Another day, another…
Another day, another round of testimony that shows Bush got it right.

The CIA also had depended too much on Afghan indigenous groups to attack bin Laden and CIA Director George Tenet understood its chances of succeeding were only 10 percent to 20 percent, the federal commission on the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks said in a preliminary report.

Mostly because Democrats didn’t want to get their hands dirty actually defeating the terrorists. Rather, they’d like to say they were “doing something” even if it was only 10-20% effective.

If officers at all levels of the agency questioned the effectiveness of the most active strategy that policy-makers were employing to defeat the terrorist enemy, “the commission needs to ask why that strategy remained largely unchanged throughout the period leading up to 9/11,” the report said.

Good point. Richard Clarke should be asked that question. And recall that the reason it was still in place during the Bush administration was because it was the de facto policy while they were coming up with a better one, signed on or about 9/10.

Also appearing Wednesday was Richard Clarke, counterterrorism adviser in both administrations. In a newly published book, Clarke accuses President Bush of ignoring the threat posed by al-Qaida until the day of the attacks.

By “ignoring the threat”, he means allowing the Clinton / Clarke policies to remain in effect until they improved upon it. To wit:

Clarke’s charges were strongly rebutted Tuesday by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell. They said they were going beyond past practices of carrying out retaliatory strikes and had been developing a strategy for defeating al-Qaida.

“Defeating”, not merely holding them back.

“President-elect Bush asked whether killing bin Laden would end the problem. Pavitt said he and (Tenet) answered that killing bin Laden would have an impact but not stop the threat,” the report said.

The CIA later told the White House that “the only long-term way to deal with the threat was to end al-Qaida’s ability to use Afghanistan as a sanctuary for its operations.”

If the CIA thought that when Bush was still “President-elect”, they knew it during the Clinton administration. The difference was, Clinton / Clarke did precious little to defeat al Qaeda, while the Bush administration actually started working on a plan to do just that.

After intelligence agencies began seeing strong indications in June and July 2001 that a terrorist attack was likely, some CIA officials were frustrated when some policy-makers questioned the intelligence. But Tenet, who was briefing Bush daily, “told us that his sense was that officials at the White House had grasped the sense of urgency he was communicating to them,” the report said.

Keep this in mind when Democrats talk about how the White House should have looked at Iraq intelligence skeptically before the war there. They bash Bush for giving it too much credence, while they’ll bash him for giving the pre-9/11 intelligence too little credence.

President Clinton had issued several orders for “the CIA to use its proxies to capture or assault bin Laden and his lieutenants in operations in which they might be killed. The instructions, except in one defined contingency, were to capture bin Laden if possible.”

While Clinton administration officials believed those orders authorized the CIA to kill bin Laden, many CIA officials – including Tenet – believed they were authorized only to capture bin Laden. “They believed the only acceptable context for killing bin Laden was a credible capture operation,” the report said.

Who knows what opportunities were missed because of a failure to communicate in the Clinton administration?

Also, the CIA’s reluctance to engage personnel in Afghanistan because of its dangers meant that the agency had to rely on local forces to provide intelligence or mount operations to capture bin Laden.

“For covert action forces, proxies meant problems,” the report said. “First proxies tend to tell those who pay them what they want to hear.” Proxies also require training to carry out operations.

…which is why we had to send in American troops. The war on terror cannot be fought by proxy; we have to do it ourselves, anti-war protestors notwithstanding. If we don’t defend ourselves, no one will do it for us, or at least not nearly as well as we could do it ourselves.

Tuesday’s report also said that both the Clinton and Bush administrations engaged in lengthy, ultimately fruitless diplomatic efforts instead of military action to try to get bin Laden before the Sept. 11 attacks.

As I said before, that negotiations with terrorists during both administrations failed is not news

Both Rumsfeld and Powell expressed doubt that the administration, which took office less than eight months before the attacks, could have stopped them through military force.

Because by the time Bush took office, the al Qaeda operatives in the U.S. had already had 4 years of preparation on Clinton’s & Clarke’s watch. Attacking Afghanistan, while curtailing al Qaeda in general, wouldn’t have stopped 9/11, because the operation was being carried out here.

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