WASHINGTON - Former counter-terrorism official Richard Clarke sent a letter to national security adviser Condoleezza Rice one week before the September 11, 2001, attacks urging Bush administration aides to imagine how they would feel if hundreds of Americans were killed in a terrorist strike.
The existence of the letter came to light in testimony on Wednesday to the national commission investigating the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.
Commissioner Tim Roemer, a former Democratic congressman, referred to the letter when questioning Clarke.
"You urge policymakers to imagine a day after hundreds of Americans lay dead at home and abroad after a terrorist attack and ask themselves what else they could have done. You write this on September 4, seven days before September 11."
In the letter, Clarke blasted the Pentagon and the CIA for failing to act against the al Qaeda organisation.
In his testimony, Clarke said the US was too timid in its policy toward al Qaeda and accused the Bush administration of failing to treat terrorism as an urgent matter before the September 11 attacks.
He said the Bush administration did not view terrorism as an urgent priority. "The Bush administration saw terrorism policy as important but not urgent, prior to 9/11," he said.
The former official, who worked for four administrations, said it had been difficult under Bush to convene a Cabinet-level meeting on terrorism. He said top Bush administration officials "sent unfortunate signals to the bureaucracy about the administration's attitude towards the al Qaeda threat."