9/11 Commish: US Was 'Just as Vulnerable' During Clinton Years

By David Thibault | July 7, 2008 | 8:30 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Democratic 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey insisted Tuesday that the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks could just as easily have happened during the Clinton administration as the Bush administration.

"What happened that allowed us to be so relaxed on the 11th of September at our airports?" Kerrey asked former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno during the question and answer phase of her testimony before the 9/11 Commission.

"I wasn't in office, so I can't ..." Reno replied, before Kerrey interrupted, dissatisfied with her answer.

"You were just as relaxed going out of office as [the Bush administration was] on the 11th of September," Kerrey declared. "This attack could have easily happened on your watch. We were just as vulnerable while you were attorney general as we were with John Ashcroft as attorney general."

Reno never answered Kerrey's question, but did speak of the need for the government to be on its toes at all times.

"You have got to be prepared in the best of circumstances with the best of strategy for the people to meet who are the principles and work together to get the job done" Reno said. "And if it takes night after night - our soldiers fight night after night and day after day - we ought to be able to do it here."

Reno Says She Inherited Al Qaeda Threat, Disorganized FBI

Earlier, Reno told commissioners that she inherited the al Qaeda threat upon assuming office as attorney general and just after the terrorist group's first attempt to destroy the World Trade Center in 1993.

"We understood from early on in the Clinton administration that terrorism posed a grave threat to Americans on American soil," Reno testified.

"The bombing in the first World Trade Center case took place just before I came into office. I inherited that case. I had the opportunity to be briefed. I had the opportunity to meet with the prosecutors and the agent involved," she added. However, budget problems and a change in leadership within the FBI were obstacles that she, as attorney general and Louis Freeh, as FBI director, had to overcome in tackling terrorism.

"When I came into office, I realized the FBI didn't know what it had. We found stuff in files here that the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing. And it was obvious that the development of a computer system and a system of automation would be very helpful to it," Reno said.

"But it was also important for people to begin to look at manually what they could do to find out what they had and what they didn't have," she added.

The commission heard from Freeh earlier in the day and was slated to hear from the current attorney general, John Ashcroft, in afternoon testimony.

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