Richard A. Clarke: Wikis


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Richard A. Clarke
Born 1951 (1951)

Richard Alan Clarke[1] (born October 1951) was a U.S. government employee for 30 years, 1973–2003. He worked for the State Department during the presidency of Ronald Reagan.[2] Following the presidency of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton promoted Clarke to be the chief counter-terrorism adviser on the U.S. National Security Council. Under George W. Bush, Clarke no longer had cabinet-level access, but continued in the same position until his retirement in January 2003, serving as a member of the Senior Executive Service, specializing in intelligence, cyber security and counter-terrorism. He was thus a part of the executive branch at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Clarke came to widespread public attention for his role as counter-terrorism czar in the Clinton and Bush Administrations in March 2004, when he appeared on the 60 Minutes television news magazine, released his memoir about his service in government, Against All Enemies, and testified before the 9/11 Commission. In all three instances, Clarke was sharply critical of the Bush Administration's attitude toward counter-terrorism before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and of the decision to go to war with Iraq. Clarke has received criticism in turn for various reasons, including his strong disagreements with the Bush Administration.

Richard Clarke is currently Chairman of Good Harbor Consulting, a strategic planning and corporate risk management firm, an on-air consultant for ABC News, and a contributor to, an online community discussing homeland security, defense, and politics. He is an adjunct lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School and a faculty affiliate of its Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.[3] He has also become an author of fiction, publishing his first novel, The Scorpion's Gate, in 2005, and a second, Breakpoint, in 2007.



Richard Clarke was born in 1951, the son of a Boston factory worker. He studied at the Boston Latin School (graduated 1968), received a Bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1972 and master's degree in 1978 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[4]

Government career

In 1973, he began work in the federal government as a management intern[5] in the U.S. Department of Defense. Starting in 1985, Clarke served in the Reagan Administration as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence. During the Presidential administration of George H.W. Bush, as the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, he coordinated diplomatic efforts to support the 1990-1991 Gulf War and the subsequent security arrangements. During the Clinton Administration, Clarke became the counter-terrorism coordinator for the National Security Council. He also advised Madeleine Albright during the Genocide in Rwanda, and directed the authoring of PDD-25[6] which outlined a reduced military and economic role for the United States in Rwanda as well as future peacekeeping operations. He remained counter-terrorism coordinator during the first year of the George W. Bush Administration, and later was the Special Advisor to the President on cybersecurity and cyberterrorism. He resigned from the Bush Administration in 2003.

Clarke's positions inside the government have included:

  • United States National Security Council, 1992-2003
    • Special Advisor 2001-2003
    • National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism, 1998-2001
    • Chair of the Counter-terrorism Security Group, 1992-2003
  • United States Department of State 1985-1992
    • Assistant Secretary of State for Politico-Military Affairs, 1989-1992
    • Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence, 1985-1988

Early warnings about Al-Qaeda threat

Clarke and his communications with the Bush administration regarding bin Laden and associated terrorist plots targeting the United States were mentioned frequently in Condaleezza Rice's public interview by the 9/11 investigatory commission on April 8, 2004. Of particular significance was a memo[7] from January 25, 2001 that Clarke had authored and sent to Rice. Along with making an urgent request for a meeting of the National Security Council's Principals Committee to discuss the growing al-Qaeda threat in the greater Middle East, the memo also suggests strategies for combating al-Qaeda that might be adopted by the new Bush Administration.[8]

In his memoir, "Against All Enemies", Clarke wrote that when he first briefed Rice on Al-Qaeda, in a January 2001 meeting, "her facial expression gave me the impression she had never heard the term before." He also stated that Rice made a decision that the position of National Coordinator for Counterterrorism should be downgraded. By demoting the office, the Administration sent a signal through the national security bureaucracy about the salience they assigned to terrorism. No longer would Clarke's memos go to the President; instead they had to pass though a chain of command of National Security Advisor Rice and her deputy Stephen Hadley, who bounced every one of them back.

"Within a week of the inauguration, I wrote to Rice and Hadley asking 'urgently' for a Principals, or Cabinet-level, meeting to review the imminent Al-Qaeda threat. Rice told me that the Principals Committee, which had been the first venue for terrorism policy discussions in the Clinton administration, would not address the issue until it had been 'framed' by the Deputies."[9]

At the first Deputies Committee meeting on Terrorism held in April 2001, Clarke strongly suggested that the U.S. put pressure on both the Taliban and Al-Qaeda by arming the Northern Alliance and other groups in Afghanistan. Simultaneously, that they target bin Laden and his leadership by reinitiating flights of the MQ-1 Predators. To which Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz responded, "Well, I just don't understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man bin Laden." Clarke replied that he was talking about bin Laden and his network because it posed "an immediate and serious threat to the United States." According to Clark, Wolfowitz turned to him and said, "You give bin Laden too much credit. He could not do all these things like the 1993 attack on New York, not without a state sponsor. Just because FBI and CIA have failed to find the linkages does not mean they don't exist." [9]

At a July 5, 2001 White House gathering of the FAA, the Coast Guard, the FBI, Secret Service and INS, Clarke stated that "Something really spectacular is going to happen here, and it's going to happen soon." Donald Kerrick, a three-star general who was a deputy National Security Advisor in the late Clinton administration and stayed on into the Bush administration, wrote Hadley a classified two-page memo stating that the NSA needed to "pay attention to Al-Qaida and counterterrorism" and that the U.S. would be "struck again." As a result of writing that memo, he was not invited to any more meetings.

On August 6, 2001, Clarke finally delivered a Daily Briefing Memo to President Bush entitled "Bin Laden determined to attack inside the United States", five weeks before the attacks. It featured information about ongoing Al-Qaeda activities within the United States, signs of a terror support network, indications of hijacking preparations and plans for domestic attacks using explosives

9/11 Commission

Richard A. Clarke

On March 24, 2004, Clarke testified at the public 9/11 Commission hearings.[10] At the outset of his testimony Clarke offered an apology to the families of 9/11 victims and an acknowledgment that the government had failed: "I also welcome the hearings because it is finally a forum where I can apologize to the loved ones of the victims of 9/11...", "To the loved ones of the victims of 9/11, to them who are here in this room, to those who are watching on television, your government failed you. Those entrusted with protecting you failed you. And I failed you. We tried hard, but that doesn't matter because we failed. And for that failure, I would ask, once all the facts are out, for your understanding and for your forgiveness."[10] Clarke was the only member of the Clinton or Bush Administrations who provided an apology to the family members of victims along with an acknowledgement of the government's failure.

Many of the events Clarke recounted during the hearings were also published in his memoir. Among his highly critical statements regarding the Bush Administration, Clarke charged that before and during the 9/11 crisis, many in the administration were distracted from efforts against Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda organization by a pre-occupation with Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Clarke had written that on September 12, 2001, President Bush pulled him and a couple of aides aside and "testily" asked him to try to find evidence that Saddam was connected to the terrorist attacks. In response he wrote a report stating there was no evidence of Iraqi involvement and got it signed by all relevant agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the CIA. The paper was quickly returned by a deputy with a note saying "Please update and resubmit".[11] After initially denying that such a meeting between the President and Clarke took place, the White House later reversed its denial when others present backed Clarke's version of the events.[12][13]

Prior to the 9/11 Commission portions of the Clarke's August 6 Daily Briefing Memo to President Bush were subsequently redacted by The White House for national security reasons. Despite the title of the memo, in response to aggressive questioning from Richard Ben-Veniste, a Democratic member of the 9/11 Commission, Rice stated that the document "did not warn of attacks inside the United States." Clarke then asked on several occasions for early principals meetings on these issues, and was frustrated that no early meeting was scheduled. No principals committee meetings on Al-Qaida were held until September 4, 2001.[14]

In a late November truthout interview, former Clinton advisor Sidney Blumenthal said, "Clarke urgently tried to draw the attention of the Bush administration to the threat of Al-Qaeda.. the Bush administration is trying to withhold documents from the 9/11 bipartisan commission. I believe one of the things that they do not want to be known is what happened on August 6, 2001. It was on that day that George W. Bush received his last, and one of the few, briefings on terrorism. I believe he told (Clarke) that he didn't want to be briefed on this again, even though Clarke was panicked about the alarms he was hearing regarding potential attacks. Bush was blithe, indifferent, ultimately irresponsible... The public has a right to know what happened on August 6, what Bush did, what Condi Rice did, what all the rest of them did, and what Richard Clarke's memos and statements were."[15]

Former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, the only member of the 9/11 Commission to read the President's Daily Brief, revealed in the hearings that the documents "would set your hair on fire" and that the intelligence warnings of al-Qaida attacks "plateaued at a spike level for months" before 9/11.[16]


Just before and after Clarke appeared before the 9/11 Commission, defenders of the Bush Administration tried to attack his credibility, launching a full-scale offensive against him: impugning his personal motives, claiming he was a disappointed job-hunter, that he was publicity mad, a political partisan (Clarke, in fact, voted for Republican Sen. John McCain for President in the Republican primaries in 2000) -- as well as ignorant, irrelevant and a liar. They charged that he exaggerated perceived failures in the Bush Administration's counterterrorism policies while exculpating the former Clinton administration from its perceived shortcomings.[17]

According to some reports, the White House tried to discredit Clarke in a move described as "shooting the messenger."[18] New York Times columnist Paul Krugman was more blunt, calling the attacks on Clarke "a campaign of character assassination."[19]

Conservatives inside and outside the Bush Administration vigorously attacked both Clarke's testimony and his tenure during the hearings. In the furor over Clarke's revelations before the 9/11 Commission, Senate Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist immediately took to the Senate floor to make a speech accusing Clarke of telling "two entirely different stories under oath", pointing to congressional hearing testimony Clarke gave in 2002, but Frist later admitted to reporters that he was unaware of any actual discrepancies in Clarke's testimony.[20] Some White House attempts to discredit Clarke were inconsistent, specifically, the day after Clarke's revelations Vice President Dick Cheney went on the Rush Limbaugh radio program to claim that Clarke's account of the events leading to the 9/11 attacks was not credible because Clarke "wasn't in the loop" on pre-9/11 counter-terrorism planning, while at the same time National Security Advisor Rice was telling reporters that Clarke was the center of all counter-terrorism efforts.[21]

Clarke has also been criticized by conservatives for suggesting the possibility of a link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda but then, after investigation, concluding that no link had been established. Specifically, in February 1999 Clarke wrote the Deputy National Security Advisor that one reliable source reported Iraqi officials had met with Bin Ladin and may have offered him asylum. Therefore, Clarke advised against surveillance flights to track bin Laden in Afghanistan: Anticipating an attack, “old wily Usama will likely boogie to Baghdad”, where he would be impossible to find.[22]

Clarke also made statements that year to the press linking Hussein and al-Qaeda to an alleged joint chemical weapons development effort at the Al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan.[23]

According to Clarke's statements to the 9/11 Commission, a member of the Bush Administration relayed to Clarke the request of the Saudi embassy to allow the members of the bin Laden family living in the U.S. to fly to Saudi Arabia on Sept. 14, 2001. Clarke testified to the commission that he relayed this decision in turn to the FBI via Dale Watson, and that the FBI at length sent its approval of the flight to the Interagency Crisis Management Group.[24] However, FBI spokesman John Iannarelli denied that the FBI had a role in approving the flight: "I can say unequivocally that the FBI had no role in facilitating these flights."[25]

Clarke has also exchanged criticism with Michael Scheuer, former chief of the bin Laden Unit at the Counterterrorist Center at the CIA. When asked to respond to Clarke's claim that Scheuer was "a hothead, a middle manager who really didn't go to any of the cabinet meetings," Scheuer returned the criticism as follows: "I certainly agree with the fact that I didn't go to the cabinet meetings. But I'm certainly also aware that I'm much better informed than Mr. Clarke ever was about the nature of the intelligence that was available against Osama bin Laden and which was consistently denigrated by himself and Mr. Tenet."[26] Matthew Continetti writes: "Scheuer believes that Clarke’s risk aversion and politicking negatively impacted the hunt for bin Laden prior to September 11, 2001. Scheuer stated that his unit, codename 'Alec,' had provided information that could have led to the capture and or killing of Osama bin Laden on ten different occasions, only to have his recommendations for action turned down by senior intelligence officials, including Clarke."[27]

Since 1999, however, the United States government has admitted that its evidence regarding Al Shifa is inconclusive, and Clarke has concluded that there was no Iraq-Al-Qaeda link. In Against All Enemies he writes, "It is certainly possible that Iraqi agents dangled the possibility of asylum in Iraq before bin Laden at some point when everyone knew that the U.S. was pressuring the Taliban to arrest him. If that dangle happened, bin Laden's accepting asylum clearly did not," (p. 270). In an interview on March 21, 2004, Clarke made the statement: "There's absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al-Qaeda, ever." Clarke makes clear in his book that he came to his more recent conclusion as a result of several investigations, prompted by the Bush Administration, specifically into the possibility of an Iraqi connection to September 11.

In response to Clarke's charges against the Bush administration, Fox News, with the Administration's consent, identified and released a background briefing that Clarke gave in August 2002, at the Administration's request, to minimize the fallout from a Time Magazine story about the President's failure to take certain actions before 9/11.[28] In that briefing on behalf of the White House, Clarke stated "there was no plan on Al-Qaeda that was passed from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration," and that after taking office President Bush decided to "add to the existing Clinton strategy and to increase CIA resources, for example, for covert action, fivefold, to go after Al-Qaeda."[29] At the next day's hearing, 9/11 Commission member Thompson challenged Clarke with the 2002 account, and Clarke explained: "I was asked to make that case to the press. I was a special assistant to the President, and I made the case I was asked to make... I was asked to highlight the positive aspects of what the administration had done and to minimize the negative aspects of what the administration had done. And as a special assistant to the President, one is frequently asked to do that kind of thing. I've done it for several Presidents."[10]

Cyberterrorism and cybersecurity

Clarke, as Special Advisor to the President on Cybersecurity, spent his last year in the Bush Administration focusing on cybersecurity and the threat of terrorism against the critical infrastructure of the United States. At a security conference in 2002, after citing statistics that indicate that less than 0.0025 percent of corporate revenue on average is spent on information-technology security, Clarke was famously heard to say, "If you spend more on coffee than on IT security, then you will be hacked. What's more, you deserve to be hacked."[30]

Post Government career

Clarke wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post on May 31, 2009 harshly critical of other Bush administration officials, entitled "The Trauma of 9/11 Is No Excuse".[31 ] Clarke wrote that he had little sympathy for his fellow officials who seemed to want to use the excuse of being traumatized, and caught unaware by Al-Qaeda's attacks on the USA, because their being caught unaware was due to their ignoring clear reports a major attack on U.S. soil was imminent. Clarke particularly singled out former Vice President Dick Cheney and former National Security Advisor and former Secretary of State, Condaleezza Rice.

Book: Against All Enemies

On March 22, 2004, Clarke's book, Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror—What Really Happened (ISBN 0-7432-6024-4), was published. The book was critical of past and present Presidential administrations for the way they handled the war on terror both before and after September 11, 2001 but focused much of its criticism on Bush for failing to take sufficient action to protect the country in the elevated-threat period before the September 11, 2001 attacks and for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which Clarke feels greatly hampered the war on terror, and was a distraction from the real terrorists.

Additional works

  • Defeating the Jihadists: A Blueprint for Action, 2004. In this book Clarke outlines his idea of a more effective U.S. counterterrorism policy. (ISBN 0-87078-491-9)
  • The Scorpion's Gate, 2005 (novel). (ISBN 0-399-15294-6)
  • Breakpoint, 2007 (novel). (ISBN 0-399-15378-0).
  • Your Government Failed You: Breaking the Cycle of National Security Disasters, 2008. (ISBN 9780061474620)



  1. ^ Dobbs, Michael. "An Obscure Chief in U.S. War on Terror". The Washington Post, April 2, 2000.
  2. ^ "Profile: Richard Clarke". BBC News. 2004-03-22. Retrieved 2009-01-09.  
  3. ^ "Richard Clarke's bio at Harvard Kennedy School". Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. 2008-05-29. Retrieved 2009-01-09.  
  4. ^ Bio.Richard Clarke, ""
  5. ^ Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006, p.206.
  6. ^ "Text of Presidential Decision Directive 25". Federation of American Scientists. 1994-05-06. Retrieved 2009-01-09.  
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Bush Administration's First Memo on al-Qaeda Declassified". 2001-01-25. Retrieved 2009-01-09.  
  9. ^ a b Richard Clarke: "Against All Enemies, Inside America's War on Terror" by Free Press, a subsidiary of Simon & Schuster
  10. ^ a b c "Transcript: Wednesday's 9/11 Commission Hearings". Washington Post. 2004-03-24. Retrieved 2009-01-09.  
  11. ^ Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror--What Really Happened (ISBN 0-7432-6024-4)
  12. ^ Dean, John W (2004-04-09). "Bush's attack on Richard Clarke". Retrieved 2009-01-09.  
  13. ^ Talking Points Memo (2001-09-11). Press release. Retrieved 2009-01-09.  
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Ratnesar, Romesh (2004-03-25). "Richard Clarke, at War With Himself".,8599,604598,00.html. Retrieved 2009-01-09.  
  18. ^ "White House Tries to Discredit Counterterrorism Coordinator". Common Dreams. 2004-03-22. Retrieved 2009-01-09.  
  19. ^ Krugman, Paul (2004-03-30). "Smearing Richard Clarke". History News Network. Retrieved 2009-01-09.  
  20. ^ "Talking Points Memo".  
  21. ^ Bumiller, Elizabeth, "Threats and Responses: Was an Official 'In the Loop?' It all Depends", The New York Times, March 25, 2004.
  22. ^ The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 134.
  23. ^ Flanagan, David (2004-03-23). "Richard Clarke Links Al Qaeda To Iraq". Retrieved 2009-01-09.  
  24. ^ "Richard Clarke Testifies Before 9/11 Commission". Transcripts. 2004-03-24. Retrieved 2009-01-09.  
  25. ^ Craig Unger: Letter To the Editor NYT March 30, 2005
  26. ^ Leung, Rebecca (2004-11-12). "Bin Laden Expert Steps Forward, Ex-CIA Agent Assesses Terror War In 60 Minutes Interview". 60 Minutes (CBS News). Retrieved 2009-01-09.  
  27. ^ Continetti, Matthew (2004-11-22). "Scheuer v. Clarke". Weekly Standard. Retrieved 2009-01-09.  
  28. ^ Kaplan, Fred (2004-03-24). "Richard Clarke KOs the Bushies". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 2009-01-09.  
  29. ^ "Transcript: Clarke Praises Bush Team in '02". 2004-03-24.,2933,115085,00.html. Retrieved 2009-01-09.  
  30. ^ "Security Guru: Let's Secure the Net," ZDNet, February 20, 2002
  31. ^ Richard A. Clarke (2009-05-31). "The Trauma of 9/11 Is No Excuse". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2009-08-22.  

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