The day National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice spoke in front of the 9/11 Commision, I spent the morning taking care of my young son and trying to catch parts of her testimony. I didnt mind missing her twenty-minute opening statement; what was she going to say?
Im sorry. I took an oath to protect you and I failed. Despite my best efforts as the highest ranking security official in the executive branch of your government, I failed to recommend actions that would have saved the three thousand people who perished two and a half years ago. The responsibility for the tragedy is of course mine as the presidents National Security Advisor. I hereby tender my resignation immediately and promise to work with the presidents new appointee to insure all information gathered during my tenure is made available to whomever the president decides should take my place.
Predictably, she offered no apology and accepted no responsibility whatsoever. Instead she placed the blame on her crisis manager, Richard Clarke, and the intelligence agencies for not coordinating their efforts and making the appropriate recommendations to the president.
But wait a minute -- that was her job! The National Security Advisor has two primary functions: Make recommendations to the president concerning security threats to the U.S. homeland and coordinate the intelligence agencies as to the appropriate actions necessary to avert those threats.
What is going on here? Is this commission simply fulfilling its unspoken mandate to absolve the establishment that appointed it by freeing this said establishment of any responsibility regarding 9/11?
If Dr. Rice -- the highest ranking security officer in the government -- is not accountable, then who is? Is Richard Clarke to blame, the man who repeatedly warned that Al Qaeda was an imminent threat that was not being taken seriously enough? The same man who was never allowed to meet with the president but instead was relegated to airing his concerns to -- oh yeah, Dr. Rice.
Or was it the FBIs fault for not being at a heightened state of preparedness concerning the sleeper cells it knew were already in the country? Dr. Rice testified she assumed the FBI was following orders and vigorously tasking its field offices with regards to Al Qaedas intentions.
But the commission can find no record of this tasking. The field office in Washington said they had never even heard of the threat.
If we take Dr. Rice at her word and accept without proof that she did indeed task the FBI with regard to Al Qaeda, was it not her job to follow up and make sure those orders were being carried out?
For his part, President Bush -- who opposed the creation of the commission in the first place but then yielded to pressure from the families of the 9/11 victims -- is resisting the commissions request for information at every step.
After numerous delays, he recently succumbed to mounting pressure and released the now infamous August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Brief that is ominously titled, Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.
In it the FBI warns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.
This warning directly refutes the statements of Rice and the president which claim they had no specific information as to the nature of a possible attack and it is easy to understand why the president never wanted this document made public in the first place.
Yet to be declassified is even more damaging testimony from former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds. In a recent interview she said the FBI had information that an attack using airplanes was being planned before Sept. 11 and calls Condoleezza Rices claim the White House had no specific information on a domestic threat or one involving planes an outrageous lie.
What is most unsettling is that the systemic problems Dr. Rice points to as the cause of 9/11 are still, by her own admission, unsolved. The FBI and CIA still have problems communicating, and President Bush, who did not view Al Qaeda as a paramount threat before 9/11, is still focused on securing the strategic rights to Iraqi oil. We know how thats going.
One thing is certain as I look again at my young son: The presidents claim that he has made us safer and stronger does not hold up under the scrutiny of any investigative commission. Including the one the president himself appointed.