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Not So Tough on Terror?

""BLITZER: Now, that was warnings during the Clinton administration. . . .

"BEN-VENISTE: That's correct.

"BLITZER: . . . the final years of the Clinton administration.

"BEN-VENISTE: That's correct.

"BLITZER: So you the asked the president in the Oval Office -- and the vice president -- why didn't you go after the Taliban in those eight months before 9/11 after he was president. What did he say?

"BEN-VENISTE: Well, now that it was established that al Qaeda was responsible for the Cole bombing and the president was briefed in January of 2001, soon after he took office, by George Tenet, head of the CIA, telling him of the finding that al Qaeda was responsible, and I said, 'Well, why wouldn't you go after the Taliban in order to get them to kick bin Laden out of Afghanistan?'

"Maybe, just maybe, who knows -- we don't know the answer to that question -- but maybe that could have affected the 9/11 plot.

"BLITZER: What did he say?

"BEN-VENISTE: He said that no one had told him that we had made that threat. And I found that very discouraging and surprising.

"BLITZER: Now, I read this report, the 9/11 Commission report. This is a big, thick book. I don't see anything and I don't remember seeing anything about this exchange that you had with the president in this report.

"BEN-VENISTE: Well, I had hoped that we had -- we would have made both the Clinton interview and the Bush interview a part of our report, but that was not to be. I was outvoted on that question. . . .

"BLITZER: Now, you haven't spoken publicly about this, your interview in the Oval Office, together with the other commissioners, the president and the vice president. Why are you doing that right now?


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