid and comfort to bin Laden because of what happened in Somalia. No one knew Al Qaeda existed then. And ...

WALLACE: But did they know in 1996 when he declared war on the U.S.? Did they know in 1998 ...

CLINTON: Absolutely, they did.

WALLACE: ... when he bombed the two embassies?

CLINTON: And who talked about ...

WALLACE: Did they know in 2000 when he hit the Cole?

CLINTON: What did I do? What did I do? I worked hard to try to kill him. I authorized a finding for the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since. And if I were still president, we'd have more than 20,000 troops there trying to kill him.

Now, I've never criticized President Bush, and I don't think this is useful. But you know we do have a government that thinks Afghanistan is only one-seventh as important as Iraq.

And you ask me about terror and Al Qaeda with that sort of dismissive thing? When all you have to do is read Richard Clarke's book to look at what we did in a comprehensive, systematic way to try to protect the country against terror.

And you've got that little smirk on your face and you think you're so clever. But I had responsibility for trying to protect this country. I tried and I failed to get bin Laden. I regret it. But I did try. And I did everything I thought I responsibly could.

The entire military was against sending Special Forces in to Afghanistan and refueling by helicopter. And no one thought we could do it otherwise, because we could not get the CIA and the FBI to certify that Al Qaeda was responsible while I was president.

And so, I left office. And yet, I get asked about this all the time. They had three times as much time to deal with it, and nobody ever asks them about it. I think that's strange.

NOW, we see the declassified portions of the IG executive summary report that came out and the questions that Newsweek reports that are raised about Bill Clinton's statements.

The report also criticized intelligence problems when Bill Clinton was president, detailing political and legal “constraints” agency officials felt in the late 1990s. In September 2006, during a famous encounter with Fox News anchor Wallace, Clinton erupted in anger and waived his finger when asked about whether his administration had done enough to get bin Laden. “What did I do? What did I do?” Clinton said at one point. “I worked hard to try to kill him. I authorized a finding for the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since.”

Clinton appeared to have been referring to a December 1999 Memorandum of Notification (MON) he signed that authorized the CIA to use lethal force to capture, not kill, bin Laden. But the inspector general’s report made it clear that the agency never viewed the order as a license to “kill” bin Laden—one reason it never mounted more effective operations against him. “The restrictions in the authorities given the CIA with respect to bin Laden, while arguably, although ambiguously, relaxed for a period of time in late 1998 and early 1999, limited the range of permissible operations,” the report stated. (Scheuer agreed with the inspector general’s findings on this issue, but said if anything the report was overly diplomatic. “There was never any ambiguity,” he said. “None of those authorities ever allowed us to kill anyone.At least that’s what the CIA lawyers told us.” A spokesman for the former president had no immediate comment.)

In any case, the inspector general found that the CIA's failure to conduct effective covert actions against bin Laden prior to 9/11 was ultimately not because of ambiguous legal authorities but because it did not have effective assets on the ground who could mount a “credible operation” against him.

Captain's Quarters make a very valid point here:

I've written before that pursuing partisan blame for 9/11 is a waste of time. It gets in the way of determining where failures occurred and developing the proper approaches to avoid them in the future. The truth is that the issues that created these failures stretched back for years, probably decades in terms of interpretation of intelligence law.

However, it gets difficult to remember that when former presidents essentially lie about their roles on national television. Given Clinton's unique history, this prevarication and self-aggrandizement comes as no surprise, but it is still pretty disappointing. It leaves the historical record muddied, right up to the point when independent investigations reveal the truth. Worse, his shouted fabrications contribute to the partisan atmosphere.

When you lose your temper and lie on National television, it is pretty hard to excuse when the actual reports get declassified and come to light.

There is plenty of blame to go around for 9/11 and Clinton is going to have to start accepting his fair share of it.

Ultimately though, the ones responsible were those that hijacked the planes and killed almost 3,000 of our innocent citizens.

For the "Blame Bush" crowd, they too must understand that Bill Clinton holds a fair amount of responsibility for our inaction.

Others discussing this:

Don Surber, Sister Toldjah,, Liberty Pundit, QandO,, Israel Matzav, Macsmind, Hot Air, The Strata-Sphere and National Review, Gateway Pundit, Fausta's blog, and THE ASTUTE BLOGGERS

(NOTE: Instead of leaving you with the advertisements I usually have at the bottom of each post, I will leave you with one of the videos from Freedoms Watch) [30 second video.]

Gold Star Mother