WASHINGTON, March 24 (UPI) -- President Bush's former counterterrorism coordinator, Richard A. Clarke, said better human intelligence might have made it possible to thwart al-Qaida.
"We might have been able to nip (al-Qaida) in the bud," Clarke told the Sept. 11 commission.
If the United States had pursued human intelligence more vigorously in the late 1980s and early 1990s when al-Qaida was forming, Clarke said U.S. agencies would have known more about the group and would have been more likely to attack it.
He said pointed congressional and media scrutiny of failed covert actions had led U.S. agencies to shy away from active human spying programs.
"It certainly looks to me as though (CIA leaders) were risk averse, but they had every reason to be risk averse," Clarke said. "Our human program, our spy capability had been eviscerated in the late '80s and early '90s."