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Title: Countdown to catastrophe : President Clinton, the CIA, and the spectre of terrorism, 1993-2001
Author: Dutta, Deepankar
ISNI:       0000 0004 8505 0516
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis investigates how President Clinton and his intelligence agencies dealt with the challenges posed by domestic terrorism and al Qaeda. During the Clinton presidency, episodic attacks were inflicted on the American people and US assets, both domestically and overseas. Many of these attacks were inspired or perpetrated by the al Qaeda network. After he left office and, in the wake of ‘9/11,’ Clinton’s record in facing down the developing terrorist threat came under intense scrutiny. Accused of being negligent in a series of polarising and invective-filled accounts, over the threat of terrorism and held indirectly responsible for '9/11', Clinton was famously challenged by Fox news anchor Chris Wallace: “Why didn't you do more to put bin Laden and al Qaeda out of business when you were President?” My thesis focuses on answering this question using newly declassified source material, interviews with some key participants, and a reassessment of contemporary arguments about terrorism and US counterterrorism during the 1990s. This thesis has found that President Clinton evolved US counterterrorism policy by implementing defensive counterterrorism actions to pivot to coercive actions in the pursuit of bin Laden. From 1995 onwards, Clinton’s foreign and domestic counterterrorism management became attuned to the threat posed by terrorism, and by the time he left office in 2001 had identified bin Laden as “Public enemy Number 1” and the primary threat to US Security. Clinton acted to bring in anti terrorism legislation in the face of Republican opposition and increased FBI funding to put in place defensive counter measures to protect American lives and infrastructure. Clinton then pivoted to pursuing a range of coercive counterterrorism measures, short of full-scale military expedition to deal with al Qaeda, including diplomatic efforts to co-opt allies and persuade other states to hand over bin Laden, attack suspected al Qaeda facilities and order covert operations to eliminate bin Laden. Much of Clinton’s counterterrorism initiatives was compromised by the poor intelligence capability of a CIA, struggling to come to terms with its post Cold War role and poor leadership at the Agency. Domestically, Republican opposition and FBI Director’s personal animosity towards the president, proved to be dragging anchors on US counterterrorism before ‘9/11’.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare ; JC Political theory ; JK Political institutions (United States)