Testimony by Clarke challenged

Senator wants to declassify previous sworn statements by ex-counterterror chief

March 27, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - Sen. Bill Frist, the Republican majority leader, said yesterday that he wanted to compare Richard A. Clarke's recent testimony with secret testimony he gave two years ago while working for President Bush.

Frist said it was "awesomely self-serving" for the former White House counter-terrorism chief to say that President Bush had paid too little attention to his warnings about the danger of al-Qaida terrorists.

Far from accepting his own responsibility for any failures before the attacks, Clarke was "consumed by the desire to dodge any blame," even as rescuers were sifting through the rubble of the World Trade Center, Frist said in a speech on the Senate floor.

Frist, of Tennessee, said he is seeking to declassify testimony that Clarke gave in July 2002 in closed meetings of the intelligence committees of both the Senate and the House. The majority leader said he wants to compare that testimony with Clarke's testimony this week before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

Perhaps, Frist said, inconsistencies will be found: "Until you have him under oath both times, you don't know."

Sen. Bob Graham, a Florida Democrat who was co-chairman of Congress' inquiry into the attacks, said he supported Frist's request, adding, "To the best of my recollection, there is nothing inconsistent or contradictory in that testimony and what Mr. Clarke has said this week."

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