Former National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-Terrorism Richard Clarke suggests that former CIA Director George Tenet blocked the sharing of information within the government on two members of al Qaeda in the United States, information that Clarke believes could have prevented 911. The CIA admits it knew about the two future hijackers but claims the Director was not informed.

“In early 2000, a number of more junior personnel (including FBI agents on detail to CIA) did see travel information on individuals who later became hijackers but the significance of the data was not adequately recognized at the time.”

Clark claims to have been very close to Tenet and to find this impossible to believe. Clarke maintains that the Director must have been informed and must have made the decision not to share the information with Clarke and others. Clarke speculates that the presence of these two al Qaeda members was kept secret because the CIA had tried to recruit, or “flip,” those al Qaeda members and failed. Yet he has no evidence of such attempts.

But why not report that you tried to recruit someone and failed? What is the reason not to report that?

It seems more likely to me that Clarke is going easy on Tenet. “The September 11th attacks could have been prevented” has an “Obama could have fought for progressive principles” ring to it; it builds in the assumption that those involved WANTED the attacks to be prevented. Whatever this other new report ends up meaning, the history of Able Danger, and of White House inaction, and of Clarke’s earlier revelations begins to suggest a pattern.

I hate to underestimate incompetence and petty infighting as explanations for things, but I also hate to accept as the only possible explanation Clarke’s theory — of which he himself does not seem at all convinced — as to why Tenet apparently withheld information. I asked FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds what she thought, and her reply suggested a level of contempt for both Clarke and Tenet: “I think sometimes it takes one evil fighting another evil to get to the truth. In this case, the clash of two guilty egos has helped unearth some truth on 9/11. Hope to have more clashes.”