Former Clinton administration officials have been busy revising the history of their failures in the war against international terrorism. CIA Director George Tenet, a Clinton holdover in the Bush administration, claims to have declared war on Osama bin Laden in 1998. Other officials, like former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, have been claiming credit for our military’s swift success in the war in Iraq.
But a new book fully exposes the failures of these and other Clinton officials in the war against terrorism. Author Richard Miniter first wrote about these failures in an award-winning series in the London Sunday Times in early 2002. His new book, Losing Bin Laden, expands on that series and fully documents the Clinton administration’s refusal to wage all-out war on al Qaeda, disproving Tenet’s 1998 declaration to the contrary. The investigative journalist was interviewed on Fox News’ Special Report and both Robert Novak and Steve Forbes wrote columns about the new book. Not surprisingly, however, the liberal media have completely ignored Miniter’s charges.
Fortunately, the Washington Times published four excerpts from Losing Bin Laden. The excerpts detail the unwillingness of Clinton administration officials to provide the U.S. intelligence community with the necessary resources to conduct anti-terrorism operations. For example, he writes that the intelligence community was critically short of linguists trained in Arabic and other languages spoken by terrorists.
He was told that early in the Clinton years, we could read only about 10% of intercepted terrorist communications. The White House, however, was unwilling to support then CIA Director James Woolsey’s request for more funds to hire and train new linguists. Miniter concludes that Clinton’s “indifference kept America blind and deaf as bin Laden plotted.” Shockingly, the recent nine-eleven congressional report indicated that we are still unable to read nearly 70% of such communications today.
Miniter also recounts the bureaucratic dithering that followed the al Qaeda attack on the U.S.S. Cole in October 2000. Cabinet members like Janet Reno and Madeleine Albright repeatedly threw up obstacles and objections to U.S. retaliation for the Cole attack. Reno, according to Miniter, “insisted” that the U.S. didn’t really know who had conducted the attack. She wanted a full investigation prior to any such U.S. action. Albright worried about the diplomatic consequences of such an attack and particularly about domestic opinion in Pakistan.
But the most surprising objections came from Defense Secretary Cohen. He argued that the attack, which killed seventeen U.S. sailors, was “not sufficient provocation” for a retaliatory strike on bin Laden. Miniter says that Cohen’s objections were fully supported by Clinton- appointed generals and other Pentagon political appointees. One State Department official told Miniter that he was “stunned” by their objections to retaliation. Miniter says the final vote on whether to retaliate against bin Laden was seven to one?against.