State Dept. Confirms Rice-Tenet Meeting
Tuesday, October 3, 2006; 8:41 PM
JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did receive a CIA briefing about terror threats just about two months before the Sept. 11 attacks, but the information was not new, her chief spokesman said.
In doing so, Sean McCormack confirmed a meeting _ on July 10, 2001 _ that his boss had said repeatedly she could not specifically recall. She had said earlier that there were virtually daily meetings at the time.
A new book by reporter Bob Woodward of Watergate fame describes the White House meeting as an emergency wakeup call that Rice had brushed off. Rice was President Bush's national security adviser at the time and was promoted to the top diplomatic job last year.
Although spokesmen for the State Department and the National Security Council indicated Sunday that such a meeting had taken place, Rice was still saying Monday that she was not sure about it. She said she would have remembered the sort of forceful warning the book claims was conveyed there.
"We can confirm that a meeting took place on or around July 10, 2001," McCormack said late Monday.
"The information presented in this meeting was not new, rather it was a good summary from the threat reporting from the previous several weeks," he added.
Woodward's book "State of Denial" recounts the meeting among then-CIA Director George Tenet, Rice and the CIA's top counterterror officer. The book said the session stood out in the minds of the CIA officials as the "starkest warning they had given the White House" on al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his network.
McCormack said that after the meting, Rice had asked that the same material be given to Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Materials from this meeting were made available to the independent Sept. 11 Commission, and Tenet was asked about the session when interviewed by the commission, McCormack said.
The meeting is not part of the commission report, but was referred to obliquely in a report by the commission's predecessor, a joint congressional panel that investigated the 9/11 attacks. That report said that "senior U.S. government officials were advised by the intelligence community on June 28 and July 10, 2001, that the attacks were expected, among other things, to 'have dramatic consequences on governments or cause major casualties' and that 'attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning.'"
Meanwhile, 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," he said in an interview with The Associated Press.
"The FBI is responsible for domestic terrorism," Ashcroft said. He said both Tenet and Black 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.