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Context of '(March 2001): Assessment for President Bush Identifies Pakistan as ‘Highest Risk’ in Nuclear Proliferation'

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Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke organizes an intelligence summit on the terrorist threat to the US. The summit takes place at the National Reconnaissance Office in Virginia, and three dozen analysts are in attendance. One important topic of discussion is whether al-Qaeda could obtain a nuclear weapon. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 305)

Following a conference on the terrorist threat to the US arranged by counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke (see (March 2001)), President Bush receives a classified assessment concerning the threat. It states that Pakistan is one of the countries that represents the “highest risk” of enabling black-market sales of nuclear weapons. However, no significant action is taken based on the analysis. According to authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, Clarke apparently feels “isolated,” as if only he really understands what Pakistan is doing in terms of nuclear proliferation and where it might lead. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 305)

Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is told by an aide, “United 93 is down, crashed outside of Pittsburgh. It’s odd. Appears not to have hit anything much on the ground.” The timing of this event is unclear. (Clarke 2004, pp. 14-15)

US President George Bush speaks privately with White House counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke in the White House Situation Room. According to Clarke, Bush tells him to investigate the possibility that Iraq was involved in the attacks. “I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything,” Bush says. “See if Saddam did this.” When Clarke responds, “But Mr. President, al-Qaeda did this,” Bush replies, “I know, I know, but… see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred.” Clarke insists that the CIA, FBI, and White House already concluded that there were no such links. As he exits the room, Bush “testily” says again, “Look into Iraq, Saddam.” (Gellman 3/22/2004 Sources: Richard A. Clarke) During a “60 Minutes” interview, Clarke will say that Bush’s instructions were made in a way that was “very intimidating,” and which hinted that Clarke “should come back with that answer.” “Now he never said, ‘Make it up.’ But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this.” (CBS News 3/21/2004; Purdum 3/23/2004) Clarke’s account is later confirmed by several eyewitnesses. (CBS News 3/21/2004; BBC 3/23/2004; James 3/26/2004) After his meeting with Bush, Clarke works with CIA and FBI experts to produce the report requested by Bush (see September 18, 2001).

Former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, resigning his position as the White House cybersecurity chief, receives a handwritten note from President Bush that reads in part: “Dear Dick, you will be missed. You served our nation with distinction and honor. You have left a positive mark on our government.” Clarke will later note: “This is not the normal typewritten letter that everybody gets. This is the president’s handwriting” (see March 28, 2004). (MSNBC 3/28/2004)


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