Friday, October 06, 2006

It is strange how the truth might out…

In NZ this would be called a “leak” and someone’s head (probably a bicycle riding message boy) would roll for it.

Rice Briefing En Route Shannon, Ireland
Thursday, 5 October 2006, 1:38 pm
Press Release: US State Department
Briefing En Route Shannon, Ireland

QUESTION: A bit off topic, but in the Bob Woodward book there is a meeting detailed in July of 2001 at which you and then CIA chief Tenet were present. Did that meeting happen the way he describes it? Did Tenet at that point express to you a real feeling that there was an attack coming, and if so what did you do about it?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'll have to -- we'll have to go back to the records to see if there was a meeting on July 10th. I met with George Tenet repeatedly, including every morning during that period of time. What I am quite certain of, however, is that I would remember if I was told, as this account apparently says, that there was about to be an attack in the United States; and the idea that I would somehow have ignored that I find incomprehensible, especially given that in July when we were getting a very steady stream of quite alarmist reports of potential attacks -- by the way, all of the information was about potential attacks abroad. There was supposed to be -- the countries that were assumed to be targets -- Saudi Arabia, Yemen, I think there was one about Israel, maybe Jordan. Nothing about the United States. And we were in very active disruption operations abroad, including redoubling efforts to try to capture Abu Zubaida, who people thought might know something about this.

We were in -- George Tenet was working with the security officials from 20 countries. The Vice President called the Saudis to enlist their help. We were taking protective measures abroad; for instance, the Fifth Fleet was redeployed out of harm's way, military forces were put on alert in half a dozen countries, travel alerts were issued for Americans traveling abroad.

It was an extremely active period in terms of responding to what was a steady stream of chatter about potential attacks. And we were getting briefed on them every morning with the President's daily briefing and I was indeed talking to George about them all the time. So it comes as no surprise that in fact the threat level, or the level of threat reporting, was very high during this period.

Now, there was nothing that related to an attack in the United States. Nonetheless, because no one could rule out the potential of an attack in the United States, we took several measures in the United States to protect the United States as well. For instance, the counterterrorism strategy group which was meeting every day during this period of time -- that's the kind of nerve center; it still is, by the way; now it's reformulated into the NCTC.

But the counterterrorism strategy group that was meeting every day, Dick Clarke was reporting on what they were doing. And I believe the date is July 5th when, because I was concerned that even though there was no threat reporting about the United States we couldn't rule out an attack, I called Andy Card and asked him to join me with Dick Clarke because I didn't have authority over the domestic agencies, I thought having the Chief of Staff there might give us some potency if we needed that with the domestic agencies, and asked Dick to convene a meeting, which he did, with agencies like the FAA and other domestic agencies.

I understand too that the CIA briefing was then given to security officials from domestic agencies. I also asked that John Ashcroft be shown the threat reporting because the Attorney General of course oversees the FBI. The FBI held several briefings, including with their special agents-in-charge, one of which they told their special agents-in-charge that even though there was no credible threat reporting about the United States, that could not be ruled out.

So this was an extremely active period of time in terms of responding to what were admittedly vague but repeated and indeed steady reports of impending attack. So I just don't know how -- first of all, I don't know that this meeting took place, but what I really don't know, what I'm quite certain of, is that it was not a meeting in which I was told that there was an impending attack and I refused to respond.

At the moment, all of this is nothing more than reaction to Bob Woodward’s latest book – and what better free marketing could he ever hope for?

In terms of realities, and let’s be honest here, any further revelations on the pre-9/11 period will land at the stoep of now departed senior figureheads in CIA and FBI. That is where they will do the least (political?) damage.

In the meantime, there will still be the “Rice knew = Bush knew” prating which is going to mean absolutely nothing and achieve even less. For let’s face it – politics is a game where the truth must never be allowed to get in the way of an objective.

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