Air Bin Laden

AIR BIN LADEN….Remember those flights shortly after 9/11 that gathered up members of the bin Laden family and spirited them quickly out of the country? Who authorized those flights, anyway?

A few weeks ago, Richard Clarke testified to Congress about this:

The request came to me, and I refused to approve it. I suggested that it be routed to the FBI and that the FBI look at the names of the individuals who were going to be on the passenger manifest and that they approve it or not. I spoke with the ? at the time ? No. 2 person in the FBI, Dale Watson, and asked him to deal with this issue. The FBI then approved…the flight.

Today, Alexander Bolton reports in The Hill that Clarke has, um, clarified his previous statement:

It didn’t get any higher than me. On 9-11, 9-12 and 9-13, many things didn’t get any higher than me. I decided it in consultation with the FBI….I take responsibility for it. I don’t think it was a mistake, and I’d do it again.

This still doesn’t tell us whose idea it was in the first place, though. Clarke’s original testimony says only that “the request came to me,” and he later testified that things were chaotic during those first few days after the attack and he couldn’t remember where the request came from.

Does this close the case on this question? Maybe. Clarke has now taken responsibility for approving the flight and says the whole thing is a “tempest in a teapot.” But we still don’t know who started the ball rolling on this.