ABCNEWS Interview: Former Counterterrorism Aide

ByABC News
August 30, 2004, 2:43 PM

March 22 -- President Bush's former head of counterterrorism, Richard Clarke, says in a new book that the White House underestimated the threat from al Qaeda prior to Sept. 11

Clarke appeared on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America for a live interview about his claims.

The following is an unedited, uncorrected transcript of Clarke's interview with ABCNEWS' Charles Gibson on Monday, March 22, 2004.

CHARLES GIBSON: We're going to turn now to our exclusive live interviewwith President Bush's former top terrorism adviser, Richard Clarke.His new book is called Against All Enemies: Inside America's War onTerror. Clarke resigned last March and became an ABC News consultant,and he joins us now. Dick, good to have you back with us.


GIBSON: Let me start right on September 11th, 2001. You knewfrom the get-go it was al Qaeda?

CLARKE: I knew when the second tower was hit. When the firsttower was hit it seemed like an anomaly, maybe it was an airplaneaccident. When the second tower was hit we knew immediately it was AlQaeda.

GIBSON: So you deal with the exigencies of the day on September11th. You come in September 12th ready to plot what response we taketo al Qaeda. Let me talk about the response that you got from topadministration officials. On that day, what did the president say toyou?

CLARKE: Well, the president wanted us to look to see if Iraq wasinvolved.

Now, the White House is trying to say he very calmly asked me todo due diligence and see who might have done it, to look at all thepossibilities. That wasn't it. The White House is also saying maybethe meeting didn't take place, and there are witnesses who have saidthe meeting took place.

The president, in a very intimidating way, left us, me and mystaff, with the clear indication that he wanted us to come back withthe word that there was an Iraqi hand behind 9/11 because they hadbeen planning to do something about Iraq from before the time theycame into office.