Time Magazine ( Aug. 04, 2002) described the change-over process from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration.
Bill Clinton's National Security Adviser, Sandy Berger,...set up a series of 10 briefings by his team for his successor, Condoleezza Rice, and her deputy, Stephen Hadley. [Snip]
Berger attended only one of the briefings-the [January 2001] session that dealt with the threat posed to the U.S. by international terrorism, and especially by al-Qaeda. "I'm coming to this briefing," he says he told Rice, "to underscore how important I think this subject is." Later, alone in his office with Rice, Berger says he told her, "I believe that the Bush Administration will spend more time on terrorism generally, and on al-Qaeda specifically, than any other subject." The terrorism briefing was delivered by Richard Clarke...[Snip]
As chair of the interagency Counter-Terrorism Security Group (CSG), Clarke was known as a bit of an obsessive-just the sort of person you want in a job of that kind. Since the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen on Oct. 12, 2000-an attack that left 17 Americans dead-he had been working on
The result was a strategy paper that he had presented to Berger and the other national security "principals" on Dec. 20. But Berger and the principals decided to shelve the plan and let the next Administration take it up. With less than a month left in office, they did not think it appropriate to launch a major initiative against Osama bin Laden. "We would be handing (the Bush Administration) a war when they took office on Jan. 20," says a former senior Clinton aide.[Snip]
Clarke, using a Powerpoint presentation, outlined his thinking to Rice. A senior Bush Administration official denies being handed a formal plan to take the offensive against al-Qaeda, and says Clarke's materials merely dealt with whether the new Administration should take "a more active approach" to the terrorist group. (Rice declined to comment, but through a spokeswoman said she recalled no briefing at which Berger was present.) Other senior officials from both the Clinton and Bush administrations, however, say that Clarke had a set of proposals to "roll back" al-Qaeda. In fact, the heading on Slide 14 of the Powerpoint presentation reads, "Response to al Qaeda: Roll back." Clarke's proposals called for the "breakup" of al-Qaeda cells and the arrest of their personnel. The financial support for its terrorist activities would be systematically attacked, its assets frozen, its funding from fake charities stopped. Nations where al-Qaeda was causing trouble-Uzbekistan, the Philippines, Yemen-would be given aid to fight the terrorists. Most important, Clarke wanted to see a dramatic increase in covert action in Afghanistan to "eliminate the sanctuary" where al-Qaeda had its terrorist training camps and bin Laden was being protected by the radical Islamic Taliban regime. ... Clarke supported a substantial increase in American support for the Northern Alliance, the last remaining resistance to the Taliban. That way, terrorists graduating from the training camps would have been forced to stay in Afghanistan, fighting (and dying) for the Taliban on the front lines. At the same time, the U.S. military would start planning for air strikes on the camps and for the introduction of special-operations forces into Afghanistan. The plan was estimated to cost "several hundreds of millions of dollars." In the words of a senior Bush Administration official, the proposals amounted to "everything we've done since 9/11." [Snip]
By last summer [Summer 2001], many of those in the know-the spooks, the buttoned-down bureaucrats, the law-enforcement professionals in a dozen countries-were almost frantic with worry that a major terrorist attack against American interests was imminent. It wasn't averted because 2001 saw a systematic collapse in the ability of Washington's national-security apparatus to handle the terrorist threat. [Snip]
An aggressive campaign to degrade the terrorist network worldwide-to shut down the conveyor belt of recruits coming out of the Afghan camps, to attack the financial and logistical support on which the hijackers depended-just might have rendered it incapable of carrying out the Sept. 11 attacks. Perhaps some of those who had to approve the operation might have been killed, or the money trail to Florida disrupted. We will never know, [if such aggressive action could have prevented 9/11] because we never tried. This is the secret history of that failure. [Snip]
As the new Administration took office, Rice kept Clarke in his job as counterterrorism czar. In early February, he repeated to Vice President Dick Cheney the briefing he had given to Rice and Hadley. There are differing opinions on how seriously the Bush team took Clarke's wwarnings. Some members of the outgoing Administration got the sense that the Bush team thought the Clintonites had become obsessed with terrorism. "It was clear," says one, "that this was not the same priority to them that it was to us."
So what we have is the Clinton administration who were responding to the attack on the Cole with a high level of urgency, but held off actually implementing the much more aggressive actions against al Qaeda because of the pending transition to the Bush 43 administration.
Interestingly, Condi Rice has stated that she does not recall any briefing on terrorism at which Sandy Berger was present. She also did not remember The George Tenet - Cofer Black briefing in July 2001.
Time suggests that a lot of the problem was inevitable disorganization caused by the transition between administrations. From what I have heard and read from the news, part of the problem was that the incoming Bush people believed their own propaganda ragarding the lack of competence of the Clinton people, so they have said they decided to prepare a "more comprehensive plan" than the one given them from the Clinton admin. But they obviously had no sense that terrorism was to be a priority. They fiddle-farted around and had one meeting (of Deputies) in April that concluded that the problem was important enough to kick up to the Priniciples. The Principles meeting was finally held September 4, 2001 (after everyone got back from their month-long August vacations.)
After 9/11 all of Clarke's plan was enacted promptly. That alone tells you they did nothing for nine months. They had strong warnings from Sandy Berger and they had Richard Clarke one their staff. True, Clarke is known to be impatient and not particularly tactful. Combine that with the Bush disdain for anything related to Clinton and their equally great disdain for expertise and for government in general, and their inaction becomes somewhat explainable.
But why did they not put the CIA and FBI on higher alert and get them coordinating better when Tenet and Black briefed Rice, Ashcroft and Rumsfeld in July 2001? Why did they do so little after that that Condi claims she does not remember the briefing and Ashcroft and Rumsfeld have never acknowleged getting it?
And why did Ben Venisti, and Zelikow - the guy who wrote the 9/11 report - fail to include any word of the July 10 meeting with Condi Rice in the 9/11 Report after Tenet briefed them on having given it?
Finally, why has Sen. Pat Brown stonewalled presenting the Senate Intelligence report on the use of Intelligence prior to 9/ll which was orignially promised for before the November 2004 Presidential election?
Did the Republican Party screw up preparations for the pending al Qaeda attack in 2001 so badly that they have to conceal the level of their incompetence or duplicity until they can do something really spectatular like attacking Iraq and remaking the Middle East, or now that that has been screwed up, attacking Iraq and getting us involved in an even more horrific war?