By Robert Scheer
They are such liars. And no, I am not speaking only of the dissembling GOP House leaders led by Speaker Dennis Hastert who, out of naked political calculation, covered up for one of their own in the sordid teen stalking case of Rep. Mark Foley.
Call me old school, but I am still more concerned with the Republicans molesting Lady Liberty while pretending to be guarding the nation’s security, an assignment which they have totally botched. The news about the Foley coverup, while important as yet another example of extreme hypocrisy on the part of the Republican virtues police, should not be allowed to obscure the latest evidence of administration deceit as to its egregious ineptness in protecting the nation.
On Monday, a State Department spokesman conceded that then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice had indeed been briefed in July 2001 by George Tenet, then-director of the CIA, about the alarming potential for an Al Qaeda attack, as Bob Woodward has reported in his aptly named new book, “State of Denial.”
“I don’t remember a so-called emergency meeting,” Rice had said only hours earlier, apparently still suffering from some sort of post-9/11 amnesia that seemed to afflict her during her forced testimony to the 9/11 Commission. The omission of this meeting from the final commission report is another example of how the Bush administration undermined the bipartisan investigation that the president had tried to prevent. Surely lying under oath in what was arguably the most important official investigation in the nation’s history should be treated more seriously than the evasiveness in the Paula Jones case that got President Bill Clinton impeached. Nor is it just Rice who should be challenged, for Tenet seems to have provided Woodward with details concerning the administration’s indifference to the terrorist threat that he did not share with the 9/11 Commission.
In his book, Woodward described an encounter between Rice and Tenet, in a near panic about a rising flood of intelligence warnings just presented to him by top aide Cofer Black. Tenet forced an unscheduled meeting with Rice on July 10, 2001, because he wanted the Bush administration to take action immediately against Al Qaeda to disrupt a possible domestic attack.
“Tenet ... decided he and Black should go to the White House immediately. Tenet called Condoleezza Rice, then national security adviser, from the car and said he needed to see her right away,” Woodward reports. “He and Black hoped to convey the depth of their anxiety and get Rice to kick-start the government into immediate action.” A mountain of evidence proves that the Bush administration did nothing of the sort.
Now, if Rice truly does not remember that now-confirmed meeting—which was apparently first reported in the Aug. 4, 2002, Time magazine in an article titled “Could 9/11 Have Been Prevented?”—wouldn’t that indicate she didn’t take it that seriously? Not remembering confirms her inattention to terror reports at a time the Bush administration was already fixated on “regime change” in Iraq.
Rice is famously sharp and has an awesome memory. Considering the trauma of 9/11 and its effects, it is inconceivable that Rice would not recall such an ominous and prescient briefing by Tenet and Black, especially after the 9/11 Commission forced her to document and review her actions in those crucial months.
It is, however, as she stated Monday, “incomprehensible” that she, then the national security advisor to the president and the person most clearly charged with sounding the alarm, would have ignored the threat. But ignore it the administration did, and then later tried to lay the blame on the Clinton administration, which, Rice claimed at the 9/11 Commission hearings, lied when it said it had given the incoming White House team an action plan for fighting Al Qaeda.
“We were not presented with a plan,” Rice infamously argued under questioning from former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), but instead were given a memo with “a series of actionable items” describing how to tackle Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Such weaseling would be funny if the topic were not so serious. But there is no way Rice can squirm out of this one, despite her impressive track record of calculated distortion on everything from Iraq’s nonexistent WMDs to the trumped-up ties between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Can there be any better case for turning over control of at least one branch of Congress to the opposition party so that we might finally have hearings to learn the truth of this matter, which is far more important, and sordid, than the Foley affair?