Rice testimony likely to spin

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who was to testify this week before the 9/11 Commission, seems to have a problem getting her stories straight. Here are a few instances of this tendency:

On May 16, 2002, she said: “I don’t think anybody could have predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile.”

That was the claim.

Fact: President Bush, on Aug. 6, 2001, got a nearly two-page briefing informing him that Osama bin Laden could carry out a major strike against the U.S. and that the plan could include using a hijacked airplane. In July, he was told terrorists were considering the use of planes as missiles.

Claim: In May 2002, Rice conducted a press conference to defend Bush against disclosures that the president had been warned about a threat by al-Qaeda against airlines in August 2001. She said Bush had requested the briefing because he was concerned about higher threat levels that summer.

Fact: The CIA, according to the Washington Post, said Bush did not request the briefing. A CIA source said the idea of the briefing came from with in the CIA.

Claim: Last month, Rice was quoted as saying: “In June and July when the threat spikes were so high…we were at battle stations.”

Fact: Documented statements show that before 9/11, Ashcroft did not rank terrorism high on his list of major goals, including those for the FBI. A draft of his strategic plan from Aug. 9, 2001, ranks terrorism as a sub-goal under gun violence and drugs.

In April 2000, his predecessor, Janet Reno, termed terrorism “the most challenging threat in the criminal justice area.”

Newsweek and the Washington Post reported the Bush administration had decided to end a secret program to monitor al-Qaeda suspects in the U.S.

Claim: Rice recently said: “The fact of the matter is [that] the administration focused on this before 9/11.”

Fact: The administration’s counterterrorism task force, created in May 2001, never had a meeting. Bush later said he didn’t feel any urgency about terrorism before Sept. 11.

Another claim by Rice: “The president increased counterterrorism funding several-fold” before 9/11.

Facts: Bush’s 2003 budget documents did not provide for FBI requests for $58 million to hire 149 new counterterrorism field agents, 200 intelligence analysts and 54 additional translators and proposed cuts of $65 million in the program that furnishes anti-terrorism grants to state and local governments.

Newsweek said the administration vetoed a request “to divert $800 million from missile defense to counterterrorism.”

These are but a scant few of her conflicts. A more detailed accounting can be found on the Internet at www.americanprogress.org/site/pp.asp?c=biJRJ80VF&b=40520.

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