President Bush is defending his handling of the war on terrorism in the wake
of new allegations by a former top aide. Mr. Bush says he responded appropriately
to the terrorist threat based on the information at hand.
The president's former counter-terrorism coordinator claims President Bush
ignored signs of a threat from al-Qaida prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks
on the United States. Richard Clarke alleges Mr. Bush was fixated instead on
The president denies that was the case. He says he got daily briefings on
the terrorist threat from Central Intelligence Agency chief George Tenet in
the days leading up to the attacks.
"Had my administration had any information that terrorists were going to
attack New York City on September 11, we would have acted," he said.
Speaking to reporters at the end of a meeting with his cabinet, President
Bush detailed action the United States has taken against al-Qaida in the aftermath
of the attacks, from the deployment of U.S. troops to Afghanistan, to the international
campaign to cut the flow of money to terrorist organizations.
"We have got intelligence officers all over the world collecting information
so that we can act," he said. "We have got a strong network of cooperative
governments trying to chase down terrorist money and to prevent that money
from being spread around to cause harm."
They were his first public comments on the allegations contained in Richard
Clarke's new book on the war on terrorism. And they struck a distinctively
different tone from the verbal assault on Mr. Clarke's credibility unleashed
Monday by administration officials.
The president referred only to the allegations themselves, while the earlier
White House criticism sought to call Richard Clarke's motives into question.
Spokesman Scott McClellan described the allegations as irresponsible and flat-out
wrong. He joined others, including Vice President Dick Cheney, in noting the
timing of the book, charging it is being published now for political reasons
in the midst of a heated presidential campaign.
Mr. Clarke has denied any political motives. He has said that after devoting
30 years of his life to public service, he thought it was his duty to get the