Media now mum on Rice's apparent falsehoods


Since President George W. Bush nominated national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to succeed Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, major news outlets have produced numerous reviews and assessments of Rice's record during Bush's first term. But these reports have generally omitted mention of Rice's numerous apparently false statements, even when the reviews were conducted by outlets that originally broke the news of the statements in question.

Iraq's aluminum tubes were "only really suited for nuclear weapons"

In The New York Times' large-scale investigation of the intelligence regarding Iraq's purchase of aluminum tubes, the paper reported on October 3, 2004, that Rice had misrepresented the state of intelligence on the tubes. Prior to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the White House and parts of the intelligence community had promoted the purchase as crucial evidence that then-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had restarted his nuclear weapons program.

The tubes were "only really suited for nuclear weapons programs," Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, explained on CNN on Sept. 8, 2002. "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

But almost a year before, Ms. Rice's staff had been told that the government's foremost nuclear experts seriously doubted that the tubes were for nuclear weapons, according to four officials at the Central Intelligence Agency and two senior administration officials, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity. The experts, at the Energy Department, believed the tubes were likely intended for small artillery rockets.

The Times did not mention this incident when reporting on Rice's recent nomination; nor did the paper note other instances in which Rice's truthfulness has been challenged. A separate analysis of Bush's new Cabinet appointments did mention that Rice would likely face questioning in confirmation hearings about "what appeared to be her failures either to warn Mr. Bush about flawed prewar intelligence regarding Iraq's weapons programs or, as Secretary of State Colin L. Powell did, to make dogged efforts of her own to ascertain its accuracy."

Cox News Service also predicted that Rice would face questions about her statements on the tubes. A USA Today article on Rice's nomination recalled her statements on the tubes, as did a Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service editorial originally published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Journal Sentinel editorial board opined: "If outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell will be remembered for his 'you break it, you own it' advice to the president, Rice regrettably will be remembered for her assertion, which she should have known to be false, that those infamous aluminum tubes 'are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs' in Iraq."

Despite the Journal's prediction, few media outlets have "remembered" Rice's assertion or reported it in the context of her nomination for higher office.

"This August 6th PDB was in response to the president's questions"

On March 25, 2004, The Washington Post debunked Rice's longstanding claim that the famous August 6, 2001, presidential daily brief (PDB) entitled "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in U.S." came in response to a specific request for a summary of potential Al Qaeda plans to attack the United States following a summer of elevated threat reports.

The CIA now says that a controversial August 2001 briefing summarizing potential attacks on the United States by al Qaeda was not requested by President Bush, as Rice and others had long claimed. ... After the highly classified document's existence was first revealed in news reports in May 2002, Rice held a news conference in which she suggested that Bush had requested the briefing because of his keen concern about elevated terrorist threat levels that summer.

Beyond the news conference that the Post mentions (where Rice's statements about Bush's requests were ambiguous), Rice repeated the claim about Bush's supposed request in her April 8 testimony before the 9-11 Commission: "The fact is that this August 6th PDB was in response to the president's questions about whether or not something might happen or something might be planned by Al Qaeda inside the United States."

Neither The Washington Post nor any other U.S. news outlet mentioned this apparent falsehood in its recent coverage of Rice, according to an MMFA search.

"Our plan called for military options to attack Al Qaeda"

In a March 22, 2004, op-ed in The Washington Post, Rice suggested that the Bush administration was developing plans to invade Afghanistan even before September 11, 2001. But Chapter 6 of the 9-11 Commission report notes that far from an invasion, the pre-9-11 plan "called for a multiyear effort involving diplomacy, covert action, economic measures, law enforcement, public diplomacy, and if necessary military efforts." Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage revealed in testimony before the 9-11 Commission that the immediate military component was in fact added to the administration's plan only after the September 11 attacks.

From Rice's March 22 op-ed:

Through the spring and summer of 2001, the national security team developed a strategy to eliminate al Qaeda -- which was expected to take years. ... Our plan called for military options to attack al Qaeda and Taliban leadership, ground forces and other targets -- taking the fight to the enemy where he lived.

From Armitage's March 24 testimony before the 9-11 Commission; Armitage is responding to a question from commissioner Jamie Gorelick:

GORELICK: So I would ask you whether it is true that -- whether it is true, as Dr. Rice said in The Washington Post, "Our plan called for military options to attack Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership, ground forces, and other targets, taking the fight to the enemy where he lived." Was that part of the plan as -- prior to 9-11?

ARMITAGE: No, I think that was amended after the horror of 9-11.

No U.S. news outlet mentioned this apparent falsehood in its recent coverage of Rice, according to an MMFA search.

"Richard Clarke had plenty of opportunities"

On March 22, 2004, Rice tried to answer former National Security Council counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke's claim that the Bush administration did not treat terrorism as a serious threat before the September 11, 2002, attacks. She told CNN: "Richard Clarke had plenty of opportunities to tell us in the administration that he thought the war on terrorism was moving in the wrong direction and he chose not to." In fact, Clarke sent Rice a memo on January 25, 2001, in which he wrote: "We urgently need . . . a Principals level review on the al Qida [sic] network." According to the 9-11 Commission report:

The national security advisor did not respond directly to Clarke's memorandum. No Principals Committee meeting on al Qaeda was held until September 4, 2001 (although the Principals Committee met frequently on other subjects, such as the Middle East peace process, Russia, and the Persian Gulf).

(See below for news coverage of Clarke's revelations about Rice.)

"No al Qaeda plan was turned over to the new administration"

Rice also wrote in her March 22 Post op-ed that "No al Qaeda plan was turned over [by the Clinton administration] to the new administration." But according to the 9-11 Commission report, when Clarke sent Rice his aforementioned 2001 memo, he also sent her the so-called "Delenda Plan" -- which he had developed in 1998 -- along with an updated "strategy paper" entitled "Strategy for Eliminating the Threat from the Jihadist Networks of al Qida [sic]: Status and Prospects."

Ahead of Bush's official nomination of Rice as secretary of state, The Washington Post assessed her tenure at the National Security Council. The article devoted significant space to recalling Clarke's and the 9-11 Commission's criticisms of Rice but did not highlight Rice's pattern of factually dubious statements regarding Clarke. Other news outlets (including The Boston Globe; the Baltimore Sun; and Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service) noted Clarke's allegations that Rice failed to heed his warnings about terrorism, but none specifically mentioned her apparently false statements.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Prewar Intelligence/WMD
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