Richard Clarke

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Richard E. Clarke (1951-), a specialist in counterterrorism and critical infrastructure, began his career as a U.S. civil servant in the Department of Defense, rising into the Senior Executive Service He was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence in the Reagan Admistration, Assistant Secretary of State for Politico-Military Affairs in the George H.W. Bush Administration. He then became National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counterterrorism on the National Security Council staff in the Clinton Administration, continuing in that role into the George W. Bush Administration.

His level of power, especially in the Clinton Administration, was unusual but not unprecedented rise from what journalist Steve Coll calls "Washington's permanent intelligence and bureaucratic classes." [1] Robert Gates rose to Director of Central Intelligence and Secretary of Defense from a career in the Central Intelligence Agency. Some called him a Rasputin while others saw him as a public servant.

Recent activities

He has been a proponent of increased protection against the threat of cyberwar. In a recent book, he proposed a six-part strategy for the United States:[2]

  • Create broad public dialogue. He makes the point that "maybe there should be public discussion precisely because so much of the work has been stamped secret." Observing that the same was said of nuclear war, public dialogue was triggered by the writings of Herman Kahn and others.
  • Build a defensive triad:
  • Aggressively pursue cybercrime (i.e., from "Ordinary Decent Criminals" rather than terrorists or states)
  • Establish a Cyber War Limitation Treaty, in part explicitly protecting the cyber equivalent of National Technical Means of Verification
  • More research on information security
  • Presidential involvement, especially personal approval of U.S. cyber attacks on politically sensitive targets, and make Chinese cyber espionage a diplomatic priority, stating that it is considered economic warfare.

George W. Bush Administration

He was retained, along with Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, from the Clinton Administration. According to Tenet, he built on the CIA's comprehensive "Blue Sky" plan, submitted in the closing days of the previous administration, and presented it, on January 25, 2001, to Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Condaleeza Rice, asking for an urgent National Security Council meeting on action against al-Qaeda. [3]

After the transition between the Clinton and Bush Administration, Clarke briefed those people he knew from the George H. W. Bush Aministration, that "al Qaeda is at war with us, it is a highly capable organization, probably with sleeper cells in the use, and it is clearly planning a major series of attacks against us; we must act decisively and quickly, deciding on the issues prepared after the attack on the USS Cole, going on the offensive. Each responded differently: Vice President Dick Cheney, Rice and her deputy, Steve Hadley, and Secretary of State Colin Powell.[4]

In early 2001, the U.S had done an intelligence-community-wide exercise, run by Clarke and Charles Allen (Deputy Director of Central Intelligence for Collection) to identify where al-Qaeda would be likey to hide chemical weapons, if they had them. The analysts identified one area, and mapped it thoroughly: a valley in Afghanistan called Tora Bora. [5]

LTG Mike "Rifle" DeLong (USMC, retired), Deputy Commander of United States Central Command, said that while Clarke told CENTCOM how comfortable he was with terrorism, "...he was not an insider. He was not included on any of the video teleconferences I attended with President Bush. I suspect we might have had better knowledge of existing intelligence from the Middle East than Clarke did...there will always be some analyst, somewhere who, like Dick Clarke, will step forward after the fact and hurl accusations of ignored intel."[6] It should be noted that Clarke was a cabinet-level staff official during the Clinton Administration, but not during the George W. Bush Administration, when his access level probably did decrease.

Operations after 9-11

When the 9-11 attack took place, he led the Counterterrorism Security Group, the staff organization responsible for planning response. The Counterterrorism Coordinator job was downgraded early in the George W. Bush Administration. He moved to the critical infrastructure protection role in October 2001, and resigned in March 2003.

He was involved in considering strategies against al-Qaeda in both the Clinton and Bush Administrations. One of his concerns was that the Bush Administration was more concerned with Iraq than with al-Qaeda on taking office, and proper priorities were not set. He was especially critical of Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney for overemphasizing the need for starting the Iraq War. [7]

CIA officer Michael Scheuer responded to Clarke's accusation that Scheuer was an ill-informed middle manager with the comment that Clarke "had a tendency to interfere too much with the activities of the CIA, and our leadership at the senior level let him interfere too much...So criticism from him I kind of wear as a badge of honor." [8]

Criticism of Bush decisionmaking

Clarke does not assume it would have been possible to stop the 9/11 attack. Even if it had been stopped, he believes that there would have been another attack had there not been an aggressive programm to eliminate al-Qaeda — and perhaps not even then. [9]

His 2004 book, Against all Enemies, was criticized as alarmist, or bitter against the George W. Bush Administration, by some observers. [10] Condoleeza Rice said he had engaged in a "retrospective rewriting of the history.[11] She did say Clarke developed "a broad comprehensive strategy for dealing with the al Qaeda threat, and he eventually did that. And I think he did a very good job." White House press spokesman Scott McClellan questioned the timing of the release of the book during the 2004 election campaign. Bush's opponent, John Kerry, did not comment; former Democratic primary candidate, retired GEN Wesley Clark, said he had worked with Clarke and found him "credible."

Some of his statements on television after the book release, according to Time Magazine, were either more dramatic than in the book, or questioned by other counterterrorism officials. [12]

Clinton Administration

On the Clinton Administration's National Security Council staff, he was involved with African crises including the withdrawal from Somalia and the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide and other interagency matters. He began an early focus on terrorism such as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing,[13], with the backing of Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Sandy Berger. In terrorism-related matters, he was a "principal" in cabinet-level working groups. [14] Coll said that no other staffer had had such status, but this certainly was not unprecedented, as in the role of John Ehrlichman as an equivalent principal in the Nixon Administration domestic council.

Early Clinton Administration counter-terrorism efforts were not directed specifically at al-Qaeda, whose significance was not fully realized. There had been enough events in 1993, however, that he, national security advisor Anthony Lake, and the President decided that the U.S. government, in 1994, needed to establish policy on dealing with terrorist threats and incidents. Was the lead agency to be the FBI or the CIA? What was the role of the National Security Council? Clinton decided that it would be a case-by-case decision to bring in any agency that had something to contribute. The immediate problem, according to Clarke, was the institutional secrecy of the FBI. Lake, Clarke, and Lake's deputy, Sandy Berger, met with Janet Reno and the FBI, and agreed in principle to sign a Memo of Understanding "if it's terrorism that involve foreign powers or groups, or if it could be, the Bureau (FBI) will tell a few senior NSC official what it knows." The document was never signed, but it became the practical policy.

Additional issues involved the proper Federal role in dealing with victims and families, and in considering the relationship between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. These decisions were codified in the classified Presidential Decision Directive 39 (PDD-39), "U.S. Policy on Counterterrorism."[15]

Clarke was deeply involved with early attempts to neutralize al-Qaeda and kill Osama bin Laden, although he says that the operational relationships were not really understood in 1995. Bin Laden was seen as associated, but al-Qaeda, as an organization, was not yet understood. Clarke believes the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was an al-Qaeda operation, [16], although this is not universally accepted in the intelligence community. In the case of the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing,[17] he was critical of the response of the Federal Bureau of Investigation under Louis Freeh. The CIA Counterterrorism Center, toward the end of the Clinton Administration, sent what Director George Tenet called the "Blue Sky" comprehensive strategy, but it did not progress until the next Administration.

Relations with military

He proposed extraordinary rendition of terrorists, but said that the Joint Staff consistently rejected a military role. [18]

The 1998 bombings of U.S. Embassies in Africa, according to Clarke, was clearly linked to al-Qaeda, but the retaliatory missile strikes missed bin Laden.[19] He insists Clinton's response was not affected by the ongoing Monica Lewinsky scandal.[20] He advocated, but did not get retaliation for the 2000 attack on the USS Cole.[21]

In August 2000, when GEN Tommy Franks took command of United States Central Command, he told GEN Hugh Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that he had scheduled a meeting with Clarke. Franks said Shelton told him that the Secretary of Defense, William Cohen preferred that the regional commanders "coordinate their contacts with senior civilian officials through his office. That's especially true with Dick Clarke. Clarke's been at the NSC so long that he thinks he owns counterterrorism — and knows more about the subject than anybody in government...but in many ways, he's not very practical. Be careful in dealing with him." After the visit, Franks speculated Clarke was better at identifying problems than finding solutions. [22]

Relations with FBI

Also in 2000, he obtained cooperation from John O'Neill and Dale Watson of the FBI, with the reluctant agreement of Freeh, to conduct a Millennium After Action Review to representatives from the 56 semi-autonomous field officies.

Al Qaeda is a worldwide political conspiray masquerading as a religious sect. It engages in murder of innocent people to grab attention. Its goal is a fourteenth-century style theocracy in which women have no rights, everyone is forced to be a Muslim, and the Sharia legal system is used to cut off hands and stone people to death. It also uses a global banking network and financial system to support its activities. These people are smart, many trained in our colleges, and they have a very long view. They have good spy tradecraft and employ sleeper ells that plan for years before acting. They are our number one enemy and they are amongst us, in our cities. Find them.[23]

Watson reinforced the priority, saying he had Director Freeh's consent.

George H.W. Bush Administration

He left his post over charges and countercharges that he had accepted Israeli sales of strategic technology to China.[24]

Reagan Administration

He was credited with developing psychological strategies against Libyan terrorism in 1986. [25]


  1. Steve Coll (2004), Ghost Wars: the Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001, Penguin, p. 387
  2. Ricard A. Clarke and Robert K. Knake (2010), Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and what to do about it, Harpercollins, ISBN 978-0061962233
  3. George Tenet (2007). At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780061147784. , p. 143
  4. Richard A. Clarke (2004), Against all Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, Free Press, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0743260244, pp. 227-228
  5. Clarke, p. 179
  6. Michael DeLong with Noah Lukeman (2009), Inside CENTCOM: the Unvarnished Truth about the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Regnery, ISBN 0895260204, pp. 14-15
  7. Clarke, pp. 231-232
  8. Rebecca Leung (November 14, 2004), "Bin Laden Expert Steps Forward", 60 Minutes, CBS News
  9. Clarke, p. 238
  10. Thomas C. Greene (March 29, 2004), "Former security czar morphs into Rasputin: Messianic Mad Monk vs Bushies in the 9/11 three-ring circus", Register (U.K.)
  11. "Bush administration rejects Clarke charges", CNN, May 6, 2004
  12. Romesh Ratnesar (March 25, 2004), "Richard Clarke, at War With Himself", Time
  13. Clarke, pp. 93-94, pp. 76-79
  14. Coll, p. 389
  15. Clarke, pp. 90-92
  16. Clarke, p. 133
  17. Clarke, pp. 112-118
  18. Clarke, pp. 143-144
  19. Raphael F Perl (September 1, 1998), Terrorism: U. S. Response to Bombings in Kenya and Tanzania: A New Policy Direction?, Congressional Research Service, CRS Order Code 98-733 F
  20. Clarke, pp. 181-189
  21. Clarke, pp. 223-224
  22. Tommy Franks (2004), American Soldier, Harper Collins, ISBN 0060779543, pp. 209-211
  23. Clarke, p. 218
  24. "Profile: Richard Clarke", BBC News, March 22, 2004
  25. William Safire (February 5, 1987), "ESSAY; In the Tangled Web", New York Times