MAY 20, 2002
Hypocrisy personified
© 2002

The networks and the Demoncrats are all jazzed about what President Bush knew and when. Not only is this old news (Dick Cheney acknowledged it Sept. 15), it is disingenuous and smarmy.

What did Clinton know about bin Laden, when, and what did he do about it?

Hindsight is not only always 20/20, but it is always non-partisan.

Newsweek has an interesting take on the apparent monumental intelligence hiccup that some argue caused 9-11 to happen.

According to former CIA agent Milt Bearden, "There's always TMI -- too much information."

Frankly, the information the president received in that Aug. 6 briefing has been out for months. Big whoop! Talk shows have been discussing it ad nauseum. The FAA's web site posted, before the 9-11 events: "Bin Laden's anti-Western and anti-American attitudes make him and his followers a significant threat to civil aviation, particularly to U.S. civil aviation."

The latest noise has less to do with critical analysis of intelligence oversight and more to do with election-year politics. When Dick Gephardt says, "I think what we have to do now is to find out what the president, what the White House knew about the events leading up to 9-11, when they knew it and, most importantly, what was done about it at that time," he is guilty of a massive sin of omission. Specifically what did Bush and Clinton know, when did they know it, and what did they do about it.

I have been a harsh critic of the previous administration. Some of my critics have suggested Clinton is gone, leave him alone. The problem is that there are consequences to actions and seeds of plenty or corruption do not necessarily bear fruit in four-year increments.

Cicero said:

A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself.

For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear.

"He rots the soul of a nation ..."

Terrorists hijacking airplanes is not an innovative concept. Even I wrote a novel in 1989 ("The Terrorist Killers") that included a terrorist hijacking.

The history of potential Scribean foreshadows of suicidal terrorists hijacking airplanes is long and heavily reported. The Philippines terrorist cell provided the blueprint for 9-11 in 1995. Who was president in 1995?

Philippine officials claim they warned the FBI in 1995 of what was described as "a terrorist plot to hijack commercial planes and slam them into the Pentagon, the CIA headquarters and other buildings." So who did what, and when?

The Wall Street Journal noted that when Matt Drudge posted a December 1998 report from Time magazine about bin Laden cooking up his "boldest move yet -- a strike on Washington or possibly New York City," Democrats called what they viewed as a Drudge effort to "pin this all on Clinton" ... pitiful.

Gosh-oh-gee-golly: The usual suspects, Daschle-Gephardt-Hillary et al are now attempting to damn the current administration for a similar inability to crystallize omniscience. Can you say "hypocrisy"?

For what it is worth, I do happen to believe that the epic tragedy of 9-11 was, in part, a function of intelligence failures. However, the intelligence failures were themselves a product of a systemic cancer that had been introduced into the collective by eight years of the previous administration.

In November of 2000, I interviewed Notra Trulock, who had been the director of intelligence at the Department of Energy. I asked him if the intelligence problems were "institutional within the Department Of Energy, or is it more a function of the bad leadership the administration keeps throwing in there?"

Notra said at the time, "I think there are endemic, systemic problems in the Department Of Energy that were certainly there before the Clintons came into office. The Clintons and Hazel and her successors certainly exacerbated those problems -- probably to a point where, in my judgment, they can't be fixed."

The conventional wisdom from a whole bunch of people, who don't want to be identified by name, is that the problem was not unique to DOE, but that the "endemic, systemic problems" were pervasive in the entire government intelligence community. And those problems were precipitated and exacerbated by the Clinton administration.

Sept. 11 occurred, as several Bush administrations "fixes" were still works-in-progress. Don Rumsfeld was working on his military reorganization plan that would (and hopefully will) fix the U.S. tendency of "preparing to fight the last war." The new CIA covert action plan was "almost ready to be presented to Bush" when the stuff hit the fan on 9-11.

We now need our government to devote time and effort to fix what is wrong quickly. Then, they can engage in whatever petty partisan blamesmanship they choose.