Rice Was ‘Uninterested In Advising The President’ Before 9/11, Wanted To Be His ‘Closest Confidante’

ricebush4.jpg Tomorrow, New York Times reporter Philip Shenon will release his book The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation, revealing “failure at the highest levels of the United States government.”

Shenon singles out Condoleezza Rice as inept, more interested in being President Bush’s buddy than securing the nation. Newsweek editor Evan Thomas writes a preview of the book:

The official ineptitude uncovered by the commission is shocking. Dubbed “Kinda-Lies-a-Lot” by the Jersey Girls, Ms. Rice comes across as almost clueless about the terrorist threat. “Whatever her job title, Rice seemed uninterested in actually advising the president,” Mr. Shenon writes. “Instead, she wanted to be his closest confidante — specifically on foreign policy — and to simply translate his words into action.”

An example of this incompetence is the fact that on July 10, 2001 — two months before the 9/11 terrorist attacks — then-CIA director George Tenet met with Rice and warned her about a threat from al Qaeda that “literally made [his] hair stand on end.” Rice was polite, but gave them the “brushoff.”

The 9/11 commission, however, heard about this meeting only after it completed its report. Shenon reveals that commission executive director Philip Zelikow, a close friend of Rice, stopped staffers from submitting a report depicting Rice’s performance prior to 9/11 as “amount[ing] to incompetence.”

Another particularly bumbling figure in Shenon’s book is John Ashcroft. On July 17, 2001, the then-Attorney General “received the same CIA briefing about an imminent al-Qaida strike on an American target.” While Rice was interested in cozying up to Bush, Ashcroft was focused on protecting gun owners:

Attorney General John Ashcroft appears more interested in protecting gun owners from government intrusion than in stopping terrorism, and dismissively tells [acting FBI director Thomas] Pickard that he doesn’t want to hear any more about threats of attacks.

UPDATE: According to Shenon, then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales was intent on placing blame on the Clinton administration. When Ashcroft “unveiled a memo that seemed to cast the antiterror record of the Clinton Justice Department in an unflattering light, Gonzales and his aides high-fived each other.”

UPDATE II: Emptywheel has more.

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