On September 15, 2009, our team emailed the former White House Counterterror Adviser – the man who technically held the highest position fighting terrorism in the U.S. government before 9/11 – to request an interview. Richard Clarke’s first book Against All Enemies, was a best-seller, but his 2008 follow up, Your Government Failed You, had been largely overlooked. In it, he devoted seven pages to a tangent he awkwardly shoe-horned in about two future 9/11 hijackers the CIA infamously had known entered the U.S. in 2000 but hadn’t told the FBI about. In that sub-chapter, titled “Straining Credulity” (pages 165-171), Clarke pontificated, “As jaded and cynical as I am about government failures, I still find this one mind-boggling and inexplicable.” We hadn’t really expected any response to our message – many former insiders simply ignored us – so his terse one-sentence reply left us excited. ”I will be available in DC around Oct 14.”
Here is the 13 minute edit of the Richard Clarke interview:
John Duffy and Ray Nowosielski interviewed Clarke for an hour that October in the Washington, D.C., conference room of his company Good Harbor Consulting. We were not prepared for his apparent candor. His interview revealed a great deal of information never before known to the public. It had been understood since 2002′s Congressional 9/11 Inquiry that CIA’s Bin Laden Station failed to tell the FBI about Al Qaeda’s arrival in America, but Clarke added that CIA had also kept that fact from the Clinton White House – or at least Clarke’s team on the National Security Council. He asserted that such an order had to include Rich Blee, chief of Bin Laden Station, and Cofer Black, head of CounterTerror Center, but would have in fact come straight from the top, the CIA Director George Tenet. He also speculated that the CIA had been running an operation to recruit the two terrorists as informants – an operation that clearly went wrong somewhere along the way and was covered up after the fact. It was stunning to hear a former Cabinet-level official accuse the CIA Director, his long-time friend, of “malfeasance and misfeasance.”
We withheld the interview for nearly two years because we intended to include it in a larger documentary feature film. When the funding never materialized, it was decided we would put the various interviews together for an “investigative podcast” – whatever that is – called “Who Is Rich Blee?” and in a written piece. Still attempting to secure interviews right up until the September 2011 release of the podcast, we decided to “shake the trees” a bit by releasing the Clarke interview that August. The PBS affiliate in Denver invited Nowosielski and Duffy to speak on air, and it was decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to premiere the interview.
With an outlet in place, we sent the video to the former CIA Director in the hopes it would stir him to sit down with us to respond to Clarke’s allegations. He refused to do so, though he, Cofer Black, and Rich Blee did issue us a joint statement. We got back in contact with Clarke to let him know his interview was about to go public and to share Tenet’s response with him. Giving him the opportunity to back away from any of his statements, he remained firm, telling us we could move forward as is.
Ahead of the Colorado PBS debut, we sent the video and Tenet’s statement to most of the major print news outlets in the U.S. We received no responses. Eventually we began conversations with two reporters. Phil Shenon was a former New York Times journalist now writing for the Newsweek-owned online outlet The Daily Beast, and Jason Leopold was a former Los Angeles Times contributor turned senior editor of Truthout. Both indicated they would be moving ahead with the story.
Many have since asked us why we think he spoke to us rather than a large news outlet. We believe the answer is simple: We were the only ones who had bothered to ask him a question about a subject for which he seemed to feel passionately.