Correcting Misstatements from the 9/11 Commission Hearings

Factual Inaccuracies from the Commission's Hearings on March 23-24,2004
On the President's Summer 2001 Request for Intelligence on al-Qa'ida Domestic Threat COMMISSION HEARINGS: The CIA's Presidential Daily Brief of August 6,2001 reviewed al-Qa'ida's historical desire to attack the U.S. homeland. Dr. Rice stated in her private meeting with the Commission that, as part of the interactive PDB briefing process, having heard the many reports from the DCI about alQa'ida threats overseas during that summer, the President asked, prior to the preparation of this PDB, about al-Qa'ida's intentions within the United States. On March 24, Commissioner Ben-Veniste stated that CIA had indicated to the Commission that this PDB was "initiated by individuals within the CIA and not as a direct request from the National Security Advisor." FACTS: Following this misstatement at the hearings, CIA has conducted further internal review related to the preparation of that PDB and is issuing the following clarification to the Commission: > Throughout the Spring and Summer of 2001, at CIA briefings to the President on the al-Qa'ida threat, the President raised questions about whether the intelligence pointed toward threats inside the United States. > The President's questions were discussed at a PDB planning session at CIA, leading to CIA's decision to prepare a PDB on Usama bin Ladin's interest in striking inside the United States. Though CIA did not consider this a "formal tasking," the piece was prompted by the President's earlier questions. > When the PDB was presented to the President and Dr. Rice on August 6,2001, the CIA briefer introduced it by referring to the President's earlier questions. On the Bush Administration's Pre-9/11 Military Plans to Topple the Taliban if Necessary COMMISSION HEARINGS: When questioning Mr. Clarke on March 24, Commissioner Gorelick suggested that Dr. Rice was incorrect in her Washington Post Op-Ed of March 22 when she stated that the al-Qa'ida strategy developed by the Bush Administration before September 11,2001 "marshalled all elements of national power to take down the network, not just respond to individual attacks with law enforcement measures. Our plan called for military options to attack al Qaeda and Taliban leadership, ground forces and other targets-taking the fight to the enemy where he lived." FACTS: The Op-Ed is entirely consistent with the language of the National Security Presidential Directive developed by the Bush NSC staff and approved by Deputies and by Principals before September 11. > The NSPD directed the Secretary of Defense to plan for actions against "against Taliban targets in Afghanistan, including leadership, command-control, air and air defense, ground forces, and logistics."

> The NSPD also called for plans "against al Qida and associated terrorist facilities in Afghanistan, including leadership, command-control-communications, training, and logistics facilities." On "Eliminating" Al Qa'ida COMMISSION HEARINGS: When challenged by Commissioner Thompson on March 24 about his statements to the press in August 2002, Clarke claimed that it was his suggestion, over objections from the Deputies Committee, to have the new strategy seek to "eliminate" the al-Qa'ida threat, and that his language only prevailed after 9/11: "I tried to insert the phrase early in the Bush administration in the draft NSPD that our goal should be to eliminate al-Qa'ida. And I was told by various members of the Deputies Committee that that was overly ambitious and that we should take the word 'eliminate' out and say 'significantly erode.' And then, following 9/11, we were able to go back to my language of eliminate, rather than significantly erode. And so, the version of the national security presidential decision directive that President Bush finally got to see after 9/11, had my original language of 'eliminate,' not the interim language of 'erode.'" FACTS: The first and every draft NSPD considered by the Deputies Committee during its policy development discussions and oversight in Spring and Summer of 2001, and the NSPD as presented to Principals on September 4,2001, called for the elimination of the al-Qa'ida threat. > This was a marked departure from the strategy that Clarke presented to Dr. Rice on January 25, 2001, which called for "rolling back" al-Qa'ida. > Clarke himself stated in August 2002 that the strategic direction to "eliminate" al-Qa'ida came from President Bush: "The... thing to bear in mind is the shift from the rollback strategy to the elimination strategy. When President Bush told us in March to stop swatting at flies and just solve this problem, that was the strategic direction that changed the NSPD from one of rollback to one of elimination." (Dick Clarke briefing to reporters, August 2002) On Sitting National Security Advisors Testifying on Policy Matters COMMISSION HEARINGS: Commissioner Ben-Veniste repeatedly cited at the hearings an April 5,2002 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report for the proposition that "other National Security Advisors have come before the Congress and have testified in open session, including Mr. Berger, including Zbigniew Brzezinski." FACTS: Each example cited by Commissioner Ben-Veniste is distinct from the Commission's request that Dr. Rice testify publicly about policy matters. > The first appearance by Mr. Berger cited in the report (May 3,1994), when he was Deputy National Security Advisor, was to provide "a policy briefing on Haiti." Contrary to Commissioner Ben-Veniste's statements, however, the Congressional Record and U.S. Senate records both indicate that this was a closed briefing, similar to the appearance Dr. Rice already has made before the Commission.

> The other appearance by Mr. Berger cited by Commissioner Ben-Veniste (September 11, 1997) was in public, but in decidedly different circumstances. It, along with the instances cited involving Dr. Brzezinski and another Carter official, involved not policy matters, but potential improper or illegal conduct. FACTS: Sitting National Security Advisors in fact regularly decline to testify publicly on policy matters before legislative bodies, such as the Commission. > Samuel Berger declined to testify in 1999 concerning the alleged theft of nuclear weapons secrets by China. > Anthony Lake declined to testify in 1996 concerning the Administration's Bosnia policy. > Neither the CRS report, nor any other authority of which we are aware, identifies any instance in which a sitting National Security Advisor has testified publicly before a legislative body on policy matters.