Monday, March 29, 2004

There's a file starting to circulate around the blogosphere, a PDF of three letters from Rep. Chris Shays, Chairman of the House's National Security Subcommittee, to the 9/11 committee. The first letter stresses how uncooperative Richard Clarke was when briefing Shays' subcommittee on terrorism. The second is a copy of a letter from Shaye to Clarke asking him to answer certain questions regarding Clarke's position that a unified national strategy on terrorism would be "silly" and unworkable. The third is a copy of a letter from Shays to Condoleeza Rice, relating to her the problems the subcommittee has had with Clarke.

On the surface, they're pretty damning -- Clarke comes across as a petty bureaucrat obsessed with protecting his turf above all else. There are, however, a few questions I have about the letters.

One, they come from L. Brent Bozell's CNS News website. If you don't know who L. Brent Bozell is, read any of these. Or this. Or even this. As he's shown in the past, Bozell is not afraid to lie to push his agenda.

A second question about the authenticity of the letters comes in the note to Rice, dated January 22, 2001. In it, Shays concludes in the final paragraph:

"As the new administration prepares to organize for the war on terrorism, I would welcome the opportunity to assist you and your staff."

Hang on -- the war on terrorism? Seven and a half months before 9/11? I mean that could simply be a prophetic bit of rhetoric, but if it is I'll bet Shays' kicking himself for not trademarking the phrase. He could have made a mint.

A third point about the charges the letters contain -- the only really damaging quote from Clarke is the word "silly". No context, not even a complete sentence, just the lone word "silly". Surely if what Clarke said was so damning, at least a phrase would have been more effective? But we don't get that -- all the letter offers is Shays' context for that word, not Clarke's.

Finally -- how did these letters get to CNS? The why (smearing Clarke) is pretty obvious. I'm far more curious as to how what is, in theory, a piece of evidence from the 9/11 commission made its way into Bozell's hands.

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