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Condoleezza Rice on Homeland Security

Secretary of State


1989: NSC disastrously over-involved with Iran-Contra affair

I quickly learned that work at the National Security Council is hard and not very glamorous. Generally, NSC staffers write memoranda to prepare the President for phone calls and meetings, take notes to create a permanent record, coordinate with other government agencies to keep them on track with the administration's priorities, and just take care of whatever the President needs to do his job, whether it's whispering the facts in his ear or photocopying his papers.

In the past, though, NSC staff had sometimes gotten too involved in carrying out the nation's foreign policy. The Iran-Contra affair in the mid-1980s had been one such case, in which the NSC staff had secretly cooked up a plan to divert funds from covert Iranian arms sales to the Nicaraguan resistance (the Contras)--apparently without the knowledge of the secretary of state, let alone Congress. The fallout was disastrous; the affair almost brought down the Reagan presidency.

Source: My Extraordinary Family, by Condi Rice, p.238-239 , Jan 10, 2012

1990s: Dreams of a missile shield died with the Cold War

The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty of 1972 limited defense to negligible levels. In 1983 Ronald Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), aimed at making nuclear weapons "impotent and obsolete." Even those who weren't wedded to the mutually assured destruction theology found the prospects for the success of Reagan's approach fairly dim. Reagan nevertheless pursued the initiative. But the dream of a national shield to protect the United States from Soviet nuclear weapons died with the end of the Cold War. Reagan and Gorbachev went on to sign important arms control agreements, and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty remained intact. The same approach--new agreements and maintenance of the treaty--remained true for George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Source: No Higher Honor, by Condoleezza Rice, p. 58-59 , Nov 1, 2011

As child in 1962, felt danger of Cuban Missile Crisis

"My interest in military policy may have been heightened by the Cuban missile crisis, which I remember vividly though I was barely 8 years old. Those Soviet missiles were within range of the southeastern US, and for a young child, news reports to that effect were frightening." She adds, "We all lived within range. The Southeast was it--you'd see these red arrows coming at Birmingham. And I remember thinking that was something that maybe my father couldn't handle."

The Cuban Missile Crisis had occurred in October 1962 when Kennedy informed the world that the Soviet Union was building secret missile bases in Cuba. The Cuban Missile Crisis scared Condi. Even at 8 years old she knew enough to realize that she and her family lived in range of the missiles. As many families did on that occasion the Rices prayed for a peaceful resolution.

Source: The Faith of Condoleezza Rice, by L. Montgomery, p.110-111 , Mar 7, 2007

Follow Geneva Convention; but no anti-death penalty promise

Q: A big issue that’s come up at the moment in Britain is relations between U.S. and U.K. over the British citizens held in Guantanamo Bay. The British government wants reassurances that they will not be facing the death penalty. Can you tell us anything about negotiations?

A: This is being worked out between the U.S. government and the British government. Britain is a friend, and so we’re going to be open and transparent with Britain about what’s going on here. I think we have to remember, these people were picked up for terrorism and so that has to be kept in mind. But both the treatment of them, which is in accordance with the standards of the Geneva Convention, and also the very careful process that the military commission sets up to try to deal with, and balance the concerns of national security with due process, those are being discussed with the British government and I’m sure will be fine.

Source: Press Gaggle with Ari Fleischer aboard Air Force One , Jul 11, 2003

Europe should take over some of US’ peacekeeping role

I am very worried that the United States cannot continue to do the amount of peace keeping that it is doing around the world. Its going to need regional powers to do a lot of that. The Balkans is not going to be solved for a long time. And if you look at the military capabilities right now, Europe does not have the capability to do it. If you look, there are declining defense budgets in every place but Britain. I am more concerned that Europe will do not enough rather than that Europe will do too much.

We cannot afford a 50 year commitment in the Balkans. We cannot afford a 20 year commitment in the Balkans. And so finding ways to deal with those issues [is an important area of discussion with Europe and NATO]. And it is not just West Europe, by the way, I mean the Australians stepped up to the plate in East Timor. But we had to give them a lot of help.

Source: TIES-Webzine interview at Hoover Institution, Stanford Univ. , Jun 25, 2000


Condoleezza Rice on 9/11

Bin Laden's death vindicated CIA interrogation programs

In May 2011 the US finally got bin Laden. I felt a great sense of relief and pride as well as gratitude to President Obama for the bold decision to launch the raid that had led to his killing. And I felt vindication for putting into place many of the tools that had led to that day.

I knew at the time that the steps we took, particularly the CIA's interrogation program, would be controversial and second-guessed as the memories of 9/11 faded. Three different CIA directors would continue to recommend it as necessary, and three different attorneys general would assess and affirm its legality. Yet looking back at those days of sheer horror in the aftermath of the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, I do not regret the decisions we made. I would never have engaged in--or encouraged the President to undertake--activities that I thought to be illegal. I was not enthusiastic about all that was being done, but I accepted the DCI's recommendation that it was necessary.

Source: No Higher Honor, by Condoleezza Rice, p.120-121 , Nov 1, 2011

OpEd: pretended "Who could have known?" on 9/11 intel

After 9/11, Rice assured us nobody "could have predicted" that someone "would try to use an airplane as a missile." Except the 1999 government report that said "Suicide bombers belonging to al-Qaeda's Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives into the Pentagon, the CIA, or the White House." It's time to say goodbye to the "Who Could Have Known?" era. It's time to know things again--and to acknowledge that we know them. And to make things right before it is too late
Source: Third World America, by Arianna Huffington, p.161-163 , Sep 2, 2010

OpEd: Falsely claimed no briefing of 9/11 airplane attacks

With all the advance warnings about a terrorist attack, a fair number of Bush's team should have gotten the axe. Except, right up to the president himself, it was all about denial. Here was Rice: "This kind of analysis about the use of airplanes as weapons actually was never briefed to us."

Oh, really? What about the intelligence briefing Bush received on August 6, 2001, that was headed "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." and even mentioned possible hijackings. Or Condi Rice being warned about al-Qaeda's plotting by then-CIA Director George Tenet on July 10, 2001, but brushing him off. The 9/11 Commission was aware of this, but decided to leave it out of their report.

These were far from the only warnings. Israel sent two senior agents of the Mossad to Washington in August 2001 to "alert the CIA and FBI of a big operation." French intelligence warned the US in nine different reports about "Airplane Hijacking Plans by Radical Islamists" connected to bin Laden and the Taliban.

Source: American Conspiracies, by Jesse Ventura, p.154-155 , Mar 8, 2010

US was not on a war footing against al Qaeda until Sept. 11

Q: When you look back at the period of time between the inauguration and Sept. 11th, is there anything you wish that you had done differently?

A: We got a list of policy initiatives from the Clinton administration; we acted on those policy initiatives We felt that we were not in a position to have a comprehensive strategy that would not just roll back al Qaeda--which had been the policy of the Clinton administration--but we needed a strategy to eliminate al Qaeda. And we put that work into motion. And, in fact, that produced a comprehensive strategy several weeks before 9/11. The fact is that the country was not on war footing about al Qaeda and terrorism until after September 11th.

Q: But do you think that you or the administration made any mistakes, any misjudgments between the inauguration and 9/11?

A: We were discussing the threat spike that took place between June and July, to try and figure out how to respond. But everything pointed to an attack abroad.

Source: Interview on “60 Minutes” with Ed Bradley , Mar 28, 2004

Umbrella of intelligence since Sept. 11 has made us safer

Q: You say we’re safer than before Sept. 11 -- don’t you expect another attack on this country?

A: We are still safer today because we have an umbrella of intelligence and law enforcement worldwide. So we are safer, but not yet safe. And we’re going t have to continue to pursue this war aggressively. The one thing that we have to be very careful about as a country is to not lose sight of one of the things that hurt us most, was not knowing and not having light on what was going on inside the country with al Qaeda. There’s been a lot written about the fact that the CIA and the FBI were not sharing information. Well, in large part, they were by tradition and culture and legally not able to share and collect intelligence information in the way that might have helped to keep us safe. The Patriot Act, which the President has now gotten through Congress, is doing precisely that. So we’ve a lot more tools now than we had before. But no one should think that this war on terrorism is by any means over.

Source: Interview on “60 Minutes” with Ed Bradley , Mar 28, 2004

Clarke: Rice never heard of Al Qaeda before 2000

As I briefed Rice on Al Qaeda, her facial expression gave me the impression that she had never heard of the term before, so I added, “Most people think of it as Osama bin Laden’s group, but it’s much more than that. It’s a network of affiliated terrorist organizations with cells in over 50 countries, including the U.S.”

Rice looked skeptical. She focused on the fact that my office staff was large by NSC standards (12 people) and did operational things, including domestic security issues. She said, “The NSC looks just as it did when I worked here a few years ago, except for your operation. It’s all new. It does domestic things, and it is not just doing policy. I’m not sure we want to keep all of this in the NSC.”

Source: Against All Enemies, by Richard Clarke, chapter 1 , Mar 23, 2004


Condoleezza Rice on Global War on Terror

Apologized for Bush claim of Niger uranium going to Saddam

[In 2003, we discussed], whether we should apologize for the inclusion of "the sixteen words" in the president's State of the Union speech. [""The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."]. I strongly opposed the idea. The sixteen words were true.

I was under the impression that the president had decided against a public apology, and was therefore surprised a few days later when National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told the White House press pool, "We wouldn't have put it in the speech if we had known what we know now." The result was the conflagration I had predicted. Rice realized sometime later that she had made a major mistake by issuing a public apology. She came into my office, sat down in the chair next to my desk, and tearfully admitted I had been right. Unfortunately, the damage was done.

Source: In My Time, by V.P. Dick Cheney, p.404-405 , Aug 30, 2011

Pushed for globality of Global War on Terror

In the days after the 9/11 attack, Bush channeled his policy, and our national anger and resolve, to the task of combating terrorism and the nations that sponsor it all over the world--rejecting the narrower mission of just rounding up and punishing the particular al Qaeda operatives who planned 9/11. According to Newsweek, Rice helped the president respond this way to the terror attacks: “Rice instantly saw that the War on Terror was global.” Colin Powell said, “the initial knee-jerk reaction after 9/11 was to go after al Qaeda.” But Rice encouraged the president to focus on state sponsorship of terrorism as well. When Bush used the phrase “Axis of Evil” in his State of the Union address, it was an echo of what Rice had been telling him since the week of 9/11.
Source: Condi vs. Hillary, by Dick Morris, p.126 , Oct 11, 2005

To win global war on terror we must win the war of ideas

In 2002, Rice began to speak of “a balance of power that favors freedom,” an interesting merger of the language of the geopolitical strategy and the objectives of a morally based foreign policy. In a June 2003 speech, Rice laid out the case for a freedom focus most elegantly: “To win the War on Terror, we must also win a war of ideas by appealing to the decent hopes of people throughout the world...giving them cause to hope for a better life and brighter future... and reason to reject the false and destructive comforts of bitterness, grievance and hate.“ Terror, she said, ”thrives in the airless space where new ideas, new hopes, and new aspirations are forbidden. Terror lives when freedom dies. True peace will come only when the world is safer, better, and freer.“
Source: Condi vs. Hillary, by Dick Morris, p.127 , Oct 11, 2005

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Page last updated: Jul 12, 2013