Rice Disputes Report CIA Warned Her About Attack (BU*SH*IT)
By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 2, 2006; 1:40 PM
(If this is not an unresolved issue, why is it still an issue?)
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, Oct. 2 --Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Sunday vehemently denied that she ever received a special CIA warning about an imminent terrorist attack on the United States, angrily rebutting new allegations about her culpability in U.S. policy failures before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks by al Qaeda.
She said it was "incomprehensible" that she would have ignored such explicit intelligence or appeals by senior CIA officials. (BU*SH*IT)
Rice, talking to reporters aboard her plane shortly after leaving Washington Sunday night en route to the Middle East, also dismissed as "simply ludicrous" other reports in a new book by Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward that she supported replacing Donald H. Rumsfeld and that the president had to intervene to get the secretary of defense to return some of her telephone calls.
Rice was responding to charges in Woodward's new book, "State of Denial," that details disarray within the Bush administration over its troubled foreign policy.
The book describes a special meeting requested on July 10, 2001, by then-CIA Director George J. Tenet and CIA counter-terrorism chief J. Cofer Black to get Rice to focus on increasing intelligence pointing to an impending attack on U.S. soil. The book describes both men as frustrated by Rice's polite but inattentive response, allegedly brushing them off.
Rice acknowledged Sunday that the White House was receiving a "steady stream of quite alarmist reports of potential attacks" during daily meetings from Tenet during that period. But she said the targets were assumed to be in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Israel and Jordan. She said no reports mentioned the United States.
"What I am quite certain of, however, is that I would remember if I was told -- as this account apparently says -- that there was about to be an attack in the United States. The idea that I would somehow have ignored that I find incomprehensible," she told reporters.
Rice said her staff is now going back to check if there even was a meeting on July 10, 2001. Philip Zelikow, who was executive director of the 9/11 Commission and is now one of Rice's top advisers, stayed behind in Washington to try to reconstruct the sequence of events, she said. Rebuffing descriptions in the book that she was inattentive, Rice said she was concerned enough about a potential attack in the United States -- even without specific intelligence warnings -- that she had a meeting on July 5, 2001, with White House chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr. to urge him to hold a terrorism intelligence briefing for the Federal Aviation Agency and other domestic agencies.
National Security Council counterterrorism chief Richard A. Clarke also attended the July 5 meeting, she said. In addition, she asked that then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft be shown the terrorism threat reporting, since the Justice Department oversees the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI then held several briefings with their special agents, she said.
"I was concerned that even though there was no threat reporting on the United States we couldn't rule out an attack," she told reporters traveling with her, again denying that there was any need for "an emergency meeting in which there was a need to shock me."
The central problem was that the intelligence reporting on the potential threat was "very nebulous. . . . And so, when you're dealing with nebulous information that doesn't direct you toward a particular attack at a particular place at a particular time, you have to try broad efforts," she countered.
Before the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Rice said the United States was sufficiently alarmed about terrorism that it had "very active disruption operations" abroad. U.S. intelligence efforts had also redoubled efforts to capture Abu Zubaida, the logistics chief and No. 3 in al Qaeda, because "people thought [he] might know something about this," she said.
Abu Zubaida was captured in Pakistan after the Sept. 11 attacks and is believed to have been among the dozen high-value prisoners held in CIA prisons abroad until a recent transfer to Guantanamo Bay.
The administration had also ordered taking protective measures, including redeploying the fifth fleet "out of harm's way," putting military forces on alert in a half dozen countries and issuing travel alerts for Americans abroad, Rice said.
"It was an extremely active period in terms of reacting to a steady stream of chatter about potential attacks," she said. . . . "There was nothing that related to an attack in the United States. Nonetheless, because no one could rule out the potential of an attack in the United States, we took several measures in the United States to protect the United States as well."
On allegations in the book that there were tensions among administration officials, Rice said she talked to Rumsfeld daily as part of the so-called principals calls among Bush's top foreign policy team, until it went to three days a week.
"The idea that he was not returning my phone calls is simply ludicrous," she said.
Rice also denied Woodward's claim that she had endorsed ousting Rumsfeld at the end of Bush's first term, although she said she did tell President Bush that he might want to consider changing his entire foreign policy team.
"I did tell the president at one point that I thought maybe all of us should go, because we had fought two wars and had the largest terrorist attack in American history," Rice said. "When he asked me to be secretary of state I said I think maybe you need new people. (why?-can't live a lie?)
I don't know if that was somehow interpreted [as meaning Rumsfeld should be replaced], but what I was actually talking about was me."
Rice spoke en route to a five-day tour of the Middle East. After her visit in Saudi Arabia, she is scheduled to travel to Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories. Rice also announced en route to a refueling stop in Ireland that she may attend a meeting on Iran in Europe with the five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany, en route home. During the weekend, she spoke by telephone with her Security Council counterparts.