Claim vs. Fact: Condoleezza Rice’s Opening Statement
CLAIM: "We decided immediately to continue pursuing the Clinton Administration’s covert action authorities and other efforts to fight the network."
FACT: Newsweek reported that "In the months before 9/11, the U.S. Justice Department curtailed a highly classified program called ‘Catcher’s Mitt’ to monitor al-Qaida suspects in the United States." Additionally, AP reported "though Predator drones spotted Osama bin Laden as many as three times in late 2000, the Bush administration did not fly the unmanned planes over Afghanistan during its first eight months," thus terminating the reconnaissance missions started during the Clinton Administration. [Sources: Newsweek, 3/21/04; AP, 6/25/03]
CLAIM: "The strategy set as its goal the elimination of the al-Qaida network. It ordered the leadership of relevant U.S. departments and agencies to make the elimination of al-Qaida a high priority and to use all aspects of our national power — intelligence, financial, diplomatic, and military — to meet this goal."
FACT: 9/11 Comissioner Jamie Gorelick: "Is it true, as Dr. Rice said, ‘Our plan called for military options to attack Al Qaida and Taliban leadership’?" Armitage: "No, I think that was amended after the horror of 9/11." [Source: 9/11 Commission testimony, 3/24/04]
CLAIM: "We bolstered the Treasury Department’s activities to track and seize terrorist assets."
FACT: The new Bush Treasury Department "disapproved of the Clinton Administration’s approach to money laundering issues, which had been an important part of the drive to cut off the money flow to bin Laden." Specifically, the Bush Administration opposed Clinton Administration-backed efforts by the G-7 and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that targeted countries with "loose banking regulations" being abused by terrorist financiers. Meanwhile, the Bush Administration provided "no funding for the new National Terrorist Asset Tracking Center." [Source: "The Age of Sacred Terror," 2003]
CLAIM: "We moved quickly to arm Predator unmanned surveillance vehicles for action against al-Qaida."
FACT: According to AP, "the military successfully tested an armed Predator throughout the first half of 2001" but the White House "failed to resolve a debate over whether the CIA or Pentagon should operate the armed Predators" and the armed Predator never got off the ground before 9/11. [Source: AP, 6/25/03]
CLAIM: "We increased funding for counterterrorism activities across several agencies."
FACT: Upon taking office, the 2002 Bush budget proposed to slash more than half a billion dollars out of funding for counterterrorism at the Justice Department. In preparing the 2003 budget, the New York Times reported that the Bush White House "did not endorse F.B.I. requests for $58 million for 149 new counterterrorism field agents, 200 intelligence analysts and 54 additional translators" and "proposed a $65 million cut for the program that gives state and local counterterrorism grants." Newsweek noted the Administration "vetoed a request to divert $800 million from missile defense into counterterrorism." [Sources: 2001 vs. 2002 Budget Analysis; NY Times, 2/28/02; Newsweek, 5/27/02]
CLAIM: "While we were developing this new strategy to deal with al-Qaida, we also made decisions on a number of specific anti-al-Qaida initiatives that had been proposed by Dick Clarke."
FACT: Rice’s statement finally confirms what she previously – and inaccurately – denied. She falsely claimed on 3/22/04 that "No al-Qaida plan was turned over to the new administration." [Washington Post, 3/22/04]
CLAIM: "When threat reporting increased during the Spring and Summer of 2001, we moved the U.S. Government at all levels to a high state of alert and activity."
FACT: Documents indicate that before Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush Administration "did not give terrorism top billing in their strategic plans for the Justice Department, which includes the FBI." Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff until Oct. 1, 2001, said during the summer, terrorism had moved "farther to the back burner" and recounted how the Bush Administration’s top two Pentagon appointees, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, "shut down" a plan to weaken the Taliban. Similarly, Gen. Don Kerrick, who served in the Bush White House, sent a memo to the new Administration saying "We are going to be struck again" by al Qaeda, but he never heard back. He said terrorism was not "above the waterline. They were gambling nothing would happen." [Sources: Washington Post, 3/22/04; LA Times, 3/30/04]
CLAIM: "The threat reporting that we received in the Spring and Summer of 2001 was not specific as to…manner of attack."
FACT: ABC News reported, Bush Administration "officials acknowledged that U.S. intelligence officials informed President Bush weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks that bin Laden’s terrorist network might try to hijack American planes." Dateline NBC reported that on August 6, 2001, the President personally "received a one-and-a-half page briefing advising him that Osama bin Laden was capable of a major strike against the US, and that the plot could include the hijacking of an American airplane." Rice herself actually admitted this herself, saying the Aug. 6 briefing the President received said "terrorists might attempt to hijack a U.S. aircraft." [Sources: ABC News, 5/16/02; NBC, 9/10/02]
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