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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 25, 2004

Schumer Urges 9/11 Commission To Reject New White House Request To Meet In Private With Rice Until She Testifies In Public Under Oath

National Security Adviser reportedly wants to meet in private with 9/11 Commission to rebut testimony from this week but continues to refuse to testify under oath in public

Schumer: "For Dr. Rice to refuse to honor the Commission's bipartisan request to testify under oath and in public, but to ask for a chance to rebut the testimony that others have given under those conditions goes too

US Senator Charles Schumer today urged the 9/11 Commission to reject a White House request reportedly to be made today to let National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice meet with the Commission in private in an effort to rebut some of the testimony from the last few days. Schumer urged the Commission not to consider the request until Rice agrees to appear before the panel in public and testify under oath.

"For Dr. Rice to refuse to honor the Commission's bipartisan request to testify under oath and in public, but to ask for a chance to rebut the testimony that others have given under those conditions goes too far," Schumer said. "Dr. Rice has given numerous television and media interviews so this clearly isn't issue of time. The long history of Presidential advisers testifying under oath renders her executive privilege arguments moot. The bottom line is that she has an obligation to appear before the Commission and I hope she will do so."

According to a report by ABC news, the White House will request today that National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice be given another opportunity to sit down with the Commission in private, to rebut some of the charges that emerged in the past two days of hearings. While she has met with the Commission in private, Rice refuses to testify in public and under oath, citing executive privilege. In testimony before the panel this week and in news accounts, Rice has emerged as a contentious figure in White House counter-terrorism efforts.

In a letter being sent today to the Chairs of the 9/11 Commission, Schumer wrote that Rice's testimony "will only prove valuable if, like Defense Secretaries Cohen and Rumsfeld, Secretaries of State Albright and Powell and former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, she gives it in public and under oath....

"I am sure you will agree that the public and sworn testimony from the principal security officials in charge of defending our national security in the Clinton and Bush Administrations was responsible for the success of the hearings. These proceedings gave the public insider access to the course of events that led to the September 11 attacks from the people directly responsible for protecting the country during that time. Like Sandy Berger, Dr. Rice has intimate knowledge of these events and has a special obligation to share it with the American people."

Earlier this week, Schumer and seven other Democratic Senators urged the White House to have Rice testify before the Commission. The Senators took issue with the White House argument that public testimony from Rice would raise "separation-of-powers" issues and made the cited the following arguments:

• Dr. Rice is not being asked to testify before Congress but is rather being called to appear before the independent Commission investigating one of the worst tragedies in American history. The panel's funding comes from Defense Department.

• The White House's argument against Dr. Rice testifying is undermined by the decisions of Samuel Berger, President Clinton's national security adviser, and Richard Clarke, a top counter-terrorism aide in both Administrations, to testify. Like Dr. Rice, they served at the staff level but are complying with the Commission's request to testify.

• Dr. Rice has not shied away from discussing the national security staff's role in responding to the al Qaeda threat. Indeed, she wrote a newspaper opinion article today where she voluntarily discusses proposals that were considered by the White House to thwart al Qaeda. In our view, there is no reason why she can discuss these issues in a newspaper article but not under oath before the Commission in public.

• Notwithstanding the fact that the Commission is not Congress, there are several examples of Presidential advisors voluntarily testifying before Congress. According to the Congressional Research Service, during World War Two, Presidential advisors Donald M. Nelson, Jonathan Daniels and Donald S. Dawson all appeared before various Senate Committees.

"In their wisdom, the Founding Fathers decided that our nation would be governed for the people and by the people and so our democracy provides all Americans with open access to their government. The recent success of the Commission’s hearings shows how well this system works. Accordingly, any further discussions Dr. Rice has with the Commission should include sworn, public testimony in order to allow the American people and the families of the 9-11 victims to gain a full understanding of her role and the role of the Bush Administration in the events surrounding the attacks of September 11," Schumer's letter continued.

A copy of the letter to the 9/11 Commission is attached.

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