Excerpt: 'Your Government Failed You'

Retired U.S. government official and security expert Richard Clarke gives a critical review of the nation's security practices in his latest book, "Your Government Failed You: Breaking the Cycle of National Security Disasters."

Clarke claims the government has proven itself incapable of handling the majority of America's crucial national security issues, citing the 2001 terrorist attacks, the war in Iraq and the government's botched Hurricane Katrina response.

In his book, Clarke argues the problems aren't temporary, but rather indicative of a systematic problem. He looks at why failures have occurred and offers strategies for how the U.S. can succeed against terrorists.


Read an excerpt of this book below.


When I said "Your government failed you" to the families of the victims of 9/11, it seemed to me that I was merely stating the obvious: The government had failed the American people. And I had.

Three thousand people had been murdered in a morning, not on a battlefield, not in their battleships as had happened at Pearl Harbor, but in their offices. They had been killed by a terrorist group that had promised to attack us, and which we had been unable to stop. The CIA had been unable to assassinate its leadership. It had also been unable to tell anyone when the terrorists had shown up in this country, even though it knew they were here. The national leadership had been unwilling to focus on the threat for months, although repeatedly warned to do so. And I had been unable to get either the bureaucracy or the new national leadership to act toward the terrorist network before the big attack in the way they would want to respond after thousands of Americans had been murdered.

The American people had a right to know what the failures were that led to 9/11 and why they occurred. I tried to tell that story as I saw it, stretching over more than two decades, in Against All Enemies, a book I wrote two years after the attack. Then the 9/11 Commission was forced into existence by the victims' families. Its report and staff studies looked at what had happened from a number of perspectives and uncovered new information. Since then several authors and analysts have added further detail.

On that horrific day in September, while trying to make the machinery of government work in the minutes and hours after the attack, I suppressed my anger at al Qaeda, at the U.S. government, at myself. There was an urgent job to be done that day. But in one brief moment of catching my breath, I was consoled by my colleague Roger Cressey, who noted that now, finally, all of our plans to destroy al Qaeda and its network of organizations would be implemented. The nation would deal seriously and competently with the problem. I assumed he was right and got back to work. It turned out he was wrong. Incredibly, after 9/11 our government failed us even more, much more.

"9/11 changed everything." That was the remark we heard over and over again in the years that followed. It was only partially true. 9/11 did not change the Constitution, although some have acted as if it did. Nor did the government's response to the attacks make us more secure. Though a great deal of activity has taken place, al Qaeda the organization and al Qaeda the movement still threaten the United States. We still have significant vulnerabilities at home. And abroad, we have far fewer friends and far more enemies than on 9/12.

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