Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani defended the Bush administration's handling of intelligence information before September 11, saying yesterday that he did not believe the federal government could have anticipated the terrorist attacks.
Mr. Giuliani, a Republican, suggested that the Clinton administration also should be accountable, given that much of the intelligence coming under scrutiny was collected during its watch.
"Remember, the Bush administration when this attack took place was a very new administration and they had just inherited the intelligence apparatus put in place by the Clinton administration so when you look at this you're going to have look at both," Mr. Giuliani told the Associated Press after a speech to graduates of Georgetown University Law Center.
Mr. Giuliani received an honorary degree from the school yesterday and a standing ovation from students for leading New York through the September 11 attacks.
The former mayor demurred when asked whether Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, had gone too far in a speech on the Senate floor last week when she called on the Bush administration to explain what it knew about the hijacking threats.
"I'd rather not comment on what she said," said Mr. Giuliani, who was named Time magazine Man of the Year for his leadership after the attacks. "I think that from everything that I've seen, nothing so far suggests to me that the federal government whether we're talking about the Clinton administration or the Bush administration would have had the kind of information that would have suggested that kind of attack."
"Even the information that we're talking about, a lot of it goes back to 1998 and 1999 when Mrs. Clinton's husband was president," Mr. Giuliani said.
"We're looking at a continuous course of conduct here. I don't know that people should be playing that kind of game," he added.
Mrs. Clinton's speech drew the ire of the White House. Spokesman Ari Fleischer singled out the former first lady for criticism in a briefing to reporters.
Mr. Giuliani said yesterday that he had spoken with officials in the Bush administration recently and came away assured that no intelligence they had could have prevented the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The Bush administration has come under fire since news broke that the White House knew before September 11 that followers of Osama bin Laden might be plotting hijackings.
The administration contends the information was not specific and that they had no way of knowing the hijackers would turn the airplanes into suicide missiles to attack American targets.