Morning Report 11/20/05
We've Been Had — by Hadley
Who feeds the inside dope at the White House? Obviously, George W. Bush has a staff of chefs and waiters bringing him his meals from a well-appointed kitchen. But if you're talking about ex-hero Bob Woodward's tipster on Plamegate and on material for the ex-daily journalist's books, the latest suspect is Steve Hadley.
It doesn't really matter, as long as it puts Hadley's faceless face back in the news and his butt on the griddle. The run-up to the Iraq invasion — and the subsequent coverup via Plamegate — was one thing, but more importantly, Hadley was a key figure in the Bush regime's disastrous run-up to the 9/11 attacks.
Hadley still has a lot of questions to answer about that. One that comes to mind is whether he was too busy feeding info to Woodward to listen to Richard Clarke warn him about Osama bin Laden's plans to attack the United States.
The 9-11 Commission's final report concludes:
- There was a clear disparity in the levels of response to foreign versus domestic threats. Numerous actions were taken overseas to disrupt possible attacks — enlisting foreign partners to upset terrorist plans, closing embassies, moving military assets out of the way of possible harm. Far less was done domestically …
We're talking about far less, but who knew, right? Hadley, for one. He was Condoleezza Rice's top deputy. The final report says:
- Clarke mentioned to National Security Advisor Rice at least twice that al Qaeda sleeper cells were likely in the United States. In January 2001, Clarke forwarded a strategy paper to Rice warning that al Qaeda had a presence in the United States. He noted that two key al Qaeda members in the Jordanian cell involved in the millennium plot were naturalized U.S. citizens and that one jihadist suspected in the East Africa bombings had "informed the FBI that an extensive network of al Qida 'sleeper agents' currently exists in the US."
You can focus on Hadley's possible chats with Woodward if you want, but I'm more interested in the following sentence from the same page of the 9/11 report:
- Hadley told us that before 9/11, he and Rice did not feel they had the job of coordinating domestic agencies.
Guess that task didn't fit in with the job description of "national security adviser."
No wonder Hadley is a likely suspect to have been Woodward's snitch — if he wasn't "coordinating domestic agencies," he would have had plenty of free time to chat with a historically important journalist like Woodward. Especially since Woodward's deal with the White House apparently precluded the formerly great reporter from immediately using anything he was told by Hadley during "confidential background" interviews.
Regarding Plamegate itself, British reporter Michael Smith, who broke the Downing Street Memo this past May 1, breaks through the Bush regime's non-denial denials to report this morning that Hadley tipped off Woodward to Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA operative. The story, by Smith and Sarah Baxter, says:
- The mysterious source who gave America's foremost journalist, Bob Woodward, a tip-off about the CIA agent at the centre of one of Washington's biggest political storms was Stephen Hadley, the White House national security adviser, according to lawyers close to the investigation.
Woodward, the Washington Post reporter who broke the Watergate scandal that forced President Richard Nixon out of office, has refused publicly to divulge the name of his informant without permission, which has thus far been withheld.
Message to Michael: It's been 30 years since America's best-known journalist was America's foremost journalist. "Foremost" means "first in time and place." That time is long past, and even at Woodward's place he's way behind several Post colleagues, including (but not limited to) Dana Priest, Walter Pincus, Jim VandeHei, and Ellen Knickmeyer, not to mention people outside the Post, like Seymour Hersh and Michael Smith himself.
Now back to Hadley's role in the months before 9/11: He could come in for some criticism, but much of the fascinating muck in the 9/11 Commission's final report shows how Don Rumsfeld really dropped the ball and how Bush was a non-player.
At least Hadley was doing something back in 2001. On one particular day, the bureaucracy under his control — the "Deputies Committee" — at last seemed to be making progress on a major plan to try to stop bin Laden.
As the 9/11 Commission's report (referring to the ubiquitous bin Laden as "UBL") says:
- Hadley gathered the deputies to finalize their threephase, multiyear plan to pressure and perhaps ultimately topple the Taliban leadership.
That same day, Hadley instructed DCI [George] Tenet to have the CIA prepare new draft legal authorities for the "broad covert action program" envisioned by the draft presidential directive. Hadley also directed Tenet to prepare a separate section "authorizing a broad range of other covert activities, including authority to capture or to use lethal force" against al Qaeda command-and-control elements.
This section would supersede the Clinton-era documents. Hadley wanted the authorities to be flexible and broad enough "to cover any additional UBL-related covert actions contemplated."
Funding still needed to be located. The military component remained unclear. Pakistan remained uncooperative. The domestic policy institutions were largely uninvolved. But the pieces were coming together for an integrated policy dealing with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Pakistan.
Unfortunately, that crucial meeting of the Deputies Committee, at which the plan finally got rolling, was on September 10, 2001.