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7/01/2004

Richard Clarke on Roger Cressey

Roger Cressey is a friend of Richard Clarke. Clarke thanks him in the acknowledgments of his book, noting that "when things worked [in national security], it was because they ["behind-the-scenes national security midlevel managers"] were listened to and allowed to implement their sound advice." [xii] Cressey was there, with Clarke, running things the morning of 9-11:

Roger Cressey, my deputy and a marathoner, had run eight blocks from his doctor's office. Convincing the Uniformed Secret Service guards to let him back into the compound, Roger pressed through to Situation Room. I was relieved to see him. [5]
Cressey informed Clarke when the Pentagon was hit, and tried to figure where the Civil Air Patrol planes were that should have been protecting the skies. [7-8] That morning, he put together a Powerpoint for Bush, so the President could try to get a grasp on things when Air Force One landed in Omaha. [20-21] He coordinated the rescue operations with Giuliani's chief of staff. [24-25] Clarke's rundown of Cressey's experience is on 10-11:
Roger Cressey, sitting on my right, was a career national security practitioner. I had hired him as a civil service employee at the State Department ten years earlier. To give him some real world experience, I had sent him on assignment to the embassy in Tel Aviv. Later, in 1993, I asked him to go to Mogadishu as an aide to Admiral Jonathan T. Howe, who had left the White House job as National Security Advisor to be, in effect, the U.N.'s governor in Somalia. Cressey drove the darkened streets of Mogadishu at night in a pickup truck with a 9mm strapped to his hip, listening to the gunfire rippling around town. Two years later when another American, General Jacques Klein, was appointed by the U.N. to run bombed-out Eastern Slavonia, Cressey had gone into the rubble with him. Together they dealt with warring Croatians and Serbs, including war criminals, refugees, and organized crime thugs. From there, he had gone to the civilian office in the Pentagon that reviewed the military's war plans. Cressey had joined me at the White House in November 1999 just as we placed security forces on the first nationwide terrorist alert. Now thirty-five years old, he was married to a State Department expert on weapons of mass destruction and had a beautiful two year old daughter. He thought his father in law was on America 77. (Later Cressey would learn that Bob Sepucha was safe).
On the evening of 9-11, Clarke and Cresset left the empty White House to a parking lot with only Clarke's car. [26] Clarke "debriefed" Cressey on the meeting Clarke had just had with the President:
Now, as I was telling Cressey, I thought the aggressive plan [against al-Qaeda] would be implemented.

"Well, that's fuckin' great. Sounds like they're finally going to do everything we wanted. Where the hell were they for the last eight months?" Cressey asked.

"Debating the fine points of the ABM Treaty?" I answered, looking up at the sky for fighter cover.

"They'll probably deploy the armed Predator now too," Cressey said, referring to his project to kill bin Laden with an unmanned aircraft. CIA had been blocking the deployment, refusing to be involved in running an armed version of the unmanned aircraft, to hunt and kill bin Laden. Roger Cressey was still fuming that their refusal. "If they had deployed an armed Predator when it was ready, we could have killed him before this happened."

"Yeah, well, this attack would have happened anyway, Rog. In fact, if we had killed bin Laden in June with the Predator and this attack still happened, our friends at CIA would have blamed us, said the attack on New York was retribution, talked again about the overly zealous White House counter-terrorism guys." I tried to think ahead, of what we could best do now. "From here on it's a self-implementing policy, or as you guys from the Pentagon would say, a self-licking ice cream cone…but it's too late, way too late. The best thing you and I can do now is figure out how to block any follow-on attacks. [26-27]"
Cressey and Clarke later went to the funeral of their former FBI friend, John O'Neill, who died in the attacks. [34] Cressey didn't have a high opinion of many FBI people (Dale Watson excluded [218]). He chaired the "Threat Subgroup," an effort to keep a running list of terrorism security threats, with information on their reliability. It had representatives from the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, NSA, DOD, State, FAA, "and often other agencies." [217]
Steve Simon and later Roger Cressey chaired the Threat Subgroup. It was not unusual for them to report that whoever the FBI representative was that day, was not really participating, causing me to have to call higher levels of the Bureau. On one day I specifically remember, mild-mannered Cressey marched into my office after a Threat Subgroup meeting and announced, "That fucker is going to get some Americans killed. He just sits there like a bump on a log. Nothing to report. No comment on anybody else's work. Doesn't want to check anything out." I knew he was talking about an FBI representative. [217]
Roger Cressey was a chief advocate for the arming of unmanned Predator drones [220-222], and part of the investigation of the Cole bombing. [223] He wrote, along with Clarke, the draft National Security Presidential Decision that aimed at eliminating al-Qaeda. [234-235]

A month after 9-11, Clarke and Cressey went to work on cyber security, and a year after that, they left the administration. [239-240]

 

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