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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 April, 2004, 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK
Rice: Key points from 9/11 testimony
Key points of testimony given by US national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to the commission looking into the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US.


  • No "silver bullet" could have prevented attacks

  • America's response across several administrations of both parties towards terrorism was "insufficient" - "the terrorists were at war with us, but we were not yet at war with them".

  • The very first major national security policy directive of the Bush administration was not Russia, not missile defence, not Iraq, but the elimination of al-Qaeda

  • Bush administration decided immediately after entering office to continue pursuing Democrat President Bill Clinton administration's covert action and other efforts to fight al-Qaeda

  • Goal of Bush administration was to "ensure continuity of operations while we developed new and more aggressive policies" towards al-Qaeda

  • Bush administration recognised that America's counter-terrorism policy had to be connected to its regional strategies and to its overall foreign policy

  • US President George W Bush understood the threat of al-Qaeda and knew its importance, but told Ms Rice he was tired of "swatting flies" - ie tit-for-tat responses

  • America's al-Qaeda policy "wasn't working because our Afghanistan policy wasn't working. And our Afghanistan policy wasn't working because our Pakistan policy wasn't working." Counter-terrorism had to be connected to regional strategy and overall foreign policy

  • Almost all intelligence reports spoke of al-Qaeda operations overseas, not domestically in the United States, much threat reporting was "frustratingly vague"

  • US intelligence gathering and analysis "have improved" but they must be stronger

  • Al-Qaeda was "on the radar screen" of anybody in the national security field, but there were other priorities such as North Korea, the Middle East

  • Intelligence analysis on the possible use of planes as weapons was never briefed: "I do not remember any reports to us or warnings that planes might be used as a weapon", however "I cannot tell you there wasn't a report here or there about it"

  • Had to depend on intelligence agencies to sort threats and assess what is relevant, what is based on sound sources and what is speculative

  • Problem with intelligence agencies was "absence of light" - a structural problem within the US intelligence community, with legal and bureaucratic impediments keeping the FBI and CIA separate: "We did not share domestic and foreign intelligence to make a product for policy makers that people could depend upon"

  • Re August 6 2001 memo (which warned of possible attacks by al-Qaeda): "It was about threats abroad, not about the United States... this was not a warning"

  • Nothing in memo suggested an attack was coming in New York and in Washington DC. It was not a threat report to the president or to Ms Rice

  • There were no specific threats to specific sites and the country had already taken steps, through the Federal Aviation Authority, to warn of hijackings


  • Following 11 September 2001 attacks, none of Mr Bush's advisers counselled doing anything against Iraq, the focus was on Afghanistan

  • At one point after the attacks the US president said he wanted contingency plans against Iraq should it act against US interests, he was concerned that it would take advantage of the country during the period after the attacks

  • Was no misuse of information - "I'm quite certain the president never pushed anybody to twist the facts" on Iraq

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