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Condoleezza Rice IV With the Associated Press

Interview With the Associated Press

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
April 5, 2005

(1:20 p.m. EDT)

SECRETARY RICE: Okay, are you ready? I'm ready to start. Why don't we just start with your questions?

QUESTION: Great. Last week, of course, the President's Intelligence Commission report was issued and the report painted a pretty raw, for some portrayals, dismal picture of the quality of some of the intelligence that you ended up relying on as the White House National Security Advisor and which you described as being quite convincing in some of your public appearances in that job. Do you feel at all misled or maybe in some sense betrayed by that intelligence or there are questions now that you wish you had asked or anything you think should have been done differently?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, clearly, the intelligence -- there were problems with the intelligence. I think we've known that now for some time, starting with the work of the Iraq Survey Group and then going through the Senate Select Intelligence Committee's report and now this really quite detailed report by Silberman and Robb, which is a very good report.

But you have to look forward. We all know that the Iraq case was a difficult case because Saddam Hussein went out of his way to hide what he was doing, to deceive. There were obviously efforts to deceive on the short side as well as on the -- in the sense that he was perhaps giving the impression that he had things that he did not have, as well as efforts to hide that which he did have. And so when you're dealing with a very closed society like that, it is not very easy; it's not a very easy intelligence target.

So I believe that the changes that have been recommended over the last several months, the appointment of a Director of National Intelligence, efforts to look at the tradecraft of intelligence in a world in which it is not a fixed target like the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons activities that are observable in the way that the Soviet Union was, I think these are all very, very good changes. But I think people were doing their best. I think we have very good intelligence analysts who were doing their best, but obviously the President's intelligence has to be better than what we got on Iraq.

QUESTION: A quick follow-up on that. Another thing the report said is that the United States at this point apparently knows what the report described as disturbingly little about weapons capacities in some countries beyond Iraq. And you are trying to coalesce international cooperation to quell the ambitions of Iran and North Korea. Do you think that the report itself is going to cause some consternation among some of the allies or partners you are talking to on those two fronts and is there some guarantee that you can offer them that the U.S. intelligence will be on the mark this time?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, there are no guarantees where intelligence is concerned, particularly when you're dealing with opaque and difficult societies like the ones that tend to want weapons of mass destruction undercover.

But let's take the cases of North Korea and Iran. On North Korea, the North Koreans have been none too secretive about their ambitions and about their activities. In fact, if anything, they have been declaring themselves a nuclear weapons state. I think we take that very seriously. I don't know that one can speak to the exact nature of their program, but there clearly is a program. It has clearly been known for a long time. The North Koreans have been in this business since at least the end of the 1960s. And while there may be differences about specifics or differences about how far along in some areas or other areas, I don't think there's very much doubt that there is a program there to be very concerned about.

And similarly on Iran, the Iranians say that they are not trying to build a nuclear weapon under civilian nuclear cover, but they've been caught in a number of suspicious activities. That's why the IAEA is investigating the way that it is. It's why the IAEA has not been willing to close the book on the Iranian program. It's why the Russians have gone to some lengths in their civilian nuclear cooperation with the Iranians to try to put in measures that would make it harder to proliferate, like a fuel take-back provision. It's why the EU-3 is trying to negotiate with the Iranians to keep them from having the technologies that would permit them to build nuclear weapons.

I don't think that there's any doubt that worldwide there's a lot of concern about the nuclear weapons capabilities of these states. And while we may never know the exact nature of any of these programs, we also have to be very careful not to under-react to the fact that you have closed societies that are ambitious in their policies, that are trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

With Saddam Hussein, for instance, yes, the intelligence was perhaps -- was more categorical than it should have been. But that Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction were inextricably linked? I think the Duelfer report shows that this is someone who was still determined on the weapons of mass destruction side.

So these are very tough targets. There's no doubt about it. This is not like the Soviet Union. But this is a huge problem too and it's one that -- we need better intelligence. We need policies that help us to control the proliferation risk like the kinds of policy initiatives the President outlined in his National Defense University speech, where he talked about fuel take-backs, talked about not having enrichment and reprocessing in states that don't already have it. So there's a lot we can do on the policy side.

QUESTION: Do you think anyone in the intelligence community should be fired?

SECRETARY RICE: That's not my call. And I just think that, you know, a lot of people were trying to do the job. I don't think anybody intended to have intelligence that was not the best intelligence.

We have to remember, this is a 12-year story with Saddam Hussein. And the American intelligence agencies were not the only ones that believed he had weapons of mass destruction. He had used them before. He was engaged in all kinds of suspicious activities. But we have to do better and the intelligence agencies have to do better. That's why the reforms are so critical, particularly some of the reforms on what I would call tradecraft, given that this is a different kind of target than was the Soviet Union.

QUESTION: Do you think the intelligence folks were infected by the political climate? There seemed no doubt where the President wanted to go. There seems no doubt the kind of guy Saddam Hussein was. Wasn't that sort of --

SECRETARY RICE: There's certainly no doubt what kind of guy Saddam Hussein was.


SECRETARY RICE: The President was interested in the best information that he could get. But if you look back, you recognize that the United States used force in 1998 against Saddam Hussein based on the same, essentially, intelligence; that the United Nations passed 17 different resolutions against Saddam Hussein based on the same intelligence. So this was not, I think, a matter of a political atmosphere with people looking for a pre-cooked answer. Was there a view of Saddam Hussein, his dangers, his relationship to weapons of mass destruction? Absolutely. But it was a widely shared view around the world.

QUESTION: May I switch to Syria? The UN envoy seems confident they'll get out, troops and intelligence all out pretty quickly, certainly in time for the election. Do you suspect -- they've been tricky before. Do you expect any hitches and you're on guard here, something to worry about?

SECRETARY RICE: I think you always need to be on guard because words and deeds don't always match with the Syrians. But I thought that this was a hopeful meeting that Mr. Larsen had with the Syrian leadership and now they need to carry through. But it's extremely important that they not carry through just on military forces but on security forces as well, and not just what I'll call declared security forces but those who might be, shall we say, undeclared. So it's extremely important that the Syrians live up to the letter and the spirit of Resolution 1559.

QUESTION: Krauthammer wrote a column this week that I caught in the Richmond newspaper, in which he referred to Iranian agents being in Syria. Do we know that there are Iranian agents there? And where would he get --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we want all foreign influences out of Lebanon and I'm sure that there are multiple foreign influences in Lebanon. We all know that the Iranians have links also with Hezbollah. That's not a surprise. And the key now is that the Lebanese people need to be left to their own devices to resolve their political differences in the context of democratic elections, and it's extremely important that those elections be held on time.

QUESTION: One last one on this. Let's say the Syrians go. Hezbollah doesn't fold, does it? I mean, it's still a problem, right?

SECRETARY RICE: I am a great believer in doing the most important thing first, and the most important thing right now is to get Syrian forces out and Syrian influence, in the form of Syrian military and security forces, out. And at that point, when you are -- when that artificial factor is gone, then you can see what the real balance of forces looks like. Right now, I don't think you can do it.

QUESTION: On Saudi Arabia, there was a mid-March deadline because they were declared a Country of Particular Concern because of lack of religious freedom (inaudible) in early April. Are you close to a decision on not only Saudi Arabia but the other countries?

SECRETARY RICE: We're still looking at the issue. The important impact of this kind of report is that it, first of all, demonstrates this is something the United States takes very seriously, and then it allows us to work with each country to see what can be achieved. But I don't think that there's any doubt that there is a long way to go in many of these cases.

QUESTION: Well, do you think it's inevitable that Saudi Arabia, being an absolute Islamic monarchy, has to reform or fall?

SECRETARY RICE: I am no predictor of coming events. That's not my line of work. I don't believe that there's any doubt that the time for reform in the region, and that means each of the countries in the region, has certainly come; that it is better to have outlets for political change and dissent that give people a peaceful mechanism and a legitimate mechanism by which to do that. And the countries that are making those changes are going to, I believe, fare better in the long run.

Now, that said, it's going to be at a different pace in different parts of the Middle East. The Saudis have made some tentative steps toward reform and I hope they will make more. But the key is that the time for reform has clearly come in the Middle East.

QUESTION: There have been, I think, at last count, 38 enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay who were declared -- formerly enemy combatants who have been now declared to either not be or no longer be an enemy combatant, and yet only a very small handful -- five, I think -- have been returned to their own countries. What is the delay and have you decided at this point that there needs to be any change in procedure for removing people once the administrative hearings are done?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, there has certainly been -- there's been an evolution of the procedures over the time since the Guantanamo facility was established and the administrative review is, of course, one of those changes in procedure that took place. I'm not at this point intimate with the details of any individual case because the key is that one has to work out generally with the countries of origin various means by which people can be returned, returned without danger to -- because many of these people were picked up in quite suspicious circumstances and so you want to be sure that you're not reintroducing people into circumstances in which they can therefore be dangerous again. But I'm not familiar with the specifics of individual cases.

QUESTION: In general, though, is that a concern on the U.S. part that we not lift the gate too soon or is it a concern on the part of the home countries that they're not ready to receive them?

SECRETARY RICE: It's tended to be a concern of everyone that -- and again, not speaking to any individual case but just as a generic problem, you have to work very hard to make sure that you are not reintroducing people into society who could then be a danger. We have had a couple of cases where people were released, just outright released, and we've met them again on the battlefield. And that's not a good circumstance either. And so this is a delicate balance. We're trying very much to be responsive to the desire for people to have a clear path ahead of where they're going, to work with the countries of origin. These are all very important goals. But as I said, many of these people were picked up on the battlefield in Afghanistan in circumstances associated with warfare, and because we have had a few cases of recidivism, I mean, we want to be fairly careful.

QUESTION: Why would we be considering releasing potential recidivists in the first place?

SECRETARY RICE: The problem is that you are not ever quite certain of what somebody is going to do if they return. You're trying to balance the need to give people a fair hearing and if and under certain circumstances, either return them to their home countries with some means for tracking them and trying to keep a handle on them, and in some cases for -- to -- if there is the case, to release them. We don't want to just become -- permanently imprison people either.

But I just note that usually when we are asked about this it's, "Well, you haven't been releasing people. Why haven't you been releasing people more quickly?" And the other side of the coin is that you want to be careful not to release people so quickly that you keep meeting them on the battlefield. So this is a balancing act. And by the way, recidivism isn't just a problem at Guantanamo; it is a problem with criminal justice as well.

QUESTION: And on the West Bank, too. The Housing Minister yesterday said it's going to cost Israel a billion dollars. He gave no indication that he would ask for help financially to evacuate from Gaza. But Shimon Peres today seems to be reverting to the typical stance, which is to say 'maybe the U.S. can help out.' Now however it's camouflaged, that it's aid for Galilee or something, do you -- can you -- do you think the United States will pick up part of the tab for the Gaza operation?

SECRETARY RICE: I don't know what's being suggested and so it's a little hard in the abstract to know what's being suggested. Obviously, the disengagement is a huge historical opportunity and we want it to succeed. We are going to try to help as much as we can on some of the economic reconstruction and development of the Gaza because, obviously, if the Palestinians are able to take over the Gaza and turn this into an area that is prosperous over the long term, that's going to be very much better for the whole peace process. But as to specifically what might be be the answer, as I -- I just don't know. We haven't heard.

QUESTION: Housing Minister Herzog said yesterday they're not going to disturb -- Israel was not going to disturb all the agricultural projects, but there is an open question now whether the homes owned by the Israelis will be left intact or not. It's open. Do you have any --

SECRETARY RICE: It is an open question. The World Bank has been doing some work on this issue of how to think about the housing and I think we just have to see what makes sense because, obviously, you want the housing to be fit for the needs and circumstances also of the inhabitants of the Gaza and it's not clear that there's a perfect match. But I think they'll work this out and everybody has a very good spirit about doing it in a way that can serve both parties.

QUESTION: I'm tempted to ask you, don't you think it would be a nice touch to leave houses standing instead of what happened in -- was it, you know, Sinai?

SECRETARY RICE: As long as there is a cooperative spirit about what should become of the housing, I think this is fine. My only point, Barry, is that there have been some reports that say that the housing is not ideal from the point of view of what is needed in the Gaza. But what we wouldn't be supportive of is just a sort of wanton destruction of the housing. There needs to be some coordination on what's being done with what is there. And I think there will be.

QUESTION: On an unrelated issue, you spoke sharply to the LA Times in opposition to the construction. Now we'll go to the Housing Minister again. He says there was no plan -- frankly, I've been told privately and publicly it's spin. It's, you know, to make Sharon's hardline people feel better about Gaza. Do you -- have you -- has the U.S. been notified that Israel really doesn't intend to get into this 3,500 housing unit construction?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, what we hear from time to time is that it is a long-term -- there has been a long-term plan for this. But I think we're best off to continue to state the underlying principle of American policy here, which is that there are obligations under the roadmap to -- about settlement activity and those ought to be lived up to. And the importance here is not to do anything that prejudges a final status agreement, and so that's what we're watching. And this is why we have the constant discussions with the Israelis, is to understand better what's going on there.

QUESTION: All right, one last thing on this. Olmert was here. They're here -- you know, they're coming in by the droves. He said that the President doesn't have to say it again, but he wouldn't be surprised if the President repeats the commitment -- he called it a commitment -- that he made last spring when Sharon was here that Israel should be able to retain -- call it what you will, I don't think they're settlements, they're towns, but these close-in clusters of Jewish inhabitants near Jerusalem. Is that still U.S. policy?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let's review what the President actually said.


SECRETARY RICE: What the President said is that the -- it is --

QUESTION: To the --

SECRETARY RICE: He said -- no, no, what he said was that the -- there are certain realities on the ground, including large population centers, that will have to be taken into account when a final status agreement is reached, and making it unlikely that there would be a return completely to the armistice line.

Now, the President was also very clear that this has to be something that is negotiated. So we want to be very clear about the President's language because anything that appears to prejudge how that negotiation might come out is not what the President said. What he did say is: all the parties are going to have to take into account the existing realities. And population centers are a part of that reality. And yes, that is absolutely still United States policy, yes.

QUESTION: On Iraq, obviously, the U.S. military presence there continues to carry a heavy burden (inaudible) with the costs to the army, that it's feeding the insurgency, and there are some that think that withdrawal should take place sooner rather than later. What would you say to that?

SECRETARY RICE: First of all, what seems to be feeding the insurgency now is a desire by insurgents who come from the old Saddam regime and terrorists who come out of the Zarqawi network, not to let the Iraqi people have a political path toward a democratic future. That's what's feeding the insurgency. And I think the idea that somehow these are people who are just angry because the United States and the coalition is there is just not right.

And increasingly, as the political process has moved forward, as Iraqis have gone out to vote despite their threats, it's quite obvious who the enemy of the Iraqi people is here, and it's the insurgents and the terrorists. And I think you're going to see more and more that as Iraqis elect their leaders, as their leaders begin to speak out about what the future looks like, as it becomes clear that the Sunnis, despite their marginal representation of the voting, are going to be included, that you will see more and more that these are very violent people, they are very ruthless people, they are clearly able to wreak chaos, but they actually don't have a political platform that is (inaudible) something about the coalition.

Now, in terms of the presence there, it's there because the Iraqis are not yet able to secure themselves. And it's there under a UN mandate, under 1546. It is there because it was requested by the Iraqi Interim Government and I've seen nothing to suggest that the leadership that is emerging in Iraq believes that it can do without that presence. But when the Iraqis are capable of defending themselves, that is, when they have security forces that can carry out those tasks, then there absolutely should not continue to be the kind of large coalition presence that you have there. I think everybody will look forward to that day.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the U.S. has had success in rooting out terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq. What are the priorities for other places to look at, from a diplomatic standpoint?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the successes in Afghanistan and, for instance, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, all of these places, demonstrate very -- a very important principle, which is that you have to do this in coordination with, and indeed in alliance with, the states themselves so that we have a very active anti-terrorist campaign with Afghanistan, very active anti-terrorist campaign with Pakistan. The Saudis have been now very active. And diplomatically, the support for those states that are willing to fight terror and that are trying to reform or stabilize becomes a very high priority, because this is not something that the United States wants to have to do around the world alone. It's very good to have partners in this. And so I think that's really the highest priority, is to support those states that are doing everything that they can to root out terrorism, and there are a number of them.

QUESTION: Do we think we're getting our return in Pakistan? Are they doing all we think they can do?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, when I look at where Pakistan was three and a half years ago and I look at where Pakistan is now, it's really night and day. It's not perfect. But the trajectory is just -- I won't say 180 degrees, but it's 150 degrees from where it was. If you look at a Pakistan that in 2001 was one of the only three countries in the world that recognized the Taliban-led Afghanistan, where the penetration of extremists into Pakistan itself was very, very high, where the Pakistanis and the Indians were constantly kind of on the verge of open conflict, where the leaders of Pakistan had not made a strategic choice between extremism and modernity, you have to say that in three and a half years, the Musharraf government has done a lot. And that includes, by the way, fighting up in the federally administered tribal areas, where Pakistani military forces had not been present ever.

So yes, it's not a perfect story; stories rarely are perfect stories. But if I look at the trajectory and I look at what's been achieved, it's a tremendous set of achievements.

QUESTION: Can I ask you to talk a little bit about the changes some of the changes in passport requirements, border requirements being announced today with regard to Canada and Mexico, and I guess Bermuda, Panama.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, Western Hemisphere requirements.

QUESTION: Yes, what is behind this? What -- are these some particular security concerns? And do you have the parallel concern that this may tamp down legitimate tourism or trade?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, this is an extension of a series of measures that have been -- that we have been taking since 2001, to recognize that our borders north and south are borders that did not have appropriate levels of security, appropriate levels of controls. And we've been working closely with the Canadians and with the Mexicans, and really through regional organizations with others as well, to try and improve the Border Patrols and we've tried to do it in a way, with Smart borders and technology and the efforts of Homeland Security on our side and on the side of our partners, to try and keep the free flow of goods and legitimate people going through.

So there's a very strong awareness that these are tremendous commercial borders, and that you don't want to hinder the commercial activity; but at the same time, you've got to have some controls that help you to prevent people who are trying to come in to hurt us.

And so the requirement for a -- for a passport or identification that is standard is -- comes out of the law. It's one that we are working to get ready for. It will go into force in a few years. And we have been sharing this with our partners and working with our partners and with the states for some time.

But it's -- it's just a part of the recognition that in 2001, when September 11th happened, and frankly even before that, when you think about the Millennium plot in 1999, these were borders that I think no one could call secure.

QUESTION: Is it fair to say that when you say we've been sharing it with our partners and talking about it with them, that there was resistance to this change on the part of the Canadians and the Mexicans?

SECRETARY RICE: I think people understand that we're going to have to (inaudible) it's difficult and it's in some cases costly. It's -- obviously, it's a new set of requirements. But it's a necessary set of requirements. And it's the law and it's a necessary set of requirements. So we're going to do everything we can to make it as seamless as possible, and make it as effective as possible, but it really needed to happen.

QUESTION: What about for U.S. citizens? Do you predict that there will be some greater difficulty, additional hurdles for U.S. citizens passing --

SECRETARY RICE: I think it does not have to be. It's a change. Let's not underestimate the fact that it's a change. But it's also something that Homeland Security has been working with the governors of the states, and through -- the White House has been working it very closely. So people just -- these are changes that needed to be made.

MR. BOUCHER: We have time for a couple more.

QUESTION: On John Bolton, who has stirred some controversy, there are letters pro and con circulating, hearing is Thursday. He's got a frank style, an open style, a direct style. Do you think that will work at the UN where they are more given to, I suppose, subtleties and indirection? People like the French, for instance.

SECRETARY RICE: Not everybody is given to subtlety and indirection. (Laughter.) And some of our most effective ambassadors have been -- it's not matter of subtlety. You can be both subtle and direct. And I -- I think John's going to be great in that environment. He's a really good negotiator. I worked with him very closely on several projects when he had to negotiate together the Proliferation Security Initiative. Not easy to get 60 countries to agree to do something like that. When he put together the Global Partnership -- and I can remember being late at night in the hallways of Kananaskis with John trying to work on language that would bring everybody on board.

He's been a very good negotiator, worked the Treaty of Moscow effectively with the Russians. So he will be direct; I think that's good. He has ideas about the UN, but he also recognizes that the United Nations is an organization to which the United States is completely and totally committed, and that we want it to work as well as we possibly can.

MR. BOUCHER: Last question.

QUESTION: In there -- there have been some critical reports of the administration at the UN. Does the UN -- does the U.S. feel it can be -- have confidence in the administration to be effective?

SECRETARY RICE: The UN administration?

QUESTION: The UN administration.

SECRETARY RICE: Kofi Annan and we work very well together. The Secretary General, he's a committed Secretary General, and I think he recognizes the various shortcomings that have been there in the UN in terms of administration, in terms of management. There's a large UN reform movement that's underway through the high-level panel. And so there's an opportunity now to take this great organization, which after all was founded 60 years ago, and make the kinds of changes and reforms that are necessary to update it and make it viable for the next 60 years. And that's going to take some work. It's going to take commitment on the part of the UN, commitment on the part of the United States and the other member states of the UN, because after all, the UN is its member states, that's what it really is. But it has done a lot of very good work in the past. It can do a lot of very good work in the future. And we're committed.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY RICE: All right, you got it.

QUESTION: All right. Community of Democracies in (inaudible). Do you see this as a good forum for the United States to try to pressure or to get other emissary countries to pressure President Chavez of Venezuela to respect democratic norms? (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY RICE: Clearly, the Community of Democracies is an opportunity for all democratic states to hold to the highest standard states and leaders who were democratically-elected, because what you don't want is people to be democratically elected and then govern undemocratically. That's, in some ways, one of the hardest situations that you face.

I don't think there's any doubt that throughout the region, there will be a desire to make sure that Venezuela and other places are being governed democratically. There's a Democratic Charter for the OAS that ought to be enforced, that ought to be a key element of any discussion with any state in the OAS.

And the Community of Democracies, though, is also a chance to talk not just about verbal sanction (inaudible), but also about the responsibilities and the opportunities of democratic governance. And in a lot of places where there have been very, very hopeful developments on the democratic front, in terms of governing, in terms of institutions, there's still a lot of work to do in turning that democratic governance into benefit and prosperity for people. It means investing in people, it means investing in education, it means investing in health care.

And so while the Democratic Charter is enormously important, so is, for instance, the Monterrey Consensus, which talked about the role of foreign assistance and what is needed from not just the state that is granting aid but from the state that is receiving aid, and at the latest Monterrey meetings from over a year ago to talk about the need to have economic growth filtered downward to actually make life better for people.

Okay, thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.


Released on April 5, 2005

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