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Technology troubles 'bedeviled' the Bush White House

November 01, 2011|By Kim Geiger | Washington Bureau
  • President George W. Bush, at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, discusses developments in the Middle East during a phone call with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.
President George W. Bush, at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, discusses developments… (Eric Draper / White House )

In the weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, President George W. Bush was anxious for a battle plan.

“The president had told me that he felt no need to rush to war,” writes Condoleezza Rice in her new memoir, which hit stores Tuesday. “We needed to be fully prepared. Yet we knew that there would come a time – soon – when the American people and the world would expect a response.”

With Rice serving as Bush’s national security advisor, it was her job to, as she puts it, “find a way to get the secretaries to do what the president wants them to do.”

On that late September day in 2001, what the president wanted was a plan for attacking Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. An anxious Bush reached Rice over the phone as she was traveling from CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., back to her office in Washington.

“The president was on the secure line, which never seemed to work, especially in an emergency,” Rice writes in her book, “No Higher Honor.” “I could never figure it out. The United States is one of the most technologically sophisticated countries in the world, but government communications – even national security ones – were often bedeviled by malfunctions.”

The call kept cutting out, forcing Rice to hang up with the agitated president.

“I can’t tell you how many times my morning conference call with Don [Rumsfeld] at the Pentagon and Colin [Powell] at the State Department suddenly dropped,” Rice wrote. “That was still the case … years later. There were multiple efforts to fix the problem, and I suspect a good deal of money was thrown at it – but somehow the government just couldn’t get it done.”

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