Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Truth about Bill Clinton and 9/11

Captain Ed says Bill Cllinton may have "exaggerated" his record when discussing the vigor with which his presidency pursued Osama bin Laden. Morrissey is referring to this Newsweek article in which the authors discuss what Clinton says he did and what he actually did.

In September 2006, during a famous encounter with Fox News anchor Wallace, Clinton erupted in anger and waived his finger when asked about whether his administration had done enough to get bin Laden. “What did I do? What did I do?” Clinton said at one point. “I worked hard to try to kill him. I authorized a finding for the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since.”

Clinton appeared to have been referring to a December 1999 Memorandum of Notification (MON) he signed that authorized the CIA to use lethal force to capture, not kill, bin Laden. But the inspector general’s report made it clear that the agency never viewed the order as a license to “kill” bin Laden—one reason it never mounted more effective operations against him. “The restrictions in the authorities given the CIA with respect to bin Laden, while arguably, although ambiguously, relaxed for a period of time in late 1998 and early 1999, limited the range of permissible operations,” the report stated. (Scheuer agreed with the inspector general’s findings on this issue, but said if anything the report was overly diplomatic. “There was never any ambiguity,” he said. “None of those authorities ever allowed us to kill anyone. At least that’s what the CIA lawyers told us.” A spokesman for the former president had no immediate comment.)

Is it any surprise Clinton doesn't have a comment when faced with the truth? Maybe he'll pipe up and tell us "It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is."

Like Ed, I see no point in trying to blame either the Clinton presidency or the Bush one for 9/11. Such finger-pointing is partisan in nature and designed to exonerate whichever side one agrees with, not illuminate anything. What is important is what the intelligence failures were and fixing those to prevent new attacks. It's difficult to stay focused on that when you have a former president lying about his own role.