Condoleezza Rice Before 9/11 Commission
Following is a transcript of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice's testimony before
the September 11 Commission on Thursday, April 8, as recorded by The New York Times:
THOMAS H. KEAN COMMISSION CHAIRMAN
LEE H. HAMILTON COMMISSION VICE CHAIR
RICHARD BEN-VENISTE COMMISSION MEMBER
FRED F. FIELDING COMMISSION MEMBER
JAMIE S. GORELICK COMMISSION MEMBER
SLADE GORTON COMMISSION MEMBER
JOHN F. LEHMAN COMMISSION MEMBER
TIMOTHY J. ROEMER COMMISSION MEMBER
JAMES R. THOMPSON COMMISSION MEMBER
BOB KERREY COMMISSION MEMBER
PHILIP ZELIKOW COMMISSION EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
CHRISTOPHER KOJM COMMISSION DEPUTY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
WITNESSES: CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER
THOMAS KEAN, Commission Chairman. Good morning. As chair of the National Commission on
Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, I hereby convene this hearing. This is a
continuation of the commission's previous hearings on the formulations and conduct of U.S.
counterterrorism policy. The record of that hearing, by the way, including staff
statements, is available on our Web site, www.9-11commission.gov.
We will hear from only one witness this morning, the distinguished Dr. Rice,
Condoleezza Rice, assistant to the president for national security affairs. Dr. Rice, we
bid you a most cordial welcome to the commission.
But before I call on Dr. Rice, I would like to turn to our vice chair for brief opening
LEE HAMILTON. Commission Vice Chairman. Good morning. Good morning, Dr. Rice. We're
very pleased to have you with us this morning. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity
to make a statement. I will be very brief.
The purpose of our hearing this morning is very straightforward. We want to get
information and we wanted to get it out into the public record. If we are going to fulfill
our mandate, a comprehensive and sweeping mandate, then we will have to provide a full and
complete accounting of the events of 9/11. And that means that we are going to ask some
searching and difficult questions. Our purpose is not to embarrass. It is not to put any
witness on the spot. Our purpose is to understand and to inform. Questions do not
represent opinions. Our views will follow later, after reflection on answers. We want to
be thorough this morning. And as you will see in a few minutes, the commissioners will
show that they have mastered their briefs. But we also want to be fair. Most of us on this
commission have been in the policymaking world at some time in our careers.
Policymakers face terrible dilemmas. Information is incomplete. The in-box is huge.
Resources are limited. There are only so many hours in the day. The choices are tough. And
none is tougher than deciding what is a priority and what is not.
We will want to explore with Dr. Rice, as we have with other witnesses, the choices
that were made.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.
KEAN. Thank you.
Dr. Rice, would you please rise and raise your right hand?
Do you swear or affirm to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE. I do.
KEAN. Thank you. I understand, Dr. Rice, that you've an opening statement. Your
prepared statement, of course, will be entered into the record in full and we look forward
to, if it's a summary of your statement, that's fine.
RICE. Thank you very much Mr. Chairman.
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER CONDOLEEZZA RICE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I thank
the commission for arranging this special session. I thank you for helping us to find a
way to meet the nation's need to learn all that we can about the Sept. 11 attacks while
preserving important constitutional principles.
The commission and those who appear before it have a vital charge. We owe it to those
that we lost and to their loved ones and to our country to learn all that we can about
that tragic day and the events that led to it. Many of the families of the victims are
here today and I want to thank them for their contributions to this commission's work.
The terrorist threat to our nation did not emerge on Sept. 11, 2001. Long before that
day radical freedom-hating terrorists declared war on America and on the civilized world.
The attack on the marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983, the hijacking of the Achille Lauro
in 1985, the rise of Al Qaeda and the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, the
attacks on American installations in Saudi Arabia in 1995 and 1996, the East Africa
bombings of 1998, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole in 2000. These and other atrocities were
part of a sustained, systematic campaign to spread devastation and chaos and to murder
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The terrorists were at war with us but we were not yet at war with them. For more than
20 years the terrorist threat gathered and America's response across several
administrations of both parties was insufficient. Historically, democratic societies have
been slow to react to gathering threats, tending instead to wait to confront threats until
they are too dangerous to ignore or until it is too late. Despite the sinking of the
Lusitania in 1915 and continued German harassment of American shipping, the United States
did not enter the First World War until two years later. Despite Nazi Germany's repeated
violations of the Versaille treaty and provocations throughout the mid-1930's the western
democracies did not take action until 1939. The U.S. government did not act against the
growing threat from Imperial Japan until it became all too evident at Pearl Harbor. And
tragically, for all the language of war spoken before Sept. 11 this country simply was not
on war footing.
Since then, America has been at war. And under President Bush's leadership we will
remain at war until the terrorist threat to our nation is ended. The world has changed so
much that it is hard to remember what our lives were like before that day. But I do want
to describe some of the actions that were taken by the administration prior to Sept. 11.
After President Bush was elected we were briefed by the Clinton administration on many
national security issues during the transition. The president-elect and I were briefed by
George Tenet on terrorism and on the Al Qaeda network. Members of Sandy Berger's N.S.C.
staff briefed me along with other members of the national security team on
counterterrorism and Al Qaeda. This briefing lasted for about an hour and it reviewed the
Clinton administration's counterterrorism approach and the various counterterrorism
activities then under way. Sandy and I personally discussed a variety of other topics,
including North Korea, Iraq, the Middle East and the Balkans.
Because of these briefings and because we had watched the rise of Al Qaeda over many
years, we understood that the network posed a serious threat to the United States. We
wanted to ensure that there was not respite in the fight against Al Qaeda. On an
operational level, therefore, we decided immediately to continue to pursue the Clinton
administration's covert action authorities and other efforts to fight the network.
President Bush retained George Tenet as director of central intelligence and Louis
Freeh remained the director of the F.B.I. And I took the unusual step of retaining Dick
Clarke and the entire Clinton administration's counterterrorism team on the N.S.C. staff.
I knew Dick Clarke to be an expert in his field as well as an experienced crisis manager.
Our goal was to ensure continuity of operations while we developed new policies.
At the beginning of the administration President Bush revived the practice of meeting
with the director of central intelligence almost every day in the Oval Office, meetings
which I attended along with the vice president and the chief of staff. At these meetings
the president received up-to-date intelligence and asked questions of his most senior
intelligence officials. From Jan. 20 through Sept. 10 the president received at these
daily meetings more than 40 briefing items on Al Qaeda. And 13 of those were in response
to questions he or his top advisers posed.
In addition to seeing D.C.I. Tenet almost every morning I generally spoke by telephone
to coordinate policy at 7:15 with secretaries Powell and Rumsfeld on a variety of topics.
And I also met and spoke regularly with the D.C.I. about Al Qaeda and terrorism. Of
course, we did have other responsibilities. President Bush had set a broad foreign policy
agenda. We were determined to confront the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
We were improving America's relations with the world's great powers. We had to change an
Iraq policy that was making no progress against the hostile regime which regularly shot at
U.S. planes enforcing U.N. Security Council resolutions. And we had to deal with the
occasional crisis. For instance, when the crew of a Navy plane was detained in China for
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We also moved to develop a new and comprehensive strategy to try and eliminate the Al
Qaeda network. President Bush understood the threat and the understood its importance. He
made clear to us that he did not want to respond to Al Qaeda one attack at a time. He told
me he was tired of swatting flies.
This new strategy was developed over the spring and summer of 2001 and was approved by
the president's senior national security officials on Sept. 4. It was the very first major
national security policy directive of the Bush administration, not Russia, not missile
defense, not Iraq but the elimination of Al Qaeda. Although this national security
presidential directive was originally a highly classified document, we've arranged for
portions of it to be declassified to help the commission in its work. And I will describe
some of it today.
The strategy set as a goal the elimination of the Al Qaeda network and threat and
ordered the leadership of relevant U.S. departments and agencies to make the elimination
of Al Qaeda a high priority and to use all aspects of our national power, intelligence,
financial, diplomatic and military to meet that goal. And it gave cabinet secretaries and
department heads specific responsibilities. For instance, it directed the secretary of
state to work with other countries to end all sanctuaries given to Al Qaeda. It directed
the secretaries of the treasury and state to work with foreign governments to seize or
freeze assets and holdings of Al Qaeda and its benefactors. It directed the director of
central intelligence to prepare an aggressive program of covert activities to disrupt Al
Qaeda and provide assistance to anti-Taliban groups operating in Afghanistan. It tasked
the director O.M.B. with ensuring that sufficient funds were available in budgets over the
next five years to meet the goals laid out in the strategy. And it directed the secretary
of defense to and I quote, ensure that contingency planning processes include plans
against Al Qaeda and associated terrorist facilities in Afghanistan, including leadership,
command control and communications, training and logistics facilities and against Taliban
targets in Afghanistan, including leadership, command control, air and air defense, ground
forces and logistics. And to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, which Al Qaeda and
associated terrorist groups may acquire or manufacture including those stored in
This was a change from the prior strategy, Presidential Decision Directive 62, signed
in 1998, which ordered the secretary of defense to provide transportation to bring
individual terrorists to the U.S. for trial, to protect D.O.D. forces overseas and to be
prepared to respond to terrorist and weapons of mass destruction incidents.
More importantly, we recognize that no counterterrorism strategy could succeed in
isolation. As you know from the Pakistan and Afghanistan strategy documents that we have
made available to the commission, our counterterrorism strategy was a part of a broader
package of strategies that addressed the complexities of the regions. Integrating our
counterterrorism and regional strategies was the most difficult and the most important
aspect of the new strategy to get right. Al Qaeda was both a client of and a patron to the
Taliban, which in turn was supported by Pakistan. Those relationships provided Al Qaeda
with a powerful umbrella of protection and we had to sever that. This was not easy. Not
that we hadn't tried.
Within a month of taking office, President Bush sent a strong private message to
President Musharraf urging him to use his influence with the Taliban to bring bin Laden to
justice and to close down Al Qaeda training camps. Secretary Powell actively urged the
Pakistanis including Musharraf himself to abandon support for the Taliban. I remember well
meeting with the Pakistani foreign minister, and I think I referred to this meeting in my
private meeting with you, in my office in June of 2001. And I delivered what I considered
to be a very tough message. He met that message with a rote answer and with an
expressionless response. America's Al Qaeda policy wasn't working because our Afghanistan
policy wasn't working. And our Afghanistan policy wasn't working because our Pakistan
policy wasn't working.
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We recognized that America's counterterrorism policy had to be connected to our
regional strategies and to our overall foreign policy. To address these problems I had to
make sure that key regional experts were involved, not just counterterrorism experts. I
brought in Zalmay Khalilzad an expert, who as a senior diplomat in the 1980's had worked
closely with the Afghan Mujahideen helping them to turn back the Soviet invasion. I also
ensured the participation of the N.S.C. experts on South Asia, as well as the secretary of
state and his regional specialists. Together, we developed a new strategic approach to
Afghanistan. Instead of the intense focus on the Northern Alliance, we emphasized the
importance of the south, the social and political heartland of the country. Our new
approach to Pakistan combined the use of carrots and sticks to persuade Pakistan to drop
its support for the Taliban. And we began to change our approach to India to preserve
stability on the continent.
While we were developing this new strategy to deal with Al Qaeda, we also made
decisions on a number of specific anti-Al Qaeda initiatives that had been proposed by Dick
Clarke to me in an early memorandum after we had taken office. Many of these ideas had
been deferred by the last administration. And some had been on the table since 1998. We
increased counterterrorism assistance to Uzbekistan. We bolstered the Treasury
Department's activities to track and seize terrorist assets. We increased funding for
counterterrorism activities across several agencies. And we moved to arm Predator unmanned
surveillance vehicles for action against Al Qaeda.
When threat reporting increased during the spring and summer of 2001, we moved the U.S.
government at all levels to a high state of alert and activity. Let me clear up any
confusion about the relationship between the development of our new strategy and the
actions that we took to respond to the threats of the summer. Policy development and
crisis management require different approaches. Throughout this period we did both
simultaneously. For the essential crisis management task, we depended on the
counterterrorism security group, chaired by Dick Clarke, to be the interagency nerve
center. The C.S.G. consisted of senior counterterrorism experts from the C.I.A., the
F.B.I., the Department of Justice, the Defense Department, including the joint chiefs of
staff, the State Department and the Secret Service. The C.S.G. had met regularly for many
years. And its members had worked through numerous periods of heightened threat activity.
As threat information increased, the C.S.G. met more frequently, sometimes daily, to
review and analyze the threat reporting and to coordinate actions and response. C.S.G.
members also had ready access to their cabinet secretaries and could raise any concerns
that they had at the highest levels.
The threat reporting that we received in the spring and summer of 2001 was not specific
as to time nor place nor manner of attack. Almost all of the reports focused on Al Qaeda
activities outside the United States, especially in the Middle East and in North Africa.
In fact, the information that was specific enough to be actionable referred to terrorist
operations overseas. Most often though the threat reporting was frustratingly vague.
Let me read you some of the actual chatter that was picked up in that spring and
summer. Unbelievable news coming in weeks, said one. Big event. There will be a very,
very, very, very big uproar. There will be attacks in the near future. Troubling, yes, but
they don't tell us when. They don't tell us where. They don't tell us who. And they don't
tell us how.
In this context I want to address in some detail one of the briefing items that we did
receive since its content has been frequently mischaracterized. On Aug. 6, 2001, the
president's intelligence briefing included a response to questions that he had earlier
raised about any Al Qaeda intentions to strike our homeland. The briefing team reviewed
past intelligence reporting, mostly dating from the 1990's, regarding possible Al Qaeda
plans to attack inside the United States. It referred to uncorroborated reporting the from
1998 that a terrorist might attempt to hijack a U.S. aircraft in an attempt to blackmail
the government into releasing U.S. held terrorists who had participated in the 1993 World
Trade Center bombing. This briefing item was not prompted by any specific threat
information. And it did not raise the possibility that terrorists might use airplanes as
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Despite the fact that the vast majority of threat information we received was focused
overseas, I was concerned about possible threats inside the United States. And on July 5,
Chief of Staff Andy Card and I met with Dick Clarke. And I asked Dick to make sure that
domestic agencies were aware of the heightened threat period and were taking appropriate
steps to respond, even though we did not have specific threats to the homeland. Later that
same day, Clarke convened a special meeting of his C.S.G., as well as representatives from
the F.A.A., the I.N.S., Customs and the Coast Guard. At that meeting these agencies were
asked to take additional measures to increase security and surveillance.
Throughout the period of heightened threat information we worked hard on multiple
fronts to detect, protect against and disrupt any terrorist plans or operations that might
lead to an attack. For instance, the Department of Defense issued at least five urgent
warnings to U.S. military forces that Al Qaeda might be planning a near-term attack and
placed our military forces in certain regions on heightened alert. The State Department
issues at least four urgent security advisers and public worldwide cautions on terrorist
threats, enhanced security measures at certain embassies and warned the Taliban that they
would be held responsible for any Al Qaeda attack on U.S. interests. The F.B.I. issued at
least three nationwide warnings to federal, state and law enforcement agencies and
specifically stated that although the vast majority of the information indicated overseas
targets, attacks against the homeland could not be ruled out. The F.B.I. tasked all 56 of
its U.S. field offices to increase surveillance of known suspected terrorists and to reach
out to known informants who might have information on terrorist activities. The F.A.A.
issued at least five civil aviation security information circulars to all U.S. airlines
and airport security personnel, including specific warnings about the possibility of
hijacking. The C.I.A. worked round the clock to disrupt threats worldwide. Agency
officials launched a wide-ranging disruption effort against Al Qaeda in more than 20
countries. And during this period the vice president, the director, Director Tenet and
members of my staff called senior foreign officials requesting that they increase their
intelligence assistance and report to us any relevant threat information.
This is a brief sample of our intense activity in the high threat period of the summer
of 2001. Yet as your hearings have shown there was no silver bullet that could have
prevented the 9/11 attacks. In hindsight if anything might have helped stop 9/11 it would
have been better information about threats inside the United States. Something made very
difficult by structural and legal impediments that prevented the collection and sharing of
information by our law enforcement and intelligence agencies. So the attacks came. A band
of vicious terrorists tried to decapitate our government, destroy our financial system and
break the spirit of America. And as an officer of government on duty that day I will never
forget the sorrow and the anger that I felt. Nor will I forget the courage and resilience
of the American people, nor the leadership of the president that day.
Now we have an opportunity and an obligation to move forward together. Bold and
comprehensive changes are sometimes only possible in the wake of catastrophic events.
Events which create a new consensus that allows us to transcend old ways of thinking and
acting. And just as World War II led to a fundamental reorganization of our national
defense structure and the creation of the National Security Council, so has Sept. 11 made
possible sweeping changes in the ways we protect our homeland.
President Bush is leading the country during this time of crisis and change. He has
unified and streamlined our efforts to secure the American homeland by creating the
Department of Homeland Security, established a new center to integrate and analyze threat
information, terrorist threat information, directed the transformation of the F.B.I. into
an agency dedicated to fighting terror, broken down the bureaucratic walls and legal
barriers that prevent the sharing of vital information between our domestic law
enforcement and foreign intelligence agencies, and working with Congress given officials
new tools, such as the Patriot Act, to find and stop terrorists. And he has done this in a
way that is consistent with protecting America's cherished civil liberties and with
preserving our character as a free and open society.
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But the president recognizes that our work is far from complete. More structural reform
will likely be necessary. Our intelligence gathering and analysis have improved
dramatically in the last three(?) years, but they must be stronger still. The president
and all of us in his administration welcome new ideas and fresh thinking. We are eager to
do whatever it is that will help to protect the American people. And we look forward to
receiving this commission's recommendations.
We are at war. And our security as a nation depends on winning that war. We must and we
will do everything we can to harden terrorist targets within the United States. Dedicated
law enforcement and security professionals continue to risk their lives every day to make
us all safer. And we owe them a debt of gratitude.
And let's remember that those charged with protecting us from attack have to be right
100 percent of the time. To inflict devastation on a massive scale the terrorists only
have to succeed once. And we know that they are trying every day. That is why we must
address the source of the problem. We must stay on the offensive to find and defeat the
terrorists wherever they live, hide and plot around the world. If we learned anything from
Sept. 11 it is that we cannot wait while dangers gather.
After the Sept. 11 attacks our nation faced hard choices. We could fight a narrow war
against Al Qaeda and the Taliban or we could fight a broad war against a global menace. We
could seek a narrow victory or we could work for a lasting peace and a better world.
President Bush has chosen the bolder course. He recognizes that the war on terror is a
broad war. Under his leadership the United States and our allies are disrupting terrorist
operations, cutting off their funding and hunting down terrorists one by one. Their world
is getting smaller. The terrorists have lost a home base and training camps in
Afghanistan. The governments of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia now pursue them with energy and
force. We are confronting the nexus between terror and weapons of mass destruction. We are
working to stop the spread of deadly weapons and to prevent them from getting into the
hands of terrorists, seizing dangerous materials in transit where necessary.
Because we acted in Iraq Saddam Hussein will never again use weapons of mass
destruction against his people or his neighbors. And we have convinced Libya to give up
all of its weapons of mass destruction related programs and materials. And as we attack
the threat at its source we are also addressing its roots. Thanks to the bravery and skill
of our men and women in uniform we have removed from power two of the world's most brutal
regimes, sources of violence and fear and instability in the world's most dangerous
region. Today along with many allies, we are helping the people of Iraq and Afghanistan to
build free societies. And we are working with the people of the Middle East to spread the
blessings of liberty and democracy as alternatives to instability and hatred and terror.
This work is hard and it is dangerous. Yet it is worthy of our effort and sacrifice. The
defeat of terror and the success of freedom in those nations will serve the interest of
our nation and inspire hope and encourage reform throughout the greater Middle East.
In the aftermath of September the 11th, those were the right choices for America to
make. The only choices that can ensure the safety of our nation for decades to come. Thank
you very much and now I'm happy to take your questions.
KEAN. Thank you very much, Dr. Rice. We appreciate your statement, your attendance and
your service. I have a couple of questions. As we understand it, when you first came into
office, you'd just been through a very difficult campaign. In that campaign, neither the
president nor his opponent, to the best of my knowledge, ever mentioned al Qaeda. There'd
been almost no congressional action or hearings about al Qaeda. A very little bit in the
newspapers. And yet you walk in and Dick Clarke is talking about how al Qaeda should be
our No. 1 priority. Sandy Berger tells you you'll be spending more time on that than
anything else. What did you think and what did you tell the president as you hit that kind
of, I suppose, new information for you?
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RICE. Well, in fact, Mr. Chairman, it was not new information. I think we all knew
about the 1998 bombings. We knew that there was speculation that the 2000 Cole attack was
al Qaeda. There had been, I think, documentaries about Osama bin Laden. I myself had
written, for an introduction to a volume on bioterrorism done at Stanford, that I thought
that we wanted not to wake up one day and find that Osama bin Laden had succeeded on our
soil. It was on the radar screen of any person who studied or worked in the international
security field. But there's no doubt that, I think, the briefing by Dick Clarke, the
earlier briefing during the transition by Director Tenet and of course what we talked with
about Sandy Berger, gave you a heightened sense of the problem and a sense that this was
something that the United States had to deal with. I have to say that of course there were
other priorities. And indeed in the briefings with the Clinton administration they
emphasized other priorities: North Korea, the Middle East, the Balkans. One doesn't have
the luxury of dealing only with one issue if you are the United States of America. There
are many urgent and important issues. But we all had a strong sense that this was a very
crucial issue. The question was what do you then do about it. And the decision that we
made was to first of all have no drop-off in what the Clinton administration was doing.
Because clearly they had done a lot of work to deal with this very important priority. And
so we kept the counterterrorism team on board. We knew that George Tenet was there. We had
the comfort of knowing that Louis Freeh was there. And then we set out - I talked to Dick
Clarke almost immediately after his - or I should say shortly after his memo to me saying
that al Qaeda was a major threat. We set out to try and craft a better strategy. But we
were quite cognizant of this group, of the fact that something had to be done. I do think,
early on in these discussions we asked a lot of questions about whether Osama bin Laden
himself ought to be so much the target of interest - or whether what was that going to do
to the organization if in fact he was put out of commission. And I remember very well the
director saying to President Bush, Well, it would help but it would not stop attacks by al
Qaeda nor destroy the network.
KEAN. I've got a question now I'd like to ask you. It was given to me by a number of
members of the families. Did you ever see or hear from the F.B.I., from the C.I.A., from
any other intelligence agency, any memos, discussions or anything else between the time
you were elected or got into office and 9/11 talked about using planes as bombs?
RICE. Let me address this question because it has been on the table. I think that
concern about what I might have known or we might have known was provoked by some
statements that I made in a press conference. I was in a press conference to try and
describe the Aug. 6 memo, which I've talked about here in the - my opening remarks and
which I talked about with you in the private session. And I said at one point that this
was a historical memo, that it was not based on new threat information. And I said, No one
could have imagined them taking a plane, slamming it into the Pentagon - I'm paraphrasing
now - into the World Trade Center using planes as missiles. As I said to you in the
private session, I probably should have said, I could have not imagined. Because within
two days people started to come to me and say, Oh, but there were these reports in 1998
and 1999; the intelligence community did look at information about this. To the best of my
knowledge, Mr. Chairman, this kind of analysis about the use of airplanes as weapons
actually was never briefed to us. I cannot tell you that there might not have been a
report here or a report there that reached somebody in our midst. Part of the problem is,
and I think Sandy Berger made this point that, when he was asked the same question, that
you have thousands of pieces of information: car bombs and this method and that method.
And you have to depend, to a certain degree, on the intelligence agencies to sort, to tell
you what is is actually relevant, what is actually based on sound sources, what is
speculative. And I can only assume or believe that perhaps the intelligence agencies
thought that the sourcing was speculative. All that I can tell you is that it was not in
the Aug. 6 memo - using planes as a weapon. And I do not remember any reports to us, a
kind of strategic warning that planes might be used as a weapon. In fact, there were some
reports done in '98 and '99. I think I was - I was certainly not aware of them at the time
that I spoke.
KEAN. You didn't see any memos to you or any documents to you?
RICE. No. No, I did not.
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KEAN. Some Americans have wondered whether you or the president worried too much about
Iraq in the days after the 9/11 attack and perhaps not enough about the fight ahead
against al Qaeda. We know that at the Camp David meeting on the weekend of Sept. 15 and 16
the president rejected the idea of immediate action against Iraq. Others have told that
the president decided Afghanistan had to come first. We also know that even after those
Camp David meetings the administration was still readying plans for possible action
against Iraq. So can you help us understand where in those early days after 9/11 the
administration placed Iraq in the strategy for responding to the attack?
RICE. Certainly. Let me start with the period in which you're trying to figure out who
did this to you. And I think, given our exceedingly hostile relationship with Iraq at the
time - this is, after all, a place that had tried to assassinate an American president,
was still shooting at our planes in the no-fly zone. It was a reasonable question to ask
whether indeed Iraq might have been behind this. I remember later on a conversation with
Prime Minister Blair President Bush also said that he wondered: could it have been Iran
because the attack was so sophisticated. Was this really just a network that had done
this? When we got to Camp David - and let me just be very clear. In the days between Sept.
11 and getting to Camp David, I was with the president a lot. I know what was on his mind.
What was on his mind was follow-on attacks, trying to reassure the American people.
He virtually badgered poor Larry Lindsay about when could we get Wall Street back up
and running because he didn't want them to have succeeded against our financial system.
We were concerned about air security and he worked very hard on trying to get
particularly Reagan reopened. So there was a lot on our minds.
But by the time that we got to Camp David and began to plan for what we would do in
response, what was rolled out on the table was Afghanistan - a map of Afghanistan. And I
will tell you, that was a daunting enough task, to figure out how to avoid some of the
pitfalls that great powers had had in Afghanistan, most recently the Soviet Union and of
course the British before that.
There was a discussion of Iraq. I think it was raised by Don Rumsfeld. It was pressed a
bit by Paul Wolfowitz given that this was a global war on terror, should we look not just
at Afghanistan but should we look at doing something against Iraq? There was a discussion
of that. The president listened to all of his advisers. I can tell you that when he went
around the table and asked his advisers what he should do, not a single one of his
principal advisers advised doing anything against Iraq. It was all to Afghanistan.
When I got back to the White House with the president, he laid out for me what he
wanted to do. And one of the points, after a long list of things about Afghanistan, a long
list of things about protecting the homeland, the president said that he wanted
contingency plans against Iraq should Iraq act against our interest. There was a kind of
concern that they might try and take advantage of us in that period. They were still - we
were still flying no-fly zones. And there was also, he said, in case we find that they
were behind 9/11, we should have contingency plans. But this was not along the lines of
what later was discussed about Iraq, which was how to deal with Iraq on a grand scale.
This was really about - and we went to planning Afghanistan. You can look at what we did.
From that time on, this was about Afghanistan.
KEAN. So when Mr. Clarke writes that the president pushed him to find a link between
Iraq and the attack, is that right? Was the president trying to twist the facts for an
Iraqi war? Or was he just puzzled about what was behind this attack?
RICE. I - I don't remember the discussion that Dick Clarke relates. Initially he said
that the president was wandering the situation room - this is in the book, I gather -
looking for something to do. And they had a conversation. Later on he said that he was
pulled aside. So I don't know the context of the discussion. I don't personally remember
it. But it's not surprising that the president would say, what about Iraq, given our
hostile relationship with Iraq. And I'm quite certain that the president never pushed
anybody to twist the facts.
KEAN. Thank you. Congressman Hamilton.
(Page 9 of 36)
HAMILTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Dr. Rice, you've given us a very strong statement
with regard to the actions taken by the administration in this pre-9/11 period and we
appreciate that very much, for the record.
I want to call to your attention some comments and some events on the other side of
that question and give you an opportunity to respond. You know very well that the
commission is focusing on this whole question of what priority did the Clinton
administration and the Bush administration give to terrorism. The president told Bob
Woodward that he did not feel that sense of urgency. I think that's a quote from his book
or roughly a quote from Woodward's book. The deputy director for central intelligence, Mr.
McLaughlin, told us that he was concerned about the pace of policy-making in the summer of
2001, given the urgency of the threat. The deputy secretary of state, Mr. Armitage, was
here and expressed his concerns about the speed of the process. And if I recall his
comment, it is We weren't going fast enough. I think that's a direct quote. There was no
response to the Cole attack in the Clinton administration and none in the Bush
administration. Your public statements focused largely on China and Russia and missile
defense. You did make comments on terrorism but they were connected - the link between
terrorism and the rogue regimes like North Korea and Iran and Iraq. And by our count here
there were some 100 meetings by the national security principals before the first meeting
was held on terrorism, Sept. 4. And General Shelton, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs,
said that terrorism had been pushed farther to the back burner. Now, this is what we're
trying to assess. We have your statements. We have these other statements. And I know, as
I indicated in my opening comments how difficult the role of the policy maker is and how
many things press upon you. But I did want to give you an opportunity to comment on some
of these other matters.
RICE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Let me begin with the Woodward quote because I
- that has gotten a lot of press. And I actually think that the quote, put in context,
gives a very different picture. The question that the president was asked by Mr. Woodward
was: Did you want to have bin Laden killed before Sept. 11? That was the question. The
president said, Well, I hadn't seen a plan to do that. I knew that we needed to - I think
the appropriate word is bring him to justice. And of course this is something of a trick
question in that notion of self-defense which is appropriate for. I think you can see here
a president struggling with whether he ought to be talking about pre-9/11 attempts to kill
bin Laden. And so that is the context for this quote. And quite frankly, I remember the
director sitting here and saying he didn't want to talk about authorities on
assassination. I think you can understand the discomfort of the president. The president
goes on when Bob Woodward says Well I don't mean it as a trick question. I'm just trying
to get your state of mind. The president says, Let me put it this way: I was not - there
was a significant difference in my attitude after Sept. 11. I was not on point but I knew
he was a menace and I knew he was a problem. I knew he was responsible. We felt he was
responsible for bombings that had killed Americans. And I was prepared to look at a plan
that would be a thoughtful plan that would bring him to justice and would have given the
order to do just that. I have no hesitancy about going after him. But I didn't feel that
sense of urgency and my blood was not nearly as boiling. Whose blood was nearly as boiling
prior to Sept. 11? And I think the context helps here.
It is also the case that the president had been told by the director of central
intelligence that it was not going to be a silver bullet to kill bin Laden, that you had
to do much more. And in fact I think that some of us felt that the focus, so much focus on
what you did with bin Laden, not what you did with the network, not what you did with the
regional circumstances, might in fact have been misplaced. So I think the president is
responding to a specific set of questions. All that I can tell you is that what the
president wanted was a plan to eliminate al Qaeda so he could stop swatting at flies. He
knew that we had in place the same crisis management mechanism, indeed, the same
personnel, that the Clinton administration, which clearly thought it a very high priority,
had in place. And so I think that he saw the priority as continuing the current operations
and then getting a plan in place.
(Page 10 of 36)
Now, as to the number of p.c.'s. I'm sorry. There's some difference in our records
here. We show 33 principals committee meetings during this period of time, not 100. We
show that three of those dealt with issues - at least partially with issues dealing with
terrorism not related to al Qaeda. And so we can check the numbers. But we have looked at
our files and we show 33, not 100.
The quotes by others about how the process was moving - again, it's important to
realize that we had parallel tracks here. We were continuing to do what the Clinton
administration had been doing under all the same authorities that were operating. George
Tenet was continuing to try to disrupt al Qaeda. The - we were continuing the diplomatic
efforts. But we did want to take the time to get in place a policy that was more strategic
toward al Qaeda, more robust. It takes some time to think about how to reorient your
policy toward Pakistan. It takes some time to think about how to have a more effective
policy toward Afghanistan. It particularly takes some time when you don't get your people
on board for - for several months. So I understand that there are those who've said they
felt it wasn't moving along fast enough. I talked to George Tenet about this at least
every couple of weeks and sometimes more often: How can we move forward on the Predator?
What do you want to do about the Northern Alliance. So I think we were putting the energy
And I should just make one other point, Mr. Hamilton, if you don't mind, which is that
we also moved forward on some of the specific ideas that Dick Clarke had put forward prior
to completing the strategy review. We increased assistance to Uzbekistan, for instance,
which had been one of the recommendations. We moved along the armed Predator, the
development of the armed Predator. We increased counterterrorism funding. But there were a
couple of things that we did not want to do. I'm now convinced that while nothing that in
this strategy would have done anything about 9/11, if we had in fact moved on the things
that were in the original memos that we got from our counterterrorism people we might have
even gone off course because it was very Northern Alliance-focused. That was going to
cause a huge problem with Pakistan. It was not going to put us in the center of action in
Afghanistan, which is the south. And so we simply had to take some time to get this right.
But I think we need not confuse that with either what we did during the threat period,
where we were urgently working the operational issues every day, or with the continuation
of the Clinton policy.
HAMILTON. Well I thank you for a careful answer. Another question: At the end of the
day, of course, we were unable to protect our people. And you suggest in your statement,
and I want you to elaborate on this if you want to, that in hindsight it would have been -
better information about the threats would have been the single most important thing for
us to have done, from your point of view, prior to 9/11 would have been better
intelligence, better information about the threats. Is that right? Are there other things
that you think stand out?
RICE. Well, Mr. Chairman, I took an oath of office on the day that I took this job, to
protect and defend. And like most government officials, it take it very seriously. And so
as you might imagine, I've asked myself a thousand times what more we could have done. I
know that, had we thought that there was an attack coming in Washington or New York we
would have moved heaven and earth to try and stop it. And I know that there was no single
thing that might have prevented that attack.
I - in looking back, I believe that the absence of light, so to speak, on what was
going on inside the country - the inability to connect the dots - was really structural.
We couldn't be dependent on chance that something might come together. And the legal
impediments and the bureaucratic impediments. But I want to emphasize the legal
impediments. To keep the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. from functioning really as one so that
there was no seam between domestic and foreign intelligence was probably the greatest one.
The director of central intelligence and I think Director Freeh had an excellent
relationship. They were trying hard to bridge that seam. I know that Louis Freeh had
developed legal attachÀes abroad to try to help bridge that. But when it came right down
to it, this country, for reasons of history and culture and therefore law, had an allergy
to the notion of domestic intelligence. And we were organized on that basis. And it just
made it very hard to have all of the pieces come together. We've made good changes since
(Page 11 of 36)
I think that having a homeland security department that can bring together the F.A.A.
and the I.N.S. and Customs and all of the various agencies is a very important step. I
think that the creation of the Terrorism Threat Information Center, which brings together
all of the intelligence from various aspects is a very important step forward. Clearly,
the Patriot Act, which has allowed the kind of sharing, indeed demands the kind of sharing
between intelligence agencies, including the F.B.I. and the C.I.A., is a very big step
forward. I think one thing that we will learn from you is whether the structural work is
HAMILTON. Final question would be: One of your sentences kind of jumped out at me in
your statement. And that was on page 9 where you said, We must address the source of the
problem. I'm very concerned about that. I was pleased to see it in your statement. And I'm
very worried about the threat of terrorism, as I know you are, over a very long period of
time - a generation or more. There are a lot of very very fine - 2 billion Muslims, most
of them we know are very fine people. Some don't like us; they hate us. They don't like
what modernization does to their culture. They don't like the fact that economic
prosperity has passed them by. They don't like some of the policies of the United States
government. They don't like the way their own governments treat them. And I'd like you to
elaborate a little bit, if you would, on how we get at the source of the problem. How do
we get at this discontent, this dislocation, if you would, across a big swath of the
RICE. I believe very strongly, and the president believes very strongly, that this is
really the generational challenge. The kinds of issues that you are addressing have to be
addressed. But they're not - we're not going to see success on our watch. We will see some
small victories on our watch. One of the most difficult problems in the Middle East is
that the United States has been associated for a long time - decades - with a policy that
looks the other way on the freedom deficit in the Middle East, that looks the other way at
the absence of individual liberties in the Middle East. And I think that that has tended
to alienate us from the populations of the Middle East. And when the president, at
Whitehall in London, said that that was no longer going to be the stance of the United
States - we were expecting more from our friends; we were going to try and engage those in
those countries who wanted to have a different kind of Middle East - I believe that he was
resonating with trends that are there in the Middle East. There are reformist trends in
places like Bahrain and Jordan. And recently there was a marvelous conference in
Alexandria in Egypt where reform was actually on the agenda. So it's going to be a slow
process. We know that the building of democracy is tough. It doesn't come easily. We have
our own history, you know. When our Founding Fathers said We the people, they didn't mean
me. It's taken us a while to get to a multiethnic democracy that works. But if America is
avowedly values-centered in its foreign policy, we do better than when we do not stand up
for those values. So I think that it's going to be very hard. It's going to take time. We
- one of the things that we've been very interested, for instance, in is issues of
educational reform in some of these countries. As you know, the madrassas are a big
difficulty. I've met, myself personally, two or three times with the Pakistani - a
wonderful woman who's the Pakistani education minister. We can't do it for them. They have
to do it for themselves. But we have to stand for those values. And over the long run, we
will change - I believe we will change the nature of the Middle East, particularly if
there are examples that this can work in the Middle East.
And this is why Iraq is so important. The Iraqi people are struggling to find a way to
create a multiethnic democracy that works. And it's going to be hard. And if we stay with
them and when they succeed, I think we will have made a big change. They will have made a
big change in the middle of the Arab world and we will be on our way to addressing the
HAMILTON. Thank you, Dr. Rice. Thank you Mr. Chairman.
KEAN. Thank you. Commissioner Ben-Veniste.
RICHARD BEN-VENISTE. Good morning, Dr. Rice.
RICE. Good morning.
BEN-VENISTE. Nice to see you again.
RICE. Nice to see you.
(Page 12 of 36)
BEN-VENISTE. I want to ask you some questions about the Aug. 6, 2001, P.D.B. We had
been advised in writing by the C.I.A. on March 19, 2004, that the Aug. 6 P.D.B. was
prepared and self-generated by a C.I.A. employee. Following Director Tenet's testimony on
March 26 before us, the C.I.A. clarified its version of events saying that questions by
the president prompted them to prepare the Aug. 6 P.D.B. You have said to us in our
meeting together earlier, in February, that the president directed the C.I.A. to prepare
the Aug. 6 P.D.B. The extraordinary high terrorist attack threat level in the summer of
2001 is well documented. And Richard Clarke's testimony about the possibility of an attack
against the United States homeland was repeatedly discussed from May to August within the
intelligence community and that is well documented. You acknowledged to us in your
interview of Feb. 7, 2004, that Richard Clarke told you that al Qaeda cells were in the
United States. Did you tell the president, at any time prior to Aug. 6, of the existence
of al Qaeda cells in the United States?
RICE. First let me just make certain -
BEN-VENISTE. If you could just answer that question. Because I only have a very limited
RICE. Well, first - I understand, Commissioner.
BEN-VENISTE. Did you tell the president?
RICE. But it's important that I also address - It's also important, Commissioner, that
I address the other issues that you've raised. So I will do it quickly. But if you'll just
give me moment.
BEN-VENISTE. Well, my only question to you is whether you told the president -
RICE. I understand, Commissioner, but I will, if you'll just give me a moment, I will
address fully the questions that you've asked.
First of all, yes, the Aug. 6 P.D.B. was in response to questions of the president. In
that sense, he asked that this be done. It was not a particular threat report. And there
was historical information in there about - about various aspects of al Qaeda's
operations. Dick Clarke had told me, I think in a memorandum - I remember it as being only
a line or two - that there were al Qaeda cells in the United States. Now, the question is:
What did we need to do about that? And I also understood that that was what the F.B.I. was
doing, that the F.B.I. was pursuing these al Qaeda cells. I believe in the Aug. 6
memorandum it says that there were 70 full field investigations underway of these cells.
And so there was no recommendation that we do something about this - the F.B.I. was
I really don't remember, Commissioner, whether I discussed this with the president.
BEN-VENISTE. Thank you.
RICE. I remember very well that the president was aware that there were issues inside
the United States. He'd talked to people about this. But I don't remember the al Qaeda
cells as being something that we were told we needed to do something about.
BEN-VENISTE. Isn't it a fact, Dr. Rice, that the Aug. 6 P.D.B. warned against possible
attacks in this country? And I ask you whether you recall the title of that P.D.B.
RICE. I believe the title was Bin Laden Determined To Attack Inside the United States.
Now, the P.D.B. -
BEN-VENISTE. Thank you.
RICE. No, Mr. Ben-Veniste -
BEN-VENISTE. I will get into the -
RICE. I would like to finish my point here.
BEN-VENISTE. I didn't know there was a point.
RICE. Given that - you asked me whether or not it warned of attacks.
BEN-VENISTE. I asked you what the title was.
RICE. You said did it not warn of attacks. It did not warn of attacks inside the United
States. It was historical information based on old reporting. There was no new threat
information. And it did not, in fact, warn of any coming attacks inside the United States.
BEN-VENISTE. Now, you knew by August 2001 of al Qaeda involvement in the first World
Trade Center bombing. Is that correct? You knew that in 1999, late '99, in the millennium
threat period, that we had thwarted an al Qaeda attempt to blow up Los Angeles
International Airport and thwarted cells operating in Brooklyn, N.Y. and Boston, Mass. as
of the Aug. 6 briefing. You learned that al Qaeda members have resided or traveled to the
United States for years and maintained a support system in the United States. And you
learned that F.B.I. information since the 1998 blind sheik warning of hijackings to free
the blind sheik indicated a pattern of suspicious activity in the country up until Aug. 6
consistent with preparation for hijackings. Isn't that so?
RICE. Do you have other questions that you want me to answer as a part of the sequence?
(Page 13 of 36)
BEN-VENISTE. Well, did you not - you have indicated here that this was some historical
document. And I am asking you whether it is not the case that you learned in the P.D.B.
memo of Aug. 6 that the F.B.I. was saying that it had information suggesting that
preparations, not historically, but ongoing, along with these numerous full field
investigations against al Qaeda cells, that preparations were being made consistent with
hijackings within the United States.
RICE. What the Aug. 6 P.D.B. said - and perhaps I should read it to you.
BEN-VENISTE. We would be happy to have it declassified in full at this time, including
RICE. I believe - I believe, Mr. Ben-Veniste, that you've had access to this P.D.B.
BEN-VENISTE. But we have not had it declassified so that it can be shown publicly, as
RICE. But let me just - I believe you've had access to this P.D.B. - exceptional
access. But let me address your question.
BEN-VENISTE. Nor could we, prior to today, reveal the title of that P.D.B.
RICE. May I - may I address the question, sir? The fact is that this Aug. 6 P.D.B. was
in response to the president's questions about whether or not something might happen or
something might be planned by al Qaeda inside the United States. He asked because all of
the threat reporting, or the threat reporting that was actionable, was about the threats
abroad, not about the United States. This particular P.D.B. had a long section on what bin
Laden had wanted to do, speculative, much of it - in '97, '98, that he had in fact liked
the results of the 1993 bombing. It had a number of discussions of - it had a discussion
of whether or not they might use hijacking to try and free a prisoner who was being held
in the United States - Rassam. It reported that the F.B.I. had full field investigations
underway. And we checked on the issue of whether or not there was something going on with
surveillance of buildings. And we were told, I believe, that the issue was the courthouse
in which this might take place. Commissioner, this was not a warning. This was a historic
memo - historical memo prepared by the agency because the president was asking questions
about what we knew about the inside. Now, we had already taken -
BEN-VENISTE. Well, if you were willing - if you were willing to declassify that
document, then others can make up their minds about it. Let me ask you a general matter,
beyond the fact that this memorandum provided information, not speculative but based on
intelligence information, that bin Laden had threatened to attack the United States and
specifically Washington, D.C. There was nothing reassuring, was there, in that P.D.B.?
RICE. Certainly not. There was nothing reassuring. But I can also tell you that there
was nothing in this memo that suggested that an attack was coming on New York or
Washington, D.C. There was nothing in this memo as to time, place, how or where. This was
not a threat report to the president or a threat report to me. As a matter of -
BEN-VENISTE. We agree that there were no specifics. Let me move on if I may.
RICE. Well - there were no specifics and in fact the country had already taken steps,
through the F.A.A., to warn of potential hijackings. The country had already taken steps,
through the F.B.I., to task their 56 field offices to increase their activity. The country
had taken the steps that it could, given that there was no threat reporting about what
might happen inside the United States.
BEN-VENISTE. We have explored that and we will continue to with respect to the
muscularity and the specifics of those efforts. The president was in Crawford, Tex., at
the time he received the P.D.B. You were not with him. Correct?
RICE. That's correct.
BEN-VENISTE. Now, was the president, in words or substance, alarmed in any way or
motivated to take any action such as meeting with the director of the F.B.I., meeting with
the attorney general, as a result of receiving the information contained in the P.D.B.?
(Page 14 of 36)
RICE. I want to repeat that when this document was presented, it was presented as, yes,
there were some frightening things. And by the way, I was not at Crawford but the
president and I were in contact. And I might have even been, though I can't remember, with
him by video link during that time.
The president was told this is historical information. I am told he was told this is
historical information. And there was nothing actionable in this. The president knew that
the F.B.I. was pursuing this issue. The president knew that the director of central
intelligence was pursuing this issue. And there was no new threat information in this
document to pursue.
BEN-VENISTE. Do you - final question because my time has almost expired - do you
believe that, had the president taken action to issue a directive to the director of
C.I.A. to ensure that the F.B.I. had pulsed the agency, to make sure that any information,
which we know had been collected - we know now had been collected - was transmitted to the
director, that the president might have been able to receive information from C.I.A. with
respect to the fact that two al Qaeda operatives who took part in the 9/11 catastrophe
were in the United States - al-Hazmi and Midhar - and that Moussaoui, who was not even
made - who Dick Clarke was never even made aware of, who had been, who had jihadist
connections, who the F.B.I. had arrested and who had been in a flight school in Minnesota
trying to learn the avionics of a commercial jet liner despite the fact that he had no
training previously, had no explanation for the funds in his bank account and no
explanation for why he was in the United States - would that have possibly, in your view,
in hindsight, made a difference in the ability to collect this information, shake the
trees, as Richard Clarke had said, and possibly, possibly interrupt the plotters?
RICE. My view, Commissioner Ben-Veniste, as I said to Chairman Kean, is that first of
all the director of central intelligence and the director of the F.B.I., given the level
of threat, were doing what they thought they could do to deal with the threat that we
faced. There was no threat reporting of any substance about an attack coming in the United
States. And the director of the F.B.I. and the director of the C.I.A., had they received
information, I am quite certain, given that the director of the C.I.A. met frequently
face-to-face with the president of the United States, that he would have made that
available to the president or to me. I do not believe that it is a good analysis to go
back and assume that somehow maybe we would have gotten lucky by quote shaking the trees.
Dick Clarke was shaking the trees. I'm - director of central intelligence was shaking the
trees. The director of the F.B.I. was shaking the trees. We had a structural problem in
the United States.
BEN-VENISTE. Did the president meet with the director of the F.B.I.?
RICE. We had a structural problem in the United States. And that structural problem was
that we did not share domestic and foreign intelligence in a way to make a product for
policymakers, for good reasons - for legal reasons, for cultural reasons - a product that
people could depend upon.
BEN-VENISTE. Did the president meet with the director of the F.B.I. between Aug. 6 and
KEAN. Commissioner, we've got to move on to Commissioner Fielding.
RICE. Ah, I will have to get back to you on that. I'm not certain.
KEAN. Commissioner Fielding.
BEN-VENISTE. Thank you.
FRED FIELDING. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Dr. Rice, good morning.
RICE. Good morning.
FIELDING. Thank you for being here and thank you for all your service, presently and in
the past to your country.
RICE. Thank you.
FIELDING. As you know, our task is to assemble facts in order to inform ourselves and
then ultimately to inform the American public of the causes of this horrible event and
also to make recommendations to mitigate against the possibility that there'll ever be
another terrorist triumph on our homeland or against our people. And as we do this with
the aid of testimony of people like yourself, of course there will be some discrepancies
as there always will and we will have to try as best we can to resolve those
discrepancies. And obviously that's an important thing for us to to. But as important as
that ultimately may be, it also is our responsibility to really come up with ways, and
valid ways, to prevent another intelligence failure like we've suffered. And I don't think
anybody will kid ourselves that we didn't suffer one. So we must try to look at the
systems and the policies that were in place and to evaluate them and to see - getting a
view of the landscape. And I know it's difficult to do it through a pre-9/11 lens. But we
must try to do that so that we can do better the next time. And I'd like to follow up with
a couple of areas in that sort of specificity. And one is the one that you were just
discussing with Commissioner Ben-Veniste.
(Page 15 of 36)
We've all heard over the years the problem between the C.I.A., the F.B.I., coordination
etc. And you made reference to an introduction you'd done to a book. But you also, in
October 2000, while you were part of the campaign team for the candidate Bush, you told a
radio station, WJR, which is in Detroit, and you were talking about the threat and how to
deal with al Qaeda. And if I may quote, you said, you were discussing, Osama bin Laden,
the first is you really have to get intelligence agencies better organized to deal with
the terrorist threat to the United States itself. One of the problems that we have is kind
of a split responsibility, of course, between the C.I.A. in foreign intelligence and the
F.B.I. in domestic intelligence. There needs to be better cooperation because we don't
want to wake up one day and find that Osama bin Laden has been successful on our
territory. End of your quote.
Well, in fact, sadly, we did wake up. And that did happen. Now, obviously, there is a
systemic problem. And what I'd really like you to address right now is what steps were
taken by you and the administration, to your knowledge, in the first several months of the
administration, to assess and address this problem.
RICE. Well, thank you. We do have - did have a structural problem. And structural
problems take some time to address. We did have a national security policy directive
asking the C.I.A., through the Foreign Intelligence Board headed by Brent Scowcroft, to
review its intelligence activities, the way that it gathered intelligence. And that was a
study that was to be completed. The vice president was a little later in, I think, in May,
tasked by the president to put together a group to look at all of the recommendations that
had been made about domestic preparedness and all of the questions associated with that,
to take the Gilmore report and the Hart-Rudman report and so forth and to try to make
recommendations about what might have been done - we were in office 233 days - and the
kinds of structural changes that have been needed by this country for some time did not
get made in that period of time. I'm told that after the millennium plot was discovered,
that there was an after-action report done and that some steps were taken. To my
recollection that was not briefed to us during the transition period or during the threat
spike. But clearly what needed to be done was that we needed systems in place that would
bring all of this together. It is not enough to leave this to chance. If you look at this
period, I think you see that everybody - the director of the C.I.A., the - Louis Freeh had
left but the key counterterrorism person was a part of Dick Clarke's group and was meeting
with him and, I'm sure, shaking the trees and doing all of the things that you would want
people to do. We were being given reports all the time that they were doing everything
they could. But there was a systemic problem in getting that kind of shared intelligence.
The - one of the first things that Bob Mueller did post-9/11 was to recognize that the
issue of prevention meant that you had to break down some of the walls between criminal
and counterterrorism, between criminal and intelligence. The way that we went about this
was to have individual cases where you were trying to build a criminal case, individual
offices with responsibility for those cases. Much was not coming to the F.B.I. in a way
that it could then engage the policy makers. So these were big structural reforms. We did
some things to try and get the C.I.A. reforming. We did some things to try and get a
better sense of how to put all of this together. But structural reform is hard and in
seven months we didn't have time to make the changes that were necessary. We made them
almost immediately after Sept. 11.
FIELDING. Well, would you consider the problem as solved today?
RICE. I would not consider the problem solved. I believe that we have made some very
important structural changes. The creation of a Department of Homeland Security is an
absolutely critical issue because the Department of Homeland Security brings together
I.N.S. and the Customs Department and the Border people and all of the people who were
scattered - Customs in Treasury and I.N.S. in Justice and so forth - brings them together
in a way that a single secretary is looking after the homeland every day. He's looking at
what infrastructure needs to be protected. He's looking at what state and local
governments need to do their work. That is an extremely important innovation. I hope that
he will have the freedom to manage that organization in a way that will make it fully
effective because there are a lot of issues for Congress in how that's managed. We have
created a Threat Terrorism Information Center, the T-TIC, which does bring together all of
the sources of information from all of the intelligence agencies, the F.B.I. and the
Department of Homeland Security and the I.N.S. and the C.I.A. and the D.I.A. so that
there's one place where all of this is coming together. And of course the Patriot Act,
which permits the kind of sharing that we need between the C.I.A. and the F.B.I., is also
an important innovation. But I would be the first to tell you I'm a student of
institutional change. I know that you get few chances to make really transformative
institutional change. And I think that when we've heard from this commission and from
others who are working on other pieces of the problem like for instance the issues of
intelligence and weapons of mass destruction, that this president will be open to new
ideas. I really don't believe that all of our work is done, despite the tremendous
progress that we've made thus far.
(Page 16 of 36)
FIELDING. Well I promise you that we're going to respond to that because that is really
a problem that's bothering us, is that it doesn't appear to us, even with the changes up
till now, that it's solved the institutional versus institutional issues, which - and
maybe it has. But it's of grave concern to us. I would also ask - I don't want to take the
time today, but I would ask that you provide our commission, if you would, with your
analysis on the MI5 issue. As you know, it's something we're going to have to deal with.
And we're taking all information aboard that we may. So we'd appreciate that if you could
supply that to us.
RICE. I appreciate that. I want to be very clear. I think that we've made very
important changes. I think that they are helping us tremendously every day now in the Oval
Office in the morning. The F.B.I. director and the C.I.A. director sit with the president
sharing information in ways that they would have been prohibited to share that information
before. So very important changes have taken place. We need to see them mature. We need to
know how it's working. But we also have to be open to see what more needs to be done.
FIELDING. Well, it may be solved at the top. We've got to make sure it's solved at the
RICE. I agree completely.
FIELDING. And kind of related to that, we've heard testimony - a great deal of it -
about the coordination that took place during the millennium threat in 1999 where there
were a series of principals meetings and a lot of activity, as we're told, which stopped
and prevented incidents. It was a success. It was an intelligence success. And there had
to be domestic coordination with foreign intelligence and everything. But it seemed to
work. The time ended, the threat ended and apparently the guard was let down a little too
as the threat diminished. Now we've also heard testimony about what we would call the
summer threat, the spike threat, whatever it is, of 2001. A lot of chatter and you've
shared some of it with us directly. A lot of traffic during - and a lot of threats. And
during that period actually you put in context - I guess it was the first draft of the
N.S.P.D. was circulated to deputies. But right then, when that was happening, the threats
were coming in and it's been described as a crescendo and hair on fire and all these
different things. At that time, the C.S.G. handled the alert, if you will. And we've heard
testimony about Clarke warning you and the N.S.C. that State and C.I.A. and the Pentagon
had concerns and were convinced there was going to be a major terrorist attack. And on
July 5, I believe it was, domestic agencies including the F.B.I. and the F.A.A. were
briefed by the White House, alerts were issued. The next day the C.I.A. told the C.S.G.
participants - and I think they said they believed the upcoming attack would be as
spectacular, something quantitatively different from anything that had been done to date.
So everybody was worried about it. Everybody was concentrating on it. And then later the
crescendo ended and again it abated. But of course, that time the end of the story wasn't
pleasant. Now, during this period of time, what - and I'd like you to just respond to
several points - what involvement did you have in this alert? And how did it come about
that the C.S.G. was handling this thing as opposed to the principals? Because, candidly,
it has been suggested that the difference between the 1999 handling and this one was that
you didn't have the principals dealing with it; therefore it wasn't given the priority,
therefore the people weren't forced to do what they would otherwise have done, etc. You've
heard the same things I've heard. But, and would it have made a real difference in
enhancing the exchange of intelligence, for instance, if it had been the principals. I
would like your comments both on your involvement and your comment to that question. Thank
RICE. Of course. Of course.
Let me start by talking about what we were doing and the structure we used. I've
mentioned that the C.S.G., yes, was the counterterrorism group was the nerve center, if
you will. And that's been true through all crises. I think it was in fact a nerve center
as well during the millennium, that they were the counterterrorism experts, they were able
to get together. They got together frequently. They came up with taskings that needed to
be done. I would say that if you look at the list of taskings that they came up with, it
reflected the fact that the threat information was from abroad. It was that the agencies
like the Department of State needed to make clear to Americans traveling abroad that there
was a danger, that embassies needed to be on alert, that our force protection needed to be
strong for our military forces. The Central Intelligence Agency was asked to do some
things. It was very foreign policy or foreign threat-based as well. And of course the
warning to the F.B.I. to go out and task their field agents. The C.S.G. was made up of not
junior people but the top level of counterterrorism experts. Now they were in contact with
their principals. Dick Clarke was in contact with me quite frequently during this period
of time. When the C.S.G. would meet he would come back, usually through e-mail, sometimes
personally, and say, Here's what we've done. I would talk every day, several times a day,
with George Tenet about what the threat strike - spike looked like. In fact, George Tenet
was meeting with the president during this period of time so the president was hearing
directly about what was doing - being done about the threats to - the only really specific
threats we had to Genoa, to the Persian Gulf. There was one to Israel. So the president
was hearing what was being done. The C.S.G. was the nerve center. But I also - I just
don't believe that bringing the principals over to the White House every day and having
their counterterrorism people have to come with them and be pulled away from what they
were doing, to disrupt, was a good way to go about this. It wasn't an efficient way to go
about it. I talked to Powell, I talked to Rumsfeld about what was happening with the
threats and with the alerts. I talked to George. I asked that the attorney general be
briefed because even though there were no domestic threats, I didn't want him to be
without that briefing. It's also the case that - I think if you actually look back at the
millennium period, it's questionable to me whether the argument that has been made that
somehow shaking the trees is what broke up the millennium period is actually accurate. And
I was not there, clearly. But I will tell you this. I will say this: That the millennium,
of course, was a period of high threat by its very nature. We all knew that the millennium
was a period of high threat. And after Sept. 11, Dick Clarke sent us the after-action
report that had been done after the millennium plot. And their assessment was that Rassam
had been caught by chance. Well, Rassam being the person who was entering the United
States over the Canadian border with bomb-making materials in store. I think it actually
wasn't by chance, which was the - Washington's view of it. It was because a very alert
customs agent named Diana Dean and her colleagues sniffed something about Rassam. They saw
that something was wrong. They tried to apprehend him. He tried to run. They then
apprehended him, found that there was bomb-making material and a map of Los Angeles. Now,
at that point you have pretty clear indication that you've got a problem inside the United
States. I don't think it was shaking the trees that produced the breakthrough in the
millennium plot. It was that you got a - Dick Clarke would say a lucky break. I would say
you got an alert Customs agent who got it right. And the interesting thing is that, I've
checked with Customs and according to their records, they weren't actually on alert at
that point. So I just don't buy the argument that we weren't shaking the trees enough and
that something was going to fall out that gave us, somehow, that little piece of
information that would have led to connecting all of those dots. In any case, you cannot
be dependent on the chance that something might come together. That's why the structural
reforms are important.
(Page 17 of 36)
And the president of the United States had us at battle stations during this period of
time. He expected his Secretary of State to be locking down embassies. He expected his
Secretary of Defense to be providing force protection. He expected his F.B.I. director to
be tasking his agents and getting people out there. He expected his director of central
intelligence to be out and doing what needed to be done in terms of disruption. And he
expected his national security adviser to be looking to see that, or talking to people to
see that that was done. But I think we've created a kind of false impression or a not
quite correct impression of how one does this in a threat period.
I might just add that during the China period, the 11 days of the China crisis, I also
didn't have a principals meeting.
FIELDING. Thank you, Dr. Rice. Thank you Mr. Chairman.
KEAN. Thank you, Commissioner Fielding. Commissioner Gorelick.
KEAN. Thank you, Commissioner Fielding. Commissioner Gorelick.
JAMIE S. GORELICK. Dr. Rice, thank you for being here today. I'd like to pick up where
Fred Fielding and you left off, which is this issue of the extent to which raising the
level to the Cabinet level and bringing people together makes a difference.
And let me just give you some facts as I see them and let you comment on them. First of
all while it may be that Dick Clarke was informing you, many of the other people at the
C.S.G. level and the people who were brought to the table from the domestic agencies were
not telling their principals. Secretary Mineta, the secretary of transportation, had no
idea of the threat. The administrator of the F.A.A. responsible for security on our
airlines had no idea. Yes, the attorney general was briefed, but there is no evidence of
any activity by him about this.
You indicate in your statement that the F.B.I. tasked its field offices to find out
what was going on out there. We have no record of that. The Washington field office
international terrorism people say they never heard about the threat, they never heard
about the warnings, they were not asked to come to the table and shake those trees.
S.A.C.'s, special agents in charge around the country, Miami in particular, no knowledge
And so I really come back to you - And let me ask, add one other thing, have you
actually looked at the, analyzed the messages that the F.B.I. put out?
GORELICK. To me, and you're free to comment on them, they are feckless. They don't tell
anybody anything. They don't bring anyone to battle stations. And I personally believe,
having heard Coleen Rowley's testimony about her frustrations in the Moussaoui incident,
that if someone had really gone out to the agents who were working these issues on the
ground and said, We are at battle stations, we need to know what's happening out there,
come to us - she would have broken through barriers to have that happen. Because she was
knocking on doors and they weren't opening.
So I just, I ask you this question as a student of government myself, because I don't
believe it's functionally equivalent to have people three, four, five levels down at an
agency working an issue, even if they're the specialists, and you get a greater degree of
intensity when it comes from the top. And I just, I would like to give you the opportunity
to comment on this because it bothers me.
RICE. Of course. Of course. First of all it was coming from the top because the
president was meeting with his director of central intelligence. And one of the changes
that this president made was to meet face to face with his director of central
intelligence almost every day. I can assure you, knowing government, that that was well
understood at the Central Intelligence Agency, that now their director and the D.C.I. had
direct access to the president.
Yes, the president met with the director of the F.B.I. I'll have to see when and how
many times, but of course he did. And with the attorney general and with others.
But in a threat period, and I don't think it's a proper characterization of the C.S.G.
to say that it was four or five levels down -
GORELICK. Many of them were.
RICE. These were people who had been together in numerous crises before, and it was
their responsibility to develop plans for how to respond to a threat.
(Page 18 of 36)
Now I would be speculating, but if you would like I will go ahead and speculate, to say
that one of the problems here was there really was nothing that looked like it was going
to happen inside the United States. The threat reporting was, the specific threat
reporting was about external threats, about the Persian Gulf, about Israel, about perhaps
the Genoa events. It is just not the case that the Aug. 6 memorandum did anything but put
together what the C.I.A. decided that they wanted to put together about historical
knowledge about what was going on and a few things about what the F.B.I. might be doing.
And so the light was shining abroad. And if you look at what was doing, we were, I was
in constant contact to make sure that those things were getting done with the relevant
agencies - with State, with Defense and so forth.
Now I just, we just have a different view of this.
GORELICK. Yes, I understand that. But - I think it's one thing to talk to George Tenet,
but he can't tell domestic agencies what to do. Let me finish.
RICE. Yes, no please.
GORELICK. And it is clear that you were worried about the domestic problem because
after all your testimony is you asked Dick Clarke to summon the domestic agencies.
Now you say that, and I think quite rightly, that the big problem was systemic. That
the F.B.I. could not function as it should and it didn't have the right methods of
communicating with the C.I.A. and vice versa.
At the outset of the administration a commission that was chartered by Bill Clinton and
Newt Gingrich, two very different people covering pretty much the political spectrum, put
together a terrific panel to study the issue of terrorism and report to the new
administration as it began. And you took that briefing I know.
That commission said we are going to get hit in the domestic United States and we are
going to get hit big. That's No. 1. And No. 2, we have big systemic problems. The F.B.I.
doesn't work the way it should and it doesn't communicate with the intelligence
Now you have said to us that your policy review was meant to be comprehensive. You took
your time because you wanted to get at the hard issues and have a hard-hitting
comprehensive policy. And yet there is nothing in it about the vast domestic landscape
that we were all warned needed so much attention. Can you give me the answer to the
RICE. I would ask the following. We were there for 233 days. There had been recognition
for a number of years before, after the '93 bombing and certainly after the millennium,
that there were challenges, if I could say it that way, inside the United States. And that
there were challenges concerning our domestic agencies and the challenges concerning the
F.B.I. and the C.I.A. We were in office 233 days. It's absolutely the case that we did not
begin structural reform of the F.B.I.
Now the vice president was asked by the president, and that was tasked in May, to pull
all of this together and to see if he could put together from all of the recommendations a
program for protection of the homeland against W.M.D., what else needed to be done. And in
fact he had hired Admiral Steve Abbott to do that work, and it was on that basis that we
were able to put together the Homeland Security Council, which Tom Ridge came to head,
very, very quickly.
But I think the question is why over all of these years did we not address the
structural problems that were there with the F.B.I., with the C.I.A., the homeland
departments being scattered among many different departments? And why, given all of the
opportunities that we'd had to do it, had we not done it? And I think that the
unfortunate, and I really do think it's extremely tragic, the fact is that sometimes,
until there is a catastrophic event that forces people to think differently, that forces
people to overcome old customs and old culture and old fears about domestic intelligence
and the relationship, that you don't get that kind of change.
And I want to say just one more thing if you don't mind about the issue of high-level
attention. The reason that I asked Any Card to come with me to that meeting with Dick
Clarke was that I wanted him to know, I wanted Dick Clarke to know that he had the weight
not just of the national security advisor but the weight of the chief of staff if he
needed it. I didn't manage the domestic agencies. No national security adviser does.
(Page 19 of 36)
And not once during this period of time did my very experienced crisis manager say to
me, You know, I don't think this is getting done in the agencies - I'd really like you to
call them together or make a phone call. In fact, after the fact on Sept. 15 what Dick
Clarke sent me, and he was my crisis manager, what he sent me was a memorandum, or an
e-mail that said, After national unity begins to breakdown - again, I'm paraphrasing -
people will ask did we do all that we needed to do to arm the domestic agencies, to warn
the domestic agencies and to respond to the possibility of a domestic threat?
That I think was his view at the time. And I have to tell you, I think given the
circumstances and given the context and given the structures that we had, we did.
GORELICK. Well I have lots of other questions on this issue, but I am trying to get out
my, what will probably be my third and last question to you. So if we could move through
this reasonably quickly. I was struck by your characterization of the N.S.P.D., the policy
that you arrived at at the end of the administration, as having the goal of the
elimination of Al Qaeda. Because as I look at it - and I thank you for declassifying this
this morning, although I would have liked to have known it a little earlier, but I think
people will find this interesting reading - it doesn't call for the elimination of Al
Qaeda, and it may be a semantic difference but I don't think so, it calls for the
elimination of the Al Qaeda threat.
And that's a very big difference because to me the elimination of Al Qaeda means you're
going to go into Afghanistan and you're going to get them. And as I read it and as I've
heard your public statements recently, there was not, I take it, a decision taken in this
document to put U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan to get Al Qaeda. Is that correct?
RICE. That is correct.
GORELICK. Now you have pointed out that in these, in this document there is a tasking
to the Defense Department for contingency planning as part of this exercise - contingency
planning. And you've listed the goals of the contingency plans. And you have suggested
that this takes the policy with regard to terrorism for our country to a new level, a more
aggressive level. Were you briefed on Operation Infinite Resolve that was put in place in
'98 and updated in the year 2000? Because as I read Infinite Resolve and as our staff
reads Infinite Resolve, it was a plan that had been tasked by the Clinton administration
to the Defense Department to develop precisely analogous plans, and it was extant at the
And so I ask you - and there are many, many places where you indicate there are
differences between the Clinton program and yours, this one jumps out at me - Was there a
material difference between your view of the military assignment and the Clinton
administration's extant plan? And if so, what was it?
RICE. Yes, I think that there were significant differences. First of all, Secretary
Rumsfeld I think has testified that he was briefed on Infinite Resolve. It would have been
highly unusual for me to be briefed on military plans were we not in fact planning to use
them for employment. And so I'm not surprised -
GORELICK. Well except that you were tasking, pardon me for interrupting, you were
tasking the military to do something as part of this seven-and-a-half-month process. So
I'm, it would strike me as likely that you would have wanted to know what the predicate
RICE. We were tasking the secretary of defense, who in fact had been briefed on
Infinite Resolve, to develop within the context of a broader strategy military plans that
were now linked to certain political purposes. I worked in the Pentagon. I worked for the
Joint Chiefs of Staff. There are plans and plans and plans. And the problem is that unless
those plans are engaged by the civilian leadership on behalf of the president, unless
those plans have an adequate political basis and political purpose in mind, those plans
simply sit and they in fact rarely get used.
(Page 20 of 36)
Now the whole tortured history of trying to use military power in support of
counter-terrorism objectives has been I think very admirably and adequately discussed by
your staff in the military paper. And what is quite clear from that paper is that from the
time of presidential directive 62, which keeps the Defense Department focused on force
protection and rendition of terrorists and so forth, all the way up through the period
when we take office, this issue of military plans and how to use military power with
counter-terrorism objectives just doesn't get addressed.
What we were doing was to put together a policy that brought all of the elements
together. It tasked the secretary of defense within the context of a plan that really
focused not just on Al Qaeda and bin Laden but also on what we also might be able to do
against the Taliban, and that gave the kind of regional context that might make it
possible to use military force more robustly, to work plans in that context. I think
without that context you're just going to have military plans that never get used.
I read Sandy Berger, or saw Sandy Berger's testimony. He talked about the fact that
whenever they started to look at the use of military plans, the issue of whether you would
get regional cooperation always arose. That was precisely what I was saying when I said
that we had to get the regional context right.
I am not going to tell you that we were looking to invade Afghanistan during that seven
months. We were not. But we were looking, in the context of a plan that gave you a better
regional context, that looked to eliminate the Al Qaeda threat or Al Qaeda, that looked to
eliminate Taliban support for them, how to use military power within that context.
KEAN. Last follow-up.
GORELICK. In order to keep us to our schedule I'll just make this comment and we'll, I
think profitably, follow up with you in a private session. P.D.D. 62, which was the
presidential directive in the Clinton administration, was not the only way in which the
Defense Department was tasked. I mean Infinite Resolve went well beyond what you described
P.D.D. 62 as doing. That's No. 1
And No. 2, however good it might have been to change the context in which the military
planning was ongoing, neither I nor I think our staff can find any functional difference
between the two sets of plans. And I'll leave it to my colleagues.
RICE. Thank you very much. But I continue to believe that unless you can tell the
military in the context what it is they're going after and for what purpose, you're going
to have military plans that every time you ask for the briefing turn out to be unusable.
GORELICK. I'm sure that this debate will continue.
KEAN. Senator Gorton.
KEAN. Senator Gorton.
SLADE GORTON. Before 9/11 did any adviser to you or to your knowledge to this
administration or to its predecessor counsel the kind of all out war against the Taliban
and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan that the United States actually conducted after 9/11?
RICE. No, sir. No one counseled an all-out war against Afghanistan of the kind that we
did after 9/11. There was a good deal of talk about the inadequacy of military options to
go after Al Qaeda. Dick Clarke was quite clear in his view that the various things that
had been tasked were inadequate to the task. And so we were, people were looking for other
kinds of military options. But no, an all-out invasion of Afghanistan was not recommended.
GORTON. Was it possible to conduct that kind of war in Afghanistan without the
cooperation of Pakistan?
RICE. It was absolutely not possible. And this goes also to the point that I was making
to Commissioner Gorelick. You can have lots of plans but unless, since the United States
sits protected by oceans, or no longer protected, the United States sits across oceans,
unless you find a way to get regional cooperation from Pakistan, from the Central Asian
countries you're going to be left with essentially standoff options, meaning bombers and
cruise missiles. Because you're not going to have the full range of military options.
(Page 21 of 36)
GORTON. Now your written and oral statement spoke of a frustrating and unproductive
meeting with the president of Pakistan in June. Let me go beyond that. How much progress
had the United States made toward the kind of necessary cooperation from Pakistan by say
the 10th of September 2001?
RICE. The United States had a comprehensive plan that the deputies had approved that
would have been coming to the principals shortly and I think approved easily because the
deputies are of course very senior people who have the confidence of their principals.
That was going to try to unravel this overlapping set of sanctions that were on Pakistan,
some because of the way Musharraf had come to power. Some because of nuclear issues. We
were looking to do that. Rich Armitage tells me that when he approached the Pakistanis
after Sept. 11 he did presage that we would try and do this also with a positive side. But
the plans were not in place. Changing Pakistan's strategic direction was going to take
GORTON. Would the program recommended on Sept. 4, would the program recommended on
Sept. 4 have prevented 9/11 had it been adopted in say February or March of 2001?
RICE. Commissioner, it would not have prevented Sept. 11 if it had been approved the
day after we came to office.
GORTON. Now, in retrospect and given the knowledge that you had you and the
administration simply believed that you had more time to meet this challenge of Al Qaeda
than was in fact that case. Is that not true?
RICE. It is true that we understood that to meet this challenge it was going to take
time. It was a multi-year program to try and meet the challenge of Al Qaeda. That doesn't
mean that when you get immediate threat reporting that you don't do everything that you
can to disrupt at that particular point in time. But in terms of the strategy of trying to
improve the prospects of Pakistan withdrawing support from Taliban, with presenting the
Taliban with possible defeat because you were dealing not just with the Northern Alliance
but with the southern tribes, that we believed was going to take time.
GORTON. ... turned out in retrospect you didn't have the time to do it.
RICE. We didn't. Although I will say that the document that was then approved by the
president after Sept. 11, what happened was that the N.S.P.D. was then forwarded to the
president in its post-Sept. 11 context. And many of the same aspects of it were used to
guide the policy that we actually did take against Afghanistan. And the truth of the
matter is that as the president said on Sept. 20 this is going to take time. We're still
trying to unravel Al Qaeda. We're still trying to deal with worldwide terrorist threats.
So it's obvious that even with all of the force of the country after Sept. 11 this is a
GROTON. One subject that certainly any administration in your place would not like to
bring up but I want to bring up in any event is the fact is that we've now gone two and a
half years and we have not had another incident in the United States even remotely
comparable to 9/11. In your view, there have been many such horrific incidents in other
parts of the world from Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda look-alikes. In your view, have the measures
that have been taken here in the United States actually reduced the amount of terrorism or
simply displaced it and caused it to move elsewhere?
RICE. I believe that we have really hurt the Al Qaeda network. We have not destroyed
it. And it is clear that it was much more entrenched and had relationships with many more
organizations than I think people generally recognize. I don't think it's been displaced.
But they realize that they are in an all-out war. And so you're starting to see them try
to fight back. And I think that's one reason that you're getting the terrorist attacks
that you are. But I don't think it's been displaced. I think it's just coming to the
GROTON. Well, maybe you don't understand what I mean by displacement. Do you not think
that Al Qaeda and these terrorist entities are now engaged in terrorism where they think
it's easier than it would be in the United States? That's what I mean about displacement.
(Page 22 of 36)
RICE. Oh, I see. I'm sorry. I didn't understand the question. I think that it is
possible that they are, that they recognize the heightened security profile that we have
post-Sept. 11. And I believe that we have made it harder for them to attack here. I will
tell you that I get up every day concerned because I don't think we've made it impossible
for them. We're safer but we're not safe. And as I said they have to be right once, we
have to be right 100 percent of the time. But I do think that some of the security
measures that we have taken, some of the systemic and systematic security measures that we
have taken have made it a lot harder for them.
GROTON. I think in one sense there are three ways in which one can deal with a threat
like this. And I would like your views on how well you think we've done in each of them
and maybe even their relative importance. One is hardening targets, the kind of
disruptions we have every time we try to travel on an airplane. The second is prevention.
And a lot has been spoken here about that, whether we're better able to find out what
their plans are and frustrate those plans. And the third is one that you talked about in
your opening statement, preemption, going at the cause. How do you balance in a free
society those three generic methods of going after terrorism?
RICE. I sincerely hope that one of the outcomes of this commission is that we will talk
about balance between those. Because we want to prevent the next terrorist attack. We
don't want to do it at the expense of who we are as an open society. And I think that in
terms of hardening we've done a lot. If you look at the airport security now it's
considerably very much different than it was prior. And there's a transportation security
agency that's charged with that. Tom Ridge and his people have an actual unit that sits
around and worries about critical infrastructure protection and works with local and state
governments to make sure that critical infrastructure is protected. I think we're making a
lot of progress in hardening. In terms of - but we're never going to be able to harden
enough to prevent every attack.
We have in terms of prevention increased the worldwide attention to this problem. When
Louis Freeh put together the Legat system, the legal attache system, abroad - and I'm sure
that you, Commissioner Gorelick, as a former deputy attorney general will remember that.
It became a very important to(ol?) also 9/11 to be able to work with the law enforcement
agencies abroad. Now married up with foreign intelligence in a way that helps us to be
able to disrupt abroad in ways that I think we were not capable of disrupting before. Many
of our democratic partners are having some of the same debates that we are about how to
have prevention without issues of civil liberties being exposed. We think that the Patriot
Act gets just about - gets the right balance and that it's extremely important to
prevention because it makes law enforcement, usually in law enforcement you wait until a
crime is committed and then you act. We cannot afford in terrorism to wait until a crime
And finally, in terms of preemption I have to say that the one thing I've been struck
by in these hearings is when I was listening to the former secretaries and a current
secretary the other day, is the persistent argument, the persistent question of whether we
should have acted against Afghanistan sooner. Given that the threats were gathering, given
that we knew Al Qaeda had launched attacks against us, why did we wait until you had a
catastrophic attack to use strategic military power not tit for tat not a little tactical
military strike but strategic military power against this country? And the president has
said many times that after Sept. 11 we have learned not to let threats gather. And yet we
continue to have a debate about whether or not you have to go against threats before they
fully materialize on your soil.
GROTON. Ms. Rice, one final comment. I asked both the secretary of state and secretary
of defense that question about whether or not they didn't think we had more time than we
were actually granted the luxury of having. They both ducked the question totally. You at
least partly answered it. Thank you very much.
KEAN. Thank you, senator. Senator Kerrey.
(Page 23 of 36)
BOB KERREY. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And thank you Dr. Rice. Let me say at
the beginning I'm very impressed and ... I'd go as far as say moved by your story, the
story of your life and what you've accomplished. It's quite extraordinary. And I want to
say at the outset that notwithstanding perhaps the tone of some of my questions I'm not
sure that had I been in your position or Sandy Berger's position or President Bush or
President Clinton's position that I would have done things differently. I simply don't
know. But the line of questioning will suggest that I'm trying to ascertain why things
weren't done differently.
Let me ask a question, actually, I can't pass this up. I know it will take into my 10
minute time. But as somebody who supported the war in Iraq I'm not going to get the
national security adviser 30 feet away from me very often over the next 90 days. And I've
got to tell you I believe a number of things. I believe first of all we underestimate that
this war on terrorism is really a war against radical Islam. Terrorism is a tactic. It's
not a war itself. Secondly, let me say that I don't think we understand how the Muslim
world views us. And I'm terribly worried that the military tactics in Iraq are going to do
a number of things and they're all bad. One - please do not do that. Do not applaud. I
think we're going to end up with civil war if we continue down the military operations
strategy that we have in place. I say that sincerely as someone that supported the war in
the first place. Secondly, I don't know how it could be otherwise. Given the way that
we're able to see these military operations, even the restrictions that are imposed upon
the press that this doesn't provide an opportunity for Al Qaeda to have increasing success
at recruiting people to attack the United States. It worries me. And I wanted to make that
declaration. You needn't comment on it. But as I said I'm not going to have an opportunity
to talk to you this closely. And I wanted to tell you that I think the military operations
are dangerously off-track. And it's largely a U.S. Army, 125 out of 145, largely a
Christian army in a Muslim nation. So take that on board for what it's worth.
Let me ask you first of all a question that has been a concern for me from the first
day I came on the commission. And that is the relationship of our executive director to
you. Let me just ask you directly and you can just give me, keep it relatively short but I
wanted to get it on the record. Since he was an expert on terrorism did you ask Philip
Zelikow any questions about terrorism during transition? Since he was the second person
carded in the national security office and had considerable expertise?
RICE. Philip and I had numerous conversations about the issues that we were facing.
Philip was in fact, as you know, had worked in the campaign and helped with the transition
plan. So, yes.
KERREY. Yes, you did talk to him about terrorism?
RICE. We talked - Philip and I over a period of - we had worked closely together as
academics of course talked about -
KERREY. During the transition did you instruct him to do anything on terrorism?
RICE. Oh, to do anything on terrorism?
RICE. To help us think about the structure of the terrorism, Dick Clarke's operations,
KERREY. You've used the phrase a number of times and I'm hoping with my question to
disabuse you of using it in the future, you said the president was tired of swatting
flies. Can you tell me one example where the president swatted a fly when it came to Al
Qaeda prior to 9/11?
RICE. I think what the president was speaking to -
KERREY. No, what fly had he swatted?
RICE. Well, the disruptions abroad was what he was really focusing on. When the C.I.A.
would go after Abu(?) -
KERREY. No, no. He hadn't swatted -
RICE. - or go after this guy. That was what was meant.
KERREY. Dr. Rice, we only swatted a fly once on the 20th of August 1998. We didn't swat
any flies afterwards. How the hell could he be tired?
RICE. We swatted - I think he felt that what the agency was doing was going after
[audio glitch on CNN] and there. And that's what he meant by swatting flies. It was simply
a figure of speech.
(Page 24 of 36)
KERREY. Well, I think it's an unfortunate figure of speech. Because I think especially
after the attack on the Cole on the 12th of October 2000 it would not have been swatting a
fly. It would not have been - we did not need to wait to get a strategic plan. Dick Clarke
had in his memo on the 25th of January overt military operations. He turned that memo
around in 24 hours, Dr. Clarke.(as spoken) There were a lot of plans in place in the
Clinton administration, military plans in the Clinton administration. In fact, just since
we're in the mood to declassify stuff, he included in his Jan. 25 memo two appendixes.
Appendix A, strategy for the elimination of the jihadis threat of Al Qaeda. Appendix B,
political military plan for Al Qaeda. So I just, why didn't we respond to the Cole? Why
didn't we swat that fly?
RICE. I believe that there is a question of whether or not you respond in a tactical
sense or whether you respond in a strategic sense. Whether or not you decide that you're
going to respond to every attack with minimal use of military force. And go after - on a
kind of tit for tat basis. By the way, in that memo Dick Clarke talks about not doing this
tit for tat, doing this on a time of our choosing. I'm aware, Mr. Kerrey, of a speech that
you gave at that time that said that perhaps the best thing that we could do to respond to
the Cole and to the memories was to do something about the threat of Saddam Hussein.
That's a strategic view. And we took a strategic view. We didn't take a tactical view. I
mean it was really, quite frankly, I was blown away when I read the speech. Because it's a
brilliant speech. It talks about really an asymmetric approach.
KERREY. I presume you read it in the last few days.
RICE. Oh, no. I read it quite a bit before that. It's an asymmetric approach. Now you
can decide that every time Al Qaeda does something -
KERREY. You're saying that you didn't have a military response against the Cole because
of my speech?
RICE. I'm saying, I'm saying, no -
KERREY. That had I not given that speech you would have attacked them?
RICE. No, I'm just saying that I think it was a brilliant way to think about it. It was
a way of thinking about it strategically not tactically. But if I may answer the question
that you've asked me. The issue of whether to respond, how to respond to the Cole I think
Don Rumsfeld has also talked about this, yes, the Cole had happened. We received I think
on Jan. 25 the same assessment or roughly the same assessment of who was responsible for
the Cole that Sandy Berger talked to you about. It was preliminary. It was not clear. But
that was not the reason that we felt that we did not want to quote respond to the Cole. We
knew that the options that had been employed by the Clinton administration had been
standoff options. The president had - meaning missile strikes or perhaps bombers would
have been possible, long-range bombers although getting in place the apparatus to use
long-range bombers is even a matter of whether you have basing in the region. We knew that
Osama bin Laden had been in something that was provided to me bragging that he was going
to withstand any response and then he was going to emerge and come out stronger.
KERREY. You're figuring this out. You've got to give a very long answer.
RICE. We simply believed that the best approach was to put in place a plan that was
going to eliminate this threat not respond to it tit for tat.
KERREY. Dr. Clarke, look, let me say I think you could have come in here if you said
look we screwed up. We made a lot of mistakes. And you obviously don't want to use the `m'
word in here. And I would say, fine. It's game, set and match. I understand that. But this
strategic and tactical, it sounds like something for a seminar.
RICE. I just don't believe -
KERREY. It doesn't -
RICE. I do not believe to this day that it would have been a good thing to respond to
the Cole given the kinds of options that we were going to have. And with all due respect
to Dick Clarke, if you're speaking about the Delinda plan, my understanding is it was A,
never adopted and that Dick Clarke himself has said that the military portion of this was
not taken up by the Clinton administration so -
KERREY. Let me move into another area, Dr. -
RICE. - so we were not presented, I just want to be very clear on this because it's
been a source of controversy. We were not presented with a plan.
KERREY. That's not true.
RICE. We were not -
KERREY. It is not -
RICE. We were not presented - we were presented with the -
KERREY. I've heard you say that, Dr. Clarke. If that 25 Jan. 2001 memo was declassified
I don't believe -
RICE. That Jan. 25 memo -
KERREY. I don't -
RICE. That Jan. 25 memo has a series of actionable items having to do with Uzbekistan,
Northern Alliance -
KERREY. Let me move to another area.
RICE. May I finish answering your question though because this is an important point.
KERREY. I know it's important. Everything that's going on here is important but I've
got 10 minutes.
RICE. But since we have a point of disagreement I'd like to have a chance to address
(Page 25 of 36)
KERREY. Actually, we have many points of disagreement, Dr. Clarke. We'll have a chance
to do in closed session. You can't - please don't filibuster me. It's not fair. It is not
fair. I have been polite. I have been courteous. It is not fair to me. I understand that
we have a disagreement.
RICE. Commissioner, commissioner, I am here to answer questions. And you've asked me a
KERREY. No, it -
RICE. And I'd like to have an opportunity to answer it. The fact is that what we were
presented on January the 25th was a set of ideas -
RICE. - and a paper, most of which was about what the Clinton administration had done
and something called the Delinda plan, which had been considered in 1998 and never
adopted. We decided to take a different track. We decided to put together a strategic
approach to this that would get the regional powers - the problem wasn't that you didn't
have a good counterterrorism person. The problem was you didn't have a approach against Al
Qaeda because you didn't have an approach against Afghanistan. And you didn't have an
approach against Afghanistan because you didn't have an approach against Pakistan. And
until we could get that right you didn't have a policy.
KERREY. Thank you for answering my question.
RICE. You're welcome.
KERREY. Let me ask you another question. Here's the problem that I have. Again, it's
hindsight. I appreciate that. But here's the problem that a lot of people are having with
this July 5 meeting. You and Andy Card meet with Dick Clarke in the morning. You say you
have a meeting, he meets in the afternoon. It's July 5. As Christian Breitwiser(SP?), who
is a part of the families group, testified at the joint committee, she brings very painful
testimony I must say. But here's what agent Kenneth Williams said five days later. He said
that the F.B.I. should investigate whether Al Qaeda operatives were training at U.S.
flight schools. He posited that Osama bin Laden's followers might be trying to infiltrate
civil aviation system as pilots, as security guards, other personnel. He recommended a
national program to track suspicious flight schools. Now look, one of the first things
that I learned when I came into this town was the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. don't talk. I
don't need a catastrophic event to know that the C.I.A. and F.B.I. don't do a very good
job of communicating. The problem we've got with both this and the Moussai facts which
were revealed on the 15th of August, all it had to do is be put on Intel link. All it had
to do is go out on Intel link and the game's over. It ends. This conspiracy would have
been rolled up. And so I -
RICE. Commissioner, with all due respect I don't agree that we know that we had somehow
a silver bullet here that was going to work. What we do know is that we did have a
systemic problem, a structural problem between the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. It was a long
time in coming into being. It was there because there were legal impediments as well as
bureaucratic impediments. Those needed to be overcome. Obviously, the structure of the
F.B.I. that did not get information from the field offices up to F.B.I. central in a way
that F.B.I. central could react to the whole range of information before was a problem.
KERREY. But Dr. Rice everybody -
RICE. But the structuring of the F.B.I., the restructuring of the F.B.I. was not going
to be done in the 233 days in which we were in office.
KERREY. Dr. Rice, everybody who does national security in this town knows the F.B.I.
and the C.I.A. don't talk. So if you have a meeting on the 5th of July where you're trying
to make certain that you're domestic agencies are preparing a defense against a possible
attack you knew Al Qaeda cells were in the United States. You've got to follow up. And the
question is what was your follow up? What's the paper trail that shows that you and Andy
Card followed up from this meeting?
RICE. I -
KERREY. And made certain that the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. were talking?
RICE. I followed up with Dick Clarke who had in his group and with him the chief
counterterrorism person for the F.B.I. You have to remember that Louis Freeh was by this
time gone. And so the chief counterterrorism person was the second - Louis Freeh had left
in late June. And so the chief counterterrorism person for the F.B.I. was working these
issues, was working with Dick Clarke. I talked to Dick Clarke about this all the time. But
let's be very clear, the threat information that we were dealing with - and when you have
something that says something very big may happen you have no time, you have no place, you
have no how the ability to somehow respond to that threat is just not there.
KERREY. Dr. Clarke, Dr. Clarke -
RICE. Now, you've said.
KERREY. Dr. Clarke, and in the spirit of further declassification -
RICE. Sir, with all - I don't think I look like Dick Clarke.
KERREY. Dr. Rice, excuse me.
RICE. Thank you.
KEAN. This is the last question, senator.
(Page 26 of 36)
KERREY. Actually it won't be a question. In the spirit of further declassification this
is what the Aug. 6 memo said to the president. That the F.B.I. indicates patterns of
suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking.
That's the language of the memo that was briefed to the president on the 6th of August.
RICE. And that was checked out. And steps were taken through F.A.A. circulars to warn
of hijackings. But when you cannot tell people where a hijacking might occur under what
circumstances I can tell you that I think the best antidote to what happened in that
regard would have been many years before to think about what you could do, for instance,
to harden cockpits. That would have made a difference. We weren't going to harden cockpits
in the three months that we had a threat spike. The really difficult thing for all of us,
and I'm sure for those who came before us as well as for those of us who are here is that
the structural and systematic changes that needed to be made not on July 5 or not on June
25 or not on Jan.1, those structures and those changes needed to be made a long time ago.
So that the country was in fact hardened against the kind of threat that we faced on Sept.
11. The problem was that for a country that had not been attacked on its territory in a
major way in almost 200 years there were a lot of structural impediments to those kinds of
attacks. Those changes should have been made over a long period of time. I fully agree
with you that in hindsight, now looking back there are many things structurally that were
out of kilter. And one reason that we're here is to look at what was out of kilter
structurally, to look at what needed to be done, to look at what we already have done and
to see what more we need to do. But I think it is really quite unfair to suggest that
something that was a threat spike in June or July gave you the kind of opportunity to make
the changes in air security that could have - that needed to be made.
KEAN. Secretary Lehman.
JOHN LEHMAN. Thank you. Dr. Rice, I'd like to ask you whether you agree with the
testimony we had from Mr. Clarke that when asked whether if all of his recommendations
during the transition or during the period when his quote hair was on fire had been
followed immediately would it have prevented 9/11 he said no. Do you agree with that?
RICE. I agree completely with that.
LEHMAN. In a way, one of the criticisms that has been made or one of the perhaps
excuses for an inefficient hand off of power at the change, and the transition is indeed
something we're going to be looking to indepth, was it because of the circumstances of the
election it was the shortest handover in memory. But in many ways really it was the
longest handover, certainly in my memory, because while the cabinet changed virtually all
of the national and domestic security agencies and executive action agencies remained the
same. Combination of political appointees from the previous administration and career
appointees, C.I.A., F.B.I., J.C.S., the C.T.C., the counterterrorism center, the D.I.A.,
the N.S.A., the director of operations in C.I.A., the director of intelligence. So you
really up almost until with the exception of the I.N.S. head leaving and there be an
acting and Louis Freeh leaving in June, you essentially had the same government. Now that
raises two questions in my mind. One, a whole series of questions. What were you told by
this short transition from Mr. Berger and associates and the long transition leading up to
9/11 by those officials about these key, a number of key issues? And I'd like to ask them
quickly in turn. And the other is I'm struck by the continuity of the policies rather than
the differences. And both of these sets of questions are really directed towards what I
think is the real purpose of this commission. While it's certainly a lot more fun to be
doing the who struck John and pointing fingers of which policy was more urgent or more
important, so forth, the real business of this commission is to learn the lessons and to
find the ways to fix those dysfunctions. And that's what we have unanimity and true
nonpartisanship on this commission. So that's what's behind the rhetoric. That's behind
the questioning that we have.
First, during the short or long transition were you told before the summer that there
were functioning Al Qaeda cells in the United States?
(Page 27 of 36)
RICE. In the memorandum that Dick Clarke sent me on Jan. 25 he mentions sleeper cells.
There is no mention or recommendation of anything that needs to be done about them. And
the F.B.I. was pursuing them. And usually when things come to me it's because I'm supposed
to do something about it. And there was no indication that the F.B.I. was not adequately
pursuing the sleeper cells.
LEHMAN. Were you told that there were numerous young Arab males in flight training, had
taken flight training, were in flight training?
RICE. I was not. And I'm not sure that that was known at the center.
LEHMAN. Were you told that the U.S. Marshal program had been changed to drop any U.S.
Marshals on domestic flights?
RICE. I was not told that.
LEHMAN. Were you told that the red team in F.A.A., the red teams for 10 years had
reported their hard data that the U.S. airport security system never got higher than 20
percent effective and was usually down around 10 percent for 10 straight years.
RICE. To the best of my recollection I was not told that.
LEHMAN. Were you aware that I.N.S. had been lobbying for years to get the airlines to
drop the transit without visa loophole that enabled the terrorists and illegals to simply
buy a ticket through the transit without visa waiver and pay the airlines extra money and
RICE. I learned about that after Sept. 11.
LEHMAN. Were you aware that I.N.S. had quietly internally halved its internal security
RICE. I was not made aware of that. I don't remember being made aware of that, no.
LEHMAN. Were you aware that it was the U.S. government established policy not to
question or oppose the sanctuary policies of New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, San
Diego for political reasons, which policy in those cities prohibited the local police from
cooperating at all with federal immigration authorities?
RICE. I do not believe I was aware of that.
LEHMAN. Were you aware, to shift a little bit to Saudi Arabia, were you aware of a
program that was well established that allowed Saudi citizens to get visas without
RICE. I learned of that after 9/11.
LEHMAN. Were you aware of the activities of the Saudi Ministry of Religious Affairs
here in the United States during that transition?
RICE. I believe that only after Sept. 11 did the full extent of what was going on with
the Ministry of Religious Affairs became evident.
LEHMAN. Were you aware of the extensive activities that the Saudi government in
supporting over 300 radical teaching schools and mosques around the country, including
right here in the United States?
RICE. I believe we've learned a great deal more about this and addressed it with the
Saudi government since 9/11.
LEHMAN. Were you aware at the time of the fact that Saudi Arabia had, and were you told
that they had in their custody the C.F.O. and the closest confidante of Al Qaeda, of Osama
bin Laden, and refused direct access to the United States?
RICE. I don't remember anything of that kind.
LEHMAN. Were you aware that they would not cooperate and give us access to the
perpetrators of the Cobar Towers attack?
RICE. Was very involved in issues concerning Cobar Towers and our relations with
several governments concerning Cobar Towers.
LEHMAN. Were you aware - and it disturbs me a bit, and again, let me shift to the
continuity issues here. Were you aware that the - it was the policy of the Justice
Department, and I'd like you to comment as to whether these continuities are still in
place, for instance, before I go to Justice, were you aware that it was the policy and I
believe remains the policy today to fine airlines if they have more than two young Arab
males in secondary questioning? Because that's discriminatory.
RICE. No, I have to say that the kind of inside arrangements for the F.A.A. are not
really in my -
LEHMAN. Well, these are not so inside. Were you aware that the F.A.A. up till 9/11
thought it was perfectly permissible to allow four-inch knife blades aboard?
RICE. I was not aware.
(Page 28 of 36)
LEHMAN. O.K. Back to Justice. I was disturbed to hear you say on the continuity line
that the President Bush's first reaction to 9/11 and the question of Al Qaeda's
involvement was we must bring him to justice. Because we have had dozens and dozens of
interviewees and witnesses say that a fundamental problem of the dysfunction between
C.I.A. and Justice was the criminal, the attitude that law enforcement was what terrorism
was all about, not prevention and foreign policy. I think that there was at the time a
very strictly enforced wall in the Justice Department between law enforcement and
intelligence. And that repeatedly, there are many statements from presidents and attorneys
general and so forth that say that the first priority is bring these people to justice.
Protect the evidence. Seal the evidence and so forth. Do you believe that this has
RICE. I certainly believe that that has changed, Commissioner Lehman. Let me just go
back for one second though on the long list of questions that you asked. I think another
structural problem for the United States is that we really didn't have anybody trying to
put together all of the kinds of issues that you raised about what were doing with I.N.S.,
what we were doing with borders, what we were doing with visas, what we were doing with
airport security. And that's the reason that, first, the Homeland Security Council and
then Tom Ridge's initial job, and then the Homeland Security Department is so important.
Because you can then look at the whole spectrum of protecting our borders from all kinds
of threats and say what kinds of policies make sense and what kinds of policies don't. And
they now actually have somebody who looks at critical infrastructure protection, looks at
airport security, understands in greater detail than I think the national security adviser
could ever understand all of the practices of what is going on in transportation security.
That's why it is important that we made the change that we did.
As to some of the questions concerning the Saudis, I think that we have had really very
good cooperation with Saudi Arabia since 9/11 and since the May 12 attacks on Riyadh even
great cooperation. Because Saudi Arabia is I think fully enlisted in the war on terrorism.
And we need to understand that there were certain things that we didn't even understand
were going on inside the United States. It's not perhaps surprising that the Saudis didn't
understand some of the things that were going on in their country.
As to your last question though I think that that's actually where we've have the
biggest change. The president doesn't think of this as law enforcement. He thinks of this
as war. And for all of the rhetoric of war prior to 9/11, people who said we're at war
with the jihadis network, people who said that they've declared war on us and we're at war
with them, we weren't at war. We weren't on war footing. We weren't behaving in that way.
We were still very focused on rendition of terrorists, on law enforcement. And yes, from
time to time we did military plans or used a cruise missile strike here or there but we
did not have a sustained systematic effort to destroy Al Qaeda, to deal with those who
harbored Al Qaeda. One of the points that the president made in his very first speech on
the night of Sept. 11 was that it's not just the terrorists it's those who harbor them
too. And he put states on notice that they were going to be responsible if they sponsored
terrorists or if they acquiesced in terrorists being there. And when he said I want to
bring him to justice, again I think there was a little bit of nervousness about talking
about exactly what that means. But I don't think there's anyone in America who doesn't
understand that this president believes that we're at war. It's a war we have to win. And
that it is a war that cannot be fought on the defensive. It's a war that has to be fought
on the offense.
LEHMAN. Thank you. And you sure that -
KEAN. Last question, secretary.
(Page 29 of 36)
LEHMAN. Last question. As a last question tell us what you really recommend we should
address our attentions to to fix this as the highest priority, not just moving boxes
around. But what can you tell us in public here that we could do since we are outside the
legislature and outside the executive branch and can bring the focus of attention for
change. Tell us what you recommend we do.
RICE. My greatest concern is that as Sept. 11 recedes from memory that we will begin to
unlearn the lessons of what we've learned. And I think this commission can be very
important in helping us to focus on those lessons and then to make sure that the
structures of government reflect those lessons. Because those structures of government now
are going to have to last us for a very long time. I think we've done, the president,
under the president's leadership we've done extremely important structural change. We've
reorganized the government in a greater way than has been done since the 1947 National
Security Act created the Department of Defense, the C.I.A. and the National Security
Council. I think that we need to - we have a major reorganization of the F.B.I. where Bob
Mueller is trying very hard not just to move boxes but to change incentives to change
culture. Those are all very hard things to do. I think there have been very important
changes made between the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. Yes, everybody knew that they had trouble
sharing but in fact, we had legal restrictions to their sharing. And George Tenet and
Louis Freeh and others have worked very hard at that but until the Patriot Act we couldn't
do what we needed to do. And now I hear people who question the need for the Patriot Act,
question whether or not the Patriot Act is infringing on our civil liberties. I think that
you can address this hard question of the balance that we as an open society need to
achieve between the protection of our country and the need to remain the open society, the
welcoming society that we are. And I think you're in a better position to address that
than anyone. And I do want you to know that when you have addressed it the president is
not going to just be interested in the recommendations. I think he's going to be
interested in knowing how we can press forward in ways that will make us safer.
The other thing that I hope you will do is to take a look back again at the question
that keeps arising. I think Senator Gorton was going after this question. I've heard
Senator Kerrey talk about it. Which is the country like democracies do waited and waited
and waited as this threat gathered. And we didn't respond by saying we're at war with them
now we're going to use all means of our national assets to go against them. There are
other threats that gather against us. And what we should have learned from Sept. 11 is
that you have to be bold and you have to be decisive and you have to be on the offensive.
Because we're never going to be able to completely defend.
LEHMAN. Thank you very much.
KEAN. Congressman Roemer.
TIMOTHY ROEMER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Welcome, Dr. Rice. And I just want to say to
you that you've made it through two and a half hours so far with only Governor Thompson to
go. And if you'd like a break of five minutes I'd be happy to yield you some of Governor
Dr. Rice you have said in your statement, which I find very interesting, the terrorists
were at war with us but we were not at war with them. Across several administrations of
both parties the response was insufficient. And tragically, for all the language of war
spoken before Sept. 11 this country simply was not on a war footing. You're the national
security adviser to the president of the United States. The buck may stop with the
president, the buck certainly goes directly through you as the principal adviser to the
president on these issues. And it really seems to me that there were failures and
mistakes, structural problems, all kinds of issues here leading up to Sept. 11 that could
have and should have been done better. Doesn't that beg that there should have been more
accountability? That there should have been a resignation? Or two, that there should have
been you or the president saying to the rest of the administration somehow, somewhere that
this was not done well enough?
(Page 30 of 36)
RICE. Mr. Roemer, by definition we didn't have enough information. We didn't have
enough protection. Because the attack happened, by definition. And I think we've all asked
ourselves what more could have been done. I will tell you if we had known that an attack
was coming against the United States, an attack was coming against New York and Washington
we would have moved heaven and earth to stop it. But you heard the character of the threat
reporting we were getting. Something very, very big is going to happen. How do you act on
something very very big is going to happen beyond trying to put people on alert? Most of
the threat reporting was abroad. I took an oath, as I've said to -
ROEMER. I've heard it. I've heard you say this.
RICE. And I take it very seriously. I know that those who attacked us that day and
attacked us by the way because of who we are, no other reason but for who we are. That
they are the responsible parties for the war that they launched against us, -
ROEMER. But Dr. Rice -
RICE. - the attack that they made -
ROEMER. But you have said several times -
RICE. - and that our responsibility is to -
ROEMER. You have said several times that your responsibility being in office for 230
days was to defend and protect the United States.
RICE. Of course.
ROEMER. You had an opportunity, I think, with Mr. Clarke who had served a number of
presidents going back to the Reagan administration, who you had decided to keep on in
office, who was a pile driver, bulldozer, so to speak, but this person who you in the
Woodward interview, he's the very first name out of your mouth when you suspect that
terrorists have attacked us on September the 11th. You say, I think, immediately it was a
terrorist attack, get Dick Clarke the terrorist guy. Even before you mention Tenet and
Rumsfeld's names, get Dick Clarke. Why don't you get Dick Clarke to brief the president
before 9/11? Here is one of the consummate experts that never has the opportunity to brief
the president of the United States on one of the most lethal, dynamic and agile threats to
the United States of America. Why don't you use this asset? Why doesn't the president ask
to meet with Dick Clarke?
RICE. Well, the president was meeting with his director of central intelligence and
Dick Clarke is a very very fine counterterrorism expert and that's why I kept him on. And
what I wanted Dick Clarke to do was to manage the crisis for us and help us develop a new
strategy. And I can guarantee you when we had that new strategy in place the president who
was asking for it and wondering what was happening to it was going to be in a position to
engage it fully. The fact is that what Dick Clarke recommended to us as he has said would
not have prevented 9/11. I actually would say that not only would it not have prevented
9/11 but if we had done everything on that list we would have actually been off in the
wrong direction about the importance that we needed to attach to a new policy for
Afghanistan and a new policy for Pakistan. Because even though Dick is a very fine
counterterrorism expert he was not a specialist on Afghanistan. That's why I brought
somebody in who really understood Afghanistan. He was not a specialist on Pakistan. That's
why I brought somebody in to deal with Pakistan. He had some very good ideas. We acted on
Dick Clarke - let me just step back for a second -
ROEMER. Yes. I would appreciate it -
RICE. - and say we had a very good relationship.
ROEMER. - if you could be very concise here so I can get to some more issues.
RICE. But all that he needed to do was to say I need time to brief the president on
ROEMER. I think he did say that, Dr. Rice in a -
RICE. To my -
ROEMER. - private interview to us he said he asked to brief the president of the United
RICE. I have to say, I have to say, Mr. Roemer, to my recollection -
ROEMER. You say he didn't.
RICE. - Dick Clarke never asked me to brief the president on counterterrorism. He did
brief the president later on cyber security in July. But he to my recollection never
asked, and my senior directors have an open door to come and say I think the president
needs to do this, I think the president needs to do that. He needs to make this phone
call. He needs to hear this briefing. It's not hard to get done. But I just think that -
(Page 31 of 36)
ROEMER. Let me ask you a question. You just said that the intelligence coming in
indicated a big, big, big threat. Something was going to happen very soon and be
potentially catastrophic. I don't understand, given the big threat why the big principals
don't get together. The principals meet 33 times in seven months on Iraq, on the Middle
East, on missile defense, China, on Russia. Not once do the principals ever sit down, you
and your job description as the national security adviser, the secretary of state, the
secretary of defense, the president of United States and meet solely on terrorism to
discuss in the spring and the summer when these threats are coming in, when you've known
since the transition that Al Qaeda cells are in the United States, when as the P.D.B. said
on Aug. 6, bin Laden determined to attack the United States, why don't the principals at
that point say let's all talk about this? Let's get the biggest people together in our
government and discuss what this threat is and try to get our bureaucracies responding to
RICE. Once again, on the Aug. 6 memorandum to the president this was not threat
reporting about what was about to happen. This was an analytic piece that stood back and
answered questions from the president. But as to the principals meetings -
ROEMER. It has six or seven things in it, Dr. Rice, including the Rasam case when he
attacked the United States in the millennium.
RICE. Yes, -
ROEMER. Has the F.B.I. saying that they think that there are conditions -
RICE. No, it does not have F.B.I. saying that they think -
ROEMER. Dr. Rice.
RICE. - It has the F.B.I. saying that they've observed some suspicious activity. That
was checked out with the F.B.I.
ROEMER. That is equal to what might be conditions(?) for an attack.
RICE. No. Mr. Roemer, Mr. Roemer, threat reporting -]
ROEMER. Would you say, Dr. Rice that we should make that P.D.B. a public document so -
RICE. Mr. Roemer -
ROEMER. - so we can have this conversation?
RICE. Mr. Roemer, threat reporting is we believe that something is going to happen here
at this time under these circumstances. This was not threat reporting.
ROEMER. Well, actionable intelligence, Dr. Rice is when you have the place, time and
date. The threat reporting saying the United States is going to be attacked should trigger
the principals getting together to say we're going to do something about this.
RICE. Mr. Roemer, Mr. Roemer, let's be very clear. The P.D.B. does not say the United
States is going to be attacked. It says bin Laden would like to attack the United States.
I don't think you frankly had to have that report to know that bin Laden would like to
attack the United States.
ROEMER. So why aren't you doing something about that -
RICE. The threat reporting -
ROEMER. - earlier than Aug. 6 then?
RICE. The threat reporting to which we could respond was in June and July about threats
abroad. What we tried to do for just because people said you cannot rule out an attack on
the United States was to have the domestic agencies and the F.B.I. together to just pulse
them and let them be on alert. But there was nothing -
ROEMER. I agree with that.
RICE. - that suggested that there was going to be a threat to the United States.
ROEMER. I agree with that. So, Dr. Rice let's say then the F.B.I. is the key here. You
say that the F.B.I. was tasked with trying to find out what the domestic threat was. We
have done thousands of interviews here at the 9/11 commission. We've gone through
literally millions of pieces of paper. To date, we have found nobody, nobody at the F.B.I.
who knows anything about a tasking of field offices. We have talked to the director at the
time of the F.B.I. during this threat period, Mr. Picard. He says he did not tell the
field offices to do this. And we have talked to the special agents in charge. They don't
have any recollection of receiving a notice of threat. Nothing went down the chain to the
F.B.I. field offices on spiking of information, on knowledge of Al Qaeda in the country
and still the F.B.I. doesn't do anything. Isn't that some of the responsibility of the
national security adviser?
RICE. The responsibility for the F.B.I. to do what it was asked was the F.B.I.'s
responsibility. Now -
ROEMER. You don't think there's any responsibility back to the adviser of the
(Page 32 of 36)
RICE. I believe that the responsibility - again, the crisis management here was done by
the C.S.G. They tasked these things. If there was any reason to believe that I needed to
do something or that Andy Card needed to do something I would have been expected to be
asked to do it. We were not asked to do it. In fact, as I've mentioned to you -
ROEMER. But don't you ask somebody to do it? You're not asking somebody to do it. Why
wouldn't you initiate that?
RICE. Mr. Roemer, I was responding to the threat spike and to where the information
was. The information was about what might happen in the Persian Gulf, what might happen in
Israel, what might happen in North Africa. We responded to that and we responded
vigorously. Now the structure of the F.B.I.-
ROEMER. Dr. Rice, let me ask you -
RICE. - you will get into next week.
ROEMER. You've been helpful to us on that on -
KEAN. Last question congressman.
ROEMER. Last question, Dr. Rice talking about responses. Mr. Clarke writes you a memo
on September the 4th where he lays out his frustration that the military is not doing
enough, that the C.I.A. is not pushing this hard enough in their agency. And he says we
should not wait till the day that hundreds of Americans lay dead in the streets due to a
terrorist attack. And we think there could have been something more we could do. Seven
days prior to September the 11th he writes this to you. What's your reaction to that at
the time and what's your response to that at the time?
RICE. Just one final point I didn't quite complete. I of course, did understand that
the attorney general needed to know what was going on. And I asked that he take the
briefing and then asked that he be briefed. Because again, there was nothing demonstrating
or showing that something was coming in the United States. If there had been something we
would have acted on it.
ROEMER. I think we should make this document public, Dr. Rice. Would you support making
the Aug. 6 P.D.B. public?
RICE. The Aug. 6 P.D.B. had been available to you.
ROEMER. In a -
RICE. You are, you're describing it. And the Aug. 6 P.D.B. was a response to questions
asked by the president not a warning document.
ROEMER. Why wouldn't it be made public then?
RICE. Now as to - I think you know the sensitivity of presidential decision memoranda.
And I think you know the great lengths to which we have gone to make it possible for this
commission to view documents that are not generally, I don't know if they've ever been
made available in quite this way. Now as to what Dick Clarke said on Sept. 4. That was not
a premonition nor a warning. What that memorandum was was I was getting ready to go into
the Sept. 4 principals meeting to review the new N.S.P.D. and to approve the new N.S.P.D.
What it was was a warning to me that the bureaucracies would try to undermine it. Dick
goes into great and emotional detail about the long history of how D.O.D. has never been
responsive. How the C.I.A. has never been responsive, about how the Predator has gotten
hung up because the C.I.A. doesn't really want to fly it. And he says if you don't fight
through this bureaucracy, he says at one point they're going to all sign on to this
N.S.P.D. because they won't want to be - they won't want to say that they don't want to
eliminate the threat of Al Qaeda. He says but you really have, in effect, you have to go
in there and push them. Because we'll all wonder about the day when thousands of Americans
and so forth and so on. So that's what this document is. It's not a warning document. It's
not a - all of us had this fear. I think that the chairman mentioned that I had said this
in an interview that we would hope not to get to that day. But it would not be appropriate
or correct to characterize what Dick wrote to me on Sept. 4 as a warning of an impending
attack. What he was doing was I think trying to buck me up so that when I went in to this
principals meeting I was sufficiently on guard against the kind of bureaucratic inertia
that he had fought all of his life.
ROEMER. What is a warning if Aug. 6 isn't and Sept. 4 isn't to you?
(Page 33 of 36)
RICE. Well, Aug. 6 is most certainly a historical document that says here's how you
might think about Al Qaeda. A warning is when you have something that suggests that an
attack is impending. And we did not have on the United States threat information that was
in any way specific enough to suggest that something was coming in the United States. The
Sept. 4 memo as I've said to you was a warning to me not to get dragged down by the
bureaucracy not a warning about Sept. 11.
ROEMER. Thank you, Dr. Rice. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
KEAN. Thank you, congressman, very, very much. Our last questioner will be Governor
JAMES R. THOMPSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Dr. Rice, first thank you for your service
to this nation and this president. I think it can fairly be described by all, whether they
agree with you or not on various issues, as devoted to the interests of the president and
the country. And all Americans I believe appreciate that.
Thank you also for finally making it here. I know there was a struggle over
constitutional principles. I don't think your appearance today signals any retreat by the
president from the notion that the Congress should not be allowed to hail presidential
aides down to the Capitol and question them. We are not the Congress. We are not a
congressional committee. That's why you gave us the P.D.B.'s. And so we appreciate your
appearance and we appreciate the decision of the president to allow you to appear to not
just answer our questions because you've done that for five hours in private, but to
answer the questions of Americans who are watching you today.
I'm going to go through my questions, some of which have been tossed out because my
brothers and sisters asked them before me, as quickly as I can because we have to depart.
And I would appreciate it if you would go through your answers as quickly as you could,
but be fair to yourself.
I don't believe in beating dead horses, but there's a bunch of lame ones running around
here today. Let's see if we can't finally push them out the door.
Please describe to us your relationship with Dick Clarke. Because I think that bears on
the context of this - Well, let's just take the first question. He said he gave you a
plan. You said he didn't give you a plan. It's clear that what he did give you was a memo
that had attached to it not only the Delinda plan or whatever you want to describe Delinda
as, but a December 2000 strategy paper. Was this something that you were supposed to act
on? Or was this a compilation of what had been pending at the time the Clinton
administration had left office but had not been acted on? Or was this something he tried
to get acted on by the Clinton administration and they didn't act on it? What was it? How
did he describe it to you? What did you understand it to be?
RICE. What I understood it to be was a series of decisions, near-term decisions that
were pending from the Clinton administration. Things like whether to arm the Uzbeks - I'm
sorry, whether to give further counter-terrorism support to the Uzbeks, whether to arm the
Northern Alliance, a whole set of specific issues that needed decision. And we made those
decisions prior to the strategy being developed.
He also had attached the Delinda plan, which is my understanding was developed in 1998,
never adopted, and in fact had some ideas. I said, Dick, take the ideas that you've put in
this think-piece, take the ideas that were there in the Delinda plan, put it together into
a strategy not to roll back Al Qaeda, which had been the goal of the Clinton, of what Dick
Clarke wrote to us, but rather to eliminate this threat. And he was to put that strategy
But by no means did he ask me to act on a plan. He gave us a series of ideas. We acted
on those. And then he gave me some papers that had a number of ideas, more questions than
answers, about how we might get better cooperation, for instance, from Pakistan. We took
those ideas. We gave him the opportunity to write a comprehensive strategy.
(Page 34 of 36)
THOMPSON. I'd like to follow-up on one of Commissioner Roemer's questions. The
principals meetings. With all due respect to the principals, cabinet officers of the
president of the United States, Senate-confirmed, the notion that when principals gather
the heavens open and the truth pours forth is, to borrow the phrase of one of my fellow
commissioners, a little bit of hooey, I think. Isn't it a fact that when principals gather
in principals meeting they bring their staffs with them? Don't they line the walls? Don't
they talk to each other? Doesn't the staff speak up?
RICE. Absolutely - well actually when you have principals meetings they really
sometimes are to tell, for the principals to say what their staffs have said -
RICE. - have told them to say. I just have to, we may simply disagree on this, with
some of the commissioners, I do not believe that there was a lack of high-level attention.
The president was paying attention to this. How much higher level can you get? The
secretary of state and the secretary of defense and the attorney general and the line
officers are responsible for responding to the information that they were given. And they
The problem is that the United States was effectively blind to what was about to happen
into it. And you cannot depend on the chance that some principal might find out something
in order to prevent an attack. That's why the structural changes that are being talked
about here are so important.
THOMPSON. What you say in your statement before us today in Page 2 reminds me that
terrorism had a different face in the 20th century than it does today. And I just want to
be sure I understand the attitude of the Bush administration. Because you reference the
Lusitania and the Nazis and all these state-sponsored terrorist activities, when we know
today that the real threat is from either rogue state - Iran, North Korea - or from
stateless terrorist organizations - Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas. Does the Bush
administration get this difference?
RICE. We certainly understand fully that there are groups, networks that are operating
out there. The only thing I would say is that they are much more effective when they can
count on a state either to sponsor them or to protect them or to acquiesce in their
activities. That's why the policy that we developed was so insistent on sanctuaries being
taken away from them. You do have to take away their territory. When they can get states
to cooperate with them or when they can get states to acquiesce in their being on their
territory they're much more effective.
THOMPSON. The Cole. Why didn't the Bush administration respond to the Cole?
RICE. I think Secretary Rumsfeld has perhaps said it best: We really thought that the
Cole incident was past, that you didn't want to respond tit for tat. As I've said, there
is strategic response and there's tactical response. And just responding to another attack
in an insufficient way we thought would actually probably embolden the terrorists - they'd
been emboldened by everything else that had been done to them - and that the best course
was to look ahead to a more aggressive strategy against them.
I still believe to this day that the Al Qaeda were prepared for a response to the Cole
and that, as some of the intelligence suggested, bin Laden was intending to show that he
had yet survived another one and that it might have been counterproductive.
THOMPSON. I've got to say that answer bothers me a little bit because of where it
logically leads. And that is, and I don't like what-if questions but this is a what-if
question, what if in March of 2001 under your administration Al Qaeda had blown up another
U.S. destroyer? What would you have done? And would that have been tit for tat?
RICE. I don't know what we would have done. But I do think that we were moving to a
different concept that said that you had to hold at risk what they cared about, not just
try and punish them, not just try to go after bin Laden.
(Page 35 of 36)
I would like to think that we might have come to an effective response. I think that in
the context of war, when you're at war with somebody, it's not an issue of every battle or
every skirmish; it's an issue of can you do strategic damage to this organization. And we
were thinking much more along the lines of strategic damage.
THOMPSON. Well I'm going to sound like my brother Kerrey, which terrifies me somewhat,
but blowing up our destroyers is an act of war against us. Is it not? I mean how long
would that have to go on before we would respond with an act of war?
RICE. We had had several acts of war committed against us. And I think we believed that
responding kind of tit for tat, probably with inadequate military options, because for all
the plans that might have been looked at by the Pentagon or on the shelf they were not
connected to a political policy that was going to change the circumstances of Al Qaeda and
the Taliban and therefore the relationship to Pakistan.
Look, it can be debated as to whether or not one should have responded to the Cole. I
think that we really believed that an inadequate response was simply going to embolden
them. And I think you've heard that from Secretary Rumsfeld as well. And I believe we felt
very strongly that way.
THOMPSON. I'll tell you what I find remarkable, one word that hasn't been mentioned
once today, yet we've talked about structural changes to the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. and
cooperation: Congress. The Congress has to change the structure of the F.B.I. The Congress
has to appropriate funds to fight terrorism. Where was the Congress?
RICE. Well I think that the, when I made the comment that country was not on war
footing that didn't just mean the executive branch was not on war footing. The fact is
that many of the big changes that, quite frankly again, we were not going to be able to
make in 233 days, some of those big changes to require congressional action.
The Congress cooperated after Sept. 11 with the president to come up with the Patriot
Act, which does give to the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies the kind
of ability, legal ability, to share between them that was simply not there before.
You cannot depend on the chance that something might fall out of a tree. You cannot
depend on the chance that a very good customs agent who's doing her job with her
colleagues out in the State of Washington is going to catch somebody coming across the
border of the United States with bomb-making materials to be the incident that leads you
to be able to respond adequately.
This is hard. Because, again, we have to be right 100 percent of the time; they only
have to right once. But the structural changes that we have made since 9/11 and the
structural changes that we may have to continue to make give us a better chance in that
fight against the terrorists.
THOMPSON. I read this week an interview in Newsweek with your predecessor, Mr.
Brzezinski. He seemed to be saying that there is a danger that we can obsess about Al
Qaeda and lose sight of equal dangers. For example, the rise of a nuclear state, Iran, in
the Middle East and their apparent connection to Hezbollah and Hamas. Which may forecast
even more bitter fighting, as we're now learning, in Iraq. Or the ability of Hezbollah or
Hamas to attack us on our soil within the United States in the same way Al Qaeda did. Are
we keeping an eye on that?
RICE. We are keeping an eye and working actively with the international community on
Iran and their nuclear ambitions. I think that one thing that the global war on terrorism
has allowed us to do is to not just focus on Al Qaeda, because we have enlisted countries
around the world saying that terrorism is terrorism is terrorism - in other words, you
can't fight Al Qaeda and hug Hezbollah or hug Hamas - that we've actually started to
delegitimize terrorism in a way that it was not before. We don't make a distinction
between different kinds of terrorism, and we're therefore united with the countries of the
world to fight all kinds of terrorism. Terrorism is never an appropriate or justified
response just because of political difficulties.
(Page 36 of 36)
So, yes, we are keeping an eye on it. But it speaks to the point that we, an
administration, the United States administration cannot focus just on one thing. What the
war on terrorism has done is it's given us an organizing principle that allows us to think
about terrorism, to think about weapons of mass destruction, to think about the links
between them, and to form a united front across the world to try and win this war.
THOMPSON. Last simple question. If we come forward with sweeping recommendations for
change in how our law enforcement and intelligence agencies operate to meet the new
challenges of our time, not the 20th-century or the 19th-century challenges we've faced in
the past, and if the president of the United States agrees with them, can you assure us
that he will fight with all the vigor he has to get them enacted?
RICE. I can assure you that if the president agrees with the recommendations, and I
think we'll want to take a hard look at the recommendations, we're going to fight. Because
the real lesson of Sept. 11 is that the country was not properly structured to deal with
the threat that had been gathering for a long period of time. I think we're better
structured today than we ever have been. We've made a lot of progress. But we want to hear
what further progress we can make. And because this president considers his highest
calling to protect and defend the people of the United States of America, he'll fight for
any changes that he feels necessary.
THOMPSON. Thank you, Dr. Rice.
RICE. Thank you.
KEAN. Thank you. I might announce before we thank Dr. Rice that there was a lot of
discussion today about the P.D.B., presidential daily briefing, of Aug. 6. This is not to
do with Dr. Rice, but we have requested from the White House that that be declassified
because we feel it is important that the American people get a chance to see it. We are
awaiting an answer on our request and hope by next week's hearing that we might have it.
Dr. Rice, thank you. You have advanced our understanding of key events. We thank you
for all the time you've given us. We have a few remaining classified matters at some point
we'd like to discuss with you -
RICE. Of course.
KEAN. - in closed session if we could. And I thank you for that. We appreciate very
much your service to the nation. This concludes our hearing. The commission will hold its
next hearing on April 13 and 14 on law enforcement and the intelligence community. Thank
you very much.
RICE. Thank you.
. . . . . .