Skeleton in Clarke's closet
By Boston Herald editorial staff
Thursday, March 25, 2004
Former counterterrorism official and now tell-all author Richard Clarke was at it again yesterday, scorching Bush administration officials in testimony before the national Sept. 11 commission.
We'd like to know how Clarke squares his contention that he was the only one in the Bush administration truly committed to thwarting terrorism before the Sept. 11 attacks with this: It was Clarke who personally authorized the evacuation by private plane of dozens of Saudi citizens, including many members of Osama bin Laden's own family, in the days immediately following Sept. 11.
Clarke's role was revealed in an October 2003 Vanity Fair article. ``Somebody brought to us for approval the decision to let an airplane filled with Saudis, including members of the bin Laden family, leave the country,'' Clarke told Vanity Fair. ``My role was to say that it can't happen unless the FBI approves it. . . And they came back and said yes, it was fine with them. So we said `Fine, let it happen.' ''
Vanity Fair uncovered that the FBI never fully investigated the passengers on those privately chartered flights (one of which flew out of Logan International Airport after scooping up a dozen or so bin Laden relatives.) But Clarke protested to Vanity Fair that policing the FBI was not in his job description.
Isn't that convenient?
The same sanctimonious Clarke who now claims National Security adviser Condoleezza Rice didn't even know what al-Qaeda was, could have stopped the bin Laden airlift singlehandedly.
Why didn't he appeal to Rice, or even President Bush himself in one of those one-on-ones in the Situation Room, to block the flights? Surely it would have been helpful to determine - without a shred of doubt - that those passengers knew nothing about the Sept. 11 plot or the modus operandi of their notorious relative.
By all accounts, Clarke made hundreds of decisions in the days after Sept. 11, many clear-headed and right.
Approving those special flights seems like a wrong one, but it was a judgment call made in the aftermath of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil in history.
Perhaps it was the best decision he could make under the circumstances. It's too bad Clarke cuts no one in the Bush administration the same slack he so easily cuts himself.