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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Condoleezza Rice
National Security Advisor

July 1, 2004

Josef, from Chicago writes:
Hello,Are we more secure now or before 911?

Condoleezza Rice

We are safer today. But we are not yet safe. One of the hardest aspects of homeland security is that the defender has to be right 100% of the time – while the terrorist only has to be right once.

Since the attacks of September 11, President Bush has taken every stop possible to protect our Nation. He began by completing the largest government reorganization since the beginning of the Cold War to improve the way our government fights terror.

As a result, our efforts to defend the homeland are more effective, efficient, and organized.

The Department of Homeland Security was created with one single overriding responsibility: to make America more secure. Along with the sweeping transformation within the FBI, the establishment of the Department of Defense's U.S. Northern Command, and the creation of the multi-agency Terrorist Threat Integration Center and Terrorist Screening Center, America is better prepared to prevent, disrupt, and respond to terrorist attacks than ever before.

Our borders are tighter and our transportation systems are more secure. We have improved our visa and inspection process. We have tightened security at our ports and our critical infrastructure locations. We have provided significant new resources to help our firefighters, police and other emergency workers respond to terrorism. We have strengthened our efforts to combat against chemical and biological threats.

I would also note that the USA PATRIOT Act has played a vital role in protecting the homeland. This legislation helps the government better track terrorists, disrupt their cells, and seize their assets. By breaking down unnecessary barriers between intelligence and law enforcement officers, the PATRIOT Act is helping to ensure that the best available information about terrorist threats is provided to the people who need it most.

Kalvi, from Tallinn, Estonia writes:
Dear Dr. Condoleeza Rice, European should know that NATO and the United States is at the heart of Europe's defenses. My question is here what is the position of the United States about the European Security and Defense Identity? Will it weaken NATO? As secretary Rumsfeld says, weaken NATO means weaking of Europe.

Thank you very much,
Tallinn, Estonia

Condoleezza Rice

I agree with you about the importance of the NATO alliance. As you know, the President just completed participation in the NATO Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, where NATO leaders forged agreement on many key issues, including helping the new Iraqi government train their security forces to combat terrorism.

President Bush has not only expanded NATO, but his Administration has helped redefine the way NATO conducts its collective defense mission in the 21st Century. Threats to transatlantic security no longer come from within Europe (such as the Soviet Army or in the Balkans). NATO now faces new threats, including the threat of new totalitarianism in the form of radical Islamic extremism, and the threat of terrorists and their networks acquiring weapons of mass destruction. These problems are fed by the lack of freedom in the Broader Middle East, just as the lack of freedom and hope spawned the dangerous totalitarianism of 20th Century Europe.

NATO is changing to meet these new threats. The alliance, among other important activities, is working to help train the new Iraqi security forces; expanding its work in Afghanistan to help support the Afghan people’s free elections; fighting terrorism in the Mediterranean; and supporting the Polish-led multinational division in Iraq. NATO is a critical alliance doing important work – and its work on behalf of the international community is only beginning.

Josh, from Vidalia, LA writes:
I was wondering, since now that we have turned Iraq over to them now, and now they have there on President, are we going to bring our troop home.

Condoleezza Rice

As the President has said, our forces will be in Iraq as long as it takes to do the job – and not one day longer. The new Iraqi government is working hard with our forces to help train Iraqi forces to take full ownership of the security of their nation. Once security conditions improve and the Iraqis are able to secure their nation, then Coalition forces will be able to leave Iraq.

Amora, from P.R.China writes:
Ms.Rice,What is your attitude towards the abuse of Iraqi prisonors that was carried out by the U.S. forces?

Condoleezza Rice

As the President has said, what took place at the Abu Ghraib prison does not represent America.

Our nation is a compassionate country that believes in freedom. The U.S. government is deeply sorry for what has happened to some Abu Ghraib prisoners, and people worldwide should be assured that President Bush is determined to learn the full truth of the prisoner reports in Iraq. The President has told Defense Secretary Rumsfeld that he expects a thorough investigation and a full accounting of the situation.

I would note that in a democracy, everything is not perfect and mistakes are made. But also in a democracy, those mistakes will be investigated and people will be brought to justice. We are an open society that is willing to fully investigate what took place in Abu Ghraib. And you can rest assured that responsible parties will be punished.

Nancy, from Minneapolis writes:
Hello Dr. Rice.....So nice to talk to you. My concern is for the troops, especially the Marine that was kidnapped or is missing. I guess I want to know what we are going to do to get this guy, this Zarquawi or whatever his name is. I feel we need to be more forceful in protecting our troops. By the way, I support the President and pray for him daily....Thanks for your time....Nancy

Condoleezza Rice

You can be confident that our forces are working around the clock, in close coordination with the Iraqi people and Iraqi security forces, to find the terrorist Zarqawi.

A little background...As the President has said, recently in Iraq, we intercepted a letter sent by Abu Massad Al-Zarqawi to al-Qaeda members, urging them to wage terrorist war on our coalition in Iraq. You will remember that Zarqawi was in Iraq under Saddam Hussein's regime and operated out of Iraq.

Zarqawi ordered the murder of an American diplomat in Jordan and he fought against our troops in Afghanistan. In his letter, he outlined his efforts to recruit and train suicide bombers, and boasted of attacks on innocent Iraqis and the Coalition. Zarqawi describes his terrorist strategy as to tear the country apart with ethnic violence, to undermine Iraqi security forces, to demoralize our coalition and to prevent the rise of a sovereign democratic government.

You can be confident he and his terrorist allies will fail.

Zarqawi and men like him have made Iraq the central front in our war on terror. We have seen this enemy before -- and we know how to deal with them. Fighting alongside the people of Afghanistan, we are defeating the terrorists in that country. Fighting alongside the people of Iraq, we will defeat the terrorists there as well.

Chris, from Rancho Palos Verdes, CA writes:
Dr. Rice, Now that Tenet is on his way out, perhaps you can fill me in on something. Was he for this war or not? His speech at Georgetown left me with the perception he was not gung-ho for going into Iraq, and that he was part of the Clarke-Powell group that "Iraq was a really bad idea". But Woodward's book paints him as more of a hawk. So which was it? Did he want to go in or not?

Condoleezza Rice

Director Tenet has been an outstanding CIA Director and he has served his country with honor and distinction.

No one wanted to go to war. That’s why the President exhausted the diplomatic options at his disposal to try to get the Saddam Hussein regime to comply with the more than 17 UN Security Council Resolutions that the international community had passed dealing with his dangerous regime. However, instead of complying with the will of the peaceful international community, Saddam Hussein chose war, and our nation, the Iraqi people, and the world are safer today because we removed his brutal and violent regime from power.

Robert, from Chicago writes:
Can we please do something about the Sudan situation?

Condoleezza Rice

As you know, Secretary Powell was just on the ground in Sudan working hard on this important issue. This past weekend at the US/EU Summit, the President and his EU colleagues issued a declaration that expressed grave concern at the continuing humanitarian crisis in Darfur, western Sudan, where the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians, who live in desperate conditions and require immediate life-saving relief, are at great risk.

The President joins the international community in strongly condemning the human rights violations there, and he has reiterated his call on the Government of Sudan to immediately stop the violence perpetrated there; to help ensure the protection and security of civilians and humanitarian workers; and to disarm the militias and allow full and unimpeded access by humanitarian groups to Darfur. The President also believes that those responsible for the atrocities in Sudan must be held accountable.

Thanks to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice for answering questions today on "Ask the White House"

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