Rice faces New Accusation on eve of testimony
"Imagine eight months before Pearl Harbor, an officially designated group of 14 Americans had told Roosevelt that the Japanese would attack some place somewhere and Roosevelt did nothing" -- that's what Bush did in early 2001.
The Guardian, April 8, 2004
(Washington) - A senior terrorism expert said yesterday that he had delivered a final desperate warning of an inevitable terrorist attack to Condoleezza Rice five days before al-Qaida struck New York's World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in Washington.
On the eve of the national security adviser's public appearance today to defend the Bush administration's record before the commission studying the September 11 attacks, Gary Hart, a former Democratic presidential candidate who co-chaired an earlier three-year public study of the threats to US security in the 21st century, told the Guardian his warning had been ignored.
"She [Rice] said: 'I'll discuss it with the vice-president'," Mr Hart said; but he felt the response was a brush-off. "All I can say is she didn't feel the degree of urgency I thought was necessary," he said. He said he has known Ms Rice for 20 years, since she had volunteered to work on his Colorado Senate campaign.
Ms Rice will speak under oath for more than two hours to the national commission examining whether more could have been done to prevent the September 11 attacks. She is expected to make a detailed rebuttal of the allegations by Richard Clarke, a former White House chief counter- terrorist adviser, that the Bush team virtually ignored the al-Qaida threat because of its fixations on Iraq and strategic missile defence.
Mr Hart's comments add weight to Mr Clarke's argument and make Ms Rice's task even harder.
Together with Warren Rudman, a veteran Republican politician, Mr Hart chaired the US commission on national security/21st century, which was established by President Bill Clinton in October 1998 and told to report to the incoming president in early 2001.
That report predicted: "America will become increasingly vulnerable to hostile attack on our homeland [and] Americans will likely die on American soil, possibly in large numbers." It recommended a national homeland security agency.
To the surprise of the 14 commissioners, Mr Hart said, the recommendations were ignored. The post of homeland security adviser was established in the White House only after the September 11 attacks.
"We were not just another federal commission. This was supposed to be - and was - the most comprehensive review of US national security since 1947," Mr Hart said in Denver, where he now works for an international law firm.
He said that in the first week of February 2001 he and other commissioners briefed Ms Rice, the secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld, and the secretary of state, Colin Powell, to convey their fears personally.
"They were respectful and attentive, interested in what we were saying" - but nothing was done .
In early May 2001, when Congress was contemplating legislation to establish a homeland security agency, President Bush publicly called on it to shelve the issue while it was considered by Mr Cheney. But the senior White House national security officials did not meet to discuss the terrorist threat until the first week of September.
"Imagine eight months before Pearl Harbor, an officially designated group of 14 Americans had told Roosevelt that the Japanese would attack some place somewhere and Roosevelt did nothing," Mr Hart said. He complained that the September 11 commission had not asked him or his former colleagues to testify.
But Al Felzenberg, a spokesman for the commission, said it had read the Hart-Rudman report, its staff had talked to some of Mr Hart's fellow commissioners, and might talk to Mr Hart himself.
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