Springfield State Journal Register

April 10, 2004

Reactions to Rice predictable
Illinoisans in Congress split on party lines


WASHINGTON - Illinois lawmakers had mixed reactions to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice's defense this week of the Bush administration's response to pre-Sept. 11 terrorist threats.

"In her testimony, Dr. Rice assures us that there was no 'silver bullet' pointing to the specific attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.  That may be true," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "But we need more information if we are to confront the failures that led to that tragic day and bring to light what both the Clinton and the Bush administrations knew in advance of the attacks."

Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, was unavailable for comment Friday. LaHood was en route to Europe as part of a weeklong committee-sponsored trip, details of which won't be released until his return, said LaHood press secretary Tim Butler.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Yorkville, and Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill., praised Rice's testimony Thursday before the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks.

In a statement issued by his office, Hastert said Rice's testimony "helped the commission and the American people better understand that while there may have been chatter amongst the intelligence gathering community, there was no single piece of evidence of when, where, or how al-Qaida or any other terrorist organization would perpetrate their evil on Americans at home or abroad . . . hindsight is indeed 20-20."

Fitzgerald said he agrees with Rice that the most compelling lesson from Sept. 11 "is that we must more aggressively deal with gathering threats. Passivity against a determined enemy will only lead to wider violence later."

He added, "That lesson has been learned by the current administration as it continues to be on the offense against terrorists around the world to lessen the possibility that our citizens will be attacked at home."

Durbin called for the declassification of two critical memos that are central to the dispute between Rice and Richard Clarke, the Bush administration's former counterterrorism chief who has criticized the president for not taking the al-Qaida threat seriously enough to prevent the Sept. 11 attacks.

The commission requested and the White House on Friday agreed to release publicly the Aug. 6, 2001, memo titled: "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States."

Durbin also seeks to have released a January 2001 memo by Clarke warning of an al-Qaida threat. Rice said the memo contained a "series of ideas" that wouldn't have prevented the Sept. 11 attacks.

"I fully agree with Dr. Rice that more resources must be committed to a comprehensive, strategic and fully modernized counterterrorism effort.

However, I remain concerned that we have not fully learned the lessons of 9/11 and that too many of the resources we should be devoting to the war on terror are tied up in the war in Iraq," Durbin said. "We now have two fronts in this war, and we have to win them both."