• U.S.

Her Turn To Talk

2 minute read
Timothy J. Burger, Massimo Calabresi and Matthew Cooper

What will Condoleezza Rice face when she appears this week, publicly and under oath, before the commission investigating 9/11? Sources close to the inquiry tell TIME that panelists will probably grill Rice not only on questions raised by critics like former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke but also on issues raised by Administration officials like John McLaughlin, a career CIA officer and deputy to director George Tenet. According to a staff report, McLaughlin told the commission in private that amid a major spike in terrorist-threat intelligence in the summer of 2001, he “felt a great tension–especially in June and July 2001–between the new Administration’s need to understand these [terrorist] issues and his sense that this was a matter of great urgency.” The panelists are expected to ask whether threat warnings during 2001 were treated as seriously as those delivered to the Clinton Administration in late 1999. In the wake of such CIA reports, the Clinton team’s insistence on shaking “the agency for whatever it has,” in the words of Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, helped thwart several plots set for the eve of the new millennium. Rice is prepping for her testimony by reviewing briefing books that she studied for a private session with the commission in February, and she will be peppered with mock questions from aides. Sources tell TIME that Rice plans a 20minute opening statement to make the case for the Bush team. She’s likely to stress the Administration’s efforts to overthrow the Taliban before 9/11. She told TIME last month the Bush team was out not only to “arm the Northern Alliance in an important way but also to find and develop relationships with southern tribes so that you could get the Taliban where it hurts.” She is said to be galled by Clarke’s critical comments because, say Rice associates, she went out of her way to keep the career aide in a top-tier position, against the advice of Administration officials who thought she should jettison someone so cozy with the Clinton national-security team.

–By Timothy J. Burger, Massimo Calabresi and Matthew Cooper

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