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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > What the Secretary Has Been Saying > 2005 Secretary Rice's Remarks > November 2005: Secretary Rice's Remarks

Interview on Fox News with Jim Angle

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
November 22, 2005

[This interview was conducted in two parts.  Also read Part 1 of the interview]

QUESTION: Let me ask you about prewar intelligence. After voting to authorize use of force, many Democrats are now arguing, in effect, that they were duped into thinking that Saddam was a bigger threat than he actually turned out to be. You were at the White House during those days. What do you make of that?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I only know that the intelligence was what the intelligence was. Obviously, we now know that there were major problems with the intelligence and the President had a commission, an independent commission, Silberman-Robb, look at that and make recommendations on how we improve intelligence going forward.

But, Jim, everybody thought that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. That's why there were all those resolutions in the UN Security Council. That's why there were sanctions, very harsh sanctions, against Iraq. That's why in 1998 President Clinton ordered the use of military force against Iraq because of concerns about their weapons of mass destruction. And intelligence briefings were provided to the Congress by intelligence professionals.

QUESTION: Now, the Democrats say the White House briefed us --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I sat --

QUESTION: -- and we did not get all the dissenting opinions that --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I sat in some of those briefings with John McLaughlin or George Tenet taking the lead and briefing the intelligence to the Congress.

QUESTION: You're saying it was the CIA; it was the intelligence community, not the White House?

SECRETARY RICE: I'm saying that the intelligence community product was available, the National Intelligence Estimate in its full form available to the intelligence committee -- committees. I sat in briefings where the intelligence professionals actually briefed.

The intelligence was clearly flawed. We are all -- we all think it extremely unfortunate that the intelligence was flawed. But we have to remember too that Saddam Hussein was a threat. He was a threat in 1991 that annexed a neighbor and caused us to go to war. He was a threat that in 1998 led President Clinton to use military force against him because of his weapons of mass destruction. He was a threat who had used chemical weapons against his own people and against his neighbors. He was a threat who was firing at our aircraft as they tried to patrol no-fly zones so that he couldn't attack his neighbors, firing at our aircraft once a week, twice a week, three times a week.

The idea that somehow Iraq was sitting pacifically there with Saddam Hussein completely under control and the Middle East therefore a stable place with him in power seems to me to be rewriting history.

QUESTION: You know, the Administration's critics will always have bones to pick with you. They will always be pointing to shortcomings instead of successes. But I have to ask you about what I hear from a lot of supporters of the President. For instance, the Democrats came out and for nine days in a row held news conferences saying that the Administration had not just exaggerated the intelligence but had fabricated intelligence, and for nine days there was very little from the White House or from the Administration to suggest that you believed those charges were false until the President finally spoke up about it.

And people ask me, "Why doesn't the White House, why doesn't the Administration, jump on these things sooner? If they have a case to make, why don't they make it?"

SECRETARY RICE: Well, maybe we should have, but I think that the President has now made the case to the American people, as have other Administration officials. It's one thing to debate this war. And were we right that it was time to hold Saddam Hussein accountable for 17 resolutions against him in the UN Security Council? Was it right to hold him accountable because the Oil-for-Food sanctions program had become, as the President called it, Swiss cheese? Was it right to give the Iraqi people a chance not to live in mass graves -- or not to die in mass graves, not to have women raped and not to have torture rooms, to have a chance for a different kind of future? Was it right to do that and was that the right timing?

But the Administration worked from the same intelligence that had driven American policy on Iraq for the 12 years since the end of the Gulf War. And yes, there were uncertainties about how far along any particular program was. But the fact is the President of the United States could not afford to give a brutal dictator, who had lied to the world, who was refusing to answer just demands, the benefit of the doubt. Because in a post-September 11th environment, we knew that you deal with threats now; you don't allow them to multiply. And the President made that decision.

QUESTION: Let me ask you one last thing about difficult issues and explaining them to the public, and that's about the issue of torture. There is a debate now and some critics have given people the impression that the Administration wants to torture people it captures in the war on terror. Officials say that is not the case and they argue it is not, but I'm not sure people understand why the Administration is even making an issue of this. Can you clarify that debate for us?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, clearly, the United States of America is a country of laws and we don't condone torture. And I've been in the room when the President has said we are not going to torture people.

The President of the United States does have an obligation to do everything possible within the limits of our laws to make certain that we are getting what information we can from people who would, if they had their way, cause another September 11th and people who probably have planned to cause another September 11th. And when you have the high-ranking officials of al-Qaida that we've been fortunate enough to capture, you really do, within the limits of the law, need to do everything that you can to get the information that allows you to prevent another attack.

We are in a different kind of war and this is not a law enforcement action where you wait until somebody commits a crime and then you try and find out if they were guilty. Because if you wait until they commit the crime, then you again have thousands of Americans killed. And so the President has, within his powers as commander-in-chief, within his war powers, made the determination that this is a different kind of war, but we're still a country of laws and we still don't condone torture.

I think, Jim, there's also been some confusion. Nobody sanctioned what happened at Abu Ghraib. What happened at Abu Ghraib was wrong and it was sickening, and people are being punished for it. And the policies on detainees have evolved as we have gone through this war. But the President has an obligation both to work within the law and to protect American citizens, and that has been the course that he has been on.

QUESTION: It's a definition problem, you're saying? I mean, if you make too broad an exclusion, you're excluding things that we would do with some regularity?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, if you make too broad an exclusion, you may make it difficult for the President, within the law, to do things that might save the country another attack. And I don't think that anybody wants that to be the outcome either.

This is a very important discussion within our democratic system and I know that everybody is operating in good faith. I know Senator McCain. I know him well. I know that he cares about America's safety and security and he cares about our men and women in uniform and he cares about us as a country of laws.

That's why it's important that we work with the Congress. It's why Senator Graham, Lindsey Graham, who put forward, I think, a very useful legislation that helps on this score -- it's helpful to have Congress a part of this very difficult and grave responsibility of protecting Americans and still living within our laws.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you very much for your time.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much.


Released on November 25, 2005

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