Rice: I don't recall alert about attack

Updated: 2006-10-03 09:12

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she cannot recall then- CIA chief George Tenet warning her of an impending al-Qaida attack in the United States, as a new book claims he did two months before the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.[file]


"What I am quite certain of is that I would remember if I was told, as this account apparently says, that there was about to be an attack in the United States, and the idea that I would somehow have ignored that I find incomprehensible," Rice said.

Rice was President Bush's national security adviser in 2001, when Bob Woodward's book "State of Denial" outlines the July 10 meeting in which Tenet said he warned Rice. Cofer Black, the CIA's top counterterror officer, was also present.

"I don't know that this meeting took place, but what I really don't know, what I'm quite certain of, is that it was not a meeting in which I was told there was an impending attack and I refused to respond," Rice said.

Speaking to reporters en route to Saudi Arabia and other stops in the Middle East, Rice said she met with Tenet daily at that point, and has no memory of the wake-up call from Tenet described in the book.

"It kind of doesn't ring true that you have to shock me into something I was very involved in," Rice said.

There was near constant discussion of possible attacks overseas, and high alarm, Rice said.

Meanwhile, former Attorney General John Ashcroft said Monday that he should have been notified of any such report dealing with a pending attack on the United States. "It just occurred to me how disappointing it was that they didn't come to me with this type of information," Ashcroft said in an interview with The Associated Press.

"The FBI is responsible for domestic terrorism," Ashcroft said. He said both Tenet and Cofer Black of the CIA should have been aware that he had pressed for a more aggressive policy in going after bin Laden and his followers in the United States and should have briefed him as well. Rice knew of this advocacy, he suggested.

According to the Sept. 11 Commission, Ashcroft was briefed on July 5, 2001, "warning that a significant terrorist attack was imminent." The report noted that the briefing addressed only threats outside the United States.

Woodward wrote that the meeting among Tenet, Rice and Black stood out in the minds of Tenet and Black as the "starkest warning they had given the White House" on al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his network.

Tenet asked for the meeting after receiving a disturbing briefing from Black, according to the book.

A former intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Sept. 11 Commission and an earlier joint congressional inquiry into the 9/11 attacks were both informed of Tenet's and Black's meeting with Rice, when Tenet warned Rice that a significant attack was coming.


Related Stories