US mational security adviser Condoleezza Rice will provide a detailed account of the Bush administration’s anti-terror actions before the 2001 attacks when she goes before the September 11 commission today.
She will not, however, offer a blow-by-blow rebuttal to former counter-terror adviser Richard Clarke’s claims that the administration, and Rice in particular, did not consider al-Qaida an urgent priority before the attacks.
The commission said yesterday that it had requested about 1,000 pages of counter-terror documents from the Clinton administration that Bush aides had not released due to ”inadvertent” error or because they were not originally requested by the panel.
Sean McCormack, spokesman for the National Security Council, said Rice planned a 20-minute opening statement to the bi-partisan commission that would seek to show the administration believed terrorism was a priority even before the attacks and worked to protect American interests.
“She will present the facts to the commission and the American people,” McCormack said.
Rice is not expected to offer an apology to September 11 victims, as Clarke did during his testimony two weeks ago. She will “speak about our sorrow for those who lost loved ones on 9-11” while reminding the public “that those who are responsible for the acts are the terrorists themselves”, White House spokesman Dan Bartlett said.
On Clarke’s claims, McCormack said: “This is the 9-11 commission, not the Dick Clarke commission.”
Rice’s sworn testimony to the 10-member panel before a nationally-televised audience could have significant implications for Bush’s re-election campaign, which relies to a great extent on his national security credentials.
Congress created the panel, formally the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, in November 2002 to study the nation’s readiness before the attacks and the response afterwards. It is supposed to recommend improvements to increase preparedness.
The commission has said the Clinton and Bush administrations made numerous blunders before the attacks, although no-one on the panel has suggested any single change would have prevented the hijackings.
Rice’s public testimony was assured only after Bush relented under public pressure and said she could go before the panel. He did so after receiving assurances other advisers would not be called.