WASHINGTON – Former White House counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke (search) may have lied under oath when he faulted President Bush's handling of the War on Terror, key Republicans in Congress contended Friday.
Republicans sought Friday to declassify two-year-old testimony by Clarke before the House and Senate intelligence committees.
"Mr. Clarke has told two entirely different stories under oath," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (search) said in a speech on the Senate floor.
He also accused Clarke of "an appalling act of profiteering" by publishing a book that relied on access to insider information relating to the worst terrorist attacks in the nation's history.
The Tennessee Republican said he hopes Clarke's congressional testimony in July 2002 can be declassified. Then, he said, it can be compared with the account the former aide provided in his nationally televised appearance Wednesday before the bipartisan commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001 (search), attacks.
The development marked the latest turn in a Republican counterattack against Clarke, who has leveled his criticism against Bush in a new book as well as in interviews and his sworn testimony before the bipartisan commission.
In his testimony, Clarke said that while the Clinton administration had "no higher priority" than combating terrorists, Bush made it "an important issue but not an urgent issue" in the eight months between the time he took office and the Sept. 11 attacks.
Clarke also testified that the invasion of Iraq had undermined the war on terror.
In a sharply worded speech, Frist said that Clarke himself was "the only common denominator" across 10 years of terrorist attacks that began with the first attack on the World Trade Center.
Additionally he accused him of making a "theatrical apology" to the families of the terrorist victims at the outset of his appearance on Wednesday, saying it was not "his right, his privilege or his responsibility" to do so.
"Mr. Clarke can and will answer for his own conduct — but that is all," he said.
The initial request for declassification was made by Rep. Porter Goss (search), the chairman of the House intelligence committee, Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said in a statement released Friday.
"Chairman Goss informed me earlier this week of his intention to forward a request to appropriate authorities regarding the declassification of certain testimony by Richard Clarke before the Joint Intelligence Committee inquiry into the 9/11 disaster," Hastert's statment said."It is my understanding that that testimony had already been provided to the members of the 9/11 Commission on November 5, 2003. I support Chairman Goss's request."
Frist, without elaborating, said Clarke's testimony in 2002 was "effusive in his praise for the actions of the Bush administration."
Frist also noted that Clarke, appearing as an anonymous official, had praised the administration's actions in an appearance before White House reporters in 2002.
Clarke on Wednesday dismissed that appearance as the fulfillment of the type of request that presidential appointees frequently receive.
But, Frist said, "Loyalty to any administration will be no defense if it is found that he has lied to Congress."
No immediate information was available on how the declassification process works, but one GOP aide said the CIA and perhaps the White House would play a role in determining whether to make the testimony public.
Without mentioning the congressional Republicans' effort, White House spokesman Scott McClellan continued the administration's criticism of Clarke on Friday.
"With every new assertion he makes, every revision of his past comments, he only further undermines his credibility," McClellan told reporters.
Asked about Bush's personal reaction to the criticism from a former White House aide, McClellan said, "Any time someone takes a serious issue like this and revises history it's disappointing."
"We need to lean forward in making as much information available to the public as possible, without compromising the national security interests of the nation," Hastert said in his statement.
"It is my view that Richard Clarke's testimony before the Joint Inquiry will shed light on the issues without compromising national security."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.