Rice rejects public testimony to September 11 panel
WASHINGTON: The head of the commission investigating the September 11 attacks urged Condoleezza Rice on Sunday to testify before it in public but the White House national security adviser repeated her refusal to do so.
Rice has refused to appear before the independent panel in public and under oath to answer charges from former White House counterterrorism official Richard Clarke that the Bush administration neglected the threat from Al Qaeda. The White House has asked for a second private session for Rice. Rice, in an interview on the CBS programme “60 Minutes”, said there was “an important principle ... that sitting national security advisers do not testify before the Congress”.
“Nothing would be better, from my point of view, than to be able to testify,” she said, according to a transcript of the interview provided by the network ahead of broadcast. “I would really like to do that. But ...This is a matter of policy.”
Clarke, who served under Rice at the White House, has accused President George W. Bush of being determined to go to war against Iraq and of undermining the war on terror by doing so.
Rice told CBS it was “perfectly logical” for Bush to ask his aides on the day after Sept. 11, as Clarke said he did, if Iraq could have been responsible.
But she added: “The president focused our energies and our attention on winning in Afghanistan, and expelling the Taliban and thereby, expelling Al Qaeda.” Rice rejected the suggestion that before Sept. 11 the administration failed to regard terrorism as an urgent problem.
Asked about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq — Saddamm’s alleged possession of which Bush gave as his main justification for the invasion — Rice said the war on terrorism was “well served by the victory in Iraq”.
On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” US Secretary of State Colin Powell said he believed Rice had been being unfairly criticized by Clarke. “I think Dr. Rice is getting a bit of a bum rap. It’s being set up as ‘Condi, I told you everything that you needed to do,’ and she ignored it all. That’s not accurate,” he said.
Both Powell and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said none of Clarke’s recommendations for combating Al Qaeda in Afghanistan could have prevented the domestic attacks.
“The terrorists were in the United States. They used a US airplane, and they attacked a US target,” Rumsfeld told “Fox News Sunday.” —Reuters