Wednesday :: Apr 7, 2004

Bush Counter-Terrorism Office Suffers High Turnover Due To Fixation On Iraq, Lack of Attention to Real Threats

by Steve

Reuters has a piece this afternoon which reports that there has been a high amount of staff turnover within the Bush Administrationís counter-terrorism office due to the fixation on Iraq and the lack of administration attention to dealing with terrorism.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has faced a steady exodus of counterterrorism officials, many disappointed by a preoccupation with Iraq they said undermined the U.S. fight against terrorism.

Former counterterrorism officials said at least half a dozen have left the White House Office for Combating Terrorism or related agencies in frustration in the 2 1/2 years since the attacks.

Some also left because they felt President Bush had sidelined his counterterrorism experts and paid almost exclusive heed to the vice president, the defense secretary and other Cabinet members in planning the "war on terror," former counterterrorism officials said.

"I'm kind of hoping for regime change," one official who quit told Reuters.

Similar charges were made by Bush's former counterterrorism czar, Richard Clarke, who told the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that the administration ignored the al Qaeda threat beforehand and was fixated on Iraq afterward. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice testifies before the 9/11 panel on Thursday.

"Iraq has been a distraction from the whole counterterrorism effort," said the former official, adding the policy had frustrated many in the White House anti-terrorism office, about two-thirds of whom have left and been replaced since Sept. 11.

"There has been excessively high turnover in the Office for Combating Terrorism," said Flynt Leverett, who served on the White House National Security Council for about a year until March 2003 and is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank.

"If you take the (White House) counterterrorism and Middle East offices, you've got about a dozen people ... who came to this administration wanting to work on these important issues and left after a year or often less because they just don't think that this administration is dealing seriously with the issues that matter," he said.

Is anyone surprised?

Steve :: 2:17 PM :: Comments (2) :: Digg It!