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23 July 2004

United States Safer But Not Yet Safe, Says Rice

National security advisor discusses 9/11 Commission's final report

By Todd Bullock
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said in interviews July 23 with morning talk shows that she agrees with assessment by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States that the United States is safer nearly three years after the terrorist attacks but not yet safe.

"We have been concerned about that despite all of the progress that has been made in the war on terrorism, the terrorists only have to be right once, we have to be right 100 percent of the time," Rice said on NBC's Today Show with Matt Lauer.

The bipartisan panel, commonly known as the 9/11 Commission, in a 567-page report released July 22 made several recommendations for improving the U.S. intelligence community.

Its recommendations included creation of a Cabinet-level national intelligence director to centralize intelligence collection and analysis among the 15 agencies in the U.S. intelligence community.

Rice did not openly support the commission's recommendation on the creation of a national intelligence director but she agreed with the need for reform saying, "I think it is not a matter of whether there will be intelligence reform. It's a matter of what reforms will be made and when. And there are some very important fundamental changes that are recommended by the commission.

"The president is going to talk with his advisers, and take a little time to examine these proposals. But we have to be responsible and ask questions as to what this would do to improve our collection, to improve our analysis, to improve our priority-setting," Rice said during an interview with Harry Smith on CBS's Morning Show.

Rice also cited the administration's current progress on intelligence reform through the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the Terrorist Threat Integration Center to promote sharing of information among government agencies.

When asked about the commission's report on the connection between Saddam Hussein and the September 11, 2001, terrorists, Rice responded, "We've never said that there was a connection between Iraq and the September 11 attacks. What we have said is that there are multiple contacts going back a long way and that Saddam Hussein's regime was a hospitable place for terrorists."

The national security advisor also addressed the issue of Iran, saying, "Our intelligence shows no evidence of that the Iranians were complicit in the passage of the terrorists (September 11 hijackers) through Iranian territory. But we have said all along that we're concerned about Iran's ties to terrorism. We're working with the international community to deal with the fact that Iran is not living up to its international obligations on its nuclear program."