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Old 04-01-2004, 08:39 AM   #1
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Rice Speech Before 9-11 Offers Insight into Admin's Defense Plan

Top Focus Before 9/11 Wasn't on Terrorism
Rice Speech Cited Missile Defense

By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 1, 2004; Page A01


On Sept. 11, 2001, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to outline a Bush administration policy that would address "the threats and problems of today and the day after, not the world of yesterday" -- but the focus was largely on missile defense, not terrorism from Islamic radicals.

The speech provides telling insight into the administration's thinking on the very day that the United States suffered the most devastating attack since the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor. The address was designed to promote missile defense as the cornerstone of a new national security strategy, and contained no mention of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or Islamic extremist groups, according to former U.S. officials who have seen the text.

The speech was postponed in the chaos of the day, part of which Rice spent in a bunker. It mentioned terrorism, but did so in the context used in other Bush administration speeches in early 2001: as one of the dangers from rogue nations, such as Iraq, that might use weapons of terror, rather than from the cells of extremists now considered the main security threat to the United States.

The text also implicitly challenged the Clinton administration's policy, saying it did not do enough about the real threat -- long-range missiles.

"We need to worry about the suitcase bomb, the car bomb and the vial of sarin released in the subway," according to excerpts of the speech provided to The Washington Post. "[But] why put deadbolt locks on your doors and stock up on cans of mace and then decide to leave your windows open?"

The text of Rice's Sept. 11 speech, which was never delivered, broadly reflects Bush administration foreign policy pronouncements during the eight months leading to the attacks, according to a review of speeches, news conferences and media appearances. Although the administration did address terrorism, it devoted far more attention to pushing missile defense, a controversial idea both at home and abroad, the review shows.

Al Qaeda and Islamic terrorism rated lower on the list of priorities, as outlined by officials in their own public statements on policy.

The question of whether the administration was properly focused on the terrorist threat before Sept. 11 is central to a building political storm in Washington, as a commission investigating the attacks prepares to take public testimony from Rice. Last week, President Bush's former counterterrorism chief, Richard A. Clarke, accused the administration of failing to take seriously enough the danger from al Qaeda -- a charge the White House strenuously disputes.

The White House declined to release the complete text of Rice's speech, since it was not given. The White House did confirm the accuracy of excerpts given to The Post, and former U.S. officials provided a detailed summary of the speech.

"The president's commitment to fighting terrorism isn't measured by the number of speeches, but by the concrete actions taken to fight the threat," said James R. Wilkinson, deputy national security adviser for communications, when asked about the speech. "The first major foreign policy directive of this administration was the new strategy to eliminate al Qaeda that the White House ordered soon after taking office. It was eliminating al Qaeda, not missile defense, not Iraq, and not the [Anti-Ballistic Missile] Treaty," he said.

The administration requested such a directive in May 2001, but it did not take shape until a week before Sept. 11, according to a staff report of the commission investigating attacks. Bush signed the final directive in October, weeks after the attack.

A review of major public pronouncements in the first eight months of 2001 found relatively few extensive statements by Bush, Vice President Cheney or Rice about al Qaeda, bin Laden or other Islamic extremist groups.

The president set the tone. In his first address to Congress, on Feb. 27, 2001, Bush acknowledged the danger of bomb-wielding terrorists, but also promoted missile defense as the priority in protecting the United States.

"Our nation also needs a clear strategy to confront the threats of the 21st century, threats that are more widespread and less certain. They range from terrorists who threaten with bombs to tyrants and rogue nations intent on developing weapons of mass destruction. To protect our own people, our allies and friends, we must develop and we must deploy effective missile defenses," he said. Later this year, the administration plans to put into operation the first phase of a system to intercept and destroy incoming ballistic missiles.

In most public comments about Afghanistan before Sept. 11, Bush talked mainly about limited freedoms afforded under Taliban rule. One of the few presidential statements citing bin Laden and al Qaeda was on June 30, 2001, in a letter renewing Clinton administration-era sanctions on the Taliban.

During the summer of 2001, as al Qaeda operatives were in flight training and finalizing plans for the attacks, the administration's public focus was on other matters.

After his first meeting with NATO heads of state in Brussels in June 2001, Bush outlined the five top defense issues discussed with the closest U.S. allies. Missile defense was at the top of the list, followed by developing a NATO relationship with Russia, working in common purpose with Europe, increased defense spending in NATO countries, and enlarging the alliance to include former East European countries. The only reference to extremists was in Macedonia, where Bush said regional forces were seeking to subvert a new democracy.

Top officials continued that public focus right up to the eve of the al Qaeda attacks. On Aug. 2, 2001, Cheney emphasized the bold new U.S. plan for a 21st century approach to security. "We're fundamentally transforming the U.S. strategic relationship around the world as we look at missile defenses and modifications to our offensive strategic arms," he said at a news conference with Republican congressional leaders on Capitol Hill.

And two days before Sept. 11, appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," Rice said the administration was ready "to get serious about the business of dealing with this emergent threat. Ballistic missiles are ubiquitous now."

In the speech prepared for Sept. 11, Rice intended to point out that the United States had spent $11 billion on counterterrorism, about twice as much as it spent on missile defense, during the previous year, although the speech did not point out that that was when President Bill Clinton was still in office.

Rice's text noted that Bush appointed Cheney to oversee a coordinated national effort to protect against a terrorist attack using weapons of mass destruction. At the time, the U.S. concern about terror was heavily focused on Iraq and rogue states, and missile defense was viewed as a weapon against that terrorism -- a different interpretation of the leading threats and responses that would take hold after jetliners hit the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

In April 2002, Rice followed through on her postponed Sept. 11 speaking engagement at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. But the speech she delivered did not contain any of the original text, former U.S. officials said.

In the revamped speech, Rice's focus was on the threat of international terrorists -- and missile defense was mentioned only once, almost in passing.

"An earthquake of the magnitude of 9/11 can shift the tectonic plates of international politics," she noted.

Staff researcher Lucy Shackelford and staff writer Mark Stencel contributed to this report.



2004 The Washington Post Company
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Old 04-02-2004, 03:04 AM   #2
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So Clark was onto something when he stated that terrorism was not a priority for the current administration. Despite the flak he's getting these days.

It's also interesting that nobody found this interesting enough to react to...

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Old 04-02-2004, 09:10 AM   #3
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Other interesting pre-911 stuff in The Independent

Quote:
A former translator for the FBI with top-secret security clearance says she has provided information to the panel investigating the 11 September attacks which proves senior officials knew of al-Qa'ida's plans to attack the US with aircraft months before the strikes happened.

She said the claim by the National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, that there was no such information was "an outrageous lie".

Sibel Edmonds said she spent more than three hours in a closed session with the commission's investigators providing information that was circulating within the FBI in the spring and summer of 2001 suggesting that an attack using aircraft was just months away and the terrorists were in place. The Bush administration, meanwhile, has sought to silence her and has obtained a gagging order from a court by citing the rarely used "state secrets privilege".
This is getting better each day
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Old 04-02-2004, 11:45 AM   #4
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everyone in the government knew of a terrorism attack, no one did anything
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Old 04-02-2004, 05:23 PM   #5
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The rope holding that anvil above Bush's head gets weaker with every day's news.
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Old 04-03-2004, 08:55 PM   #6
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Holy smokes. This is getting interesting.
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Old 04-05-2004, 01:42 PM   #7
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Call me a junkie, but I'm going to be riveted to Condi's testimony. The admin really does seem to have been stuck in the Cold War the least. Missile defense? From Saddam, who would have been lucky to get a missle to Israel or Iran? Al Q. certainly doesn't have long range missiles, or they'd not use 747s.

I'd be very interested to know if Clinton really did have specific policies in place which the Bush admin reversed or didn't carry on. Anyone know more about the Millenuim Eve attack attempt, and how it was thwarted??

SD
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Old 04-05-2004, 02:53 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by Sherry Darling

I'd be very interested to know if Clinton really did have specific policies in place which the Bush admin reversed or didn't carry on. Anyone know more about the Millenuim Eve attack attempt, and how it was thwarted??

SD
Quote:
From Richard Clarke's interview with Tim Russert on Meet the Press, March 28 2004:
...

MR. RUSSERT: We'll get to that particular debate, but let me go back to September 11 and what led up to it. The Washington Post captured this way: "On July 5 of 2001, the White House summoned officials of a dozen federal agencies to the Situation Room. `Something really spectacular is going to happen here, and it's going to happen soon,' the government's top counterterrorism official, Richard Clarke, told the assembled group, including the Federal Aviation Administration, Coast Guard, FBI, Secret Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service. Clarke directed every counterterrorist office to cancel vacations, defer non-vital travel, put off scheduled exercises, place domestic rapid-response teams on much shorter alert. For six weeks in the summer of 2001, at home and overseas, the U.S. government was at its highest possible state of readiness--and anxiety--against imminent terrorist attack."

Did Dr. Rice instruct you to organize that meeting?

MR. CLARKE: No. I told her I was going to do it. And I had already been doing it two weeks before, because on June 21, I believe it was, George Tenet called me and said, "I don't think we're getting the message through. These people aren't acting the way the Clinton people did under similar circumstances." And I suggested to Tenet that he come down and personally brief Condi Rice, that he bring his terrorism team with him. And we sat in the national security adviser's office. And I've used the phrase in the book to describe George Tenet's warnings as "He had his hair on fire." He was about as excited as I'd ever seen him. And he said, "Something is going to happen."

Now, when he said that in December 1999 to the national security adviser, at the time Sandy Berger, Sandy Berger then held daily meetings throughout December 1999 in the White House Situation Room, with the FBI director, the attorney general, the head of the CIA, the head of the Defense Department, and they shook out of their bureaucracies every last piece of information to prevent the attacks. And we did prevent the attacks in December 1999. Dr. Rice chose not to do that.

Now, in retrospect, we now know that there was information in the FBI that hadn't bubbled to the top, that two of the hijackers were in the United States. If we had had that kind of process in the summer of 2001 that we had in December '99, where the national security adviser was every day in the White House asking the FBI director and the attorney general and the secretary of defense, "Go back to your building, find out all that you can"--if we had done that in the summer of 2001, maybe the information that was in the FBI would have shaken loose.
...
Of course, Clarke was "out of the loop" and is now "disgruntled" or "trying to profit from a book deal" or "has an axe to grind with the Bush administration because he was passed over for a job" etc.

Read the rest of the interview here. Very enlightening.
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Old 04-05-2004, 08:22 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by Sherry Darling
Call me a junkie, but I'm going to be riveted to Condi's testimony. The admin really does seem to have been stuck in the Cold War the least. Missile defense? From Saddam, who would have been lucky to get a missle to Israel or Iran? Al Q. certainly doesn't have long range missiles, or they'd not use 747s.

I'd be very interested to know if Clinton really did have specific policies in place which the Bush admin reversed or didn't carry on. Anyone know more about the Millenuim Eve attack attempt, and how it was thwarted??

SD
Potentially thousands of American troops and Kuwaiti Civilians are alive today because Patriot Missile systems intercepted Iraqi Ballistic missiles last year in the war. One Missile if it had not been intercepted would have killed most of the US leadership in Kuwait.
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Old 04-05-2004, 08:22 PM   #10
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I'm setting my clock for six AM so that I can see the testimony live. There's nothing wrong with being interested in what is turning out to be a hugely important time in American politics. If my Mom was alive she'd be watching every second of this, just like she did Watergate. That scandal looks puny in comparison to what's happening now. She probably watches over my shoulder, now that I think about it.
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Old 04-05-2004, 10:11 PM   #11
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Originally posted by STING2


Potentially thousands of American troops and Kuwaiti Civilians are alive today because Patriot Missile systems intercepted Iraqi Ballistic missiles last year in the war. One Missile if it had not been intercepted would have killed most of the US leadership in Kuwait.
I don't think she meant that kind of missile defense, STING. GW's administration didn't develop the Patriot missile, he was focused on stopping long-range missiles, wasn't he? I think we can all agree that developing effective technology that helps stop short-range missiles was a good idea (for whoever did it, I honestly don't know), especially in this age of modern warfare. But it does make GW's focus on long-range missile defense look a little bit foolish. I believe that was the point Sherry Darling was trying to make.
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Old 04-06-2004, 12:33 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by ThatGuy


I don't think she meant that kind of missile defense, STING. GW's administration didn't develop the Patriot missile, he was focused on stopping long-range missiles, wasn't he? I think we can all agree that developing effective technology that helps stop short-range missiles was a good idea (for whoever did it, I honestly don't know), especially in this age of modern warfare. But it does make GW's focus on long-range missile defense look a little bit foolish. I believe that was the point Sherry Darling was trying to make.
The technologies are virtually the same and both benefit when research on either is funded.

There is this naive narrow view that the United States only faces one type of threat. It does not, and it must multi-task and prepare for a range of threats in different parts of the world. The text of Rices speach has not been put out, but it is important that there be a certain level of focus on the issue of National Missile Defense as well as various types of terrorism, rogue states, and other threatening and destabilizing situations.

Opponents of the administration are doing their dead level best to attempt to knock down the administration for their political purposes. If one objectively looks at the situation during the 8 YEARS Clinton had and the 7 months and 21 days Bush had prior to September 11 you will see that both did not have in place capabilities or policies that could have prevented 9/11. The difference is that even if Bush had invaded Afghanistan on January 20, 2001, 9/11 still would have happened as the planning and members had long sinced moved into the United States.

Major policy shifts and developments do not happen over night, but Clinton definitely had plenty of time with the 8 years he had. Bush had 7 months and 21 days and was developing a plan that was superior to anything Clinton had done to combat Al Quada.
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