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"I don't know where the idea that there

might be some postponement of elections comes from."

Transcript of CNN Interview with Condoleezza Rice

 
CNN, 12 July 2004
www.globalresearch.ca 13 July 2004

The URL of this article is: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/RIC407A.html


How well informed is National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice?

She says she does not where the idea of postponing the November election comes from.

But this information has already been a talking point on network news for nearly a week. It is documented by statements from the election Assistance Commission and the Department of Homeland Security and National Security Adviser Rice, says she is not informed about these issues, they were never raised.

With reference to the contingency plans, acknowledged by the Director of EAC, she responds:

 "I don't know where that comes from. The Department of Homeland Security and our Justice Department are not certain where this has come from and exactly what people are talking about.

Meanwhile CNN has launched a vote. You can now vote on whether you think there should be an election or not in the case of a terror attack.  It all sounds very democratic.

Below is the transcript of C. Rice's interview on CNN. 

Global Research (Canada), 13 July 2004


 

CNN WOLF BLITZER REPORTS 17:00

July 12, 2004 Monday

I spoke just a short time ago with the president's national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Dr. Rice, thanks very much for joining us. Before we get to the intelligence report, homeland security. How serious is this threat of an al Qaeda attack on the homeland before the election, a threat apparently serious enough that the Department of Homeland Security is asking the Justice Department about contingency plans, if necessary, to postpone the presidential election.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, we are concerned about threats prior to the election. There have been such threats and we are concerned about them. But let me just be very clear. I don't know where the idea that there might be some postponement of elections comes from. But this administration believes that the elections will go forward on schedule, that there is no reason to think about anything else. We've had elections in this country when we were at war, even when we were in civil war. And we should have the elections on time. That's the view of the president, that's the view of the administration.

BLITZER: So even if there's a major terrorist attack along the lines of 9/11 you don't envisage the need of postponing the election?

RICE: No one is thinking of postponing the elections, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Well, I just asked the question because there is this formal request for these contingency plans which has generated some concern.

RICE: Wolf, I don't know where that comes from. The Department of Homeland Security and our Justice Department are not certain where this has come from and exactly what people are talking about. The important point is we believe elections will go on as planned. We've done it before in this country. There is no reason to think anything else.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the Senate intelligence committee report which was very, very serious. And specifically some of the comments that you made to me, to our viewers here on CNN before the war in Iraq. I interviewed you in September of 2002. Among other things you said that we do know, referring to Saddam Hussein, that he is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon. And then you went on to say this...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICE: The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you remember that?

RICE: I remember that. And I still wouldn't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud. Look, Wolf, we were talking about uncertainty and trying to gauge when a dictator who was bent on having weapons of mass destruction and where the intelligence that he was actively pursuing a nuclear weapon, when that might happen.

The history of intelligence is littered with underestimations of when somebody is going to gain nuclear capability going all the way back to the fact that we predicted that the Soviet Union wouldn't be able to explode a nuclear weapon until 1954. It was 1949.

When the inspectors got into Iraq in 1991, the Iraqis were much closer to a nuclear weapon than anybody had thought. So that was simply a statement about the difficulty of predicting when someone would have a nuclear weapon.

BLITZER: But the intelligence community now says, looking back, that there's no evidence to support the notion that he was even trying to pursue a nuclear weapon on the eve of the war. How could they have been so wrong?

RICE: Well, we looked at the intelligence we had at the time, Wolf. We looked at it. The Congress looked at it. The security council of the United Nations looked at it. Intelligence services around the world looked at it and came to the same conclusion which was that this was someone who had had weapons of mass destruction, had used them in the past, no one knew exactly how far along he was, but nobody was willing to trust the word as the president said today, to trust the word of a mad man.

The fact is that even now we know from the report of David Kay and I'm sure we will find out even more, that Saddam Hussein had the intent and the capability to pursue weapons of mass destruction. He knew how to make them. He had used them before. He was deceiving the world, actively deceiving inspectors. I think it's hard to know what else you were supposed to think.

BLITZER: No stockpiles of biological weapons, no stockpiles of nuclear weapons have been found since the war. What about accountability? Where does the buck stop? Harry Truman once said the buck stops with him in the White House. Where does the buck stop here on these intelligence failures?

RICE: Wolf, I think that, obviously, the Senate Intelligence Committee report has pointed out very serious shortcomings in our intelligence gathering around Iraq.

And the president has said that he wants to look at the sum total of these. And he's a believer that intelligence reform is undoubtedly going to be necessary. And we need more human agents. We need better surveillance in terms of electronic means. We're certainly going to have to share intelligence better. And I'm certain that the intelligence craft can be improved. But we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that Saddam Hussein's regime was not some pastoral regime sitting in Iraq that was not threatening our interests.

This was someone against whom we went to war in 1991, against whom President Clinton launched military strikes in 1998 because he refused to let inspectors in, who had used weapons of mass destruction against his own population and against his neighbors, who was shooting at our aircraft as they tried to patrol the no-fly zones to keep him from using his military forces, who was harboring terrorists like Zarqawi, who has turned out to be a major terrorist in the region, who was paying $25,000 to suicide bombers to literally try and blow up the peace process in the Middle East.

This was a dangerous man in the world's most dangerous region. And it is very good that the world is rid of him.

BLITZER: But, Dr. Rice, before the war, there were weapons inspectors there. There was a containment policy. There was the no- fly zones that were putting enormous pressure on Saddam Hussein. And there were the economic sanctions.

The Senate Intelligence Committee report says that that process was working and that his military threat to the region, to our friends in the region was minimal as a result of all of that. What was the rush? Why was there a need to go to war with enormous consequences and U.S. lives and expenditure that has followed?

RICE: Well, first of all, Resolution 1441 told Saddam Hussein he had one last chance to really come clean or there were going to be serious consequences. How many times did he have a chance, an opportunity to defy the international community and to damage its credibility by the community not responding to his defiance?

It's also the case, Wolf, that he was gaining enormous resources from the oil-for-food program, from the -- by being able to bust the sanctions. The sanctions were weakening in Iraq. And the idea that somehow you could stay in a perpetual state of sanctions with Iraq is simply belied by the fact that we had kept -- we had such difficulty keeping the sanctions in place.

Let's also think about the Iraqi people, who clearly were suffering at the hands of the sanctions. You're talking about growing rates of malnutrition, growing lack of immunization of Iraqi children. It was time to deal with this dictator. The world is much better without him. And the president today in his speech was able to list a very impressive list of achievements over the last three years since the United States and the rest of the world woke up to the dangers of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, including being able to bring down the A.Q. Khan network, getting Libya to disarm voluntarily, bringing down regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We've had a really good string of victories in the war on terrorism that give confidence that we're going to win this war.

BLITZER: Dr. Rice, how worried are you about U.S. credibility right now? If there's a threat that you perceive from North Korea or Iran or Syria on WMD or other issues, a lot of people will be skeptical as a result of what we heard going into this war. How worried are you about that?

RICE: Since every intelligence organization in the world, to one degree or another, believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, clearly, there may have been problems in worldwide intelligence.

But, again, it is not as if, just because he didn't have stockpiles, he was not a weapons of mass destruction threat. He had capability. He had intent. He had knowledge of how to build these weapons. He was continuing to try and procure -- to try and procure materials to improve his weapons of mass destruction capability.

I think the world recognizes that, when you're dealing with very secretive regimes and with a lot of materials that are of dual-use capability, that it is hard to get a clear picture of precisely what is happening inside an Iran or a North Korea or, for that matter, Iraq.

But the world cannot trust the word, as the president said today, of a madman. Sometimes you have to act. And, with Iraq, it had been 12 years of defying the will of the international community. It was time to act.

BLITZER: Is the president going to name a new CIA director?

RICE: Well, the president is considering his options. He has confidence in John McLaughlin, who is a very fine professional, who is going to run the agency and is quite capable of doing that in a way that supports our most important priorities, including the war on terrorism.

But the president is considering his options. He also is looking hard at what will be needed for intelligence reform. We've got the 9/11 Commission, the Senate Intelligence Committee report, and, of course, the Silberman-Robb commission that will report in several months.

This is a time for the whole country to step back and to ask how we can improve our intelligence capabilities for the threats of the 21st century. They're hard threats to unravel. They're hard threats to understand, but we do need to step back and look at what kind of intelligence capability we're going to need moving forward.

BLITZER: Would you welcome a national unity coalition government in Israel in which Labor would join Likud in forming that new government?

RICE: It is going to be up to the democratic process in Israel to decide what its governmental structure will be. And we'll work with whatever government is there.

We have said that we believe that the disengagement plan for the Gaza and the four settlements in the West Bank put forward by Prime Minister Sharon is potentially a historic step that could give us a real push on the road to a Palestinian state and to a final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. But the Israelis will have to decide the structure of the government. That's not for us to say.

BLITZER: One final question on a political note in this political season, Dr. Rice.

John Kerry, the Democratic candidate, is complaining, criticizing the president for failing to show up at the NAACP convention this week that's going on. You are one of the highest ranking African-Americans in the Bush administration. How do you feel about that?

RICE: I know that the president is someone who has tremendous belief in what we are as a country when we are united across racial lines. I know that this is a president who has worked for equality, who has worked for educational opportunities for African-American children because he believes that no child should be left behind.

He does not believe in the soft bigotry of people, some who say that African-American kids can't learn and so, therefore, it's OK if third-graders can't read at third-grade level. I know that this president has appointed African-Americans to some of the highest positions in this government to which they've ever been appointed.

I know that this is a president whose record is impeccable on civil rights, impeccable on the interests of African-Americans. And I'm quite comfortable with the decision he's taken.

BLITZER: And a lot of us remember that speech you delivered before the Republican Convention in Philadelphia almost four years ago to the day.

Dr. Rice, thanks very much for joining us.

RICE: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE) trust the word of a madman.

The fact is that, even now, we know from the report of David Kay, and I'm sure we will find out even more, that Saddam Hussein had the intent and the capability to pursue weapons of mass destruction. He knew how to make them. He had used them before. He was deceiving the world, actively deceiving inspectors. I think it's hard to know what else you were supposed to think.

BLITZER: No stockpiles of biological weapons, no stockpiles of nuclear weapons have been found since the war. What about accountability? Where does the buck stop? Harry Truman once said the buck stops with him in the White House. Where does the buck stop here on these intelligence failures?

RICE: Wolf, I think that, obviously, the Senate Intelligence Committee report has pointed out very serious shortcomings in our intelligence gathering around Iraq.

And the president has said that he wants to look at the sum total of these. And he's a believer that intelligence reform is undoubtedly going to be necessary. And we need more human agents. We need better surveillance in terms of electronic means. We're certainly going to have to share intelligence better. And I'm certain that the intelligence craft can be improved. But we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that Saddam Hussein's regime was not some pastoral regime sitting in Iraq that was not threatening our interests.

This was someone against whom we went to war in 1991, against whom President Clinton launched military strikes in 1998 because he refused to let inspectors in, who had used weapons of mass destruction against his own population and against his neighbors, who was shooting at our aircraft as they tried to patrol the no-fly zones to keep him from using his military forces, who was harboring terrorists like Zarqawi, who has turned out to be a major terrorist in the region, who was paying $25,000 to suicide bombers to literally try and blow up the peace process in the Middle East.

This was a dangerous man in the world's most dangerous region. And it is very good that the world is rid of him.

BLITZER: But, Dr. Rice, before the war, there were weapons inspectors there. There was a containment policy. There was the no- fly zones that were putting enormous pressure on Saddam Hussein. And there were the economic sanctions.

The Senate Intelligence Committee report says that that process was working and that his military threat to the region, to our friends in the region was minimal as a result of all of that. What was the rush? Why was there a need to go to war with enormous consequences and U.S. lives and expenditure that has followed?

RICE: Well, first of all, Resolution 1441 told Saddam Hussein he had one last chance to really come clean or there were going to be serious consequences. How many times did he have a chance, an opportunity to defy the international community and to damage its credibility by the community not responding to his defiance?

It's also the case, Wolf, that he was gaining enormous resources from the oil-for-food program, from the -- by being able to bust the sanctions. The sanctions were weakening in Iraq. And the idea that somehow you could stay in a perpetual state of sanctions with Iraq is simply belied by the fact that we had kept -- we had such difficulty keeping the sanctions in place.

Let's also think about the Iraqi people, who clearly were suffering at the hands of the sanctions. You're talking about growing rates of malnutrition, growing lack of immunization of Iraqi children. It was time to deal with this dictator. The world is much better without him. And the president today in his speech was able to list a very impressive list of achievements over the last three years since the United States and the rest of the world woke up to the dangers of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, including being able to bring down the A.Q. Khan network, getting Libya to disarm voluntarily, bringing down regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We've had a really good string of victories in the war on terrorism that give confidence that we're going to win this war.

BLITZER: Dr. Rice, how worried are you about U.S. credibility right now? If there's a threat that you perceive from North Korea or Iran or Syria on WMD or other issues, a lot of people will be skeptical as a result of what we heard going into this war. How worried are you about that?

RICE: Since every intelligence organization in the world, to one degree or another, believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, clearly, there may have been problems in worldwide intelligence.

But, again, it is not as if, just because he didn't have stockpiles, he was not a weapons of mass destruction threat. He had capability. He had intent. He had knowledge of how to build these weapons. He was continuing to try and procure -- to try and procure materials to improve his weapons of mass destruction capability.

I think the world recognizes that, when you're dealing with very secretive regimes and with a lot of materials that are of dual-use capability, that it is hard to get a clear picture of precisely what is happening inside an Iran or a North Korea or, for that matter, Iraq.

But the world cannot trust the word, as the president said today, of a madman. Sometimes you have to act. And, with Iraq, it had been 12 years of defying the will of the international community. It was time to act.

BLITZER: Is the president going to name a new CIA director?

RICE: Well, the president is considering his options. He has confidence in John McLaughlin, who is a very fine professional, who is going to run the agency and is quite capable of doing that in a way that supports our most important priorities, including the war on terrorism.

But the president is considering his options. He also is looking hard at what will be needed for intelligence reform. We've got the 9/11 Commission, the Senate Intelligence Committee report, and, of course, the Silberman-Robb commission that will report in several months.

This is a time for the whole country to step back and to ask how we can improve our intelligence capabilities for the threats of the 21st century. They're hard threats to unravel. They're hard threats to understand, but we do need to step back and look at what kind of intelligence capability we're going to need moving forward.

BLITZER: Would you welcome a national unity coalition government in Israel in which Labor would join Likud in forming that new government?

RICE: It is going to be up to the democratic process in Israel to decide what its governmental structure will be. And we'll work with whatever government is there.

We have said that we believe that the disengagement plan for the Gaza and the four settlements in the West Bank put forward by Prime Minister Sharon is potentially a historic step that could give us a real push on the road to a Palestinian state and to a final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. But the Israelis will have to decide the structure of the government. That's not for us to say.

BLITZER: One final question on a political note in this political season, Dr. Rice.

John Kerry, the Democratic candidate, is complaining, criticizing the president for failing to show up at the NAACP convention this week that's going on. You are one of the highest ranking African-Americans in the Bush administration. How do you feel about that?

RICE: I know that the president is someone who has tremendous belief in what we are as a country when we are united across racial lines. I know that this is a president who has worked for equality, who has worked for educational opportunities for African-American children because he believes that no child should be left behind.

He does not believe in the soft bigotry of people, some who say that African-American kids can't learn and so, therefore, it's OK if third-graders can't read at third-grade level. I know that this president has appointed African-Americans to some of the highest positions in this government to which they've ever been appointed.

I know that this is a president whose record is impeccable on civil rights, impeccable on the interests of African-Americans. And I'm quite comfortable with the decision he's taken.

BLITZER: And a lot of us remember that speech you delivered before the Republican Convention in Philadelphia almost four years ago to the day.

Dr. Rice, thanks very much for joining us.

RICE: Thank you.

BLITZER: And here is your chance to weigh in on this important story. Our Web question of the day is this: Should Election Day be delayed if there is a terror attack near that date? You can vote right now. Go to CNN.com/Wolf.  We'll have the results for you later in this broadcast.

 


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