April 10, 2004
Claim vs. Fact: Rice's 9/11 Testimony Dissected
Rice Testimony Before 9/11 Commission (4/8/2004 - Center for American Progress)
Claim vs. fact a factual counterpoint to the testimony of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks (aka the 9/11 Commission) on April 8, 2004.
Written by David J. Sirota and Christy Harvey and Judd Legum. This is compiled from two separate articles published that same day by the Center for American Progress: "Claim vs. Fact: Condoleezza Rice's Opening Statement" and "Claim vs. Fact: Rice's Q&A Testimony Before the 9/11 Commission". (Both are also archived as a single article at AlterNet.)
For a full trancript of Dr. Rice's testimony of 4/8/04, go here.
Rice's Opening Statement
CLAIM: "We decided immediately to continue pursuing the Clinton Administration's covert action authorities and other efforts to fight the network."
FACT: Newsweek reported that "In the months before 9/11, the U.S. Justice Department curtailed a highly classified program called 'Catcher's Mitt' to monitor al-Qaida suspects in the United States." Additionally, AP reported "though Predator drones spotted Osama bin Laden as many as three times in late 2000, the Bush administration did not fly the unmanned planes over Afghanistan during its first eight months," thus terminating the reconnaissance missions started during the Clinton Administration. [Sources: Newsweek, 3/21/04; AP, 6/25/03]
CLAIM: "The strategy set as its goal the elimination of the al-Qaida network. It 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 this goal."
FACT: 9/11 Comissioner Jamie Gorelick: "Is it true, as Dr. Rice said, 'Our plan called for military options to attack Al Qaida and Taliban leadership'?" Armitage: "No, I think that was amended after the horror of 9/11." [Source: 9/11 Commission testimony, 3/24/04]
CLAIM: "We bolstered the Treasury Department's activities to track and seize terrorist assets."
FACT: The new Bush Treasury Department "disapproved of the Clinton Administration's approach to money laundering issues, which had been an important part of the drive to cut off the money flow to bin Laden." Specifically, the Bush Administration opposed Clinton Administration-backed efforts by the G-7 and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that targeted countries with "loose banking regulations" being abused by terrorist financiers. Meanwhile, the Bush Administration provided "no funding for the new National Terrorist Asset Tracking Center." [Source: "The Age of Sacred Terror," 2003]
CLAIM: "We moved quickly to arm Predator unmanned surveillance vehicles for action against al-Qaida."
FACT: According to AP, "the military successfully tested an armed Predator throughout the first half of 2001" but the White House "failed to resolve a debate over whether the CIA or Pentagon should operate the armed Predators" and the armed Predator never got off the ground before 9/11. [Source: AP, 6/25/03]
CLAIM: "We increased funding for counterterrorism activities across several agencies."
FACT: Upon taking office, the 2002 Bush budget proposed to slash more than half a billion dollars out of funding for counterterrorism at the Justice Department. In preparing the 2003 budget, the New York Times reported that the Bush White House "did not endorse F.B.I. requests for $58 million for 149 new counterterrorism field agents, 200 intelligence analysts and 54 additional translators" and "proposed a $65 million cut for the program that gives state and local counterterrorism grants." Newsweek noted the Administration "vetoed a request to divert $800 million from missile defense into counterterrorism." [Sources: 2001 vs. 2002 Budget Analysis; NY Times, 2/28/02; Newsweek, 5/27/02]
CLAIM: "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."
FACT: Rice's statement finally confirms what she previously – and inaccurately – denied. She falsely claimed on 3/22/04 that "No al-Qaida plan was turned over to the new administration." [Washington Post, 3/22/04]
CLAIM: "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."
FACT: Documents indicate that before Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush Administration "did not give terrorism top billing in their strategic plans for the Justice Department, which includes the FBI." Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff until Oct. 1, 2001, said during the summer, terrorism had moved "farther to the back burner" and recounted how the Bush Administration's top two Pentagon appointees, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, "shut down" a plan to weaken the Taliban. Similarly, Gen. Don Kerrick, who served in the Bush White House, sent a memo to the new Administration saying "We are going to be struck again" by al Qaeda, but he never heard back. He said terrorism was not "above the waterline. They were gambling nothing would happen." [Sources: Washington Post, 3/22/04; LA Times, 3/30/04]
CLAIM: "The threat reporting that we received in the Spring and Summer of 2001 was not specific as to...manner of attack."
FACT: ABC News reported, Bush Administration "officials acknowledged that U.S. intelligence officials informed President Bush weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks that bin Laden's terrorist network might try to hijack American planes." Dateline NBC reported that on August 6, 2001, the President personally "received a one-and-a-half page briefing advising him that Osama bin Laden was capable of a major strike against the US, and that the plot could include the hijacking of an American airplane." Rice herself actually admitted this herself, saying the Aug. 6 briefing the President received said "terrorists might attempt to hijack a U.S. aircraft." [Sources: ABC News, 5/16/02; NBC, 9/10/02]
Rice's Q&A Testimony
PLANES AS WEAPONS
CLAIM: "I do not remember any reports to us, a kind of strategic warning, that planes might be used as weapons." [responding to Kean]
FACT: Condoleezza Rice was the top National Security official with President Bush at the July 2001 G-8 summit in Genoa. There, "U.S. officials were warned that Islamic terrorists might attempt to crash an airliner" into the summit, prompting officials to "close the airspace over Genoa and station antiaircraft guns at the city's airport." [Sources: Los Angeles Times, 9/27/01; White House release, 7/22/01]
CLAIM: "I was certainly not aware of [intelligence reports about planes as missiles] at the time that I spoke" in 2002. [responding to Kean]
FACT: While Rice may not have been aware of the 12 separate and explicit warnings about terrorists using planes as weapons when she made her denial in 2002, she did know about them when she wrote her March 22, 2004 Washington Post op-ed. In that piece, she once again repeated the claim there was no indication "that terrorists were preparing to attack the homeland using airplanes as missiles." [Source: Washington Post, 3/22/04]
AUGUST 6 P.D.B.
CLAIM: There was "nothing about the threat of attack in the U.S." in the Presidential Daily Briefing the President received on August 6th. [responding to Ben Veniste]
FACT: Rice herself confirmed that "the title [of the PDB] was, 'Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.'" [Source: Condoleezza Rice, 4/8/04]
CLAIM: "One of the problems was there was really nothing that look like was going to happen inside the United States...Almost all of the reports focused on al-Qaida activities outside the United States, especially in the Middle East and North Africa...We did not have...threat information that was in any way specific enough to suggest something was coming in the United States." [responding to Gorelick]
FACT: Page 204 of the Joint Congressional Inquiry into 9/11 noted that "In May 2001, the intelligence community obtained a report that Bin Laden supporters were planning to infiltrate the United States" to "carry out a terrorist operation using high explosives." The report "was included in an intelligence report for senior government officials in August ." In the same month, the Pentagon "acquired and shared with other elements of the Intelligence Community information suggesting that seven persons associated with Bin Laden had departed various locations for Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States." [Sources: Joint Congressional Report, 12/02]
CLAIM: "If we had known an attack was coming against the United States...we would have moved heaven and earth to stop it." [responding to Roemer]
FACT: Rice admits that she was told that "an attack was coming." She said, "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." [Source: Condoleezza Rice, 4/8/04]
CHENEY COUNTERTERRORISM TASK FORCE
CLAIM: "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." [responding to Fielding]
FACT: The Vice President's task force never once convened a meeting. In the same time period, the Vice President convened at least 10 meetings of his energy task force, and six meetings with Enron executives. [Source: Washington Post, 1/20/02; GAO Report, 8/03]
CLAIM: "The CSG (Counterterrorism Security Group) was made up of not junior people, but the top level of counterterrorism experts. Now, they were in contact with their principals." [responding to Fielding]
FACT: "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." [Source: 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick, 4/8/04]
CLAIM: "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." [responding to Kean]
FACT: Internal government documents show that while the Clinton Administration officially prioritized counterterrorism as a "Tier One" priority, but when the Bush Administration took office, top officials downgraded counterterrorism. As the Washington Post reported, these documents show that before Sept. 11 the Bush Administration "did not give terrorism top billing." Rice admitted that "we decided to take a different track" than the Clinton Administration in protecting America. [Source: Internal government documents, 1998-2001; Washington Post, 3/22/04; Rice testimony, 4/8/04]
CLAIM: The Bush Administration has been committed to the "transformation of the FBI into an agency dedicated to fighting terror." [responding to Kean]
FACT: Before 9/11, Attorney General John Ashcroft de-emphasized counterterrorism at the FBI, in favor of more traditional law enforcement. And according to the Washington Post, "in the early days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Bush White House cut by nearly two-thirds an emergency request for counterterrorism funds by the FBI, an internal administration budget document shows." And according to a new report by the Congressional Research Service, "numerous confidential law enforcement and intelligence sources who challenge the FBI's claim that it has successfully retooled itself to gather critical intelligence on terrorists as well as fight crime." [Source: Washington Post, 3/22/04; Congressional Quarterly, 4/6/04]
CLAIM: "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." [responding to Gorelick]
FACT: The warnings are "feckless. They don't tell anybody anything. They don't bring anyone to battle stations." [Source: 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick, 4/8/04]
CLAIM: "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." [responding to Hamilton]
FACT: The White House vehemently opposed the creation of the Department of Homeland security. Its opposition to the concept delayed the creation of the department by months.
CLAIM: "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." [responding to Fielding]
FACT: "Knowledgeable sources complain that the president's new Terrorist Threat Integration Center, which reports to CIA Director George Tenet rather than to Ridge, has created more of a moat than a bridge. The ability to spot the nation's weakest points was going to make Homeland Security different, recalled one person involved in the decision to set up TTIC. But now, the person said, 'that whole effort has been gutted by the White House creation of TTIC, [which] has served little more than to give the appearance of progress.'" [Source: National Journal, 3/6/04]
CLAIM: "There was a discussion of Iraq. I think it was raised by Don Rumsfeld. It was pressed a bit by Paul Wolfowitz."
FACT: Rice's statement confirms previous proof that the Administration was focusing on Iraq immediately after 9/11, despite having no proof that Iraq was involved in the attack. Rice's statement also contradicts her previous denials in which she claimed "Iraq was to the side" immediately after 9/11. She made this denial despite the President signing "a 2-and-a-half-page document marked 'TOP SECRET'" six days after 9/11 that "directed the Pentagon to begin planning military options for an invasion of Iraq." [Source: Condoleezza Rice, 3/22/04, 3/22/04; Washington Post, 1/12/03]
CLAIM: "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?"
FACT: The Administration has not produced one shred of evidence that Iraq had an operational relationship with Al Qaeda, or that Iraq had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks on America. In fact, a U.S. Army War College report said that the war in Iraq has been a diversion that has drained key resources from the more imminent War on Terror. Just this week, USA Today reported that "in 2002, troops from the 5th Special Forces Group who specialize in the Middle East were pulled out of the hunt for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan to prepare for their next assignment: Iraq." Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) confirmed this, noting in February of 2002, a senior military commander told him "We are moving military and intelligence personnel and resources out of Afghanistan to get ready for a future war in Iraq." [Sources: CNN, 1/13/04; USA Today, 3/28/04; Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), 3/26/04]
WAR ON TERROR
CLAIM: After 9/11, "the President put states on notice if they were sponsoring terrorists."
FACT: The President continues to say Saudi Arabia is "our friend" despite their potential ties to terrorists. As the LA Times reported, "the 27 classified pages of a congressional report about Sept. 11 depict a Saudi government that not only provided significant money and aid to the suicide hijackers but also allowed potentially hundreds of millions of dollars to flow to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups through suspect charities and other fronts." Just this week, Newsweek reported "within weeks of the September 11 terror attacks, security officers at the Fleet National Bank in Boston had identified 'suspicious' wire transfers from the Saudi Embassy in Washington that eventually led to the discovery of an active Al Qaeda 'sleeper cell' that may have been planning follow-up attacks inside the United States." [Source: LA Times, 8/2/03; CNN, 11/23/02; Newsweek, 4/7/04]
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