BOXER: Because the conferees could have kept that. You didn't tell them to keep it.
RICE: Yes, but the impression was left that what we objected to was that one provision when...
BOXER: Well, you did.
RICE: ... in fact, there were several.
BOXER: Well, you did yesterday object to it. You said it was duplicative.
RICE: No, I said it was in the defense authorization bill.
But I just want, for the record, it to be noted that the Bush administration was objecting not to something to do with the law of the land, but to other provisions. And I'll provide that to you.
So the context here was extremely important.
Secondly, let me just respond very briefly, Senator Boxer, to a few points.
First of all, I really just can't agree that Milosevic and Saddam Hussein were the same problem. And we do have to recognize that different tools have to be taken against different dictators.
It was a remarkable set of events with Milosevic. But he was in the center of Europe. We had all kinds of pressure on Milosevic that we had failed to be able to bring about with Saddam Hussein. And so I just reject the analogy between the two.
Secondly, as to the question of Al Qaida and its presence in Iraq, I think we did say that there was never an issue of operational control, that Al Qaida -- that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11 as far as we know or could tell.
RICE: It wasn't a question of operational alliance. It was a question of an attitude about terrorism that allowed Zarqawi to be in Baghdad and to operate out of Baghdad.
There were contacts going back to the early '90s and those are, indeed, detailed in the 9/11 report.
Third, on the question of aluminum tubes. We didn't go to war because of aluminum tubes. This was a debate about whether this issue, this particular piece of evidence, was evidence of reconstitution of the nuclear program. And there was one agency that disagreed that he was reconstituting his nuclear program and that was the State Department, the INR.
BIDEN (?): Didn't the Department of Energy also?
RICE: No. The Department of Energy said that they did not believe that the tubes were evidence of reconstitution, but that he was indeed, they believed, reconstituting his program. And that's an important distinction, though.
But I said, "reconstituting his program." I was not talking about the tubes.
The Department of Energy, in fact, I learned when the process unfolded, did have reservations or did believe the tubes were not for nuclear weapons. The majority of agencies in the intelligence community did.
I was representing, Senator -- and I've made this available for the record -- the views of that majority. And the view on reconstitution was one that all but the State Department held.
Now, I just have to put this into context. When you're dealing with intelligence matters, you are not dealing with perfect information.
RICE: And you do have to put that information into a context of someone's history. This was someone who was very close to a nuclear weapon in 1991, much closer than we thought.
Of his present, the intelligence community's belief was that he was reconstituting his program, that there was evidence of this in his procurement activities and keeping the nuclear scientists together.
And that the shadow of future, according to that national intelligence estimate, was that left unchecked, he would have a nuclear device by the end of the decade.
I just don't think that the president of the United States and I were going to give him the benefit of the doubt.
And as to the mushroom cloud statement, one that I've heard repeated many, many times, it was simply a statement about uncertainty; that you didn't want the first evidence that he had nuclear weapons to be the kind of evidence that we learned when we found out that the Soviet Union had a nuclear weapon five years ahead of schedule.
On the Iranians and Iraq, I'll say it right now: The United States government has often, as the president said, supported regimes in the hope that they would bring stability. And we've been, in the Middle East, sometimes blind to the freedom deficit. We're not going to do that anymore. And what happened with Saddam Hussein was probably evidence that that policy was not a very wise policy.
In general, Senator, let me just say again, we did go to the American people with a case for war. It was a case that, yes, said that the threat that this horrible dictator sitting in the Middle East, in the world's most dangerous region, with whom we had gone to war twice before, who had used weapons of mass destruction, who was shooting at our aircraft, that it was not acceptable to have him with weapons of mass destruction.
And we believed, like most of the intelligence agencies in the world, like the United Nations -- and much of the information was from the United Nations -- that he had weapons of mass destruction. He refused to account for them. Even with coalition forces sitting on his doorstep, he refused to account for them.
We weren't prepared to give Saddam Hussein the benefit of the doubt given his history and given the shadow of the future.
We also had a situation, now rectified, of a Middle East out of which the terror threat, the jihadist threat comes with a factor in Saddam Hussein, who was going to make it impossible to change the nature of the Middle East.
I don't think anybody can see a different kind of Middle East with Saddam Hussein in the middle of it.
So we can disagree about the course that we took.
RICE: We can certainly have, I think, a healthy debate about the course that we should take going forward. I would be the first, again, to say we've had to make a lot of decisions, some of them good, some of them bad.
But I would hope that what we will do now is to focus on where we go from here.
I can assure you, I will be candid. My assessments may not always be ones that you want to hear. They may not always be ones with which you agree. But I will tell you what I think. And that's a promise that I make to you today.
LUGAR: Thank you very much.
BOXER: If I could -- and I know I'm taking a lot of time. I just don't want to have to speak again. But I would like to finish my comments here.
The fact is that the reconstituting were based on the yellow cake and aluminum tubes, both of which proved to be false. And when I asked you about...
RICE: And balancing equipment and the accounts out of which these came and his keeping nuclear scientists together. Let's have the entire picture.
BOXER: OK. Yes. Exactly my point. Let's have the entire picture.
And when I asked you about aluminum tubes, you talked about the larger picture.
The fact is when you go on television and you say the aluminum tubes can only be used for nuclear weapons -- you want to turn it to a different subject, that's OK, but that's what you said, and the facts proved otherwise.
And we knew that at the time that four or five agencies were having a giant battle over that. No one could have possibly said that they could only be used because the intelligence community was split.
My last point has to do with Milosevic.
You said you can't compare the two dictators. You know, you're right. No two tyrants are alike.
But the fact is Milosevic started wars that killed 200,000 in Bosnia, 10,000 in Kosovo and thousands in Croatia. And he was nabbed and he's out, without an American dying for it. That's the fact.
BOXER: Now, I suppose we could have gone in there and people could have killed to get him. The fact is not one person wants either of those two to see the light of day again. And in one case, we did it without Americans dying; in the other case, we did it with Americans dying.
And I think if you ask the average American, you know, "Was Saddam worth one life, one American life?" they'd say no. He's the bottom of the barrel, and the fact is we've lost so many lives over it.
So if we do get a little testy on the point -- and I admit to be so -- it's because it continues day in and day out and 25 percent of the dead are from California. We cannot forget -- we cannot forget that.
RICE: May I just close by saying, Senator Boxer, I, probably more than most, because I did have a role in the president's decision to go to war, mourn every day the people that are lost? I look at their pictures. I think about their families. I've been to Walter Reed. I see the pain and suffering. I believe that their service and their sacrifice was needed for our security.
I don't think there's anyone who believes that you could have gone into Iraq and nabbed Saddam Hussein. It wasn't that kind of regime.
LUGAR: Members of the committee, let me just say we tried in fairness to leave open the debate last evening. And Dr. Rice, Senator Kerry, Senator Voinovich and I were here for 50 minutes of questioning at that point. The table was available for any senator who wanted to stay and ask questions at that point. Now, Senator Boxer, obviously had strong points of view and, in fairness, the chair has let the hearing verge out of control.
But we're going to come back into control at this stage.
BOXER: I'm finished. You'll be happy.
LUGAR: Yes, I understand. And I appreciate that.
LUGAR: We have called for a business meeting at 10 o'clock.
Now, I don't want to be arbitrary because I appreciate there may be impelling questions for the completion of the record. Even as people thought of them, couldn't have thought of them last night. Thought of them this morning.
But we rapidly want to come to conclusion here.
And I just simply want to ask, are there senators who have impelling questions or can we proceed to have a business meeting of the committee?
BIDEN: Mr. Chairman?
BIDEN: In response, I'm told -- Senator Levin importuned me in the hall on the way up here, and had said that he had sent a letter which I would ask for a copy of, that there are questions, some of which have been touched on here, that he'd like Dr. Rice to answer in writing before we vote in the Senate.
And I'll read the letter.
"Dear Dick and Joe, enclosed are some questions for the record which I request that you ask Dr. Rice on my behalf. I'd appreciate a response in writing before the time set for the Senate vote on her nomination. Thank you for your assistance."
They're pretty straightforward. I'd be guided by your judgment.
I could ask them on behalf of the senator right now or we could do them in writing.
And I think there's plenty of time. I think you could answer all of these, Dr. Rice. They relate to, for the record, uranium from Africa and the second -- and there are a total of six questions relating to that -- aluminum tubes, one question and no distinction between Iraq and Al Qaida, one question.
So just for the record...
LUGAR: Let me suggest that -- first of all, as senators know, Dr. Rice has been answering questions for a month. We've all had ample opportunity to ask every one.
Secondly, however, I'll ask Dr. Rice to respond to the questions of Senator Levin, our colleague, as a courtesy.
LUGAR: Our hearing here is with the Foreign Relations Committee. We are prepared really to help any senator find answers and I am certain Dr. Rice would be cooperative, at least I presume so. So, within the next few hours, presumably those questions will be answered.
BIDEN: They're very straightforward.
RICE: I'll get them back to you.
LUGAR: My guess is they probably have been answered in the folios of questions that are part of the record. So it will not be difficult, I suspect, to reiterate.
RICE: I'm happy to do it, Senator. We'll get them back to you shortly.
LUGAR: I appreciate that. Fine.
Now, impelling questions? I see Senator Nelson raising his hand. Are there any on this side that feel they need to ask questions?
All right, one short question by Senator Chafee and Senator Obama.
BIDEN: And there may be closing statements, not questions before the actual vote, which would be appropriate. And Senator Dodd has a closing statement and maybe someone else.
LUGAR: Well, that could be perhaps a part of our business meeting. We'll have a discussion at that point.
All right, Senator Nelson?
NELSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Just picking up on a theme that was hit here that there was a discrepancy, Dr. Rice, between the intelligence in the State Department and other intelligence in this particular case, that was discussed about the aluminum tubes, so too there was a difference of opinion within the intelligence community with regard to unmanned aerial vehicles that Saddam Hussein had and, indeed, what I and other senators were told, that not only did he have those UAVs for offensive reasons, but that there was a plot that he was going to put them on ships off the Eastern Seaboard of the United States and launch them over Eastern cities of the United States dropping chemical or biological weapons.
We were told that.
NELSON: But what we were not told is that there was a vigorous disagreement within the intelligence community, specifically the Air Force intelligence, which knows the most about UAVs. But we were not told that, that they had disagreed.
Now, it was written in the report. But I'm talking about those verbal briefings that we received in the secure room in the Capitol.
Tell us what you know about that kind of dispute of intelligence, because we don't want to ever get into a situation where we are operating on information that is incomplete, as we were in this particular case.
RICE: Senator, I'm sorry. I don't remember the briefing -- what was said at the briefing. I don't know if I was there at the briefing to which you're referring.
There was a dispute about the UAVs and I think it was fully outlined in the national intelligence estimate which should have been the basis for the briefings.
Let me just -- if you don't mind, I'll just take a broader point, which is, obviously, we need the very best intelligence. And, obviously, there were problems with the intelligence concerning Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
I don't think because members of the intelligence community were trying to deceive or to do a bad job or any of those things. It's an incredibly difficult intelligence challenge when you're dealing with a closed society that is deliberately deceiving and where they're using dual-use equipment.
And the question very often is do you give Saddam Hussein the benefit of the doubt that these are really for weather monitoring or not.
And so I think it's just a very difficult -- I'm sorry, I just don't remember the circumstances.
NELSON: Well, I guess the question would be, since we're looking forward, which has been the theme of my statements, is if your intelligence in the Department of State has a difference of opinion from the rest of the intelligence community, what is the way that you will receive and handle that intelligence?
RICE: Well, I will certainly encourage INR, which is headed by an assistant secretary who I've known for 20-plus years, somebody that I've known at Stanford -- I will certainly make certain that they are making their views known in the intelligence community. I don't think I have to do that. I think they have been making them known. And I think INR has demonstrated that it has a different take on things and that that is worth looking at.
Why have they had a different take? They have very often been right about some of the dissents that they've taken. And so I look forward to working with them to understand that somewhat better.
But as we're restructuring the intelligence community, understanding how different intelligence agencies do their work is going to be important to the national intelligence director -- the director of national intelligence in making sure that he's getting competitive views on the intelligence front.
BIDEN: Will the senator yield for 10 seconds?
NELSON: Of course.
BIDEN: Will you tell us if there's a difference if we ask you?
RICE: Well, of course. And you'll know because the intelligence community always cites any dissents.
BIDEN: No, but you, as secretary of state, will you tell us if we don't ask you, if we don't know to ask you? Will you level with us? Will you tell us, "By the way, there's a different take"?
RICE: From the INR? Of course. Yes.
NELSON: See that's the point that we felt like that if we didn't know to ask because we were told about these UAVs. Yes, it was buried in the national intelligence estimate but we were getting these verbal communications in a very secure room.
And that's the whole point, so that we can make judgments based on the full information.
Mr. Chairman, let me just wrap up with a couple of other subjects here.
It's already been discussed. We've got a problem in Latin America, in the tri-border region and that needs your attention. It is, as Senator Dodd said, the Wild West. And there's a lot of financing of some bad actors that comes out of that area.
We've got to keep our eyes on President Chavez. He told us one thing a week ago Monday and then, lo and behold, a whole different thing suddenly emerges after we left Caracas.
And thanks to the chairman, he has noted this way back in November, which I fully support, is what are the implications to the United States if Chavez cuts off the oil?
NELSON: And the chairman has called for a GAO investigation. I hope the chairman will call for hearings on this. And I fully support him.
And then, you know, there seems to be some flap over this very courageous Cuban resident named Oswaldo Paya, who went out and got 11,000 signatures on a petition and then the government of Cuba stiffed him when, in fact, that was a part of what their constitution said.
Will you support the Varela project and other grassroots movements inside Cuba?
And we'll look for even better ways to support them.
And my final statement, it's just a little thing that nobody ever recognizes, but because I had been in my former life handling issues for people that were victims of the Holocaust and their families who -- not only the survivors from the Holocaust -- there's a little office in the United States State Department that is a pittance on what its budget is.
I asked this four years ago of Secretary Powell when he was here for his confirmation. He said he would continue it.
It still is there and what it's trying to do is to see that people, and the particular life that I had lived before, was seeing how all of these people had been run over by insurance companies. They had collected the policies for years and years and then after the war they said, "We don't know you."
NELSON: And that's just one of the things that the Holocaust victims and their families now and the Holocaust survivors have suffered. And so I would ask you to maintain the Office of the Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues.
RICE: Thank you, Senator. I will.
NELSON: Thank you.
LUGAR: Thank you very much, Senator Nelson.
I would call upon Senator Obama. And because Senator Chafee has had one opportunity, then I will call upon Senator Chafee.
OBAMA: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And I'll try to be brief.
The first question, I guess, I have is more of a request, Dr. Rice. And that is assuming your successful confirmation here today, that we schedule some mechanism for your department to follow up on the question that had been raised yesterday, both by Senator Biden as well as myself and others, about figuring out a concrete measurement of our progress in training of Iraqi troops.
Because one of the questions that will continue to come up every time I have a town hall meeting in Illinois is, "What's the status of our troops and what's our exit strategy?"
And I recognize that you are hesitant in your current position to provide a timetable. I thought Senator Alexander said something yesterday about wanting a success strategy as opposed to merely an exit strategy. And I recognize that approach.
On the other hand, constituents and families in small towns all across Illinois need some more satisfactory answer than that.
OBAMA: And it strikes me that this whole issue of training troops, turning over security functions to the Iraqi government is critical to that.
So my first question, I guess, is are you committed to setting up some mechanism whereby we can get some specific answers on that?
RICE: I will note that the police training is actually under the Defense Department and under the military...
OBAMA: I understand. But I would just require an additional commitment from Secretary Rumsfeld, but...
RICE: I will talk to Secretary Rumsfeld about it, and I'm certain that we can be responsive to the concern.
The second -- I guess this is more of a point rather than a question, but I'm happy to solicit a response.
You know, all of us, I think, are rooting for your success. And I recognize not just yours personally but this administration's success.
I think the notion that we have a very real and present danger in the nihilistic ideologies of radical Islam, I think, most Americans share.
I think to the extent that we can encourage a more moderate brand of Islam -- it already exists; it has to be nurtured. Although, I have to dispute a little bit your notion that, sort of, we're always making progress.
Indonesia, for example -- I actually lived in Indonesia for five years. Perceptions of America and the West were much better then than they are currently, subsequent to 9/11.
So I'm not always certain we're going in a straight line in that route. But I recognize that it's a complicated issue and we wish you well.
OBAMA: And I don't think there's anybody on this committee who would not prefer to see this administration succeed even though there have been strong disagreements about the decisions that have been made in the past.
I guess the comment that I'd like to make is that in the activist, proactive strategies that you pursue, it seems to me that this administration often asks that we simply go along and have faith that you're making the right decisions. And that's true -- I think part of the reason that you were hesitant to talk about the torture issue yesterday had to do with the fact that you don't want to define torture too much because you want a little bit of wiggle room.
You want us to assume that you will make sound decisions based on immediate circumstances. And I think that the reason it's hard to pin you down on an exit strategy or Iran or these other circumstances is you don't want to bind this administration. "Trust us," I think is the message, "and we'll make the best decisions."
But I think that, from the perspective of my constituents in Illinois at least, a number of people did vote for George Bush and do trust him.
But my job as a senator is to make sure that we're basing these decisions on facts and that I probe and not simply take it on faith that good decisions are being made.
And so, my final comment, I guess, is simply this. Your predecessor had a reputation of being willing to maybe tell the president some things that he didn't always want to hear. I think he displayed a certain independence that was encouraging and I think that people felt that he was speaking on behalf of the American people and not simply being a mouthpiece for the administration.
If there's a criticism of this administration, I think, on foreign policy, I think the most profound one is is that maybe dissenting views have a difficult time getting a hearing.
And so, I just would urge you, in your role as secretary of state, to display some independence and make certain that, as you're making these difficult calculations, that you are not engaging in simply agreement with the conventional wisdom inside the White House, but that hard questions are being asked in all these decisions.
Because ultimately, you've got young men and women who are making sacrifices as a consequence of these decisions, and the entire country is spending huge sums of money that could be spent on other things on the basis of these decisions.
OBAMA: So, I think my comment is just I hope that you show the kind of independence that will make the country proud and not just please the administration.
RICE: Thank you.
Let me just -- perhaps Senator Chafee will have a comment, but let me just -- I have no difficulty telling the president exactly what I think. I've done that for four years.
Sometimes he agrees and sometimes he doesn't. The fact is that I felt very strongly that no one else should ever know the times when he disagreed and the times when he didn't.
OBAMA: Which I respect. I have no problem with that in your role as national security.
RICE: Well, but in my role as secretary, I want it to be clearly understood that I still believe that we are one administration with the president in the lead.
The president is the only elected official in the war council. Of course, was the only elected official in the war council other than the vice president, of course.
The president will, as we move from war to peace, still be the elected official as we decide how to try to use this time of diplomacy to build new structures and to bring old relationships to use to pursue this new agenda.