Sunday, September 10, 2006

It's about time that people remember Sandy Berger

One benefit of the controversy surrounding Path to 9/11 is that people are beginning to remember that there was once a National Security Adviser named Sandy Berger who later stole Top Secret documents from the National Archives. Director Blue reminds us what documents Sandy Berger stole from the National Archives.
"the Administration['s] knowledge - and inaction - regarding al Qaeda presence in the U.S. in 1999 and 2000... stolen were crucial notes in the margins of these drafts which reveal the thinking and agendas of the Clinton Administration relating to the mounting terrorist threat."
Hmmm, conspiracy theorists might connect some dots right there as to why the ABC docudrama is arousing such perturbation among the Clinton clan. He also links to this story from 2004 about the opportunities to get Osama Bin Laden that Sandy Berger rejected during the Clinton years.
According to the September 11 commission's 567-page report, released Thursday, Mr. Berger was told in June 1999 that U.S. intelligence agents were confident about bin Laden's presence in a terrorist training camp called Tarnak Farms in Afghanistan.

Mr. Berger's "hand-written notes on the meeting paper," the report says, showed that Mr. Berger was worried about injuring or killing civilians located near the camp.

Additionally, "If [bin Laden] responds" to the attack, "we're blamed," Mr. Berger wrote.

The report also says that Richard Clarke, Mr. Berger's expert on counterterrorism, presented that plan to get bin Laden because he was worried about the al Qaeda leader's "ambitions to acquire weapons of mass destruction."

....According to the report, the first plan of action against bin Laden presented to Mr. Berger was a briefing by CIA Director George J. Tenet on May 1, 1998. Mr. Berger took no action, the report says, because he was "focused most" on legal questions.

"[Mr. Berger] worried that the hard evidence against bin Laden was still skimpy and that there was a danger of snatching him and bringing him to the United States only to see him acquitted," the report says.

Mr. Clarke asked Mr. Berger: "Should we pre-empt by attacking [bin Laden's] facilities?"

Mr. Berger decided against it, but later that year, Mr. Clinton ordered an attack on a chemical plant in Sudan that was suspected of providing bin Laden with dangerous weapons material.

Another opportunity to strike at bin Laden occurred on Dec. 4, 1999, according to the report, when Mr. Clarke suggested carrying out an attack on an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in the last week of the year.

"In the margin next to Clarke's suggestion," the report states in a footnote, "Berger wrote, 'no.' "

Finally, in August of 2000, five months before Mr. Clinton left office, Mr. Berger was told that aerial surveillance from a Predator drone suggested another opportunity to kill bin Laden.

Mr. Clarke told Mr. Berger that the imagery captured by the Predator was "truly astounding," and expressed confidence that more missions could find bin Laden. Mr. Berger, however, "worried that a Predator might be shot down, and warned Clarke that such an event would be a 'bonanza' for bin Laden and the Taliban."

"In the memo's margin," the report states, "Berger wrote that before considering action, 'I will want more than verified location: we will need, at least, data on pattern of movements to provide some assurance he will remain in place.' "

The commission's report also notes a speech that Mr. Clinton gave to the Long Island Association on Feb. 15, 2002, in which — in the answer to a query from a member of the audience — he said that Sudan offered to turn over bin Laden to U.S. custody, but Mr. Clinton refused because "there was no indictment" in hand.

Mr. Clinton told the commission in April that he had "misspoken" and was never offered bin Laden.
How do you misspeak on such a story? Mansour Ijaz, a Pakistani-American businessman, has said that he was the middleman negotiating that deal, although Clinton's people now deny the story. But that wasn't what Clinton said in 2002.
In never-before-reported comments to a New York business group last February, the ex-president never mentioned Ijaz by name. But the events he related paralleled the freelance diplomat's story exactly.

"Mr. bin Laden used to live in Sudan," Clinton explained to a Feb. 15 Long Island Association luncheon.

"He was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1991, then he went to Sudan. And we'd been hearing that the Sudanese wanted America to start meeting with them again.

"They released him," the ex-president confirmed.

"At the time, 1996, he had committed no crime against America so I did not bring him here because we had no basis on which to hold him, though we knew he wanted to commit crimes against America.

"So I pleaded with the Saudis to take him, 'cause they could have," Clinton explained. "But they thought it was a hot potato and they didn't and that's how he wound up in Afghanistan."
Clinton supporters deny the story yet Clinton's ambassador to Sudan acknowledges the truth of the story.
The Clinton administration's ambassador to Sudan, Tim Carney, subsequently corroborated Ijaz's account, confirming to Fox News that "there was an offer to send [bin Laden] to us." He explained that Sudan's offer was rejected because "we did not have an indictment [against bin Laden] at the time."
Apparently, the 9/11 Commission accepted Clinton's new version that he "misspoke" because Sandy Berger upheld the new story.
To corroborate Clinton's account, the Commission cited the testimony of discredited National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, who is under criminal investigation for stealing 9/11-related national security secrets.

"Berger told us that he saw no chance that Sudan would have handed Bin Ladin over and also noted that in 1996, the U.S. government still did not know of any al Qaeda* attacks on U.S. citizens," the report says.

On page 109 of its report, the Commission states:

"Sudan’s minister of defense, Fatih Erwa, has claimed that Sudan offered to hand Bin Ladin over to the United States. The Commission has found no credible evidence that this was so."
How very convenient that Berger upheld Clinton's characterization of his speech in 2002 as misspeaking even though the Commission had a tape of his speech. Bob Kerrey as much as admitted that he "chose" to accept Clinton's word because not to have done so would have split the Commission along partisan lines and gosh, that would have been so so very bad.
"He said that he misspoke, so I believe him," Kerrey told WDAY North Dakota radio host Scott Hennen. "I choose to believe him on this issue."
When asked if his choice was governed by a desire to avoid a partisan fight with other commissioners, Kerrey told Hennen" "Yeah, but this isn't the only area where that's the case. ... We do that in the interests of having a 10-0 consensus."

....In April, Kerrey told Hennen that the ex-president initially told the Commission that he had been "misquoted" in reports saying he confirmed the Sudanese offer.

But when pressed, Clinton changed his story, telling the Commission, in Kerrey's words: "I didn't understand the question. I didn't understand what the facts were. I didn't have a good recollection of what was going on."

In the Commission's final report, the change was characterized as Clinton having "misspoken."

A month before the ex-president's testimony, the 9/11 Commission obtained a videotape of his 2002 comments from New York's Long Island Association, the venue where he made the remarks.
But, even so, they decided to accept the new story even though it doesn't quite match up with what Clinton was saying before that audience in Long Island. Notice, the typical Clinton tactic of denying he said something until the actual tape emerges showing that he said what he denied having said. It's just so convenient that Sandy Berger had the same memories that Clinton now says he has.

Interestingly, I've heard from several people who have seen the whole docudrama that it is pretty harsh on Condoleezza Rice. But we haven't heard a peep from the Bush administration asking for anything to be changed. This from the supposedly fascist administration out to cut our civil liberties.

Think for a moment about the concerted action by Democrats, their lawyers, former White House operatives, Bill Clinton, sympathetic historians, and lefty bloggers to stop this show. Remember that this was the same crowd that was full of praise of for Fahrenheit 9/11 for crystallizing their opposition to George Bush. Accuracy and versimilitude didn't bother them then. And they weren't saying a word about 60 Minutes "fake but accurate" story on Bush's National Guard service. Now, ask yourself. If this crowd were to control the White House, how many more of these attempts to stifle any criticism of them would we be seeing? Think of how much has been aired during Bush's tenure, even a movie depicting him being assassinated and
more denials of civil liberties gets made without Bush's White House unleashing its lawyers. But, for this thing, the Democrats go to the mattresses. Are they perhaps modeling for us what their response would be to further criticism if they should gain control of the White House - or even of Congress? Don't forget those not-so-veiled threats to ABC's license. Ponder that chill wind.

The ABC docudrama seems to have made up scenes. I so wish they hadn't. Docudramas do so all the time, but we need to be focusing on what actually happened on the path to 9/11. There was quite enough from the true story that they could have used rather than casting doubt on the show's veracity by fabricating scenes. Now they've given Clinton's defenders a legitimate hook for their complaints by criticizing the mini-series for having fabricating "fake but accurate" scenes. Imagine if this same debate were taking place over real scenes for which a lot of evidence exists. The whole discussion would be completely different. We'd be talking about what Clinton's administration did and did not do regarding Al Qaeda rather than whether a docudrama that makes up scenes is worth broadcasting or watching. I so wish that that were the debate we were having rather than seeing people defend the fictional in the docudrama. Getting lost in the whole debate is whether there were missed opportunities during the Clinton years. How lucky for the Clinton people that they have managed to shift the debate away from their true record.