CONDI AND CLARKE….I was in Pasadena last night having a very pleasant dinner with Crooked Timberite Kieran Healy and his wife Laurie, which means I missed Richard Clarke’s evening visit to Larry King:

Clarke said the Clinton administration’s approach to a similar threat before the turn of the millennium — on which top officials held daily interagency meetings and actively sought information from within their own agencies — shows that a similar approach might have worked to prevent the September 11 terrorist attacks.

He said that prior to 9/11, people within the FBI knew that two of the 19 hijackers were in the country, but that information never made its way up to the highest levels of power.

“If Condi Rice had been doing her job and holding those daily meetings the way Sandy Berger did, if she had a hands-on attitude to being national security adviser when she had information that there was a threat against the United States … [the information] would have been shaken out in the summer of 2001,” Clarke told King.

Wow. I certainly understand why Rice has been looking so pissed lately. There have been vague accusations in the past that the administration could have done more to prevent 9/11, but this is the first time that someone credible has flat out said that Rice’s negligence is responsible for failing to stop it. Not “might have” or “could have,” but rather that information about the al-Qaeda plot “would have been shaken out” if Rice had been doing her job.

Rice’s rebuttal to Clarke’s “scurrilous allegation” appears to consist mainly of two parts: (a) on July 5 she did indeed tell domestic agencies that they needed to be on alert for the possibility of a terror strike, and (b) Clarke didn’t show up at her staff meetings often enough.