July 27, 2004

Connect the dots

The Democratic convention devoted nearly 30 minutes of its opening night to a September 11th remembrance. But the event was grotesquely short on commemoration, and shockingly long on opportunistic forgetfulness.

For instance, guess whose name went unmentioned throughout the production? Answer: Usama bin Laden. UBL has become the Voldemort of this convention – the one whose name cannot be spoken. The twin towers have been banished from memory, too. Conventioneers saw none of the carnage from that day; they merely heard from an aggrieved survivor.

Bill Clinton compounded the problem by leaving terrorism undiscussed in his tribute to John Kerry, and by failing to grapple with the Bush Doctrine, which advocates striking terrorists before they hit us. The former president instead trained his laser on first responders – the people who put out the fires and respond to crises made possible by our failure to take killers out before they could hit our citizens.

What’s going on here? Why the eerie silence? Why the failure to mention the single most visible representative of the terror network, or pay full homage to the nearly three thousand who were slaughtered horribly on that beautiful Tuesday morning in September of 2001?

Let’s connect some dots. Go back to the late days of the Clinton administration. Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism czar at the White House, produced a devastating critique of the Clinton administration’s discovery in 1999 of a “millennium plot.” Customs agents blundered into the arrest of a man who was attempting to transport explosives into the U-S from Vancouver. Clarke was appalled that dumb luck, and not smart intelligence-collection efforts, foiled the scheme. In framing his critique, Clarke harshly criticized the Clinton administration’s half-hearted efforts to track down bin Laden. This is the first dot.

Here’s the second: Clarke produced several drafts of the report, which went directly to his boss, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger. Berger apparently wasn’t happy with some of the heat-seeking complaints. He penciled objections in the margins of draft reports, which Clarke duly kept and submitted to the archives at the close of the Clinton administration. (This is standard operating procedure in any White House. Aides surrender all of their paperwork.)

Fast forward to 2004, when Congress empaneled a 9-11 commission that quickly degenerated into a partisan fight club. Democrats seemed determined to pin blame for the mass murder on the Bush administration; Republicans thundered and fumed about the Clintons. Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, added a little spice to the proceedings by neglecting to tell her colleagues about her central role in the very scandal they had pledged to study objectively. As deputy attorney general, she issued a memo that heightened the “wall” between foreign and domestic intelligence agencies. She made it considerably more difficult for intelligence agencies to share information collected abroad with law-enforcement agents working on American soil. Had that wall not existed, the FBI might have been able to avert the September 11th attacks. This is dot three.

There’s more. As part of the 9-11 commission deliberations, Democrats selected which Clinton-era memos to share with the commission. The man in charge of that process was Sandy Berger – whom Archives employees caught sneaking out with drafts of Richard Clarke’s memos. The worst scenario was that Berger wanted to cover up Clarke’s critiques and the Clinton security team’s refusal to act on the aides warnings. Berger has enjoyed a long and distinguished public career, but people ultimately may remember him as the guy who on five occasions walked off with forbidden treasures. At one point, he may even have stuffed top secret documents into his underwear, transforming his tighty whities into a classified form of adult diaper. This is the fourth dot.

So why did Bill Clinton avoid talking about bin Laden? The trail of dots suggests one conclusion: He knew he was vulnerable on the point and chose to keep quiet. Fox News Contributor Mansour Ijaz for years has claimed that Team Clinton viewed terrorism as a problem best solved in courtrooms rather than battlefields, and therefore refused to kidnap or bomb bin Laden when it had a chance. Ijaz also says Clinton’s advisers turned down an opportunity to take direct custody of bin Laden from the Sudanese, who then were providing shelter for the jihadist. (Ijaz says he was the middle man in the scheme.)

Keep an eye on this issue as the presidential race proceeds. Ask yourself why the candidates so seldom mention bin Laden – and what they would do if someone marched into their office tomorrow and asked of bin Laden: “We’ve spotted him. What should we do?”

Share your thoughts with Tony.  E-mail him at   tonysnow@foxnews.com.