Tenet And Berger Differ Over Whether Agency Had Authority To Kill Bin Laden
Earlier today, the 9/11 Commission staff report indicated that during the Clinton Administration, the CIA didnít know if it had the authority to kill Osama Bin Laden, should an opportunity arise. Yet Tenet during his own testimony said the CIA had adequate authority to do its job, and if he ever felt otherwise, he would have gone back to Clinton for such clarity.
According to the commission staff report, CIA officers felt that it would have been easier to kill Bin Laden. In Bergerís testimony after Tenetís, he said that it was clear to all that Clinton had authorized every means against Bin Laden, even his killing, and he never heard from anyone including Tenet that there was any need for clarity on that matter. Had the Agency sought additional clarification or authority to kill Bin Laden, Berger said it would have been provided and quickly, but he received no such indications or requests from Tenet.
But former Senator Bob Kerrey, who yesterday gave a hard time to Clinton officials over their lack of progress in getting Bin Laden, went equally after Tenet today, prompting a nonresponse at one point, and a more interesting CYA-type response at another point. And it was made clear today that Bush was in fact briefed on Al Qaeda before assuming office.
Commission member Bob Kerrey, a former Democratic senator, zeroed in on what he said were severe shortcomings in the plan adopted by the Bush administration to fight bin Laden's al Qaeda organization just days before Sept. 11.
"I was briefed this morning on that plan. I would say fortunately for the administration it's classified because there's almost nothing in it," he said.
The Bush administration, defending itself against criticism that it failed to take the terrorism threat seriously in the eight months between assuming office in January 2001 and the attacks, has said it was working on that comprehensive plan.
Kerrey said intelligence agencies knew the danger of a domestic attack was high in the summer of 2001 but did not properly analyze it. "I don't get it George," he told Tenet. "I don't understand why it wasn't done." Tenet did not respond.
Later, Tenet said that the incoming Bush Administration did in fact pay attention to Bin Laden and Al Qaeda (even though Rummy said yesterday he got no such indications or briefings of note). But then Tenet said this:
"Maybe the method of communication was different. I did not see any less attention to what we were trying to do and I certainly did not get a sense that anyone was not paying attention to what I was doing, and what I was briefing..." he said.
So they were paying attention to what Tenet was saying, but he is not taking responsibility for what they did (or didnít do) with that information.
If I were Condi, I wouldnít be making long-range plans in Washington.