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Politics: ‘Nice’ Rice tells little

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Condoleezza Rice worked hard for her money today. The emphasis seemed to be on presenting the presidential advisor on national security as attractive and pleasant — not substance. That is normally a good ploy for women seeking approval. But, the audience for hearings related to the most controversial issue in the world today, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, is not typical. Will being ‘nice’ be enough?

The Los Angelos Times covered Rice’s testimony before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

National security advisor Condoleezza Rice today conceded that the nation was “tragically” not ready to fight a war with terrorists prior to 9/11, but she defended the Bush administration’s terrorism policies in a high-stakes appearance before the independent investigative panel.

The three-hour hearing was punctuated by some contentious moments as Rice responded to questions about the White House and her response to intelligence data about terrorist activity in the months leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

In an intense exchange with a commission member, Rice said a crucial presidential briefing memo issued a month before the attacks — titled “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States” — did not warn of a pending attack against New York or Washington, D.C., and lacked information that warranted immediate action.

. . .”There were some frightening things” in the Aug. 6, 2001, memo, Rice said in response to a question by commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste, but there was “nothing actionable.”

Some members of the audience, which included relatives of those killed in the attacks, broke out in applause as Ben-Veniste repeated his question to Rice as to whether she had told the president that there were Al Qaeda terrorist cells in the United States prior to the Aug. 6 memo. That information had been forwarded to Rice by the administration’s former counterterrorism expert Richard Clarke.

“I really don’t remember, commissioner, whether I discussed this with the president,” Rice said.

Rice’s evasive answers were presented in a careful, businesslike tone. The memo under discussion could be made public if she or her superiors agreed to release it. They have refused to.

It is unclear how the public will interpret evasions such as claiming the memo was not sufficient warning because it did not identify the cities attacked as targets, which, of course, is not even proven as long as the paper remains classified.

Note: This entry is part of a column Mac-a-ro-nies.

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About The Diva

  • Shark

    “‘Nice’ Rice tells little”

    Gee, just like this entry!

    Whatta coincidence!

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    I watched the testimony (got up at 5:30 this morning) and will have more later, but Rice is either incompetent or a liar, take your pick.

  • http://www.gwbush.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    I don’t think the Bush administration was helped any by having Rice appear. The storm of controversy surrounding her original refusal to appear (actually, Bush’s refusal to allow her to appear) had pretty much died down. But because the administration changed its mind and allowed her to be badgered for three hours on live TV, we’ll have to hear about this over and over again for another week.

    Considering the vicious and rude attacks she was faced with from numerous Commission members, she remained incredibly calm and rarely lost her pleasant demeanor. But the attacks were not completely rebutted. If they are not responded to by the administration over the next few days, permanent damage will have been done to Bush’s re-election chances.

    Kerry, meanwhile, is wisely staying out of the whole 9/11 mess, and instead is talking about the (supposed) mess the economy is in, and the actual mess Iraq currently is in.

    Bad week for Bush.

  • http://www.shortstrangetrip.org Joe

    Why was this even posted? At best its a recycling of a LA Times article with little added by the author. Upon a cursory read it appears the writer didn’t bother to actually watch the hearings as there is no commentary of substance.

  • http://www.gwbush.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    Well, I agree it’s not the most insightful post ever. But she surely has the right to post it.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    “Considering the vicious and rude attacks she was faced with from numerous Commission members, she remained incredibly calm and rarely lost her pleasant demeanor.”

    Yes, she was pleasant but the questioning was not vicious, and while two commissioners showed their frustration at her non-responsiveness, they were not nearly as rude (if you can call it that) as I or maybe even you might have been.

    As I said, I watched the entire dog and pony show, and I feel the commission members showed an amazing amount of restraint. Dr. Rice filibustered and stonewalled, talking and talking and talking past the questions in order to burn up the time alloted to each of the Democrats.

    She smiled, but she evaded, omitted, elided and generally did a lousy job of what she was supposed to do: answer the questions truthfully and completely. Evading is not answering.

  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    Your take is the same as mine, Hal. I watched enough of the hearing to know the pattern was set — be pleasant, but be evasive. According to cute George (Stephanopoulos), there is a precedent for releasing presidential briefings. He believes mounting pressure will result in the Aug. 6, 2001, memo being made public. That would be the substantive aspect of the hearing — if it occurs.

    The item is purposely short because it is part of a column. The full Times story is available to anyone who is capable of figuring out how to click on a link — which exclude some people, of couse.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Ms Rice “tells little” that does administration critics any good. She was answering questions, and I saw no evasions. She just didn’t give you any good ammo to use against her boss.

    Now maybe I’ve missed something, but it doesn’t look like it. The best excuse for a ‘gotcha’ moment the pinkos could come up with is getting Ms Rice to say the name of a briefing paper saying that Bin Laden was intent on US attacks.

    Yeah, so? And your point is? Doubtless he was intent. But there was apparently nothing there to give any useful indications of where or how.

    This was not just according to Rice, but to a commission member who was on Hardball last evening who has read the report. I don’t remember her name, but she was something like Deputy Attorney General under Clinton. Certainly not a shill for Dubya.

    Gee, if only the president knew there was a memo that said terrorists would like to attack us, he could have…?

    Two redneck jackass points for my former congressman Lee Hamilton, a commission member, who praised Ms Rice for being “articulate.”

    Diva, feel free to rant about Hamilton being a racist. Note, however, that I never, ever voted for him.

  • Shark

    And Hal gets a Gold Star for using the word “elided” in a casual conversation!

    Great word!

    Elide …. elied… heh heh.

    Such a paucity of great old words these days.

    MAC: Your take is the same as mine, Hal.

    Oh yeah, okay, great ~ link your thoughts with the resident GENIUS!

  • Sandra Smallson

    I found time to watch the thing myself and not have to hear about what she said from others. Spot on. She added little or nothing to what we already know. Quite frankly, she was impressive in her calm and intelligence. Plus, that little smile every now and then. Smart gal.

    Still, whatever the Aug6th memo said or was..whether a WARNING or a HISTORICAL DOC or a RESPONSE TO QUESTIONS, as far as she is concerned, it didn’t say anything that would have prevented the President from going on holiday the very next day, Aug7th…hmm..I find that hard to believe.

    Having said that, I maintain that 9/11 was not forseaable. An attack? Yes..but not that type of attack. Nobody is to blame really. The Bush Administration is incompetent. If I were John Kerry’s advisor I would spend more time telling him to attack the incompetence of the administration in all the other areas and spend no time trying to side with the people laying blame that his incompetence some how led to 9/11.

    Yeah..people might want to hijack planes. May want to carry out all sorts of atrocities on American soil..but believe you me..unless you are of the same barbaric evil mind as these terrorists, no FBI, CIA, no human, can forsee individuals hijacking a plane with people in it and flying it into different buildings with thousands of people in it. It is just unimaginable.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    unless you are of the same barbaric evil mind as these terrorists, no FBI, CIA, no human, can forsee individuals hijacking a plane with people in it and flying it into different buildings with thousands of people in it. It is just unimaginable.

    Unfortunately, the FBI and CIA [and similar people in other countries] did know that this was a potential tactic. They had known it for a while. But if they hadn’t, what about the small plane that crashed at the White House? If *that* wasn’t enough to get the FBI and CIA thinking, “gosh, what if it had been an airliner?” I don’t know what would.

    Add that to the fact that an FBI agent reported that some questionable guys were taking flying lessons [why was she looking into it if not worried about people doing it for bad reasons?]in the US [and skipping the landing lessons] and was IGNORED, and you get one major screw up.

    I happen to believe that 9/11 WAS preventable, but that it wasn’t a slam dunk. The FBI/CIA might have still failed had they actually chased down the threat more aggressively.

    Average citizens are the ones who couldn’t believe what was done, but the people who were supposed to know did know of the potential. They just didn’t follow the bread crumbs.

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    I read the transcript, then caught a summary on the radio for tone and timing of certain parts. My overall impression was that she was just one more in a series of witness who have all said the same thing: 9/11 could not have been prevented barring an extremely lucky break.

    Dick Clarke said it, Dr. Rice said it, apparently anybody in the know says the same thing.

    Of course it is easy to look back and say, “See! There’s the key clue!” But at the time, how do you identify the key clue among thousands of clues, 99.9% of which never amount to anything? I hope that 9/11 has caused our intelligence folks to think more creatively, and the FBI, FAA, and everyody else to take more seriously the types of warnings that were issued the summer of 2001. I’m pretty it is so — we haven’t been attacked here in 2.5 years, and you know Al Queda and others would love to do so.

    Yeah, I’d like more transparency in government. But I also note that it’s easy to earn points in an election year by demanding the release of information you know can never be made public. I don’t know what it is in that memo, except that it seems that everybody who has read it agrees that it did not contain actionable threat information. So while I would like to see it because, well, because I would like to see it, I can’t see the point of making an issue of it other than electioneering. It’s easy to imagine the sort of information the memo might contain that should be kept private, no?

    Gah, I hate elections.

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    …pretty sure it is so…

    Not that I’m not pretty. <grin>

  • Sandra Smallson

    Bhw, I didn’t/don’t know anything about the little plane that crashed near the Whitehouse so I can not comment on that. However, the mere fact that some dodgy characters are taking flying lessons, does not lead to the conclusion that they will be attempting to fly them into the pentagon and the WTC or wherever.

    One could forsee that they may want to hijack it to another country and threaten to kill all on board..that sort of stuff. That anyone could have imagined what eventually did happen? I do not think so.

    I think the Aug6th memo should be released. Not only because I want to see it, but also because whether the contents were actionable or not, I do not think they were so indifferent that Dubya felt there was nothing in it to cause him to postpone the holiday he took the very next day. At the very least, it seems to have contained info that should have led to some high level meetings, etc etc..and you never know..it might not have been prevented but it would help the families to know that eyebrows were raised and efforts were made. I can’t imagine being a surviving family member of one of the victims of 9/11 and knowing that after the leader of my country saw a document that contained troubling info, he decided to go off on Holiday because it contained nothing “actionable!.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    However, the mere fact that some dodgy characters are taking flying lessons, does not lead to the conclusion that they will be attempting to fly them into the pentagon and the WTC or wherever.

    Specific targets were not known, but the FBI agent who reported these flying lessons seemed to think that the guys doing it weren’t going to be applying for jobs with American Airlines. She knew that hijaking airliners to use as weapons was a possible motive.

    That anyone could have imagined what eventually did happen? I do not think so.

    Well, they *did* imagine it that it *could* happen. The terrorism specialists in this country *knew* it was a possibility, although they seem to not have known of specific targets or plans.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    Here’s
    article
    in the Washington Post from 2002 that says counter-terrorism people [and even others] knew that jets could be used as missiles by terrorists.

    Some key quotes:

    A broad array of signals — from foiled plots to FBI field interviews — suggested for years that al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups had considered employing airplanes as missiles and U.S. flight schools as pilot training grounds

    snip

    In 1998 and 1999, analysts warned federal officials that terrorists might crash hijacked aircraft into landmarks such as the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

    I don’t know how nobody could have imagined it, if people had already been warned. Everyday people didn’t think of it, but those in the know *did*.

    Now the question is, how did these guys slip through the cracks?

  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    I particularly agree with the first part of Sandra Smallson’s message. (And keep wondering why she doesn’t just go on and get a blog. Lord knows there are millions of people blogging who don’t even have thoughts. She does.) More attention should have been paid to the Aug. 6 memo by the Bushites. To expect Bin Laden or any other terrrorist leader to send a message like a party invitation, ‘We will be using planes as bombs to destroy X building at XXXX X Street on X day at X o’clock,’ makes no sense. The administration should have been asking, ‘What would the preparations needed to use planes as bombs be?’ An answer would be pilots. From there, one might keep an eye on pilots entering the country from watched nations and foreign nationals applying to flight schools.

    I also agree with Sandra that Kerry should emphasize other issues because it is difficult to communicate the causative aspect of Bushite negligence in regard to terrorism. But, I am unsure 9/11 was not preventable.

    Of the two items I blogged yesterday, the situation that moved me more is the hostage taking in Iraq. That was both foreseeable and
    telling in its desperation and determination.

  • Sandra Smallson

    If all this is true then what on earth is this circus of the 9/11 commission about? There are obviously people that can be pointed at with accusations of prior knowledge that such a thing could happen? Therefore, those people should lose their jobs. What’s this waste of time for? Now, did they know that and not pass it on to the higher level principals? If they did, then, starting from the top..what should we expect? resignations?

    If what you say is accurate then this whole inquiry is a show and a complete waste of time.

  • Sandra Smallson

    Macdiva, i am unsure about 9/11 as well. As for getting a blog, believe me, I marvel at the time I spend writing on here. It never seems like it’s much time. It clearly is. Maybe it won’t take long to get a blog but I suppose because I am not interested, I feel like I don’t have the time. I am enjoying your thoughts though, whether I agree or not, so that’s good enough for me.

  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    bhw’s remarks and references underscore what I believe happened — a failure to integrate the information that was available about potential for domestic terrorist attacks. Most of the factors involved seem to have been noticed by someone somewhere in the governmental apparatus. But, bringing information together did not occur. Considering that bureaucracies are invariably somewhat hostile to each other, it can be hard to get them to share. But, that has to be overcome in regard to major threats. In regard to Rice, she was Clarke’s conduit. She seems to have failed to pass on significant intelligence to Bush, perhaps because she did not consider it important enough.

  • Sandra Smallson

    She passed on the Aug6th memo. I don’t think there’s anything she did not pass on. Infact, I think what all this hide&seek is about and why Dubya was reluctant to let her testify before they had watched all the important people testify to have her better prepared to tell the story, but NOT tell the story. If you know what I mean. It’s because they’ve got something to hide. All the top level people probably did know. But, they didn’t think it urgent enough.