22 March 2004

White House Says Ex-Terror Czar Has It All Wrong

White House Says Ex-Terror Czar Has It All Wrong:

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Monday sought to brand former anti-terrorism czar Richard Clarke as a disgruntled employee bent on damaging President Bush's war image with politically motivated assertions about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Top officials including Vice President Dick Cheney and national security advisor Condoleezza Rice took to television and radio to deny Clarke's allegation that Bush ignored the al-Qaeda threat before the attacks and focused on Iraq rather than the Islamic militant group afterward.

Clarke, who quit his White House job a year ago after serving in four administrations, made the bombshell assertions in a new book and on Sunday in an interview with CBS' '60 Minutes.' The book, 'Against All Enemies,' was released on Monday and quickly climbed to the No. 5 slot on amazon.com's top 100 bestsellers list.

Clarke's assault on Bush's credibility comes at a time when the Bush-Cheney campaign has made the president's leadership on security and the war against terrorism a main plank of his re-election strategy.

Clarke told '60 Minutes' it was 'outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he's done such great things about terrorism. He ignored it.'

But Cheney said Clarke was in no position to comment.

'He wasn't in the loop, frankly, on a lot of this stuff,' Cheney told conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh. The vice president also questioned Clarke's effectiveness in countering attacks on U.S. targets dating back to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan had harsher words for Clarke, the second former top administration official to criticize the Bush administration's overriding focus on Iraq.

'His assertion that there was something we could have done to prevent the September 11 attacks from happening is deeply irresponsible. It's offensive and it's flat-out false,' McClellan said."

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