National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States: Testimony (Condoleezza Rice)
On March 30, 2004, White House Counsel, Alberto R. Gonzales, sent a letter to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States stating that, as long as the Bush administration's conditions are met, Condoleezza Rice will testify in public and under oath before the Commission.
The Associated Press reported that "National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will be allowed to testify in public under oath before the commission investigating the failure to prevent the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, an administration official said ... [And] the decision is conditioned on the Bush administration receiving assurances in writing from the commission that such a step does not set a precedent, said the official speaking on condition of anonymity. It appeared the administration already had such assurances verbally in private and is confident it will get them in writing. 
- Commission may not seek further testimony from any other White House personnel.
- President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney will only testify together, not separately; for which there will be only one notetaker present and there will be no public release of the testimony.
The March 31, 2004, New York Times' Op-Ed "Of Politics and Privilege" relates that "President Bush finally agreed yesterday to allow his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, to testify publicly and under oath to the panel investigating the 9/11 attacks. But Mr. Bush did the right thing only under intense political pressure and after he had already undermined the principles he claimed to be upholding. His reversal came with disturbing conditions attached, wrapped up in a volley of spin. All in all, it leaves the impression of a White House less interested in helping the 9/11 panel perform its vital task than in protecting the president's political flanks."
Rice is expected to testify during the week of April 5, 2004. 
Garance Franke-Ruta, senior editor at The American Prospect, adds March 31, 2004, in "The Power of Persistence" that "The most important person in American politics today may very well be a little-known former homemaker from New Jersey named Kristen Breitweiser. Her husband, Ronald Breitweiser, worked for Fiduciary Trust and was killed in the World Trade Center attack on September 11. Together with three other widows from New Jersey, Breitweiser has rebuilt her life around one central goal: getting to the bottom of what happened on the day she watched her husband murdered on national television.
"Last week, the four widows, led by Breitweiser, walked out of the 9-11 hearings the commission was holding to protest Condoleeza Rice's refusal to testify under oath. Less than a week later, the Bush administration caved to their demand and has reached an agreement with the commission under which Rice will testify under oath.
"Similarly, Richard Clarke may be the man who's made the most damning, high-profile criticisms of the Bush administration's conduct of the war on terror to date, but he would never have been in a position to do so under oath and at length on television if it hadn't been for the work of Breitweiser, Mindy Kleinberg, Patty Casazza, and Lorie van Auken."
- The Letter from White House Counsel, Alberto R. Gonzales, to Thomas H. Kean, Chairman, and Lee H. Hamilton, Vice Chairman, National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States Re: Public Testimony Under Oath From National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice Before the 9/11 Commission, March 30, 2004. Posted by FindLaw. Also posted by LATimes (pdf).
- The Text of "the 9/11 Commission's statement following the White House letter setting requirements for the sworn, public testimony by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and the private testimony by both President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney before the full commission," March 30, 2004. Posted by MSNBC.com.
From the SourceWatch Front Page (March 26, 2004): "'Time for CNN, None for Congress': Condoleezza Rice is the White House official whose testimony is desired the most by the congressional panel probing the Bush administration's handling of Al Qaeda before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, but the Bush administration refuses to have her testify publicly. She hasn't exactly been invisible, though. In response to criticisms of the White House by former anti-terrorism czar Richard A. Clarke, Rice has been 'spending the week on television and in news media briefings,' note Elizabeth Bumiller and Philip Shenon in the New York Times. 'She has infuriated some members of the panel, who wonder why she has time for CNN but not for them. On Thursday they questioned again whether she should be subpoenaed to testify. ... 'My gosh, I think she was on every single network the day the commission opened its hearing this week, attacking our witnesses,' said former Senator Bob Kerrey, a commission member and a Democrat.' Joshua Micah Marshall notes that Rice has even been eager to reveal classified information if it helps the administration's image. 'She's a veritable information geyser, a one-woman-FOIA,' Marshall quips. 'She just won't answer questions under oath.'"
On March 29, 2004, Atrios provides two significant statements regarding the issue of whether or not Rice should testify under oath before the Commission. First, in response to the Drudge Report's "1999: Clarke Did Not Testify Under Oath; Citing Privilege", Atrios says that "Legally, there is [a] difference between testifying in front of a Congressional Committee and testifying in front of a commission established by a Bill signed into Law by the preznit." 
Second, in Hope Yen's AP story "Experts See No Law Barring Rice Testimony", Rice is quoted as saying on CBS's 60 Minutes: "Nothing would be better, from my point of view, than to be able to testify ... I would really like to do that. But there is an important principle involved here: It is a long-standing principle that sitting national security advisers do not testify before the Congress." Atrios responds: "First of all, this isn't even about testifying in front of congress. Second, to the extent that there is any long-standing principle, it's about being compelled to testify in front of congress by congress and its committees - not about being compelled to testify to an independent committee set up by an Act of Congress and signed into law by the preznit. Third, National Security Advisors have testified before congress. Fourth, and most importantly, we aren't talking about compelling you to testify at all." 
On March 28, 2004, Xymphora wrote that "In the course of about a week, Condoleezza Rice has gone from looking like the next running mate of George Bush to looking like the next cell mate of Martha Stewart. It makes perfect sense for her not to want to testify under oath, as she will have to lie to protect herself and her President, and she knows from the history of Watergate and Iran-Contra that lying in a cover-up is much more dangerous than the original crimes. The problem is that you can't simultaneously resist testifying under oath and be the ubiquitous hard-line spokesmodel for the Bush Administration position to any friendly 'journalist' who will help you spread the manure. You quickly start to look like a fool and a liar. Her situation has become so untenable that you have to wonder whether the Machiavellian hand of Dick Cheney is advising her on what to do, thus eliminating his rival for the job he wants to keep." 
Thomas Schaller, in the The Gadflyer, writes in "Regretting Hart-Rudman" on April 8, 2004: 
- "Condi Rice's principal defense is that the Intelligence Community was structurally incapable (or at least ill-equipped) to digest and share terrorism information, and therefore assess and manage threats accordingly. She's absolutely right about that.
- "Although I will say more about why this makes President Bush's intentional ignoring of the Hart-Rudman commission's report (issued on Day 12 of his Administration) such a hypocritical act, now, in light of Rice's use of this complaint as a defense, here is at least one section from the report's Executive Summary that I suspect makes Dr. Rice wish the president had thought twice about embracing the commission and its recommendations:
- "We recommend further that the President's National Security Advisor and NSC staff return to their traditional role of coordinating national security activities and resist the temptation to become policymakers or operators. The NSC Advisor should also keep a low public profile. Legislative, press communications, and speechwriting functions should reside in the White House staff, not separately in the NSC staff as they do today. The higher the profile of the National Security Advisor the greater will be the pressures from Congress to compel testimony and force Senate confirmation of the position."
Comments Schaller: "Ouch....very ouch."
Sean Aday, also writing for The Gadflyer in "Bush uses misdirection to fight a battle he's already lost," says that "National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice claims she is using her testimony before the 9/11 commission today to rebut former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke's allegations that the administration didn't do enough to prevent the World Trade Center attacks. ... In fact, she is doing nothing of the sort. Why? Because she can't. The evidence already uncovered by the commission, not to mention the words and deeds of the administration itself, show without a doubt that Clarke is right."
And, as Aday adds, there can be little question that the White House, including Rice, "knows Clarke is right. Think about it: Clarke gave them his book to review for security reasons back in October. They had nearly six months to come up with evidence to prove Clarke wrong, and they couldn't." 
See National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States: Testimony (Condoleezza Rice) (External Links) for related articles both prior to and following Rice's April 8, 2004, testimony.
- National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States: Testimony
- National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States: Testimony (External Links)
- National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States: Testimony (External Links: March 2004)
- National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States: Testimony (External Links: April 2004)
- National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States: Testimony (George W. Bush and Dick Cheney)
- September 11, 2001