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.