Rice on Ressam

EXCERPTS OF a transcript of national security adviser Condoleezza Rice’s testimony Thursday relating to the arrest of al-Qaida terrorist Ahmed Ressam in Port Angeles on Dec. 14, 1999:

I will say this. That the millennium, of course, was a period of high threat by its very nature. We all knew that the millennium was a period of high threat.

And after September 11th, Dick Clarke sent us the after-action report that had been done after the millennium plot and their assessment was that Ressam had been caught by chance — Ressam being the person who was entering the United States over the Canadian border with bomb-making materials in store.

I think it actually wasn’t by chance, which was Washington’s view of it. It was because a very alert customs agent named Diana Dean and her colleagues sniffed something about Ressam.

They saw that something was wrong. They tried to apprehend him. He tried to run. They then apprehended him, found that there was bomb-making material and a map of Los Angeles.

Now, at that point, you have pretty clear indication that you’ve got a problem inside the United States.

I don’t think it was shaking the trees that produced the breakthrough in the millennium plot. It was that you got a — Dick Clarke would say a lucky break — I would say you got an alert customs agent who got it right.

And the interesting thing is that I’ve checked with Customs and according to their records, they weren’t actually on alert at that point.

So I just don’t buy the argument that we weren’t shaking the trees enough and that something was going to fall out that gave us somehow that little piece of information that would have led to connecting all of those dots.

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