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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rice Will Not Testify at 9/11 Commission

CRAWFORD, Texas -- National security adviser Condoleezza Rice is waging a vigorous defense of her actions in every public forum except one: the Sept. 11 commission, where she would be questioned about the government's failure to prevent the terrorist attacks.

Rice declared Sunday night that "nothing would be better, from my point of view, than to be able to testify" to the commission. But, she added, "there is an important principle involved here: It is a long-standing principle that sitting national security advisers do not testify before the Congress." She has appeared before panel members in closed session.

Interviewed on CBS television's "60 Minutes," Rice said she'd like to meet with the families of the Sept. 11 victims.

"I'd love to meet with [Rice] as long as it's under oath and it's live in front of television cameras," responded Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband Ronald died in New York's World Trade Center.

Rice should "come out and explain what the national security adviser knew, didn't know, what kind of information was passed to the president and didn't" get passed, said Lorie Van Auken, widow of another World Trade Center victim.

Commission member John Lehman, a Republican, called the refusal to testify "a political blunder of the first order."

The controversy stemming from the publication of former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke's book is in its second week, complicating President George W. Bush's re-election campaign. Bush spent a long weekend on his Texas ranch, giving no ground, and several aides said he will not change his mind on letting Rice testify.

Rice acknowledged Sunday that Bush had asked Clarke at a meeting on the day after Sept. 11 to find out if Iraq had been involved in the terror attacks.

The president, she said, was not trying to bully Clarke or force him to give a particular answer. "This was a country with which we'd been to war a couple of times, it was firing at our airplanes in the no-fly zone. It made perfectly good sense to ask about Iraq," Rice said on CBS.

Rice offered a rebuttal to criticism by Clarke on NBC television's "Meet the Press" that President Bill Clinton "did something, and President Bush did nothing" before Sept. 11 and that both "deserve a failing grade."

Rice responded, "I don't know what a sense of urgency -- any greater than the one that we had -- would have caused us to do differently."

Appearing on ABC television, Democratic commissioner Jamie Gorelick said better coordination inside the government might have averted "disconnects."

"The CIA had not told the FBI that two bad actors it knew about were coming to this country," she said. "If you brought people together and say, 'What do you have today? Have you talked to so-and-so?' -- perhaps those connections would have been made."

Rice said "the war on terrorism is well served by the victory in Iraq."

Told there have been more terrorist attacks since Sept. 11 than before it, she replied, "I think that's the wrong way to look at it." While the terrorists will sometimes succeed, she said, in the end, "they are going to be defeated."