- The Washington Times - Friday, September 27, 2002

Former Vice President Al Gore yesterday made his second attack this week on President Bush's war on terrorism, accusing the administration of ignoring signs that al Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden planned to attack the United States on September 11.
"The warnings were there" before the attacks, Mr. Gore said.
Mr. Gore's speech, which also accused the administration of running roughshod over civil liberties, capped a week of Democratic dissent, including party lawmakers' angry charges that the administration was politicizing the war. The two speeches were seen as a strong signal that Mr. Gore intends to run for president again in 2004, by leading those Democrats who oppose the president's policies on Iraq.
Speaking at a Democratic fund-raising breakfast in Wilmington, Del., Mr. Gore accused the administration of failing to heed intelligence signals that the FBI and the CIA had picked up in the months before the September 11 attacks.
Mr. Gore also said Mr. Bush's Justice Department and the FBI had spent more time and resources investigating a suspected brothel in New Orleans than monitoring bin Laden and his terrorist network.
"Where is their sense of priorities?" Mr. Gore asked.
Mr. Gore also accused the administration and the Justice Department of violating the civil liberties of Americans in the move to round up terror suspects and said "highly questionable" decisions have been made under Attorney General John Ashcroft.
"What's going on nationally, with the attack on civil liberties, with American citizens in some cases just disappearing without right to counsel, without access to a lawyer I think that is disgraceful," Mr. Gore said.
"I think we need to stand up for our principles in this country and stand up for what this nation represents, even as we face the terrible dangers that we have to confront in the world today," he said.
Mr. Gore's latest criticism of the administration was dismissed last night by Republicans as political posturing in preparation for another run at the presidency.
"This has nothing to do with civil liberties. It has everything to do with Al Gore putting points on the board to improve his image," a Senate Republican leadership official said on the condition of anonymity.
Mr. Gore is the only Democrat among several prospective Democratic presidential contenders to attack Mr. Bush's plans to make war against Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein from power and destroy any weapons of mass destruction. Earlier this week, Mr. Gore said any military action against Iraq now could "seriously damage our ability to win the war against terrorism and weaken our ability to lead the world."
His stepped-up criticisms, after months of silence on the issue, were seen as a strong signal that he intends to run for president again in 2004. Mr. Gore lost the 2000 presidential election to Mr. Bush in one of the most closely contested races in U.S. history.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle on Wednesday accused Mr. Bush of politicizing the debate over Iraq, and the Congressional Black Caucus yesterday also came out against Mr. Bush's war plans in Iraq, saying it opposed "a unilateral first-strike action by the United States without a clearly demonstrated and imminent threat of attack on the United States."
"A unilateral first strike would undermine the moral authority of the United States, result in substantial loss of life, destabilize the Mideast region and undermine the ability of our nation to address unmet domestic priorities," the group said in a statement.
Ironically, while Mr. Gore was escalating his attacks on the administration, former President Bill Clinton was planning to attend a Labor Party conference in Great Britain to help Prime Minister Tony Blair persuade skeptical party members to support Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush in taking military action against Iraq.
Mr. Blair is expected to face a key vote at the conference on whether Britain should join the United States in going to war against Iraq.
Mr. Gore's stance is an almost 180-degree turn from his previous position on Saddam's regime. When he was a senator from Tennessee, he was one of a small number of Senate Democrats in 1991 who voted for a resolution to give Mr. Bush's father authority to go to war to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. As vice president, he pushed for a resolution giving Mr. Clinton authority to take military action in Iraq in 1998. And earlier this year, he said there must be a "day of reckoning" for Saddam.
Democrats are becoming increasingly divided over the issue of military action against Iraq, though there is a general agreement among their ranks in Congress that a majority of them will back a resolution of support that Mr. Bush is seeking in the House and Senate. Mr. Daschle said last night that Democrats had agreed to hold a vote on an Iraq resolution. But he said there were still disputes with the administration over the wording of the resolution.
Democratic presidential hopefuls who are expected to support a resolution include House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri and Sens. John Edwards of North Carolina, Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut and Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware.
Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts has raised questions about the administration's plans for Iraq after taking military action but has said he supports using military force to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. Lieberman, who was Mr. Gore's vice-presidential running mate, has declined to criticize Mr. Gore's remarks, saying that "I think he makes the debate more complete."
But Mr. Lieberman has taken the lead among Senate Democrats to craft a resolution that would give Mr. Bush authority to use all available means to take pre-emptive action against Iraq.


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