Tidbits for Political Junkies with Short Attention Spans & Hearty Appetites


Thursday, March 25, 2004

The World’s Finest Intelligence Service

There’s so much good stuff out there on the Clarke controversy – to read and to watch – that I’ve hardly had time to crack the book itself. So I’ll spare you another repeat of what you can easily find elsewhere, and instead offer up this little nugget, from page 83.

If you recall, Clinton’s retaliation for the assassination attempt on the elder Bush’s life was to bomb the Iraqi intelligence headquarters. Clarke describes the critical moment between the time the bombs were launched, and the time that Clinton was scheduled to go on national television, when he began looking to then-National Security Advisor Anthony Lake for something he didn’t yet have: clear confirmation. Said Clinton, “I do want to know for certain that we blew this place up before telling the world that I did.”

A reasonable enough request, that apparently sent the CIA scrambling:

Admiral Bill Studebaker, the number two man at CIA, began making calls. Satellites were redirected. “We got nothin’,” he reported. “The missiles should have hit several minutes ago, but we have nothing that can tell us that…not for a while.”

A glum mood settled over the office as we wondered how we would get the President to go on national television. Then, as we talked, he did it. On all networks, the Saturday news anchors were told something and announced a surprise address by the President. “We don’t know why,” one said.

Clinton read the short statement and then, almost immediately, showed up in Lake’s office with Vice President Al Gore. “We thought you were not going to go on,” Lake confessed. “We thought you needed proof that the missiles hit.”

Gore urged the President to tell us something that the two highest leaders in the land clearly found funny. “Okay, okay,” Clinton agreed. “I needed relative certainty that the missiles had hit and none of you could give me that…so I called CNN….”


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