Rice: Bush didn't ignore any 9/11 'warning,' because there was no 'when, where, how'
Outgoing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has acknowledged that she was responsible for the security failures that made possible the 9/11 attacks. However, she did so only fleetingly and in a backhanded manner before returning to justifications of her actions.
"I do take responsibility -- but this was a systemic failure," Rice told CNN's Zain Verjee during an exit interview on Wednesday.
Verjee had begun pressing Rice with a question about whether she had ignored warnings of the forthcoming al Qaeda attack.
"This is simply not true," Rice replied, saying that there had been only "a single item that said bin Ladin determined to attack Ė not when, where, how."
Rice insisted the real cause of the failure was that "we did not have the capacity in our systems to share information between law enforcement, the intelligence agencies, and to be able to act in a very quick and decisive way."
"The worst breach of national security in the history of the United States came under your watch," Verjee persisted.
"Absolutely," Rice agreed.
"Did you ever consider resigning?" asked Verjee. "Taking responsibility?"
"I do take responsibility," Rice finally acknowledged, "but this was a systemic failure. ... We, the administrations before us, had not thought of this as the kind of war against the terrorists that we were going to have to wage."
Verjee later brought up former Secretary of State Colin Powell's recent statement that "frankly, the National Security Council system didnít function in a way that I thought it should have functioned. We didnít always vet everything in front of the President."
Rice, who was head of the National Security Council at the time of September 11, insisted, "Any principal who ever wished to say something to the President, I facilitated it within hours Ė not within days, within hours. And the President sat with his National Security team, and everybody had an opportunity to speak their mind."
A full transcript of the interview is available here.
This video is from CNN's American Morning, broadcast Dec. 18, 2008.
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