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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Condoleezza Rice Testifies Before 9/11 Commission
Aired April 8, 2004 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning.
Condoleezza Rice at the nexus of the administration's anti-terror planning. And today, the star witness before the 9/11 Commission. Her long awaited testimony happens in one hour.
From Iraq, hundreds of insurgents in Fallujah said to have been killed. Where does the battle stand today? And U.S. Marines in action around the country. U.S. Marines in Fallujah promising they will soon control the center of that city. More today are injured in that fight.
We'll get to all of it this hour here on AMERICAN MORNING.
ANNOUNCER: This is AMERICAN MORNING.
Here is Bill Hemmer in Washington.
HEMMER: And good morning.
We are one hour away from Condoleezza Rice's testimony. That's the reason we are here in the nation's campaign. Good morning.
Yet again another very busy news day.
We'll get to the upcoming testimony in a moment there.
But first, developments that we are getting now from Iraq. Operation Vigilant Resolve continues in Fallujah, much of the fighting still centered around a mosque. At least four Marines were hurt in this one incident here. Their tank was hit by a rocket propelled grenade. Also inside the city, the Associated Press quoting hospital officials in Fallujah saying at least 280 Iraqis have died in the fighting.
And about 12 miles outside Baghdad, insurgents attacked a U.S. military convoy. After the attack, groups of Iraqis were seen dancing around those burning vehicles. There are no reports of casualties.
Also getting word from CNN out of Baghdad, two mortar rounds have been launched and landed inside the green zone, which is the area in Baghdad protected and now controlled by the Coalition Authority. This is where the ambassador, Paul Bremer, conducts his work, just to the west of the Tigris River in the central part of the Iraqi capital. No indications right now as to whether or not anyone was injured as a result of those mortar rounds.
Much more on Iraq as we move again throughout the hour here.
Also, Condoleezza Rice testifying today under oath in public before that Commission. What can we expect? A preview. Sixty minutes away.
Here's Dana Bash live at the White House there -- good morning, Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bill.
And after weeks of rejecting the idea of Condoleezza Rice testifying at all before this Commission, officials now say that she will use her time to tell a detailed story of what she says the Bush administration did to fight al Qaeda. It's a broad explanation and rejection of Richard Clarke's charges they didn't do enough.
And the details of the rejection will be really far reaching, Bill. Condoleezza Rice will have two and a half hours before the panel. She will be answering lots of questions after she gets her 20 minute opening statement. And that will really be a broad narrative, we're told by senior officials. She is going to talk about all of the things that she knows from her perch as the national security adviser that she did to coordinate.
Let's listen to more.
BASH (voice-over): She is one of the president's closest confidantes and Bush aides believe his most persuasive spokesperson on national security. When Condoleezza Rice raises her right hand, can she convince the Commission and the country she and the president did everything possible to prevent the attacks of 9/11?
Among the key questions she will have to answer, did Rice dismiss Richard Clarke's January 2001 memo that al Qaeda was an urgent threat.
RICHARD CLARKE, FORMER COUNTER-TERRORISM ADVISER: But although I continued to say it was an urgent problem, I don't think it was ever treated that way.
BASH: The president's former counter-terror chief, Richard Clarke, told the Commission he drew up a strategy five days into the Bush presidency to take on terror threats more aggressively. It was put on the back burner until a week before the attacks.
Did Rice ignore her predecessor's warnings to focus on Osama bin Laden?
SAMUEL BERGER, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I told my successor that she would be spending more time on terrorism and al Qaeda than any other issue. I did my best to emphasize the urgency I felt. BASH: She will also be defending her own actions. Did Rice personally do enough to coordinate government efforts against al Qaeda? Clarke charges Rice should have pressed intelligence agencies and brought in law enforcement for more information about terror cells, saying that may have prevented the attacks.
CLARKE: That kind of information was shaken out in December, 1999. It would have been shaken out in December of 2001 if she had been doing her job.
BASH: Rice will also likely have to defend against Clarke's charge that the president was quick to blame Saddam Hussein and that invasion of Iraq has taken their eye off the ball in fighting terrorism. But don't expect, Bill, a broad apology from Condoleezza Rice to the families of the victims of September 11 because White House officials say that they think that the terrorists are to blame, not the White House. But she certainly will express her sorrow -- Bill.
HEMMER: Again, thanks.
Dana Bash from a busy White House this morning. A lot of construction going on there. Thanks for hanging in there.
You can watch the entire testimony live here on CNN, again, 9:00 a.m. Eastern time, a little less than 60 minutes from now. Wolf Blitzer joins me a little later this hour for more coverage then.
Back to New York right now and Heidi Collins, working today yet again for Soledad -- good morning, there.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, Bill.
We want to take everyone back to Iraq now.
A top U.S. general in Iraq says there appear to be some links between Shiite Muslim militia who are battling coalition forces across southern Iraq and Sunni insurgents, who are locked in combat with U.S. Marines in Fallujah.
Meanwhile, a top Iraqi Governing Council member is resigning from his post.
For the very latest we go to Baghdad now, where our Jim Clancy is standing by live for us from there -- good afternoon to you there, Jim.
JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon from Baghdad, as well, to you.
We've got a situation here, we had a couple of mortars land in the green zone. Now, that's a huge area. Two or three of them fired in there. A CNN producer inside says they did appear to hit inside the green zone. No word of any casualties or damage.
But let's get directly to the main center of fighting this day. It's in the Sunni Triangle. Of course, the troubled city of Fallujah, where insurgents again are battling against U.S. Marines as they make a steady advance into the city. They are carrying out some specific raids, some specific targets on individuals that they believe are either linked to the insurgents or possibly took part in the killing of those four American service -- security contractors there one week ago.
We are getting reports from the Associated Press attributed to the director of Fallujah Hospital saying 280 Iraqis have been killed, more than 400 wounded.
Meantime, the Marines themselves say they are getting some help from the locals, but they're also taking some casualties. One U.S. tank that went perhaps too far was hit by rocket propelled grenades. Some of the Marines on board that tank were wounded, one of them seriously, apparently, from a video that we are seeing on that incident. His comrades helping him to safety.
So it's not a fight without costs that's going on there. There may be some negotiations under way. General Ricardo Sanchez alluded to that. There may be some negotiations going on, as well, with Muqtada al-Sadr's people. At least there were talks held yesterday. That according to a spokesman for Muqtada al-Sadr. Still no direct response from the U.S. other than the fact that they destroyed the al- Sadr office in Sadr City, one of his strongholds here in a suburb of Baghdad, home to many of the Shia Muslims of this city.
Destroying the office may not have a large strategic effect, but it certainly is symbolic. As we understand it right now, the U.S. message to Muqtada's supporters is one that is very -- taking a very hard line.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. GEN. RICARDO SANCHEZ, COMMANDER, JOINT TASK FORCE: Let there be no doubt we will continue the attacks until Sadr's influence is eliminated and Sadr's militia is no longer a threat to Iraq and its citizens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CLANCY: Sadr's militia is in charge, if you will, of a couple of cities across Iraq. In the southern stretch is Kut, along the Iranian border, and in al-Najaf, they are said to be in control there. That's a holy city to Shia. I think the coalition troops certainly in force around it. But at the same time, not willing to go in, at least just yet -- Heidi.
COLLINS: All right, Jim Clancy, thanks so much, coming to us live from Baghdad this morning.
U.S. officials in Iraq say what are expected to be massive pilgrimages to the city of Najaf may hamper coalition forces from moving against insurgents there.
Earlier this morning, I spoke with "Time" magazine reporter Brian Bennett from Baghdad.
He just returned from a visit to some of the Shiite cities in southern Iraq and asked him to describe what the scene was like.
BRIAN BENNETT, "TIME" MAGAZINE: I went to Najaf and Kufa, the two holy cities south of Baghdad, yesterday. And it was calm. Muqtada al-Sadr's militia Jesh Al-Mahdi is entirely in control in these two cities. The Kufa police station and the Najaf police station are empty of police and the Jesh Al-Mahdi are using police vehicles to launch attacks against the Spanish troops in the area.
COLLINS: So what's the difference, then, as to ever since Muqtada al-Sadr's militia took over, since then, in these areas, as you mentioned, what is the biggest difference that you see?
BENNETT: Well, on the street there seems to be very little difference. People are still going to the markets and traffic is proceeding normally. However, the significant difference is is that the coalition Provisional Authority has no control in this area. Their government offices are empty. Their police stations are empty and the man who is in control is the cleric, the young cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr.
COLLINS: You know, there are some reports, Brian, back here in the U.S. that say the support for al-Sadr that is being reported in the media -- and we're hearing a little bit from the administration, as well -- that it's actually much larger than we're hearing back here.
What's your take on that?
BENNETT: Well, I think what they have -- Muqtada's followers have been successful at doing, they may be small in number, but they are an intimidating force. They have been able to intimidate the police officers from leaving their posts at the station. They have intimidated people who would otherwise criticize Muqtada inside Najaf, who I had spoke to before this uprising, refuse to criticize him because they are scared of reprisal from his followers.
COLLINS: And, Brian, based on what you know and what you hear when you are there, what's your best estimation about the possibility of Sunni fighters and Shiite fighters actually joining together and rising up against coalition forces?
BENNETT: Well, we have heard a lot about cooperation between the fighters in Fallujah and the fighters in Sadr City, a slum neighborhood in north Baghdad. And I spoke with the leader of the Mahdi Army in Sadr City. And he said that he would be willing to cooperate with the tribes in the Fallujah area and one reporter who works for us and was in Sadr City said that he saw members of the dualim tribe from Fallujah come into Sadr City and offer their support to the followers of Muqtada al-Sadr.
COLLINS: "Time" magazine reporter Brian Bennett, with us earlier this morning from Baghdad.
And we are going to get back to Bill in Washington for more on Condoleezza Rice's testimony.
But first we want to get to the other news at this hour.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says some U.S. troops may have to stay longer in Iraq. Secretary Rumsfeld says he might delay the departure of units that had been scheduled to leave after one year, but stresses there is no decision yet. At a Pentagon briefing yesterday, Rumsfeld also insisted the situation in Iraq is not spinning out of control. He says this week's escalating violence is the work of a few thugs and not a popular uprising against the coalition.
San Francisco police say they are closing the case of the Zodiac killer after trying to track him down for 35 years. The suspected killer, who called himself the Zodiac, was linked to five crimes committed between 1968 and 1969. Police say the case is being placed as inactive, but not permanently closed, and would be reopened only if a promising lead came in.
Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry says he has a plan to cap government spending. Kerry responded to charges from Republicans that he is a tax and spend liberal. Speaking at Georgetown University, Kerry says he would cut the deficit in half in four years by taking away tax cuts from the wealthy. He says his plan would affect families earning over $200,000 a year.
That is the news at this hour.
Back to Bill now in Washington.
HEMMER: Judy had a great interview yesterday with Senator Kerry on "Inside Politics."
COLLINS: I saw that.
HEMMER: Really insightful stuff, too.
All right, a check of the weather, Heidi.
COLLINS: Still to come this morning, coalition forces continue the fight against Iraqi insurgents. Some U.S. troops get word they may be staying longer than expected. We got live to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.
HEMMER: Also from Washington, Condoleezza Rice testifies in 45 minutes. In a moment, one member of that Commission about what he plans on hearing today and asking.
Back in a moment here live in Washington on AMERICAN MORNING.
HEMMER: This is our focus this morning, the Capitol Building and Capitol Hill. The Hart Senate Office Building, about 45 minutes away for Condoleezza Rice, that much anticipated public under oath testimony. And from the White House, a picture here for you to set the scene again, 45 minutes away.
And we continue to ask the question this morning about the Commission members and what questions they will deliver today from that bipartisan panel -- five Democrats, five Republicans.
And a member of that Commission, former Republican Senator Slade Gorton, is our guest here live in Washington.
Nice to see you.
SLADE GORTON, 9/11 COMMISSIONER: Good morning.
HEMMER: Thanks for making time for us.
How have you gotten ready for this?
GORTON: We have a wonderful briefing book from a great staff that has everything that Condoleezza Rice has ever said on, you know, this, on this particular subject. But it's intriguing, we will get her testimony 15 minutes from now, 30 minutes before the hearing itself. We'll spend that half hour, you know, reading it with great care, because once she's given it in public, starting at 9:00, it will govern a lot of our questions.
HEMMER: Yes, and we want to get to the questions in a second here. But you mentioned what she has written, what she's said, which she's going to deliver in this opening statement for 20 minutes. In the past several weeks, she's given a number of interviews also. And over the past two and a half years, she's written a number of articles, specifically in the "Washington Post."
Have you taken that and made that a central part of your research for today's questioning?
GORTON: Yes, of course. Have I read every single word? No, I have not. But it is, you know, to the extent that we want to know what the policies of the Bush administration were, what policies they inherited, you know, from the Clinton administration, how they made their decisions and when they made their decisions -- what she's said in the past is important. What she says today will be vitally important and we want to see how consistent those two are.
HEMMER: Speaking with one of your colleagues, a Democrat, last hour, Tim Romer, asking him the question, you know, quite clearly you're not done today. You will have considerable testimony from significant Washington players next week. But where are we this afternoon on this issue? Where are we tomorrow when Condoleezza Rice is finished and go on from here?
GORTON: Well, let's back up a little. Remember, we've talked to Condoleezza Rice in private. And there are likely to be questions we ask there or would like to ask there that she couldn't answer because the answers are still classified. We will almost certainly see here again after this is over in private.
HEMMER: You believe so?
GORTON: I think we will. And we will see other people from the administration. But next week we go to a quite different subject. Here we're talking about external policies of the United States toward the Taliban, toward Afghanistan, toward Pakistan and the like and the way they were planned. Next week we begin to get internal and I think in many respects this is even more important when we speak to the FBI, to our law enforcement agencies, to INS. You know, what mistakes were made that allowed these 19 men to get into the country unobserved and not be properly trapped?
HEMMER: I only have about 20 seconds left for this answer. Bob Kerrey, another committee member, and a Democrat, too, was with me earlier this week on AMERICAN MORNING. He asked the question in August of 1998 why did the U.S. not declare war on an organization that had clearly declared war on the United States.
Have you been able to give a sufficient answer to that question?
GORTON: Remember, both secretaries of state, both Clinton's and Bush's secretaries of state, in a sense, answered that. And their answer was because it was absolutely impossible to imagine either President Clinton or President Bush declaring war on Afghanistan two years earlier. No one would have stood for it, not nationally, not internationally.
I have huge admiration for Bob Kerrey because he is the only person I know who believed that at the time. No one else did.
HEMMER: The only person you know?
GORTON: I was in the Senate myself. I, you know, it never crossed my mind that we should do something of that sort. And certainly no one in either government thought so.
HEMMER: You've got to get to Capitol Hill.
Thanks for spending time with us.
Senator Slade Gorton here in Washington, D.C.
We will certainly be watching.
Thank you again, sir.
GORTON: OK. HEMMER: 9:00 a.m. Eastern time is the start time here in Washington, that full testimony live here on CNN when it gets under way.
Back to Heidi yet again in New York City -- Heidi.
COLLINS: Thanks, Bill.
Still to come this morning, keeping our eye on the fighting in Iraq. We'll get an update coming up on that.
And the new cholesterol drug rivaling Lipitor. Could it mean improvements in heart attack prevention? We'll ask Dr. Sanjay Gupta, coming up next here on AMERICAN MORNING.
COLLINS: A new experimental drug may dramatically boost good cholesterol, helping to prevent heart attacks. And now researchers may be one step closer to formulating a pill that could do just that.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta joining us with more on this exciting development -- good morning, Sanjay.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Heidi.
Yes, it's very early in the research phase, but we're talking about a drug that could potentially unlock one of the major doors in fighting heart disease. Millions of Americans take a drug known as statin type medications. Millions have taken them to try and lower the levels of bad cholesterol. It's a very commonly taken medication. But a sort of door that researchers have been tackling for some time is how to raise the good cholesterol. That's HDL. That's been a tough fight. Only one drug out there right now that does it in any way. That's called niacin. Now researchers studying another drug.
The drug is called Torcetrapib. It's very early in the study, again. And here's what the researchers found, that this particular drug actually increases the good cholesterol levels and may, in fact, be combined with some of the other drugs that lower the bad cholesterol levels to give it a one-two punch.
Researchers pointing out, again, very preliminary study. Larger numbers are going to be needed to see if this works. Also the important indicator, does this, in fact, translate to reduced heart attacks? That's going to be a question that needs to be answered, as well. The study paid, in part, by Pfizer, the manufacturer of the drug. But the research presented in the "New England Journal of Medicine," researchers pretty excited about this -- Heidi.
COLLINS: So how much exactly, Sanjay, was this experimental drug able to boost good cholesterol after all?
GUPTA: Well, you know, when you talk about good cholesterol -- and people who follow this sort of thing know their numbers always -- but a normal number is around 50 to 60 or so for HDL or good cholesterol. The people in this study had concertingly low numbers, around 30. If they took one dose per day for about four weeks, that number went from 30 to 40 or even more than 40. If they took two doses per day, it went from 30 to 70. That's a pretty remarkable increase, more than doubling the increase.
Of course, everybody that we talked to said it's important to remember there are other ways to lower your good -- I'm sorry, raise your good cholesterol, as well, outside of taking medications. Those are the obvious things always worth pointing out, Heidi, as well -- get a cholesterol screening, eat foods that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol, maintaining a healthy weight really important, as well, and exercising regularly -- Heidi.
COLLINS: So you mentioned this new drug. Of course, if it pans out, it could be paired with other drugs already out on the market. Lipitor is a popular one.
How soon could doctors actually start prescribing this new one?
GUPTA: Yes, there are a lot of statin drugs and Lipitor is certainly one of them. Again, the statins would lower the bad cholesterol. This drug possibly raising the good cholesterol. That's the way it might work. It's still probably several years away. It's worth reinforcing that we're giving this information very early. This is a preliminary study. Only 19 patients were looked at, 17 of whom were men. Only two women. There's going to be a lot more research needed.
We asked the researchers the same question you're asking me, Heidi. They say at least three to five years away, but it's worth getting excited about now because it could be a major door busting down in heart disease -- Heidi.
COLLINS: Patients will have to have patience, though, huh?
GUPTA: That's right.
COLLINS: All right, Sanjay Gupta, thanks so very much.
More where that came from, huh?
Jack Cafferty here now.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Patients will have to have patience.
CAFFERTY: That's good.
CAFFERTY: A hard news day today, but we did come across three stories that we just couldn't pass up, so here's a quick look at the File.
Here's a German cat that weighs 41 pounds. Check this out.
COLLINS: Oh, yes. He can jump.
CAFFERTY: He was taken away from its owner and moved into an animal shelter. Officials say Mickesch weighs six times as much as she should and cannot take four steps without getting exhausted, as you can see here, right?
COLLINS: Sleeping by the food bowl.
CAFFERTY: The cat's owner says it's been feeding the animal four pounds of cat food a day. Mickesch has been put on a strict diet and is really steamed about it.
Humans would be better at communicating if we acted more like chimpanzees. So the scientists at the Zoological Society of London are looking for volunteers to talk chimp at work and at home. Methods of communication they recommend include the following -- waving your arms, baring your teeth, bonding with your group by grooming others and making yourself appear large in order to assert authority. The scientists are asking for 100 volunteers to participate in this project. I wonder if they're listening down in Atlanta.
Politics and cross dressing are mixing together in the race for a Republican candidate in a race down in Texas. Photographs of candidate Sam Walls wearing a wig, a dress and high heels...
CAFFERTY: There he is -- have been circulating among political leaders. Before this, Walls was expected to win the Republican nomination for a seat in the Texas House of Representatives. Now people are not so sure. He says he's not going to drop out of the race. In the "Fort Worth Star Telegram," Walls describes himself as a fervent Baptist and he also says that his family has "dealt with" his cross dressing.
COLLINS: Oh, I'm sure they have.
All right, very good.
Jack Cafferty, thanks so much for all of that.
Now back to Bill in Washington.
HEMMER: All right, Heidi.
A persistent question out of Iraq today -- is the current operation under way in that country making the problem worse or is the Pentagon and the U.S. military now on the right track?
That's ahead in a moment as our coverage continues live in Washington and in New York, right after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HEMMER: 8:31 here in the nation's capital. A live picture from the White House this morning as we await the testimony of Condoleezza Rice's, about 30 minutes away.
Welcome back and good morning.
I'm Bill Hemmer.
Again, we're about a half hour away from Condoleezza Rice and that testimony before the Commission. This is inside that Hart Senate Office Building, Room 216, on Capitol Hill. In about 15 minutes from now, Wolf Blitzer, my colleague, joins me here in Washington as our special coverage begins, as we get ready for that testimony.
Also back in New York City, Heidi Collins working for Soledad today -- good morning, there, Heidi.
COLLINS: Good morning to you, Bill.
The other big story this morning is Iraq. In a few minutes, Barbara Starr will take us through all of the developments right now. We'll also talk to Ken Pollack. Is the U.S. military underestimating what's happening in Iraq? Is there a danger U.S. troops won't be able to control the insurgency? A big topic and we'll be talking more about it.
For now, though, back to Bill in Washington.
HEMMER: All right, Heidi.
And, again, the focus again today on Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, under oath and in public today when she testifies before that committee. A few moments ago, Rice arrived at the White House. And her testimony expected on Capitol Hill, again, 9:00 a.m. Eastern time, which on the clock is about 28 minutes and counting. A live picture inside the room.
Above the room is Bob Franken -- Bob, good morning there.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bill.
And one of the men who guards the entrances here at the Hart Building said this morning as we came in, "Boy, this is busier than it normally is on a Thursday."
And well it should be. This is an event that borders on being historic. The national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, facing the 9/11 Commission after a long hesitance on the part of the White House before, in the minds of many people, it gave in to allow Condoleezza Rice to try and correct the political damage.
Now, she is going to be, to a large degree, debating with the absent witness. That was Richard Clarke, the former employee of hers who made so many charges against the administration, the main ones being, number, one a preoccupation with Iraq after September 11; and secondly, a lack of preparation for terrorist attacks, which he suggested could have contributed to a lack of preparation for the 9/11 attack.
Now, family members are going to be here. Clarke is not going to be here. There is going to be questioning that involves all of the committee members. They're deciding to depart from procedures a little bit. First, Condoleezza Rice will be given up to 20 minutes to make her opening statement. The White House says we should not expect an apology comparable to the one that Richard Clarke delivered to the 9/11 families.
Then, each Commission member in alphabetical order will be given 10 minutes to question Condoleezza Rice. That 10 minutes can be extended if, in the view of the chairman, more time is needed to develop a line of questioning. By the way, the questions will begin with the chairman, Thomas Keene, and then the co-chairman, Lee Hamilton, before the other members take part.
Watch for whatever partisan slant there is to the questions. Of course, committee members come from the two political parties. Part of the gamesmanship here will be trying to look non-partisan, trying to look non-combative while Condoleezza Rice tries to very assertively make her point -- Bill.
HEMMER: All right, Bob, thanks.
Back to the floor again. Condoleezza Rice expected in that room within the next half hour. Age 49, a long time friend and current adviser for the president, first meeting the president back in 1995, upon a visit to Texas, when at the time she was an adviser to the first President Bush.
Interestingly enough, one of their first conversations centered on football. And from there that relationship grew to where it is today. She came to the White House as an expert on Soviet and Russian affairs and today the questions will specifically deal with the threat from al Qaeda and how the White House countered that threat in the early days and weeks of the Bush administration.
Much more on that.
Back to Heidi, though, first in New York City with more -- Heidi.
COLLINS: All right, Bill.
Thanks a lot.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says he might delay the departure of some U.S. troops from Iraq. Secretary Rumsfeld said this would involve units that had been scheduled to leave after one year, but stresses no decision made yet. We got live to the Pentagon for more on that in just a moment.
The CIA now saying that a newly released audiotape is probably that of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. In the tape, a voice believed to be that of Zarqawi claims responsibility for a number of attacks in Iraq, including the bombing of the U.N. compound. One intelligence official says references in the tape suggest it was recorded fairly recently. The audiotape appeared on an Arabic language Web site.
Two hikers in Colorado safe and sound this morning after being stuck not far from Copper Mountain. It took some 30 rescue workers to get to the pair, stranded near Officer's Gulch. The two men had climbed down a drainage area that iced over and got stuck. Snow and ice made it too dangerous to bring them down yesterday. But just after midnight, the men were rescued. The two were wet and cold, but not injured.
Speaking of cold, in sports, hockey playoffs started last night. We want to show you one highlight. The Redwings' Robert Lang fighting off the Czech, keeping control of the puck and scored a great goal. That helped Detroit beat the Nashville Predators 3-1. Game two in the best of seven series Saturday in Detroit.
HEMMER: Word into us here at CNN a few moments ago, three Japanese employees of TV Asahi working in Iraq said to be now held hostage by insurgents in that country. Not a lot of information just yet. The Arab language news channel Al Jazeera on Thursday airing video showing the journalists in Iraq. They were blindfolded in that video with knives held to their throats. That report saying the three were seized by a group that calls itself the Mujahedeen Squadrons. The passports of the three were also shown, apparently on that videotape on Al Jazeera.
U.S. forces report they are making steady advances, meanwhile, though, in Fallujah. And, again, we are not quite sure where this hostage situation may be taking place or who's responsible for it. But the situation in Iraq changing rapidly yet again today.
Straightaway to the Pentagon and Barbara Starr -- and Barbara, if you could answer this question, it would go a long way in finding out what's happening in Fallujah.
How intense is the fighting now on day four there?
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the fighting does continue in the city, Bill. We are continuing to receive pictures. We want to show our viewers some pictures that may be very difficult. This is going to be a picture of a tank hit by the rocket propelled grenade. U.S. Marines wounded, showing just the very difficult reality of what these men are dealing with in Fallujah. We know their families may be watching this video, so we very much want to say that we have been told by the military all of the men were safely evacuated to medical treatment from this particular incident.
But it does underscore the very tough difficult fighting that is going on in Fallujah, facing the U.S. Marines.
Now, as they continue to press into the city, General Sanchez earlier this morning in Baghdad was confronted with a number of questions about so many days later, how are the people of Fallujah doing, how are the Iraqi citizens getting food and water and medical treatment for themselves. A convoy of Iraqis tried to approach the city today. A lot of tough questions for General Sanchez about whether the military troops are letting the aid through to the city.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. GEN. RICARDO SANCHEZ, COMMANDER, JOINT TASK FORCE: OK, I've answered that about three or four times this afternoon, all right? We are not cutting off humanitarian aid and food to the city of Fallujah, OK? You all need to listen to me. We are not cutting off the aid to the people of Fallujah. And, you know, if we're shooting vehicles, it's because those vehicles have shot at us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STARR: Underscoring, Bill, perhaps that the U.S. Marines, that the U.S. military, as they continue to fight across Iraq, are really now in that urban warfare scenario that they didn't expect at this point in the fight -- Bill.
HEMMER: Barbara, thanks.
Barbara Starr from the Pentagon.
Back here in Washington, CNN analyst Ken Pollack, who knows Iraq as well as anyone, a senior fellow at the Saban Center, Brookings Institution, my guest here in D.C.
Good morning to you.
KEN POLLACK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, SABAN CENTER AT BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Good morning, Bill.
HEMMER: First of all, al-Sistani condemning the coalition attacks from yesterday.
How critical are his words right now?
POLLACK: They're very important. They're going to be one of the biggest gauges as to whether or not this really spreads beyond the followers of Muqtada al-Sadr and the other groups who are disaffected with the U.S. Sistani is the leading voice among the Shia community. You're right, he condemned the attack, which shows that the Shia are increasingly unhappy with the coarse of reconstruction. But he also called for calm. That is absolutely critical.
If he had said Muqtada is leading the way, we would have revolts all over the south.
HEMMER: This is a country of 25 million. For us to assume that a couple thousand people are controlling and dictating the future for Iraq, I think, would be a bit of a presumption, this, on this side of the world.
Where do the moderates fall? Do we have any indication for the millions of people in the middle of this where they're coming down on the issue?
POLLACK: I think we're starting to see where the moderates are shaking out. By and large, the moderates do recognize that violence is not going to help them or Iraq. They'd like to see reconstruction work, but increasingly they are becoming frustrated that the United States is not making reconstruction work better and faster.
HEMMER: The interior minister today apparently has resigned. He's in charge of security forces in Iraq.
How critical is this?
POLLACK: This is an important element. Clearly, this is the coalition showing its displeasure with what's going on there. He was a Sunni in charge of the interior ministry. I think they're trying to put a Shia in there as a way of saying to the Shia, we recognize your concerns and we don't want to have a Shia in this kind of a position. But we should also remember, one of the problems we've got there is that the current Governing Council is seen as illegitimate by all Iraqis. It's one of the reasons that we are in the situation we're in today.
HEMMER: Yesterday at this time you were on with us here on AMERICAN MORNING. You said this was a wake up call for the United States.
POLLACK: I certainly hope it is. It should be. And clearly we've seen a whole bunch of things going on in Iraq today that I don't think the administration expected and that could be signs of much bigger problems to come, in particular, the fact that you've got increasing numbers of Iraqis who would have or once did support the reconstruction casting their lot with a radical like Muqtada al-Sadr.
HEMMER: I think also from half a world away, we may be giving the impression that the U.S. Marines right now are in a tough spot in Fallujah. And although that may be a fact, the reports we're getting from people like Tony Perry in the "L.A. Times," embedded with those Marines, gives us a clear picture of Marine domination in that city. Yesterday he said if you were moving and carried a gun, you were essentially dead.
POLLACK: Yes, I think he was absolutely right, Bill. And I think that what we should -- we need to separate what's going on in western Iraq and Fallujah and Ramadi from what's going on in the south. The fact of the matter is that what's going on in Fallujah is a well planned pacification campaign. My guess is that at least at a military level, the Marines have everything that they need and they're going to be able to handle that.
The bigger problem out in the west, though, is we've got to marry that military campaign up with a political and economic policy that's going to start to bring the Sunni tribesmen over to the side of trying to help reconstruction, rather than fighting it.
HEMMER: From the Saban Center, good to see you again in person, Ken.
POLLACK: Thanks, Bill.
HEMMER: Ken Pollack here in D.C.
All right, back to you in New York again -- here's Heidi.
COLLINS: Still to come this morning on AMERICAN MORNING, a beer mogul runs for Senate. Could the Coors name be a quick ticket to Capitol Hill? Andy has that in just a moment.
HEMMER: Also, in a matter of moments, Condoleezza Rice will be inside the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill. What will she reveal about the Oval Office and terrorism prior to 9/11? A live picture in Room 216, our special coverage, straight ahead on CNN.
COLLINS: Welcome back, everybody.
Jack's here now.
CAFFERTY: A big political contest brewing in Colorado, where a guy who owns a beer company wants to go to Washington. I find that rather ironic.
With that and a market preview, Andy Serwer here minding your business.
If he gets elected, he'd fit right in back there.
ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Free beer for the constituents.
CAFFERTY: There you go.
SERWER: You know, you're always finding irony, though, Jack, aren't you?
CAFFERTY: I try.
SERWER: Well, OK.
All right, let's talk about the markets first.
Yesterday a big day to the down side. The Dow down more than 90 points. You can see here just a little bit more than 90 points. What was happening yesterday? We got beat up by Alcoa, Nokia and Seagate. Earnings season, though, today. We're on the mend. That's because after the bell Yahoo! had some very, very positive earnings. Dell announcing its business is going great. And also G.E. coming in with numbers that look pretty good, too.
Other stuff -- Wal-Mart, Target, their businesses are going fine in terms of store sales over the last month. And, Jack, jobless claims came in this morning the lowest in three years. So that continues to improve on that point.
Ringing the opening bell, Jim Calhoun, the coach of the national champion Huskies. He gets his day in the sun.
CAFFERTY: The lady Huskies.
SERWER: No, he's the male Huskies.
CAFFERTY: The male Huskies.
SERWER: They should get Geno Auriemma in the next day.
CAFFERTY: Yes, they should. Then they should both be down there somehow.
SERWER: That's right. Yes, well, they actually don't necessarily -- oops, they're not the closest of...
CAFFERTY: Oh, I didn't know that.
SERWER: That's my understanding. I hope that's OK with the people in Connecticut to say. But that's my understanding. It will be interesting to get the letters on that one.
CAFFERTY: And the Dow changes today, right, officially?
SERWER: Yes, yes, it does. Yes. We're going to get those replacements in.
Anyway, let's talk about the beer baron, though, guy.
SERWER: Because we've had actors, we've had coaches, we've had athletes, all manner of people running for public office. Now apparently Pete Coors is going to be running for Senate in Colorado. That's right, the chairman of that beer company. This according to the governor of Colorado. The Coors family known for very conservative Republican politics, Jack, over the years. Pete's a little bit more moderate. He will be going after Senator Ben Knighthorse Campbell's seat.
CAFFERTY: OK, thanks, Andy.
COLLINS: All right, back to Bill now in Washington, D.C. -- Bill.
HEMMER: All right, Heidi.
Just some few moments away, about 12 minutes, in fact, for our special live coverage of Condoleezza Rice. She will be in the Senate Hart Office Building. We will get to that testimony and our special live coverage will begin after a quick commercial break.
Back in a moment here in Washington, after this.
HEMMER: Live pictures inside the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, where the stage is now set for a high profile, high stakes event. A short time from now, in fact, 10 minutes away, the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, starts her testimony under oath in public before the commission investigating the 9/11 attacks. Rice will defend the actions of the White House in the weeks and months leading up to the events of 9/11, an effort in the war on terror and the efforts that were fought there at the White House in the early days of the Bush White House.
Hello again from Washington.
I'm Bill Hemmer.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Wolf Blitzer.
And this is CNN's special coverage of Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 Commission. Her appearance comes two weeks after the testimony of the former counter-terrorism adviser, Richard Clarke. In his appearance Clarke...
HEMMER: ... accused the Bush administration of failing to take the terror threat from al Qaeda seriously enough. This is a formal and very public opportunity for Rice to rebut the allegations by Clarke -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Here's a look at how events are expected to unfold this morning.
The hearing is set to begin just in a few minutes, right at the top of the hour, 9:00 a.m. Eastern. It's scheduled to last about two and a half hours. Rice will make an opening statement. Those remarks are expected to take about 20 minutes and provide an overview of the administration's thinking in the months leading up to the 9/11 attacks.
After Rice's statement, the commission chairman, Thomas Keene, and the vice chairman, Lee Hamilton, will begin the questioning. Keene is a Republican. He's a former governor of New Jersey. Hamilton is a Democrat. He's a former congressman from Indiana.
The eight remaining members of the Commission will then be allowed to ask questions. Each will have about 10 minutes. However, that time could be expanded if a line of questioning is considered to be especially productive.
The hearing is expected to end, expected to end about 11:30 a.m. Eastern.
HEMMER: Also, Wolf, we have reports on the importance of the impact of Rice's testimony from the White House to Congress, to the campaign trail in this election year and beyond that.
Our White House correspondent Dana Bash has the preview from there. National correspondent Bob Franken following the mood from inside that hearing room. And our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield, on hand to help put things into context for us.
Let's start this morning with Dana Bash at the White House.
How much anticipation is there this morning -- Dana, good morning.
BASH: Good morning.
Well, certainly there is a lot, Bill. Dr. Rice left the White House about 20, 25 minutes ago. Her aides say that she arrived in an upbeat mood, ready for what she understands and expects will be an incredibly important two and a half hours before this Commission. We are told that she has been doing some mock Q&A with some top aides, really since last week, since the president made the decision, the reversal, to let her go before this Commission. This is something, of course, that the White House had rejected for some weeks.
But she is going to go. She is going to give a broad narrative in about a 20 minute opening statement of what she will say the White House did to prepare for and to prepare a strategy to deal with al Qaeda and the threat of terrorism. Certainly it will be a broad rebuttal of Richard Clarke's accusation that they didn't -- Bill.
HEMMER: All right, Dana, thanks for that from the White House -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, let's go to Bob Franken.
He's over in the Senate Hart Office Building, overlooking what's going on right now -- Bob, give us a little overview of what's going on.
FRANKEN: Well, first of all, what the anticipation is is what Condoleezza Rice is going to say when she tries to set the tone for these hearings. First, people are going to be looking to see what she has to say to the families of the 9/11 victims, to try and juxtaposition that to the apology delivered by Richard Clarke.
She should also be expected to address the role that Clarke played in the administration, as part of a continuation of Clinton administration policy in the anti-terrorism front.
Also, look for her to talk about, to some degree, the intensity that the Bush administration fought the war on terror. One of the things to look for is how much she'll talk about the national security presidential directive, that highly, highly secret document that was put together by the national security staff on September 4, just a week before the September 11 attacks.
It's going to be very interesting to see how much she can talk about that. Of course, the national security adviser is a very unusual position. The adviser is there to, as the word suggest, advise the president. We all know about all the pushing and shoving that went on before the White House decided, according to many, many analysts, that it was just not a political good idea to keep Condoleezza Rice from testifying. It's highly unusual, of course, that she would be here and everybody is watching. There is huge anticipation. There's going to be coverage around the world. The room is packed. The building is packed. There are long lines outside. People who want to watch history being made as we will -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Bob, almost exactly two weeks ago, Richard Clarke testified before this panel. There were several members, family members of some of those who died in 9/11 in the room there. We remember several of them applauding at various points.
Is the room, based on what you can tell, full of family members today, as well?
FRANKEN: Many of the same ones are here and as I pointed out a moment ago, one of the things that's going to be interesting is that how Condoleezza Rice deals with that. Remember, this is more than just a conversation about substance with the Commission members. This is also the effort on the part of the president's national security adviser to stop the damage, to try and put an end to the damage that was inflicted by Richard Clarke.
So, how she deals with this, how she deals with the families is going to be something that's very important to the administration as this hearing unfolds.
BLITZER: Bob Franken, who's up on Capitol Hill.
Bob, thanks very much -- Bill.
HEMMER: In the middle of all this, it's an election year, and the White House has said consistently that security in the war on terror goes to the very heart of their reelection campaign.
Our senior political analyst in New York, Jeff Greenfield, joins us on this -- Jeff, good morning there.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.
Well, I'll tell you what occurs to me. First, these hearings have now, to an extent, been overshadowed or will be playing out in the shadow of the recent news from Iraq. And while it's not part of the 9/11 Commission's mandate, the fact that Richard Clarke has said the war in Iraq is a diversion from the war on terrorism may be an important undertone to what the kinds of questions we're going to get today.
The second thing is the political theater that we are seeing has a pretty long tradition in Washington. This is the 50th anniversary of the famous Army and McCarthy hearings of 1954 that began the political destruction of Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. You move ahead to 1973 to the Senate committee hearings on Watergate, where John Dean pointed the finger at Richard Nixon and we learned about a taping system. That began the political destruction of Richard Nixon.
Move ahead to the '80s, the Iran-Contra hearings that made a hero or a villain, depending on your politics, of Ollie North, right up to the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings of 1990 and '91.
So when Condoleezza Rice takes the witness chair today, we're not only going to be looking at an important exchange of information, we're going to be looking at an important piece of political theater. And to some extent I think her demeanor and the way she testifies may become as important as what she says.
I mean everybody knows the context of the questions -- did you take the terror warnings of the summer of 2001 seriously enough? Were you mired in an old cold war mind set?
But how she presents herself, I think, is going to be an important part of what happens by the end of today.
BLITZER: Jeff, when she raises her hand and swears to tell the truth, that picture is going to be historic. It'll be replayed, god knows, so many times in the coming hours and days, weeks, months, years to come.
Give us some historic context on that moment, those split seconds when she raises her hand.
GREENFIELD: Well, what it basically does is it takes this particular event and puts it in the context of we don't quite know what's going to happen. So much of our politics is scripted and focus grouped and planned out in advance. The idea of a spontaneous political event by a Bush or a Kerry is almost a contradiction in terms.
But even though we know the dynamics, or rather, we know the substance of what's going to be argued here, you're quite right, Wolf, that will be the opening shot of every piece on every evening newscast. And whether or not Dr. Rice faces, for instance, tougher questioning from the Republican members of the Commission that she might expect, whether she is able to implicitly rebut the very harsh criticism of Richard Clarke, that's really going to be the headline story of today.
But I still want to briefly come back and make the point that I think her job has been made tougher by the bad news coming out of Iraq, because the doubts about the administration's policy in Iraq, I think, may spill over to some extent into the public willingness to accept what Dr. Rice has to say about the events leading up to 9/11. This is a very, very tough time for the administration on the terrorism/national security front, much tougher than it looked like it might be two weeks ago -- Wolf.
HEMMER: Jeff, stand by for us there in New York City. Again, back in February, four hours of testimony for Condoleezza Rice. In many ways, the committee members on this commission know what she will have to say today. But what they do not have accounted for just yet is what's happened and what's transpired since the past two weeks. You mentioned Richard Clarke's testimony, and also the countless television interviews that she has provided since that point, again, could be critical elements today once our session gets under way..
I want to get to the Pentagon quickly, though, because with a backdrop of what is happening in Iraq, more violent images yet again today. Barbara Starr is standing by to give us a bit more context there. But the Pentagon is looking toward this testimony today. We'll get to Barbara in a moment here.
As we get into that Senate Hart Office Building, Condoleezza Rice expected to emerge there in about two minutes, Wolf. And I think Jeff's point about the tone today is quite critical. And if you examine what the White House has done in setting up her testimony today, in a 20-minute statement today, what is the tone she takes.
And family members have talked about the apology from Richard Clarke. We don't expect that today, but we do anticipate her to direct some comments toward the survivors, especially the survivors that will be sitting in that room today and the family members there.
BLITZER: And based on what we know about Condoleezza Rice, what she said publicly over these past several weeks, based on what she's written in op-ed pieces, based on everything we know, she will go point by point by point in this opening statement to try to rebut several of the very serious allegations made by her former deputy on counterterrorism, Richard Clarke. She will insist that this administration was not asleep at the switch.
She will insist that the administration was well briefed by the former Clinton administration, the then national security adviser, Sandy Berger, but she'll then go on and say they took all of these warning of terror threats very seriously. The president was briefed on an almost daily basis by the CIA director. And she'll go forward in a very methodical way.
Remember, Bill, she is an academic. She come from that academic line. She has been stunned personally by the very serious charges that Richard Clarke has made. And she's going to be very much on the defensive. But in that sense, she will go on the offensive to try to make her administration's case.
HEMMER: I think your point, as she enters the room right here, is very well taken. If you go back two weeks yesterday, when Richard Clarke was testifying, that afternoon in the White House, Condoleezza Rice pulled all of the White House correspondents into her office and rebutted point for point all of the allegations that were made against her. Very interesting how she took it personally that day. And we will see whether or not that tone carries through in her comments today.
BLITZER: And you see her sitting by herself at the table, although she's flanked, she's surrounded by her aides from the National Security Council.
Here is the chairman, Tom Kean.
THOMAS H. 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 formulation 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.911commission.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.
Before I call on Dr. Rice, I would like to turn to our vice chair for brief opening remarks.
LEE H. HAMILTON, COMMISSION VICE CHAIR: 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.
HAMILTON: 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 inbox 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, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I do.
KEAN: Thank you.
I understand, Dr. Rice, that you have an opening statement. Your prepared statement will be entered into the record in full, and we look forward to it. If it's a summary statement, that's fine.
RICE: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I thank the commission for arranging this special session.
RICE: I thank you for helping us to find a way to meet the nation's need to learn all we can about the September 11th 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 families of the victims are here today, and I want to thank them for their contributions to the commission's work.
The terrorist threat to our nation did not emerge on September 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 Qaida 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 USS Cole in 2000 -- these and other atrocities were part of a sustained, systematic campaign to spread devastation and chaos and to murder innocent Americans.
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.
RICE: Despite Nazi Germany's repeated violations of the Versailles treaty and provocations throughout the mid 1930s, 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 September 11th, 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 has ended. The world has changed so much that it is hard 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 September 11th.
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 Qaida network.
Members of Sandy Berger's NSC staff briefed me, along with other members of the national security team, on counterterrorism and Al Qaida. 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 Qaida over many years, we understood that the network posed a serious threat to the United States. We wanted to ensure that there was no respite in the fight against Al Qaida.
RICE: On an operational level, therefore, we decided immediately to continue to pursue the Clinton administration's covert action authority and other efforts to fight the network.
President Bush retained George Tenet as direction of central intelligence, and Louis Freeh remained the director of the FBI. And I took the unusual step of retaining Dick Clarke and the entire Clinton administration's counterterrorism team on the NSC 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 January 20th through September 10th, the president received at these daily meetings more than 40 briefing items on Al Qaida, and 13 of those were in response to questions he or his top advisers posed. In addition to seeing DCI 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 DCI about Al Qaida 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.
RICE: 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 a 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 11 days.
We also moved to develop a new and comprehensive strategy to try and eliminate the Al Qaida network. President Bush understood the threat, and he understood its importance. He made clear to us that he did not want to respond to Al Qaida 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 September 4th. 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 Qaida.
Although this national security presidential directive was originally a highly classified document, we've arranged for portions 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 Qaida network and threat and ordered the leadership of relevant U.S. departments and agencies to make the elimination of Al Qaida a high priority and to use all aspects of our national power -- intelligence, financial, diplomatic and military -- to meet that goal.
RICE: 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 Qaida.
It directed the secretaries of the treasury and state to work with foreign governments to seize or freeze assets and holdings of Al Qaida and its benefactors.
It directed the director of central intelligence to prepare an aggressive program of covert activities to disrupt Al Qaida and provide assistance to anti-Taliban groups operating in Afghanistan.
It tasked the director of OMB 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 Qaida 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 Qaida and associated terrorist groups may acquire or manufacture, including those stored in underground bunkers."
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 DOD forces overseas, and to be prepared to respond to terrorist and weapons-of-mass-destruction incidents.
More importantly, we recognized 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 region.
RICE: Integrating our counterterrorism and regional strategies was the most difficult and the most important aspect of the new strategy to get right.
Al Qaida was both a client of and a patron to the Taliban, which, in turn, was supported by Pakistan. Those relationships provided Al Qaida 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 Qaida 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 on 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 Qaida 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.
We recognized that America's counterterrorism policy had to be connected to our regional strategies and to our overall foreign policies.
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 on Afghanistan, who, as a senior diplomat in the 1980s, had worked closely with the Afghan mujahedeen, helping them to turn back the Soviet invasion.
RICE: I also ensured the participation of the NSC 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 Qaida, we also made decisions on a number of specific anti-Al Qaida 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 Qaida.
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.
RICE: For the essential crisis-management task, we depended on the Counterterrorism Security Group, chaired by Dick Clarke, to be the interagency nerve center. The CSG consisted of senior counterterrorism experts from the CIA, the FBI, the Department of Justice, the Defense Department -- including the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- the State Department and the Secret Service.
The CSG had met regularly for many years, and its members had worked through numerous periods of heightened threat activity. As threat information increased, the CSG met more frequently, sometimes daily, to review and analyze the threat reporting and to coordinate actions in response.
CSG 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 Qaida activities outside the United States, especially in the Middle East and 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.
RICE: 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 August 6, 2001, the president's intelligence briefing included a response to questions that he had earlier raised about any Al Qaida intentions to strike our homeland.
The briefing team reviewed past intelligence reporting, mostly dating from the 1990s, regarding possible Al Qaida plans to attack inside the United States. It referred to uncorroborated reporting that, 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 missiles.
Despite the fact that the vast majority of the threat information we received was focused overseas, I was concerned about possible threats inside the United States.
And on July 5th, 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 CSG, as well as representatives from the FAA, the INS, 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.
RICE: For instance, the Department of Defense issued at least five urgent warnings to U.S. military forces that Al Qaida might be planning a near-term attack and placed our military forces in certain regions on heightened alert.
The State Department issued 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 Qaida attack on U.S. interests.
The FBI 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 FBI tasked all 56 of its U.S. field offices to increase surveillance of known suspects of terrorists and to reach out to known informants who might have information on terrorist activities.
The FAA 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 CIA worked around the clock to disrupt threats worldwide. Agency officials launched a wide-ranging disruption effort against Al Qaida in more than 20 countries.
And during this period, the vice president, 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.
RICE: 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 September 11th 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 terrorist threat information; directed the transformation of the FBI 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 the Congress, given officials new tools, such as the Patriot Act, to find and stop terrorists.
RICE: 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.
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 two 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 September 11th, it is that we cannot wait while dangers gather.
After the September 11th attacks, our nation faced hard choices: We could fight a narrow war against Al Qaida 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. RICE: 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 homebase 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 then 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 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 interests of our nation and inspire hope and encourage reform throughout the greater Middle East.
In the aftermath of September 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.
RICE: Thank you very much. And now I'm happy to take your questions.
KEAN: Thank you very much, Dr. Rice. I 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 just been through a very difficult campaign. In that campaign, neither the president nor the opponent, to the best of my knowledge, ever mentioned Al Qaida. There had been almost no congressional action or hearings about Al Qaida, very little bit in the newspapers.
And yet, you walk in and Dick Clarke is talking about Al Qaida should be our number-one 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 get that kind of, I suppose, new information for you?
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 Qaida. There had been, I think, documentaries about Osama bin Laden.
I, myself, had written for an introduction to a volume on bioterrorism done at Sanford 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 is 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, it 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.
RICE: 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 Qaida 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 Qaida, 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 FBI, from the CIA, from any other intelligence agency, any memos or discussions or anything else between the time you got into office and 9/11 that 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 August 6th memo, which I've talked about here in 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 -- 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 a missile."
As I said to you in the private session, I probably should have said, "I could not have 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 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 actually relevant, what is actually based on sound sources, what is speculative.
RICE: 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 August 6th 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 weapons. In fact, there were some reports done in '98 and '99. 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, I did not.
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 Qaida.
We know that at the Camp David meeting on the weekend of September 15th and 16th, 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 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.
RICE: I remember, later on, in 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 September 11th 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 Lindsey 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 in Afghanistan, mostly 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.
RICE: 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 interests.
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 -- 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 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: Congressman Hamilton?
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 policymaking 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 is that, "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.
HAMILTON: And by our count here, there were some 100 meetings by the national security principals before the first meeting was held on terrorism, September 4th. 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 policymaker 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 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 September 11th?" 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.
RICE: The president goes on. When Bob Woodward says, "Well, I don't mean it as a trick question; I'm just trying to 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 September 11th. 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 September 11th?"
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 go a specific set of questions.
All that I can tell you is that what the president wanted was a plan to eliminate Al Qaida 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.
Now, as to the number of PCs. I'm sorry, there is some difference in our records here.
RICE: We show 33 Principals Committee meetings during this period of time, not 100. We show that three of those dealt at least partially with issues of terrorism not related to Al Qaida. 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 is moving, again, it's important to realize that 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 Qaida. 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 Qaida, 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 several months.
So I understand that there are those who have said they felt it wasn't moving along fast enough. I talked to George Tenet about this at least every couple of weeks, 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 into it.
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.
RICE: 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 -- 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, I 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.
RICE: 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 FBI and the CIA 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 attaches 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 then. I think that having a Homeland Security Department that can bring together the FAA and the INS 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 FBI and the CIA, is a very big step forward.
I think one thing that we will learn from you is whether the structural work is done.
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 swathe of the Islamic world?
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 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.
RICE: And when the president, at White Hall 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 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 was 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. 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.
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 have 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.
RICE: 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 source.
HAMILTON: Thank you, Dr. Rice.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
KEAN: Thank you.
RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, COMMISSION MEMBER: Good morning, Dr. Rice.
RICE: Good morning. BEN-VENISTE: Nice to see you again.
RICE: Nice to see you.
BEN-VENISTE: I want to ask you some questions about the August 6, 2001, PDB. We had been advised in writing by CIA on March 19, 2004, that the August 6th PDB was prepared and self-generated by a CIA employee. Following Director Tenet's testimony on March 26th before us, the CIA clarified its version of events, saying that questions by the president prompted them to prepare the August 6th PDB.
Now, you have said to us in our meeting together earlier in February, that the president directed the CIA to prepare the August 6th PDB.
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 February 7, 2004, that Richard Clarke told you that Al Qaida cells were in the United States.
BEN-VENISTE: Did you tell the president, at any time prior to August 6th, of the existence of Al Qaida 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: I understand, Commissioner, but it's important...
BEN-VENISTE: Did you tell the president...
RICE: ... that I also address...
It's also important that, Commissioner, that I address the other issues that you have raised. So I will do it quickly, but if you'll just give me a moment.
BEN-VENISTE: Well, my only question to you is whether you...
RICE: I understand, Commissioner, but I will...
BEN-VENISTE: ... told the president.
RICE: If you'll just give me a moment, I will address fully the questions that you've asked.
First of all, yes, the August 6th PDB was in response to questions of the president -- and that since he asked that this be done. It was not a particular threat report. And there was historical information in there about various aspects of Al Qaida'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 Qaida 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 FBI was doing, that the FBI was pursuing these Al Qaida cells. I believe in the August 6th memorandum it says that there were 70 full field investigations under way of these cells. And so there was no recommendation that we do something about this; the FBI was pursuing it. 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 talked to people about this. But I don't remember the Al Qaida 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 August 6th PDB warned against possible attacks in this country? And I ask you whether you recall the title of that PDB?
RICE: I believe the title was, "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States."
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 Qaida 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 Qaida attempt to blow up Los Angeles International Airport and thwarted cells operating in Brooklyn, New York, and Boston, Massachusetts.
As of the August 6th briefing, you learned that Al Qaida members have resided or travelled to the United States for years and maintained a support system in the United States.
And you learned that FBI information since the 1998 blind sheikh warning of hijackings to free the blind sheikh indicated a pattern of suspicious activity in the country up until August 6th 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?
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 PDB memo of August 6th that the FBI was saying that it had information suggesting that preparations -- not historically, but ongoing, along with these numerous full field investigations against Al Qaida cells, that preparations were being made consistent with hijackings within the United States?
RICE: What the August 6th PDB 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 its title.
RICE: I believe, Mr. Ben-Veniste, that you've had access to this PDB. But let me just...
BEN-VENISTE: But we have not had it declassified so that it can be shown publicly, as you know.
RICE: I believe you've had access to this PDB -- exceptional access. But let me address your question.
BEN-VENISTE: Nor could we, prior to today, reveal the title of that PDB.
RICE: May I address the question, sir?
The fact is that this August 6th PDB was in response to the president's questions about whether or not something might happen or something might be planned by Al Qaida 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 PDB 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.
RICE: 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 -- Ressam. It reported that the FBI had full field investigations under way.
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.
BEN-VENISTE: Well, if you are willing...
RICE: Now, we had already taken...
BEN-VENISTE: If you are 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 PDB?
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.
BEN-VENISTE: We agree that there were no specifics. Let me move on, if I may.
RICE: There were no specifics, and, in fact, the country had already taken steps through the FAA to warn of potential hijackings. The country had already taken steps through the FBI 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, Texas, at the time he received the PDB, you were not with him, correct?
RICE: That is correct.
BEN-VENISTE: Now, was the president, in words or substance, alarmed or in any way motivated to take any action, such as meeting with the director of the FBI, meeting with the attorney general, as a result of receiving the information contained in the PDB?
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'm told he was told this is historical information and there was nothing actionable in this. The president knew that the FBI 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: 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 CIA to ensure that the FBI had pulsed the agency, to make sure that any information which we know now had been collected was transmitted to the director, that the president might have been able to receive information from CIA with respect to the fact that two Al Qaida operatives who took part in the 9/11 catastrophe were in the United States -- Alhazmi and Mihdhar; and that Moussaoui, who Dick Clarke was never even made aware of, who had jihadist connections, who the FBI had arrested, and who had been in a flight school in Minnesota trying to learn the avionics of a commercial jetliner 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 FBI, 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.
RICE: And the director of the FBI and the director of the CIA, had they received information, I am quite certain -- given that the director of the CIA 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, director of central intelligence was shaking the trees, director of the FBI was shaking the trees. We had a structural problem in the United States.
BEN-VENISTE: Did the president meet with the director of the FBI? 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...
KEAN: Commissioner, we got to move on...
BEN-VENISTE: ... the FBI between August 6th and September 11th?
KEAN: ... to Commissioner Fielding.
RICE: I will have to get back to you on that. I am not certain.
KEAN: Commissioner Fielding?
FRED F. FIELDING, COMMISSION MEMBER: 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 cause of this horrible event, and also to make recommendations to mitigate against the possibility that there will ever be another terrorist triumph on our homeland or against our people.
FIELDING: 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 do.
But as important as that ultimately might be, it also is our responsibility to really come up with ways, and valid ways, to prevent another intelligence failure like we 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 with that sort of specificity, and one is the one that you were just discussing with Commissioner Ben-Veniste.
We've all heard over the years the problem between the CIA, the FBI, coordination, et cetera. And you made reference to an introduction you'd done to a book, but you also, in October 2000, while you were a part of the campaign team for candidate Bush, you told a radio station, WJR, which is in Detroit, you're talking about the threat and how to deal with Al Qaida.
And if I may quote, you said, "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 CIA and foreign intelligence and the FBI and 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.
FIELDING: And 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 did have a structural problem, and structural problems take some time to address.
We did have a national security policy directive asking the CIA, 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 CIA -- Louis Freeh had left, but the key counterterrorism person was a part of Dick Clarke's group. And with 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. 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.
RICE: 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 FBI in a way that it could then engage the policymakers.
So these were big structural reforms. We did some things to try and get the CIA 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 September 11th.
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 INS and the Customs Department and the border people and all of the people who were scattered -- Customs and Treasury and INS and 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 TTIC, which does bring together all of the sources of information from all of the intelligence agencies -- the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security and the INS and the CIA and the DIA -- 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 CIA and the FBI, 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 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.
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 until now, that it's solved the institutional versus institutional issues, which -- maybe it has, but, you know, 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 MI-5 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 FBI director and the CIA 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: It may be solved at the top. We've got to make sure it's solved at the bottom.
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 are 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, 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.
FIELDING: Now, we've also heard testimony about what we would call the summer threat, the spike threat, whatever it is in 2001. A lot of chatter -- you shared some of it with us directly -- a lot of traffic, and a lot of threats.
And during that period -- actually you put in context, I guess it was the first draft of the NSPD 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 CSG handled the alert, if you will. And we've heard testimony about Clarke warning you and the NSC that State and CIA and the Pentagon had concerns and were convinced there was going to be a major terrorist attack.
On July 5th, I believe it was, domestic agencies, including the FBI and the FAA, were briefed by the White House. Alerts were issued. The next day, the CIA told the CSG participants, and I think they said they believed the upcoming attack would be 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.
FIELDING: 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 CSG was handling this thing as opposed to the principals?
Because candidly it's 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, et cetera. You've heard the same things I've heard.
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 comments to that question. Thank you.
RICE: Of course. Let me start by talking about what we were doing and the structure we used. I've mentioned this.
The CSG, 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 FBI to go out and task their field agents.
RICE: The CSG 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 CSG would meet, he would come back usually through e-mail, sometimes personally, and say, here's what we've done. I would talk everyday, several times a day, with George Tenet about what the threat 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 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 CSG was the nerve center. But 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 September 11th, Dick Clarke sent us the after-action report that had been done after the millennium plot and their assessment was that Ressam had been caught by chance -- Ressam being the person who was entering the United States over the Canadian border with bomb-making materials in store.
RICE: I think it actually wasn't by chance, which was Washington's view of it. It was because a very alert customs agent named Diana Dean and her colleagues sniffed something about Ressam. 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.
And the president of the United States had us at battle station 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.
RICE: He expected his FBI 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 advisor 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 the 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.
JAMIE S. GORELICK, COMMISSION MEMBER: 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 CSG-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 FAA, responsible for security on our airlines, had no idea. Yes, the attorney general was briefed, but there was no evidence of any activity by him about this.
You indicate in your statement that the FBI 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. SACs, special agents in charge, around the country -- Miami in particular -- no knowledge of this.
And so, I really come back to you -- and let me add one other thing. Have you actually looked at the -- analyzed the messages that the FBI 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 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 in an agency working an issue even if there's a specialist. And you get a greater degree of intensity when it comes from the top. And I would like to give you the opportunity to comment on this, because it bothers me.
RICE: 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, the DCI had direct access to the president.
Yes, the president met with the director of the FBI -- 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 CSG to say that it was four or five levels down, 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.
RICE: 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 event.
It is just not the case that the August 6th memorandum did anything but put together what the CIA decided that they wanted to put together about historical knowledge about what was going on and a few things about what the FBI might be doing.
And so, the light was shining abroad. And if you look at what was going -- 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.
RICE: 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.
GORELICK: And it is clear that you were worried about the domestic problem, because, after all, your testimony is you asked Dick Clarke to summons the domestic agencies.
Now, you say that -- and I think quite rightly -- that the big problem was systemic, that the FBI could not function as it should, and it didn't have the right methods of communicating with the CIA 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, the United States, and we are going to get hit big; that's number one. And number two, we have big systemic problems. The FBI doesn't work the way it should, and it doesn't communicate with the intelligence community.
GORELICK: 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 question why?
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 FBI and the CIA.
We were in office 233 days. It's absolutely the case that we did not begin structural reform of the FBI.
Now, the vice president was asked by the president, and that was tasked in May, to put 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 WMD, what else needed to be done. And in fact, he had hired Admiral Steve Abbot 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 FBI, with the CIA, the homeland departments being scattered among many different departments?
RICE: 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 -- fact is that sometimes until there is a catastrophic event that forces people to think differently, that forces people to overcome all 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 Andy Card to come with me to that meeting with Dick Clarke was that I wanted him to know -- 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 advisor does.
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 September 15th, 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 break down" -- 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 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 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 NSPD, the policy that you arrived at at the end of the administration, as having the goal of the elimination of Al Qaida.
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 Qaida.
And it may be a semantic difference, but I don't think so. It calls for the elimination of the Al Qaida threat. And that's a very big difference, because, to me, the elimination of Al Qaida 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 Qaida. Is that correct?
RICE: That is correct.
GORELICK: Now, you have pointed out that 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 time.
GORELICK: 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 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 them -- pardon me for interrupting -- you were tasking the military to do something as part of this seven-and-a-half-month process. So it would strike me as likely that you would have wanted to know what the predicate was.
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.
Now, the whole tortured history of trying to use military power in support of counterterrorism objectives has been, I think, very admirably and adequately discussed by your staff in the military paper.
RICE: 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 counterterrorism 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 Qaida and bin Laden, but also on what we 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 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 thaw 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 Qaida threat or Al Qaida 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.
PDD 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 describe PDD 62 as doing. That's number one.
And number two, however good it might have been to change the text 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. I'll leave it to my colleagues.
RICE: Well, 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?
SLADE GORTON, COMMISSION MEMBER: 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 Qaida 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.
RICE: There was a good deal of talk about the inadequacy of military options to go after Al Qaida. Dick Clarke was quite clear in his view that the very things that had been tasked were inadequate to the task.
And so, people were looking for other kinds of military options. But no, an all-out invasion of Afghanistan, it 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 stand-off options, meaning bombers and cruise missiles, because you're not going to have the full range of military options.
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 consonance 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 September 11th, 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 some time.
GORTON: Would the program recommended on September 4th have prevented 9/11 had it been adopted in, say, February or March of 2001?
RICE: Commissioner, it would not have prevented September 11th 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 Qaida than was in fact the 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 multiyear program to try and meet the challenge of Al Qaida.
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, we going to take time.
GORTON: It 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 September 11th, what happened was that the NSPD was then forwarded to the president in a post- September 11th 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 September 20th, this is going to take time. We're still trying to unravel Al Qaida. 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 September 11th, this is a long-term project.
GORTON: 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.
GORTON: In your view -- there have been many such horrific incidents in other parts of the world, from Al Qaida or Al Qaida lookalikes.
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 Qaida 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 surface.
GORTON: Well, maybe you don't understand what I mean by displacement. Do you not think that Al Qaida 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.
RICE: Oh, I see. I'm sorry. I didn't understand the question.
I think that it is possible that they recognize the heightened security profile that we have post-September 11th, 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.
RICE: 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 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.
GORTON: 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. So one is hardening targets, like 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 worried about critical infrastructure protection and works with local and state governments to make sure the 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, it was -- and I'm sure that you, Commissioner Gorelick, as a former deputy attorney general, will remember that -- it became a very important tool also post-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.
RICE: 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 the Patriot Act gets just 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 is committed.
And finally, in terms of preemption, I have to say that the one thing I've been struck by in the hearings is when I was listening to the former secretaries and the current secretaries 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 Qaida 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 September 11th, 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.
GORTON: Well, 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.
RICE: Thank you.
KEAN: Thank you, Senator.
BOB KERREY, COMMISSION MEMBER: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you, Dr. Rice.
Let me say at the beginning I'm very impressed, and indeed I'd go as far as to 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 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 that -- well, actually, let me say -- I can't pass this up. I know it'll 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, that 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 is... (APPLAUSE)
No, please don't -- 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 operation strategies that we have in place. I say that sincerely as someone that supported the war in the first place.
Let me say, secondly, that 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 Qaida to have increasing success at recruiting people to attack the United States.
KERREY: 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 -- 125,000 out of 145,000 -- largely a Christian army in a Muslim nation. So I take that on board for what it's worth.
Let me ask you, first of all, a question that's 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, as you know, had worked in the campaign and helped with the transition plans, so yes.
KERREY: Yes, you did talk to him about terrorism?
RICE: We talked -- Philip and I over a period of -- you know, we had worked closely together as academics...
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, yes.
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.
KERREY: Can you tell me one example where the president swatted a fly when it came to Al Qaida prior to 9/11?
RICE: I think what the president was speaking to was...
KERREY: No, no. What fly had he swatted?
RICE: Well, the disruptions abroad was what he was really focusing on...
KERREY: No, no...
RICE: ... when the CIA would go after Abu Zubaydah...
KERREY: He hadn't swatted...
RICE: ... or go after this guy...
KERREY: Dr. Rice, we didn't...
RICE: That was what was meant.
KERREY: 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 at -- I think he felt that what the agency was doing was going after individual terrorists here and there, and that's what he meant by swatting flies. It was simply a figure of speech.
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 20th of January overt military operations. He turned that memo around in 24 hours, Dr. Clarke. There were a lot of plans in place in the Clinton administration -- military plans in the Clinton administration.
In fact, since we're in the mood to declassify stuff, there was -- he included in his January 25th memo two appendices -- Appendix A: "Strategy for the elimination of the jihadist threat of Al Qaida," Appendix B: "Political military plan for Al Qaida."
So I just -- why didn't we respond to the Cole?
RICE: Well, we...
KERREY: Why didn't we swat that fly?
RICE: I believe that there's 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 every -- 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 the time of our choosing.
RICE: 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...
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 Qaida...
KERREY: So 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...
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.
KERREY: I think it's...
RICE: 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 -- or 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 January 25th, 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.
RICE: 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: But 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 an attack.
KERREY: Let me say, I think you would have come in there if you said, "We screwed up. We made a lot of mistakes." You obviously don't want to use the M-word in here. And I would say fine, it's game, set, match. I understand that.
But this strategic and tactical, I mean, I just -- it sounds like something from a seminar. 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 Delenda plan, my understanding is that 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.
KERREY: Let me move into another area.
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: Well, that's not true. It is not...
RICE: We were not presented. We were presented with...
KERREY: I've heard you say that, Dr. Clarke, that 25 January, 2001, memo was declassified, I don't believe...
RICE: That January 25 memo has a series of actionable items having to do with Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance.
KERREY: Let me move to another area.
RICE: May I finish answering your question, though, because this is an important... KERREY: I know it's important. Everything that's going on here is important. But I get 10 minutes.
RICE: But since we have a point of disagreement, I'd like to have a chance to address it.
KERREY: Well, no, no, actually, we have many points of disagreement, Dr. Clarke, but we'll have a chance to do in closed session. 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, I am here to answer questions. And you've asked me a question, 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 and a paper, most of which was about what the Clinton administration had done and something called the Delenda plan which had been considered in 1998 and never adopted. We decided to take a different track.
RICE: 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 an approach against Al Qaida 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, we 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 as I -- again, it's hindsight. I appreciate that. But here's the problem that a lot of people are having with this July 5th 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 5th.
Kristen Breitweiser, who's 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 FBI should investigate whether Al Qaida operatives are training at U.S. flight schools. He posited that Osama bin Laden followers might be trying to infiltrate the civil aviation system as pilots, security guards and other personnel. He recommended a national program to track suspicious flight schools. Now, one of the first things that I learned when I came into this town was the FBI and the CIA don't talk. I mean, I don't need a catastrophic event to know that the CIA and the FBI don't do a very good job of communicating.
And the problem we've got with this and the Moussaoui facts, which were revealed on the 15th of August, all it had to do was to be put on Intelink. All it had to do is go out on Intelink, and the game's over. It ends. This conspiracy would have been rolled up.
KERREY: 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 FBI and the CIA. 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 FBI that did not get information from the field offices up to FBI Central, in a way that FBI Central could react to the whole range of information reports, was a problem..
KERREY: But, Dr. Rice, everybody...
RICE: But the structure of the FBI, the restructuring of the FBI, 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 FBI and the CIA don't talk. So if you have a meeting on the 5th of July, where you're trying to make certain that your domestic agencies are preparing a defense against a possible attack, you knew Al Qaida 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, and...
RICE: I followed...
KERREY: ... made certain that the FBI and the CIA were talking?
RICE: I followed up with Dick Clarke, who had in his group, and with him, the key counterterrorism person for the FBI. 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 FBI was working these issues, was working with Dick Clarke. I talked to Dick Clarke about this all the time.
RICE: 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.
Now, you said...
KERREY: Dr. Clarke, in the spirit of further declassification...
RICE: Sir, with all...
KERREY: The spirit...
RICE: I don't think I look like Dick Clarke, but...
KERREY: Dr. Rice, excuse me.
RICE: Thank you.
KEAN: This is the last question, Senator.
KERREY: Actually it won't be a question.
In the spirit of further declassification, this is what the August 6th memo said to the president: that the FBI 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 FAA 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 5th or not on June 25th or not on January 1st -- 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 September 11th.
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.
RICE: 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 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 been -- that needed to be made.
KEAN: Secretary Lehman?
JOHN F. LEHMAN, COMMISSION MEMBER: 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, the transition, is, indeed, something we're going to be looking into in depth.
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 -- CIA, FBI, JCS, the CTC, the Counter-Terrorism Center, the DIA, the NSA, the director of operations in CIA, the director of intelligence.
LEHMAN: So you really up almost until, with the exception of the INS 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 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 toward 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 as 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 why 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 Qaida cells in the United States?
RICE: In the memorandum that Dick Clarke sent me on January 25th, he mentions sleeper cells. There is no mention or recommendation of anything that needs to be done about them. And the FBI 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 FBI 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 FAA -- 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 INS had been lobbying for years to get the airlines to drop the transit without visa loophole that enabled terrorists and illegals to simply buy a ticket through the transit-without- visa-waiver and pay the airlines extra money and come in?
RICE: I learned about that after September 11th.
LEHMAN: Were you aware that the INS had quietly, internally, halved its internal security enforcement budget?
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 the program that was well established that allowed Saudi citizens to get visas without interviews?
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 September 11th 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 of 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 CFO and the closest confidant of Al Qaida -- 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 Khobar Towers attack?
RICE: I was very involved in issues concerning Khobar Towers and our relations with several governments concerning Khobar Towers.
LEHMAN: Thank you.
Were you aware -- and it disturbs me a bit, and again, let me shift to the continuity issues here.
Were you aware that it was the policy of the Justice Department -- and I'd like you to comment as to whether these continuities are still in place -- 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 FAA are not really in my...
LEHMAN: Well, these are not so inside.
Were you aware that the FAA up until 9/11 thought it was perfectly permissible to allow four-inch knife blades aboard?
RICE: I was not aware.
Back to Justice. I was disturbed to hear you say on the continuity line that President Bush's first reaction to 9/11 and the question of Al Qaida'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 CIA and Justice was the criminal -- the attitude that law enforcement was what terrorism was all about and 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.
LEHMAN: Do you believe this has changed?
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 anyone trying to put together all of the kinds of issues that you raised, about what we were doing with INS, 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 someone 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 12th attacks on Riyadh even greater 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.
RICE: It's not terribly 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 had 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 jihadist 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 use the cruise missile strike here or there, but we did not have a sustained systematic effort to destroy Al Qaida, to deal with those who harbored Al Qaida.
One of the points that the president made in his very first speech on the night of September 11th 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 sponsor terrorists or if they acquiesced in terrorists being there.
And when he said, "I want to bring them 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. Are you sure that the...
KEAN: Last question, Secretary.
LEHMAN: 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 September 11th recedes from memory, that we will begin to unlearn the lessons of what we've learned.
RICE: 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, 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 CIA and the National Security Council.
I think that we need to -- we have a major reorganization of the FBI, where Bob Mueller is trying very hard not to just 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 CIA and FBI. 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, you know, the country, like democracies do, waited and waited and waited as this threat gathered.
RICE: 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 September 11th 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 J. ROEMER, COMMISSION MEMBER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Welcome, Dr. Rice. And I just want to say to you you've made it through 2 1/2 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 Thompson's time.
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 September 11th, this country simply was not on a war footing.
You're the national security advisor to the president of the United States. The buck may stop with the president; the buck certainly goes directly through you as the principal advisor 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 September 11th 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?
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, that 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 report 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 protect...
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 party for the war that they launched against us...
ROEMER: But Dr. Rice...
RICE: ... the attacks that they made, and that our responsibility...
ROEMER: You have said several times...
RICE: ... 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'd decided to keep on in office; who was a pile driver, a 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.
ROEMER: Even before you mentioned 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 have not 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 them.
RICE: Dick Clarke -- let me just step back for a second and say we had a very -- we had a very good relationship.
ROEMER: Yes. I'd appreciate it if you could be very concise here, so I can get to some more issues.
RICE: But all that he needed -- all that he needed to do was to say, "I need time to brief the president on something." But...
ROEMER: I think he did say that. Dr. Rice, in a private interview to us he said he asked to brief the president...
RICE: Well, 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 cybersecurity, 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...
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, in your job description as the national security advisor, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, the president of the 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 Qaida cells are in the United States, when, as the PDB said on August, 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 it"?
RICE: Once again, on the August 6th 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 Ressam case when he attacked the United States in the millennium.
RICE: Yes, these are his...
ROEMER: Has the FBI saying that they think that there are conditions.
RICE: No, it does not have the FBI saying that they think that there are conditions. It has the FBI saying that they observed some suspicious activity. That was checked out with the FBI.
ROEMER: That is equal to what might be...
ROEMER: ... conditions for an attack.
RICE: Mr. Roemer, Mr. Roemer, threat reporting...
ROEMER: Would you say, Dr. Rice, that we should make that PDB a public document...
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 and 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, I would think.
RICE: Mr. Roemer, let's be very clear. The PDB 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 earlier than August 6th?
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 FBI together to just pulse them and have them be on alert.
ROEMER: I agree with that.
RICE: But there was nothing that suggested there was going to be a threat...
ROEMER: I agree with that.
RICE: ... to the United States.
ROEMER: I agree with that.
So, Dr. Rice, let's say that the FBI is the key here. You say that the FBI 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 FBI who knows anything about a tasking of field offices.
We have talked to the director at the time of the FBI during this threat period, Mr. Pickard. 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 FBI field offices on spiking of information, on knowledge of Al Qaida in the country, and still, the FBI doesn't do anything.
Isn't that some of the responsibility of the national security advisor?
RICE: The responsibility for the FBI to do what it was asked was the FBI's responsibility. Now, I...
ROEMER: You don't think there's any responsibility back to the advisor to the president...
RICE: I believe that the responsibility -- again, the crisis management here was done by the CSG. 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...
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...
ROEMER: Dr. Rice, let me ask you...
RICE: ... of the FBI, you will get into next week.
ROEMER: You've been helpful to us on that -- on your recommendation.
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 CIA is not pushing as hard enough in their agency. And he says we should not wait until 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.
ROEMER: 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 ask 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 August 6th PDB public?
RICE: The August 6th PDB has been available to you. You are describing it. And the August 6th PDB 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 September 4th, that was not a premonition, nor a warning. What that memorandum was, as I was getting ready to go into the September 4th principals meeting to review the NSPD and to approve the new NSPD, what it 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 DOD has never been responsive, how the CIA has never been responsive, about how the Predator has gotten hung up because the CIA 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 NSPD because they won't want to be associated -- they won't want to say they don't want to eliminate the threat of Al Qaida." He says, "But, 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.
RICE: 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 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 September 4th as a warning of an impending attack. What he was doing was, I think, trying to buck me up, so that when I went into 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 August 6th isn't and September 4th isn't, to you?
RICE: Well, August 6th is most certainly an historical document that says, "Here's how you might think about Al Qaida." 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 September 4th memo, as I've said to you, was a warning to me not to get dragged down by the bureaucracy, not a warning about September 11th.
ROEMER: Thank you, Dr. Rice.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
KEAN: Thank you, Congressman, very, very much.
Our last questioner will be Governor Thompson.
JAMES R. THOMPSON, COMMISSION MEMBER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Rice, first, thank you for your service to this nation and this president. I think you 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.
THOMPSON: 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 PDBs.
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 Delenda plan -- or whatever you want to describe Delenda 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?
THOMPSON: 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 counterterrorism 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 Delenda 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 Delenda plan, put it together into a strategy, not to roll back Al Qaida" -- 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 together.
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.
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.
THOMPSON: Isn't it a fact that when principals gather in principals meetings 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: Well, actually when you have principals meetings they really sometimes are to tell -- for the principals to say what their staffs have said -- have told them to say.
RICE: I just have to say 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 were responding.
The problem is that the United States was effectively blind to what was about to happen to 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 on page 2 reminds me that terrorism had a different face in the 20th century than it does today. I just want to be sure I understand the attitude of the Bush administration, because you referenced the Lusitania and the Nazis and all these state-sponsored terrorist activities when we know today that the real threat is from either rogue states -- Iran, North Korea -- or from stateless terrorist organizations -- Al Qaida, 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 passed, that you didn't want to respond tit-for-tat. As I've said, there is strategic response and tactical response.
And just responding to another attack in an insufficient way we thought would actually probably embolden the terrorists. They had 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 Qaida were prepared for a response to the Cole and that, as some of the intelligence suggested, bin Laden was intending to show that he 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 Qaida had blown up another U.S. destroyer? What would you have done and what -- 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.
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?
THOMPSON: I mean, how long would that have to go on before we would respond with an act of war?
RICE: We'd 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 Qaida 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 FBI and the CIA and cooperation -- "Congress."
Congress has to change the structure of the FBI. The Congress has to appropriate funds to fight terrorism. Where was the Congress?
RICE: Well, I think that when I made the comment that the 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, quite frankly, again, we were not going to be able to make in 233 days. Some of those big changes do require congressional action.
The Congress cooperated after September 11th with the president to come up with the Patriot Act, which does give to the FBI and the CIA and other intelligence agencies the kind of ability, legal ability, to share between them that was simply not there before.
RICE: 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 be right once. But the structural changes that we've 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 with Newsweek, with your predecessor, Mr. Brzezinski, he seemed to be saying that there is a danger that we can obsess about Al Qaida and lose sight of equal dangers. For example, the rise of a nuclear state, Iran, in the Middle East, and the 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 Untied States, in the same way Al Qaida 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 the one thing that the global war on terrorism has allowed us to do is to not just focus on Al Qaida. Because we have enlisted countries around the world, saying that terrorism is terrorism is terrorism -- in other words, you can't fight Al Qaida and hug Hezbollah or hug Hamas -- that we've actually started to delegitimatize terrorism in a way that it was not before.
RICE: 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 difficulty. So, yes, we are keeping an eye on it.
But it speaks to the point that we, 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 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 September 11th is that the country was not properly structured to deal with the threats 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 I thank Dr. Rice, that there's a lot of discussion today about the PDB, the presidential daily briefing, of August 6th.
KEAN: This is not to do with Dr. Rice. But we have requested from the White House that that be declassified because we feel it's important that the American people get a chance to see it. We're 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 matter that at some point we'd like to discuss with you in closed session, if we could...
RICE: Of course.
KEAN: ... 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 13th and 14th on law enforcement and the intelligence community.
Thank you very much.
RICE: Thank you.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Governor Tom Kean, he's the chairman of this 9/11 Commission. Ten members, all of them participating in the extensive question-and-answer session with Dr. Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser.
You see her now. She's meeting with some of the family members who have gathered, families of the victims of 9/11. They were inside the Senate Hart Office Building for this hearing, as they have been for so many of the other hearings. Another round of hearings coming up next week.
Jeff Greenfield, our senior analyst, has been watching all of this, together with us and, dare I say, much of the nation.
Jeff, Condoleezza Rice flatly said there was no silver bullet that could have prevented the 9/11 attacks. Presumably the most controversial part of her statement.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Yes. And I think that you zeroed on what's going to be the flash point of the controversy for some time to come.
She insisted again and again we had vague warnings in the spring and summer of 2001. They didn't tell us the time or the place or the manner. We did everything we could have done, contrary to Dick Clarke's notion that if she had and the president had gathered the so- called principals, the secretary of state, secretary of defense, head of the CIA, FBI in one room and taken the tree, maybe something could have happened. That is the center point of the disagreement.
And in pointing to the structural problem, she's talking about the fact that pre-9/11, the FBI and CIA couldn't talk to each other, there were legal barriers. She said I think at least on a half a dozen occasions we were there for 233 days. Basically saying two things, I think. We didn't have enough time and, by implication, the Clinton administration, which was there for eight years, didn't do what they should have done either.
One more quick point. Iraq did make it into this discussion, with former Senator Bob Kerrey using some of his time to say I support the war, but your tactics are disastrous. And Condoleezza Rice saying that preemption, which is the central argument for the invasion of Iraq is how -- one way to deal with terrorism threats in the future.
But I couldn't agree with you more, Wolf, that the central disagreement that we're going to be hearing about is, in the wake of the warnings of the spring and summer 2001, were they clear enough, were they sharp enough to have required the Bush administration to do more than they did -- Wolf
BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Jeff, because I want to bring in Steve Coll of The Washington Post. He has recently written an important book on the entire events leading up to 9/11.
Steve, when you heard Dr. Condoleezza Rice make her statements, especially reacting very often to very explosive charges made by one of her former deputies, Richard Clarke, her counterterrorism adviser, what went through your mind?
STEVE COLL, WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think she had come very well prepared to reply to the specific criticisms that Clarke had made, especially about the issue that Jeff highlights, which is the question of whether or not the Bush administration acted aggressively enough in the summer of 2001 in receipt of these warnings, vague, but menacing, about an impending al Qaeda attack.
BLITZER: Hold on one second. The chairman and the vice chairman are about to meet with reports up on Capitol Hill. You're looking at Governor Kean and Congressman Lee Hamilton. Let's listen in and get their immediate reaction to what's happened over the past nearly three hours.
TOM KEAN, CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION: ... her testimony seemed to be a lack of structural coherence. That the government, for a number of years -- I mean, this administration, Freeh's administration was not structured to deal with the kind of threat that affected us on September 11. And that she seemed to suggest that not only although some progress has been made, there is still a lot more to be done in that area.
QUESTION: Sir, excuse me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry. We have to -- sorry.
LEE HAMILTON, VICE CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION: I was very impressed just to hear from a national security adviser under oath in public. That's an extraordinary occasion and a historic one.
I agree with the governor that Dr. Rice was a very strong witness, very well prepared. I don't think we asked her any questions that threw her at all. She was very articulate.
I especially appreciated the tone of her statement. She was not, in any way, vindictive. She was constructive. It was factual. And I think it certainly advanced the understanding of the commission of the facts of the period that we're interested in and what will be very useful to us in our deliberations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, wait to be called on, please.
QUESTION: Linda Scott, from the "News Hour with Jim Lehrer." How forceful will you push the White House to declassify this August 6 memo, in particular?
HAMILTON: Well, I think all 10 commissioners agree that the August 6 memo should be released. This is not a New question in discussion with the White House. We've been talking about it, really, for some weeks, I believe.
So we'll push very hard. We think it's nothing in there that will compromise the sources or methods of the United States intelligence. Because it has been so much of a focus of testimony and comment, we think it should be released to the American people. And we'll push -- the governor and I will push very hard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gentleman over here. That will be last question. Last question. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Doug Pasternak with NBC News. Are their still outstanding issues that you would like to address in private again with Dr. Rice?
KEAN: Yes. As I said at the end of the hearing, yes. We have some issues that -- many of them have to do with classified documents that we couldn't be that forward about today. Some of them may be follow-ups to today's hearing. But she's been very gracious already in private.
She's given us a lot of time. She said publicly today and she said privately in the past that she will be willing to give us as much time as we need. So we expect to be able to follow up and be able to get the answers to the questions we need.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.
BLITZER: Governor Tom Kean, the chairman of the commission, and the vice chairman, Lee Hamilton, the former Democratic congressman from Indiana, giving their initial thoughts on what has transpired over the past three hours at the Senate Hart Office Building. The president's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, opening with about a 25-minute statement, opening statement, then answering questions from all 10 members of the commission just until a few minutes ago.
Much more coverage of all of this, including what's happening in Iraq today. Lots of important developments unfolding there, as well. We'll take a quick commercial break. Much more coverage of all of this when we come back.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Thanks very much for joining us.
Ahead this hour: extensive coverage. All eyes on Condoleezza Rice. The president's national security adviser says flatly there was no silver bullet that could have prevented the most deadly terrorist strike in U.S. history.
What's being said about this extraordinary historic testimony? Senators Trent Lott, Jay Rockefeller, they watch closely. They'll be joining us live this hour.
Also, the top U.S. general in Iraq says coalition forces are retaking the city of Fallujahh right now. That's in the Sunni Triangle. We're following several important developments unfolding in Iraq right now.
Answering the tough questions in public and under oath, the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, defended the Bush administration's counterterrorism efforts before and after 9/11. Our Bob Franken is up on Capitol Hill.
Bob, there were some tense moments up on the Hill during these nearly three hours during which she spoke and answered questions.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the first tense moment was probably the question about how Condoleezza Rice would respond to Richard Clarke. Richard Clarke had apologized to family members. She, we had been told, would not be apologizing. What she did say is, "I want to thank the victims' families for their contributions to this commission."
It was quite a dispute over a couple of classified documents that remain classified. Condoleezza Rice providing information, however, about these documents.
One of them, the national security president's directive of September 4, just a week before the September 11 attacks, where she said, she described a policy of going against al Qaeda, trying to eliminate al Qaeda using diplomacy, financial disruption and covert action. This is not a declassified document, but it is one that has been discussed quite a bit.
She talked about the vague chatter that was being heard throughout the summer, raising warnings about an attack. But it was too vague, she said, to really help the United States come up with a position and prevent the attack.
As you pointed out, Wolf, she said there was no silver bullet. Nothing that could have been done that probably would have stopped the attack.
Now, there were oftentimes sharp exchanges, particularly with Democratic members of the committee. Among them, former Senator Bob Kerrey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB KERREY, 9/11 COMMISSIONER: You said the president was tiring 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?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I think what the president was speaking to...
KERREY: No, no. What fly had he disputed?
RICE: Well, the disruptions abroad was what he was really focusing on.
KERREY: No, no.
RICE: When the CIA would go after...
KERREY: Dr. Rice, we only swatted a fly once on the 20th of August, 1998. We didn't swat any flies afterward. How the hell can he be tired?
(END VIDEO CLIP) FRANKEN: Now, Condoleezza Rice repeatedly made the point that in the world of terror, if the protection is right 100 percent of the time, you can't be right 100 percent of the time. Only 1 percent, one time, the terrorists are able to inflict severe damage.
Is the United States safer? She said, yes, the U.S. is safer, but it is not safe -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Bob, at one of the more dramatic moments during her opening statement -- and I'll read from what she said -- she disclosed the specific words that the U.S. intelligence community had picked up, the so-called chatter from suspected terrorists around the world talking about what might be unfolding in the United States, perhaps around the world. The specific words that they intercepted, the electronic interception included "unbelievable news in coming weeks, big event." "There will be a very, very, very big uproar." "There will be attacks in the near future."
And she tried to explain why despite that so-called chatter there wasn't enough specific information that would justify going to some sort of higher level of alert. What was the response that you heard from members of the commission?
FRANKEN: Well, the members of the commission were more concerned about other problems. There was, for instance, discussion about the president's daily briefing of August 6 and some wording that came out which said that there was an increased danger in the United States of some sort of hijacking activity, activities going on that were suggesting that.
So the commission members were saying there was information out there that was more specific, to which Condoleezza Rice responded that there are such structural problems, certainly there were at the time, where one federal agency would not talk to another -- for instance, the CIA and FBI -- that nobody could take advantage of that information. That, she says, and the committee agrees, the commission agrees, that kind of thing is continuing to need to be corrected.
BLITZER: All right, Bob. Stand by. I want to stay up on Capitol Hill, though.
Senator Jay Rockefeller is the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He's a Democrat from West Virginia. He's been listening, he's been watching.
Senator Rockefeller, what are your thoughts?
SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA: I thought she handled herself very well. I expected her to.
I also thought she, in a sense, presented sort of a perfect case for the administration. She glossed over a great deal.
My general impression is that she fundamentally did not disagree with anything that Dick Clarke had said. That was meant to be one of the pressure points of the day. And that she did not dispute the fact that they were distracted by a lot of other things which prevented them from paying enough attention to the war on al Qaeda or the war on terrorism. And, in fact, that they did get involved with Iraq rather early, which has led to disastrous consequences for the war on terrorism.
BLITZER: Senator Rockefeller, I did -- at least the way I heard it, I did hear her disagree on a very important point with Richard, Clarke, her former deputy on counterterrorism, when she said that his criticism that the administration did not shake the trees of the FBI, the INS, the law enforcement community in the United States after this chatter had been picked up, she said that would not have made much of a difference. In contrast to what he has said, it might have made a big difference, it might have derailed the effort leading up to 9/11, specifically the whole issue of getting the bureaucracy, if you will, onboard.
Did you hear her make that point?
ROCKEFELLER: I did. And it sort of buttresses the point that I wanted to make, which is that, when you're dealing with a potential attack -- and the president was on vacation at the time in Texas in August - on August 6, when he got the presidential daily brief that al Qaeda was definitely thinking about making an attack by aviation, and then stayed on vacation for the entire month of August until just 11 months before -- 11 days before the attack -- that, in fact, he was not focused and that the trees were not being sufficiently shaken.
But the more important point is that you don't say the trees were shaken as much as we could. You do everything you can all the time in the hopes that there will be one thing that breaks in your favor and that will be the thing that makes it possible to connect the dots and prevent these things from happening.
I am one of those people who believe that there could have been a prevention of 9/1 had we had done the right thing with those two al Qaeda pilots in San Diego, et cetera. We could have found that. The FAA didn't know anything about that; the FBI was not helpful. They did not send that to the proper authority. There was not proper internal communication.
And a president is responsible for those things. You can't get around that.
BLITZER: The whole issue, though, of these recommendations, these memos that were written by Richard Clarke, one memo that was written only days after the January 20 inauguration 2001 on January 25, he wrote a memo. But even in that specific memo, in which he outlined certain steps, he himself says that, if the president had immediately adopted all of those steps in that January 25 memo, it probably wouldn't have prevented prevented/11 because all of those steps dealt with issues abroad as opposed to dealing with law enforcement issues in the United States.
ROCKEFELLER: The issues abroad -- and this I just know from having -- from being on the intelligence committee -- lead one inevitably to the possibility of attacks being made at home. That's exactly what the presidential daily brief of August 6 did, in fact, say.
The chatter is important, whether it's worldwide or whether it's here. And he -- Dick Clarke -- the main point on his plan was that the president never really got to talk about it with him until they were scheduled to talk on September 11. Sort of corporate style of leadership, that the president pass it down to the deputy's committee, the principals don't meet. The principals don't meet until the deputy's approval.
Well, the deputies didn't approve it until one week before the twin towers were attacked. I'm sorry, but I just can't find must justification to excuse that.
BLITZER: All right. Senator Rockefeller, thanks very much for joining us. I know you have a busy day. We appreciate you spending a few minutes with us in the aftermath of this historic testimony on Capitol Hill today.
Senator Rockefeller, thanks very much.
ROCKEFELLER: Thank you.
BLITZER: Later this hour, we hope to hear from another member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Republican Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi.
Our White House correspondent, Dana Bash, has been following all of these developments, as well.
Dana, what are they saying at the White House? I assume the president was watching his national security adviser testify.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We are told that the president, who is at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, was watching at least part of the testimony from his national security adviser. Certainly one of his closest confidants on national security and, of course, on other issues.
But the president, as you remember, didn't want Condoleezza Rice to testify in the first place, which is why it was so interesting to hear Lee Hamilton, the vice chair, talk about how extraordinary it was for her to stand there with her right hand in the air and, under sworn testimony, stand before them and talk for three hours. And what the White House goal was here is, as opposed to two weeks ago, what you heard from Richard Clarke, say that what the White House didn't do to prepare for any terror attack, Condoleezza Rice wanted today to say what the White House did do, what their plan was.
And she tried to make the distinction between their policy and crisis management. And in terms of policy, she gave us some New details of how the president tried to implement his change, as we've heard many times, and again today, of trying not to just swat at flies, saying that he did have more than 40 briefings that had al Qaeda items in them as part of his daily briefings from the CIA director. But she also tried to put in historic context, saying that the country was simply not on a war footing and that they did get information, did get threat alerts. As you mentioned before, Wolf, gave some specific chatter examples. To show how frustratingly vague they were, she essentially said that there weren't any specific times or places that they heard and, essentially, it wasn't enough to prevent 9/11.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICE: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, that point, the structural and legal impediments, that is a point that Condoleezza Rice made a number of times, essentially saying that they tried and they would have potentially done more had they not been legally prevented from doing so because of the difficulty with the FBI and CIA not being able to share some key information.
A couple of other points. There were direct rebuttals to Richard Clarke. Specifically, as you were talking about, on his allegation that he had this plan in place January 25, just five days after the inauguration, and it wasn't even addressed really until just a week before September 11.
She essentially said that just because there was a plan, it doesn't mean that it was a good one. She said some of the things that he recommended, Clarke recommended, they did put into place. But others, she said, would have gotten them off course, like trying to aid the northern alliance. That would have thrown off the balance in and around Afghanistan.
And the other thing she tried to do was really defend herself, Wolf. This is something that became personal between Richard Clarke and herself. Specifically saying that perhaps she could have prevented 9/11 by having more meetings, like Sandy Berger did.
She said that, essentially, just because he had those meetings didn't mean that he shook the trees enough, and that preventing the millennium plot, as Richard Clarke said that Sandy Berger was able to do, didn't necessarily mean it came from Washington. It really came from a Custom's agent who was just going on a hunch -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Dana Bash at the White House. Thanks, Dana, very much.
Jeff Greenfield, our senior analyst, has been watching all of these goings -- comings and goings here in Washington today.
Jeff, take us a little bit back and give us a little of your sense on the tone of what we saw during this historic three-hour period at the Senate Hart Office Building. The questions, the answers, the way she composed herself, Condoleezza Rice.
GREENFIELD: Well, I don't think it is any surprise to anybody that she was composed. The only time that a flash of irritation that I saw flashed across her face was when the audience responded with applause in response to a particularly testy exchange between herself and Richard Ben-Veniste about whether or not the president and his people were on alert enough with the terror threats.
I think that actually some of the more interesting questions came in very civil tones from two Democrats and from Fred Fielding, one of the Republican members. Both Jamie Gorelick and former Congressman Tim Roemer made the point that the FBI that Condoleezza Rice was tasked with finding more stuff out about this threat, that that information never passed down the chain of command. That neither the acting FBI director nor the special agents nor anybody in the field office heard anything about it.
And while the tone was very civil about that questioning, as well as whether or not the FAA knew there were potential warnings, the substance of those questions, I think, was fairly sharp. As I said, by far, the clearest clash came between Condoleezza Rice and Mr. Ben- Veniste, and then former Senator Bob Kerrer in an exchange that we just played.
So that if we make the mistake of looking at this as theater, you come to a conclusion of, well, everybody was relatively civil and Condoleezza Rice didn't lose her temper. That's probably not the most important question.
The most important question is, did we learn anything today about, in fact, what went wrong before 9/11, whether it could have been prevented, and what has been done since? And I think what everyone agrees on, Republican, Democrat, or whatever, is that the lack of communication between the FBI and CIA that led Agent Rowley's suspicions about Moussaoui go unheeded, that let the information about flight school attendance by young Arab men go unheeded, that was by far the most serious failure. And I don't think that is going to be a measure of partisan dispute at all -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jeff. I'm going to ask you to stand by as well.
We're going to take a quick commercial break. Much more coverage of this historic day in Washington, what exactly happened, didn't happen on Capitol Hill today.
But there are other dramatic developments unfolding in Iraq as well. United States Marines engaged in heavy combat against insurgent forces. We'll go live to Iraq for the latest.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
Senator Trent Lott is a key member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He has been watching all these developments, Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 Commission, together with all of us and, indeed, much of the nation, I suspect, as well.
What are your initial thoughts based on what happened over the past three hours, Senator Lott?
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R), MISSISSIPPI: Well, actually, I watched the first full hour and then just parts since then. But, as I suspected, Dr. Rice was very open and refreshing in her candid response.
She was in a very demanding job, one that they were trying to assess what they were dealing with when they came in the beginning of a New administration. She had been in her position, I guess, about seven or eight months when 9/11 came along.
I thought that it went well today. I don't think there was a whole lot of New information there. And I continue to emphasize that this shouldn't be about just about trying to fix blame. It should be about fixing the problem.
I mean, she was candid in saying that the FBI and the CIA were not communicating the way they should have been. They were working on trying to get a better job done with that. And the Patriot Act now, of course, requires that.
It's ludicrous that, you know, the two agencies were not communicating the way they should. The Intelligence Committee is going to be very frank in our assessments of intelligence in a number of areas.
But I thought she did a good job. I was very disappointed in some of the partisan carping that you saw from commission member Ben- Veniste. But she handled it well, as I knew Dr. Rice would.
BLITZER: She also said that while there have been improvements made and important steps taken in the war on terrorism, this is by no means over, there are still problems that have to be resolved. As you see it from your vantage point, as a member of the Intelligence Committee, what is the biggest problem that's still at large?
LOTT: This is going to be a big problem and an evolving problem. The solutions are not instantaneous and they're not cheap.
I just came from a markup in the Commerce Committee, where we're trying to get more money into maritime port security, for instance. This is an area where we're concerned; we have vulnerability and we haven't done nearly enough. We're going to have to continue working on that.
I personally don't think that the intelligence community is set up in the way it should be. I'm concerned about the CIA's approach before 9/11 and, frankly, even today. AndI think we're gong to have to make a quantum leap in terms of recommendations and actions to make sure that our intelligence community, which includes the FBI, in the broader sense has to do a better job.
BLITZER: That doesn't sound like a good vote of confidence for the director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, who served during the Clinton administration and was retained by this president.
LOTT: It's not aimed at any individual. I mean, I've been saying along, this is not about finger pointing; this is about solutions. And, in my opinion, I used to get briefings from CIA Director Tenet. I went on the committee with a positive attitude. But I have found as a member of the Intelligence Committee, we have had lapses.
There are questions about how they do their work, and we need to try to help fix it in a positive way, in a bipartisan way as a member of the committee and working with the administration. You can't say that, you know, the way it is good enough. It's not. We have to find a way to make it better.
BLITZER: One final question, Senator Lott, before I let you get back to business up on Capitol Hill. There seems to be an escalation, a dramatic escalation in the fighting in Iraq right now. Some 40 U.S. troops killed only in the past few weeks. I think this is the highest level since the end of major combat a year ago.
Give us your bottom-line assessment. Is it going to get worse before it gets better?
LOTT: I don't know if it will get worse. It could. I have thought all along that we had continuing problems there. And as we got closer to the summer and this June 30 date, in which we hope to be able to begin to turn over the governing to the Iraqi people themselves, there was going to be a real effort under way to stop that or to control that.
Unfortunately, you have a lot of people from Saddam Hussein's units that are out there involved now. I think we will have to deal with it sternly. I think we have to go after those who are causing these problems. And I thought they did the right thing yesterday when they put some heavy artillery on the walls surrounding that mosque.
When you're being shot at from a mosque, it's no longer a holy ground. And I think our military men and women are doing a great job. The leadership, if they need additional assistance, they need to tell us what we need. And the administration or the Congress, or both of us working together, should make sure they get it.
There's a lot at stake here. But it's going to be tough for weeks and months to come.
BLITZER: Senator Trent Lott, member of the Intelligence Committee, joining us from Capitol Hill. Thanks, Senator, very much.
LOTT: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's bring in our congressional correspondent, Joe Johns, also on Capitol Hill. You've been following what's going on up there, Joe, getting some reaction. What is the mood?
JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Just a bit, Wolf. The Democratic and Republican message machines are obviously working overtime, particularly those activist groups so interested in the elections. And one thing we can say is that a lot of the reaction is really tracking along the lines of what was expected.
Democrats have been pushing the issue of the administration's credibility. They continue to do that, trying to get at any discrepancies they saw in the testimony of Dr. Rice. At the same time, Republicans are calling for unity, also really questioning whether this is a time for the United States, with the problems in Iraq, to continue to try to point fingers of blame at others for what happened on September 11.
Interestingly enough, we did see while Dr. Rice was testifying the number two Republican in the United States Senate, Mitch McConnell, taking to the floor, essentially leveling an attack on the commission itself, indicating that, in his view, the commission has essentially created a platform for a number of politically activist groups that are trying to do harm to the administration.
So a variety of responses here. We still expect to hear more as the day progresses -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll be hearing much more next week, Tuesday Wednesday. The 9/11 Commission scheduled to take testimony from the current and former attorneys general, as well as the current and former FBI directors. Two days of open hearings.
People getting ready for those hearings. And, presumably the focus, the criticism on what domestic law enforcement could have done, might have done to prevent 9/11, will be right up there at the top of the agenda.
JOHNS: A long way to go, obviously. And the other issue today is that the Democrats did get what they wanted in the sense that they got the administration to actually come on the record and defend its activities on September 11 with the national security adviser right there in the room. So, in that sense, Democrats can claim a win. However, Republicans are saying, as you heard from Senator Lott just a few minutes ago, that Dr. Rice took no corner (ph) and she didn't back down at all -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Joe Johns, on Capitol Hill. Thanks, Joe, very much.
We'll take another quick break. Much more coverage, analysis on what happened on this day, Condoleezza Rice's testimony.
Also, what's happening in Iraq right now.
First, let's have a quick check of the markets. Take a look at this: the Dow Jones industrials about even right now, up $1. We'll watch Wall Street. More importantly, we'll continue to watch the news.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
We'll have much more reaction to Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the commission investigating the 9/11 attacks. That's coming up in just a short little bit.
We're also closely watching the extremely explosive situation still unfolding in Iraq. CNN's Daryn Kagan is at the CNN Center in Atlanta. She's joining us now live with more on that -- Daryn.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, it has been a very violent day in Iraq. Let's get right to that.
We do have a live report from Baghdad. Our Jim Clancy standing by in the Iraqi capital with the latest -- Jim.
JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the fighting continued in Fallujahh and across the south. I think there's been new developments that really overtake all of that right now, at least for the ex- patriots working inside Iraq.
There has been a hostage taking -- several hostage-taking incidents. We have three Japanese who have been taken. Two of them are journalists, one is an aid worker. Two of them are men, one is a woman. Not clear which one is the aide worker.
We understand they're being held by a group called the Mujahadeen Squadrons (ph). No one has ever heard of this group before, so there's no way of tracking down who might be responsible. Their demands are to pull Japanese troops out of Iraq.
Meantime, two Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, we assume, have been taken hostage, as well. Videotape of them was shown. Their I.D. cards were also videotaped, showing one of them, at least, Nabil Razuk (ph), has a U.S. driver's license.
Unclear if any of this is linked to Muqtada al-Sadr, a radical Shia militant who is trying to get the release of one of his top aids. He has been demanding that, along with the release of all prisoners. Thus far, nothing to link him to that -- Daryn.
KAGAN: Jim, more on these hostages. How were they captured?
CLANCY: Well, they were captured, apparently, as they were traveling somewhere in Iraq. It appears the Japanese, obviously, had been some place where they were going through an area trying to get into Iraq.
We had a similar situation happen today with some South Koreans, as well. They were held for about seven or eight hours by militiamen allied with Muqtada al-Sadr. They, though, have been released. We have some videotape. They have arrived here at the Palestine Hotel. They were hugging colleagues.
They're members of a Christian aide group. They convinced those who took them hostage that they had come here to help, and so they were released.
But the fate of the others very unclear at this point, as these demands are coming out. We're not what the ones who are holding the Israelis Arabs really want from them or in exchange for them.
You know, there have been a lot of rumors that Israeli intelligence was working here in Iraq. That's carried almost daily in the Arab papers that are published here in Baghdad. Very serious situation, and one that could discourage not only foreign investment, it could also have a major impact on some of the coalition allies -- Daryn.
KAGAN: And you mentioned Muqtada al-Sadr. Any word from him today?
CLANCY: Well, word from his Mehdi Army, certainly. If you take a look at the events across southern Iraq, they're basically in control of Najaf and Kut. In Karbala, Polish and Bulgarian troops fought with them.
Now, tonight, we learn that a hotel there in Karbala was set ablaze. You can see gunmen out on the streets in front of that fully engulfed hotel. Those are militiamen that are allied with Muqtada al- Sadr. And General John Abizaid says this is a threat that has to be confronted head on.
KAGAN: But as for Muqtada al-Sadr, as far as we know, he's still holed up in Najaf?
CLANCY: He is still holed up in Najaf to the best of our knowledge right now. There are some people here that say they want the U.S. to move in and neutralize him. Many others believe that this is going to open up the entire Shia front, that it will evoke sympathy among Shia who are dissatisfied with progress on unemployment and other areas in the occupation after a year -- Daryn.
KAGAN: Jim Clancy with the latest from Baghdad.
Let's get the latest on the military operations. Our Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon with that -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Daryn, the fighting does go on in several places in Iraq. And as we have reported throughout the day, coalition forces saying there are two places they don't control yet. That is the city of Najaf and the city of Al Kut in southeastern Iraq.
But on the Sunni side of the equation, as that fighting continues in Fallujahh, west of Baghdad, some very difficult pictures coming out from the network television pool that is in Fallujahh. These are pictures being distributed worldwide. We know they are tough to look at, but this is the war right now.
These U.S. Marines in their tank coming under rocket-propelled grenade fire in Fallujahh. We see them making the effort to get out of the tank. We do know, of course, that their families and friends may be watching, may be seeing the faces of people they know and love.
We can tell you that military sources have told CNN all of these men made it out of the tank, all of them were evacuated from the immediate area for medical treatment. All of these Marines helping each other in these very, very tough circumstances. So while the coalition officials say that the fighting is moderate, for some Marines in Fallujahh, the fighting and going is very tough -- Daryn.
KAGAN: Barbara Starr, with the latest from the Pentagon. Barbara, thank you.
That's going to do it for me. Toss it back up to Wolf in Washington, D.C. -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Daryn.
Still ahead, we're covering this...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICE: I've asked myself 1,000 times what more we could have done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Much more analysis, reaction to what National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said during her three hours before the 9/11 Commission. What exactly did we learn from her testimony?
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of Condoleezza Rice's testimony. The president's national security adviser wrapped up her appearance before the 9/11 Commission just a short while ago.
Joining us now to assess what she said, how she said it, is Steve Coll. He's the managing editor of The Washington Post. His latest book, an important book, the bestseller "Ghost Wars," about the CIA, Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden. Must reading as far as this entire subject is concerned.
What, if anything, Steve, did you learn new in the aftermath of these three hours of exchanges between Condoleezza Rice and the commissioners?
COLL: There weren't a lot of new facts. And, really, the facts haven't been much in dispute over the last few weeks. It's been the interpretation of the facts that has been in dispute. And Condoleezza Rice came to try to reply to the most stinging criticism that Clarke had leveled against her and the Bush administration when he testified. And those mainly involved this issue of shaking the trees, that you were discussing earlier. It's interesting to focus on what that shaking the trees business is really all about.
Clarke argued that if Rice had convened the cabinet and forced the FBI to lay on the table all the information that was buried in the bureaucracy about potential threats to the United States that maybe they would have shaken out information that we know was already in the bureaucracy. The information about Moussaoui and pilot training, and, also, most importantly, two hijackers who were in the United States who had American visas and whose presence in the United States wasn't discovered until August.
Clarke's argument was, if you had only done that, Dr. Rice, in may or June, we might have prevented the attacks.
BLITZER: And it was interesting. He says that that's exactly what they did in the weeks leading up to the millennium, because they shook the trees, they thwarted attacks against Los Angeles International Airport and elsewhere. But, interestingly, she rebutted him on that today.
COLL: She really offered several arguments. One was, she said, as for the millennium, it didn't happen that way. The only reason those millennium attacks were broken up was because an alert Custom's agent outside of Seattle stopped a guy in a car who was sweating too much.
And then as to the summer of 2001, she made several new arguments in a full-throated way. One was, she said, first of all, it was a structural problem. There wasn't enough sharing of information between the FBI and the CIA. There were legal impediments.
Secondly, she said even if the cabinet had met and shaken the trees, it wouldn't have changed the picture because that was going on already under Richard Clarke's supervision. It was his group that was supposed to be running these threat analyses and looking for hidden information in the bureaucracy.
And, finally, she said the information that was mainly available in the summer of 2001 involved threats and attacks overseas. So even if we had pulled the principals together and really gone around the table to see what we had, what we had wasn't the plot under our feet.
I think the problem with that argument is what Senator Rockefeller alluded to earlier, which is that we do know that these two hijackers were in the United States, they were discovered only in August. If they had been discovered in May and June, then maybe it would have made a difference.
BLITZER: What I learned that I thought was new and significant was that in the investigation that the commission has now undertaken, they saw no evidence that the FBI did, in fact, go to battle stations, go to alert after being told to do so in that important meeting.
COLL: Well, I think it sets up a very interesting set of hearings next week, because, really, the FBI and the Justice Department in both administrations, the Clinton administration and the Bush administration, have not yet been subjected to the kind of scrutiny in public that other agencies and the White House have been subjected to. And this line of questioning has been set up, I think, by the exchanges today.
BLITZER: Did you know -- did we know earlier -- this PDB, as it's called, the presidential daily brief that was given to him on August 6 in Crawford, Texas, while he was on vacation, what the title of that PDB was? It's highly classified, still has not been released.
COLL: The title has been published in the press, but the contents of it are still...
BLITZER: Dealing specifically with Osama bin Laden.
BLITZER: That name is in the title.
COLL: Yes. Something to the effect of bin Laden seeks attacks inside the United States. But the heart of her testimony was to argue that that document has been mischaracterized by Clarke and by others.
It's often been portrayed as a warning document. And the title certainly sounds like a warning. She wanted to argue, well, it wasn't a warning document, it wasn't a threat analysis. It was a historical review of evidence in the system that showed al Qaeda's intentions inside the United States. And that she really can't make that case until we see the document.
BLITZER: Right. But one of the items she confirmed was in the document was a reference to hijacking of planes.
COLL: Yes. And the previous investigative commission by the two congressional intelligence committees had highlighted the fact that that information was in there. Again, was disputed as how to interpret the presence of that information. Rice and the Bush administration argue that it's buried, it's a passing reference, it's not central to what the document finds. Others have said it's more important than that. But without the document, it's difficult to evaluate.
BLITZER: We know your book, "Ghost Wars," was used by these commissioners and the staffers to help prepare for these hearings. Thanks very much for joining us.
COLL: Thanks, Wolf. Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: And we're going to take another quick break. When we come back, more on Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 Commission. Our terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen, who knows a great deal about this subject, he'll join us live. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Joining us now with his thoughts on what Condoleezza Rice had to say earlier today, our terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen. He is the author of the important bestseller, "Holy War Inc: The Secret World of Osama bin Laden."
Peter, you've been studying this for a long time. The key question, did Condoleezza Rice convince you that 9/11 could not have been prevented, there was no silver bullet?
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, Dick Clarke has said the same thing. And obviously, he's been a critic of the Bush administration. So I think there is agreement even...
BLITZER: Well, he says it couldn't have been prevented if they would have attacked Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and gone after targets around the world. What he also says, at the same time, if domestically, if law enforcement, the FBI, INS, would have shaken up the trees, it might have been prevented.
BERGEN: Right. Unfortunately, we can't run that experiment.
I think Condoleezza Rice acquitted herself pretty well today. I think there was some news that came out of this. We're going to hear a lot about this presidential brief on August 6, 2001. We now know the title of the brief is bin Laden was planning attacks inside the United States.
And, interestingly, it appears that there was information in the brief that the FBI had 70 ongoing investigations into al Qaeda members inside the United States. What were those investigations (UNINTELLIGIBLE) or something more? We don't know yet. But hopefully this document will be declassified and we'll get better sense of what was in the document.
BLITZER: Her argument was that, yes, they knew there were sleeper cells of al Qaeda operatives in the United States, but she told Richard Clarke, her deputy on counterterrorism, to go ahead and find out what's going on.
BERGEN: Well, and supposedly shake the trees, get the FBI to warn all their 56 field officers to really look into this. But we also heard a very different story from some of the commissioners who said that, in all their investigations, in all their interviews, thousands of interviews, there's no evidence the FBI did start shaking the trees in the summer of 2001 when this threat level was so high.
BLITZER: The impression also she left is that the president, himself, he took the initiative in asking for these questions. And the result was this presidential daily brief of August 6 that he got in Crawford, Texas, that he personally was alarmed by some of the so- called chatter that was filtering up to his level.
BERGEN: Yes. I mean, it's still a little unclear about this because some of the commissioners are saying, well, hey, the CIA actually did this on their own volition. And then they changed that story to say that, well, now the CIA is saying that the president did request it. It seems the president really did request some kind of information along these lines given the testimony we heard today.
BLITZER: And the whole issue of swatting at flies, which we heard Bob Kerrey, the former Nebraska senator, the Democrat, saying he doesn't want to hear that anymore, because the only reference to swatting a fly that he knew of was in response to -- the Clinton administration's response to the twin embassy bombings in East Africa, which was sort of described as pinpricks, not very significant.
You were in Afghanistan. You know specifically what they're talking about. And this administration, the Bush administration, said they wanted to go strategically and take more aggressive steps and not just swat at flies.
BERGEN: Well, both Commissioner Thompson and Commissioner Kerrey asked about, you know, why no response to the Cole. And Condoleezza Rice's response was the same, which is, we didn't want to do something tactical, i.e. to throw some cruise missiles in the general direction of al Qaeda, we wanted to do something strategic.
That involved a plan that would involve Pakistan and perhaps Uzbekistan, really grand strategy. Now, unfortunately, that strategy only happened after 9/11. But her main point is, no response to the call because the options that were on the table before 9/11 weren't really the right kind of options. We needed to develop a plan that really made sense.
BLITZER: And, briefly, if the U.S. during the final weeks, months of the Clinton administration, or in the first months of the Bush administration, had used military force to retaliate for the attack on the USS Cole, would that have made a difference in the mindset of Osama bin Laden if they would have gone after him with a retaliatory strike?
BERGEN: Well, certainly, we know apparently from al Qaeda detainees inside the United States, the lack of the response to the USS Cole was something that al Qaeda was surprised by and kind of felt empowered by.
BLITZER: Peter Bergen, as usual, thanks very much.
BERGEN: Thank you.
BLITZER: I'll be back later today, every weekday, 500 p.m. Eastern for "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Today, Senator Saxby Chambliss and Evan Bayh will join me to talk about the escalating violence in Iraq. They're both members of the intelligence committee.
Until then, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.