posted on Apr, 8 2004 @ 10:59 AM
RICE: In the memorandum that Dick Clarke sent me on January 25th, he mentions sleeper cells. There is no mention or recommendation of anything that
needs to be done about them. And the FBI was pursuing them. And usually when things come to me, it's because I'm supposed to do something about it,
and there was no indication that the FBI was not adequately pursuing the sleeper cells.
LEHMAN: Were you told that there were numerous young Arab males in flight training, had taken flight training, were in flight training?
RICE: I was not. And I'm not sure that that was known at the center.
LEHMAN: Were you told that the U.S. Marshal program had been changed to drop any U.S. marshals on domestic flights?
RICE: I was not told that.
LEHMAN: Were you told that the red team in FAA -- the red teams for 10 years had reported their hard data that the U.S. airport security system never
got higher than 20 percent effective and was usually down around 10 percent for 10 straight years?
RICE: To the best of my recollection, I was not told that.
LEHMAN: Were you aware that INS had been lobbying for years to get the airlines to drop the transit without visa loophole that enabled terrorists and
illegals to simply buy a ticket through the transit-without- visa-waiver and pay the airlines extra money and come in?
RICE: I learned about that after September 11th.
LEHMAN: Were you aware that the INS had quietly, internally, halved its internal security enforcement budget?
RICE: I was not made aware of that. I don't remember being made aware of that, no.
LEHMAN: Were you aware that it was the U.S. government established policy not to question or oppose the sanctuary policies of New York, Los Angeles,
Houston, Chicago, San Diego for political reasons, which policy in those cities prohibited the local police from cooperating at all with federal
RICE: I do not believe I was aware of that.
LEHMAN: Were you aware -- to shift a little bit to Saudi Arabia -- were you aware of the program that was well established that allowed Saudi citizens
to get visas without interviews?
RICE: I learned of that after 9/11.
LEHMAN: Were you aware of the activities of the Saudi ministry of religious affairs here in the United States during that transition?
RICE: I believe that only after September 11th did the full extent of what was going on with the ministry of religious affairs became evident.
LEHMAN: Were you aware of the extensive activities of the Saudi government in supporting over 300 radical teaching schools and mosques around the
country, including right here in the United States?
RICE: I believe we've learned a great deal more about this and addressed it with the Saudi government since 9/11.
LEHMAN: Were you aware at the time of the fact that Saudi Arabia had and were you told that they had in their custody the CFO and the closest
confidant of Al Qaida -- of Osama bin Laden, and refused direct access to the United States?
RICE: I don't remember anything of that kind.
LEHMAN: Were you aware that they would not cooperate and give us access to the perpetrators of the Khobar Towers attack?
RICE: I was very involved in issues concerning Khobar Towers and our relations with several governments concerning Khobar Towers.
LEHMAN: Thank you. Were you aware -- and it disturbs me a bit, and again, let me shift to the continuity issues here. Were you aware that it was the
policy of the Justice Department -- and I'd like you to comment as to whether these continuities are still in place -- before I go to Justice, were
you aware that it was the policy and I believe remains the policy today to fine airlines if they have more than two young Arab males in secondary
questioning because that's discriminatory?
RICE: No, I have to say that the kind of inside arrangements for the FAA are not really in my...
LEHMAN: Well, these are not so inside. Were you aware that the FAA up until 9/11 thought it was perfectly permissible to allow four-inch knife blades
RICE: I was not aware
LEHMAN: OK. Back to Justice. I was disturbed to hear you say on the continuity line that President Bush's first reaction to 9/11 and the question of
Al Qaida's involvement was we must bring him to justice, because we have had dozens and dozens of interviewees and witnesses say that a fundamental
problem of the dysfunction between CIA and Justice was the criminal -- the attitude that law enforcement was what terrorism was all about and not
prevention and foreign policy. I think that there was at the time a very strictly enforced wall in the Justice Department between law enforcement and
intelligence and that repeatedly, there are many statements from presidents and attorneys general and so forth that say that the first priority is
bring these people to justice, protect the evidence, seal the evidence and so forth. MORE
LEHMAN: Do you believe this has changed?
RICE: I certainly believe that that has changed, Commissioner Lehman. Let me just go back for one second, though, on the long list of questions that
you asked. I think another structural problem for the United States is that we really didn't have anyone trying to put together all of the kinds of
issues that you raised, about what we were doing with INS, what we were doing with borders, what we were doing with visas, what we were doing with
airport security. And that's the reason that, first, the Homeland Security Council, and then Tom Ridge's initial job, and then the Homeland Security
Department is so important, because you can then look at the whole spectrum of protecting our borders from all kinds of threats and say, what kinds of
policies make sense and what kinds of policies don't? And they now actually have someone who looks at critical infrastructure protection, looks at
airport security, understands in greater detail than I think the national security adviser could ever understand all of the practices of what is going
on in transportation security. That's why it is important that we made the change that we did. As to some of the questions concerning the Saudis: I
think that we have had, really, very good cooperation with Saudi Arabia since 9/11, and since the May 12th attacks on Riyadh even greater cooperation,
because Saudi Arabia is I think fully enlisted in the war on terrorism. And we need to understand that there were certain things that we didn't even
understand were going on inside the United States.
RICE: It's not terribly surprising that the Saudis didn't understand some of the things that were going on in their country. As to your last
question, though, I think that that's actually where we've had the biggest change. The president doesn't think of this as law enforcement. He
thinks of this as war. And for all of the rhetoric of war prior to 9/11 -- people who said we're at war with the jihadist network, people who said
that they've declared war on us and we're at war with them -- we weren't at war. We weren't on war footing. We weren't behaving in that way. We
were still very focused on rendition of terrorists, on law enforcement. And, yes, from time to time we did military plans, or use the cruise missile
strike here or there, but we did not have a sustained systematic effort to destroy Al Qaida, to deal with those who harbored Al Qaida. One of the
points that the president made in his very first speech on the night of September 11th was that it's not just the terrorists, it's those who harbor
them, too. And he put states on notice that they were going to be responsible if they sponsor terrorists or if they acquiesced in terrorists being
there. And when he said, I want to bring them to justice, again, I think there was a little bit of nervousness about talking about exactly what that
means. But I don't think there's anyone in America who doesn't understand that this president believes that we're at war, it's a war we have to
win, and that it is a war that cannot be fought on the defensive. It's a war that has to be fought on the offense.
LEHMAN: Thank you. Are you sure that the... KEAN: Last question, Secretary.
LEHMAN: As a last question, tell us what you really recommend we should address our attentions to to fix this as the highest priority. Not just moving
boxes around, but what can you tell us in public here that we could do, since we are outside the legislature and outside the executive branch and can
bring the focus of attention for change? Tell us what you recommend we do.
RICE: My greatest concern is that, as September 11th recedes from memory, that we will begin to unlearn the lessons of what we've learned.
RICE: And I think this commission can be very important in helping us to focus on those lessons and then to make sure that the structures of
government reflect those lessons, because those structures of government now are going to have to last us for a very long time. I think we've done,
under the president's leadership, we've done extremely important structural change. We've reorganized the government in a greater way than has been
done since the 1947 National Security Act created the Department of Defense, the CIA and the National Security Council. I think that we need to -- we
have a major reorganization of the FBI, where Bob Mueller is trying very hard not to just move boxes but to change incentives, to change culture.
Those are all very hard things to do. I think there have been very important changes made between the CIA and FBI. Yes, everybody knew that they had
trouble sharing, but in fact, we had legal restrictions to their sharing. And George Tenet and Louis Freeh and others have worked very hard at
that. But until the Patriot Act, we couldn't do what we needed to do. And now I hear people who question the need for the Patriot Act, question
whether or not the Patriot Act is infringing on our civil liberties. I think that you can address this hard question of the balance that we as an open
society need to achieve between the protection of our country and the need to remain the open society, the welcoming society that we are. And I
think you're in a better position to address that than anyone. And I do want you to know that when you have addressed it, the president is not going
to just be interested in the recommendations. I think he's going to be interested in knowing how we can press forward in ways that will make us
safer. The other thing that I hope you will do is to take a look back again at the question that keeps arising. I think Senator Gorton was going after
this question. I've heard Senator Kerrey talk about it, which is, you know, the country, like democracies do, waited and waited and waited as this