More from Clarke... Richard Clarke terrorizes the White House
The vice president commented that there was "no great success in dealing with terrorists" during the 1990s, when you were serving under President Clinton. He asked, "What were they doing?"
It's possible that the vice president has spent so little time studying the terrorist phenomenon that he doesn't know about the successes in the 1990s. There were many. The Clinton administration stopped Iraqi terrorism against the United States, through military intervention. It stopped Iranian terrorism against the United States, through covert action. It stopped the al-Qaida attempt to have a dominant influence in Bosnia. It stopped the terrorist attacks at the millennium. It stopped many other terrorist attacks, including on the U.S. embassy in Albania. And it began a lethal covert action program against al-Qaida; it also launched military strikes against al-Qaida. Maybe the vice president was so busy running Halliburton at the time that he didn't notice.
Why do you think Cheney -- and the Bush administration in general -- ignored the warnings that were put to them by [former national security advisor] Sandy Berger, by you, by George Tenet, who is apparently somebody they hold in great esteem?[...]
They had a preconceived set of national security priorities: Star Wars, Iraq, Russia. And they were not going to change those preconceived notions based on people from the Clinton administration telling them that was the wrong set of priorities. They also looked at the statistics and saw that during eight years of the Clinton administration, al-Qaida killed fewer than 50 Americans. And that's relatively few, compared to the 300 dead during the Reagan administration at the hands of terrorists in Beirut -- and by the way, there was no military retaliation for that from Reagan. It was relatively few compared to the 259 dead on Pan Am 103 in the first Bush administration, and there was no military retaliation for that. So looking at the low number of American fatalities at the hands of al-Qaida, they might have thought that it wasn't a big threat.
Dr. Rice now says that your plans to "roll back" al-Qaida were not aggressive enough for the Bush administration. How do you answer that, in light of what we know about what they did and didn't do?
I just think it's funny that they can engage in this sort of "big lie" approach to things. The plan that they adopted after Sept. 11 was the plan that I had proposed in January [2001}. If my plan wasn't aggressive enough, I suppose theirs wasn't either.