Bush and his administration were focused on Iraq and Saddam Hussein even though Clarke and others could not find any evidence that the Iraqi dictator was linked to Osama bin Laden.
Clarke claims that "By invading Iraq, the president of the United States has greatly undermined the war on terrorism." His "60 Minutes" interview, his book, and his subsequent TV appearances caused an uproar in Washington, particularly because they coincided with the hearings of the independent 9/11 Commission.
Clarke, who headed a cyber-security office at the White House until the office was transferred to the newly created Homeland Security Department in February 2003, told CBS that Rumsfeld suggested retaliating against Iraq immediately after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon."Rumsfeld was saying we needed to bomb Iraq ...
We all said, 'but no, no, al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan,'" Clarke said in the interview.
The commission is investigating the circumstances surrounding the 9/11 attacks.
The star witness was Richard Clarke, the president's former counter-terrorism chief whose new book has become a best seller.
[...] STEVE KROFT: Do you think it posed a national security problem?
[...] STEVE KROFT: What was your reaction when you found out about it?
The interview seemed to be the latest example of the press giving the seven-month-old email story a disproportionate amount of time and attention.
If - if you can talk to us and other news programs, why can't you talk to the commission in public and under oath? it is a longstanding principle that sitting national security advisers do not testify before the Congress.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Nothing would be better, from my point of view, than to be able to testify. ED BRADLEY: But there are some people who look at this and say, "But this - this was an unprecedented event.
"And Rumsfeld said, 'There aren't any good targets in Afghanistan, and there are lots of good targets in Iraq.' I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with [the September 11 attacks].'"After O'Neill's book was published, Rumsfeld said the idea that Bush "came into office with a predisposition to invade Iraq, I think, is a total misunderstanding of the situation."Bush administration officials have noted that U. policy dating from the Clinton administration was to seek "regime change" in Iraq, though it focused on funding and training Iraqi opposition groups rather than military force.
It was evident before September 11, 2001, that Iraq was a concern for the Bush administration.