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Rice Defends Bush, Says White House Couldn't Have Done More to Avoid 9/11

StoryApril 09, 2004
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After weeks of stonewalling, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice testified in public and under oath Thursday before the bi-partisan panel of ex-government officials investigating the Sept. 11 attacks. Democracy Now! hosts a roundtable discussion on her testimony with two former-CIA analysts, two FBI whistleblowers and a 9/11 widow.

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice testified in public and under oath yesterday before the bi-partisan panel of ex-government officials investigating the Sept. 11 attacks.

In nearly three hours in the witness chair, Rice stuck to the White House line and insisted that there was "no silver bullet" that could have prevented 9/11. She defended the Bush administration’s approach to terrorism citing vague intelligence as well as "structural" problems with counter-terrorism efforts and inter-agency intelligence sharing.

Rice’s testimony, which was carried live by the networks, came after weeks of stonewalling by the White House. As part of the deal to have Rice testify, the 9/11 Commission cannot seek public testimony from any more White House officials.

In her widely anticipated appearance before the panel, Rice offered no apology for the government’s failure to prevent the attacks–as former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke did two weeks ago.

Clarke has blasted Bush for not considering terrorism to be an urgent issue before the Sept. 11 attacks and has accused the president of undermining the war on terror by invading Iraq.

When asked to rebut Clarke’s claim that Bush pressed him to find an Iraq connection to 9/11, Rice said she did not recall such a discussion. She added, "I’m quite certain the president never pushed anybody to twist the facts."

Rice also maintained that Bush was committed well before 9/11 to a broad approach to eradicating Al Qaeda. She said "He made clear to me that he did not want to respond to al-Qaida one attack at a time. He told me he was 'tired of swatting flies.'"

Some of the most heated exchanges at the hearing concerned a classified briefing memo prepared for the president on August 6, 2001. Rice said the memo "did not warn of attacks inside the United States. It was historical information based on old reporting."

The title of the memo: "Bin Laden Determined To Attack Inside the United States." Rice maintained that President Bush "understood the threat, and he understood its importance." Bush received the memo while on a month-long vacation on his ranch in Crawford Texas.

A joint House-Senate report issued last year found the briefing included "FBI judgments about patterns of activity consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks; as well as information acquired in May 2001 that indicated a group of bin Laden supporters was planning attacks in the United States with explosives."

Today, a roundtable discussion on Condoleezza Rice’s testimony. We speak with two former-CIA analysts, two FBI whistleblowers and a 9/11 widow.


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