Reacting to a blistering report on U.S. gaps in spying, she warned against complacency.
By Anne Gearan
WASHINGTON - The world might never know precise details about nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea but must not "under-react" because of incomplete intelligence, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in an interview yesterday.
Speaking about last week's scathing report by a presidential commission studying U.S. spy agencies, Rice said she could not guarantee that U.S. intelligence was on the mark now, as the Bush administration seeks international cooperation to end suspected or declared nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea.
"There are no guarantees where intelligence is concerned," Rice said, "particularly when you're dealing with opaque and difficult societies like the ones that tend to want weapons of mass destruction undercover."
The report said intelligence agencies knew "disturbingly little about the nuclear programs of many of the world's most dangerous actors."
Rice also said that:
The United States would move cautiously in releasing terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, because of the risk that they might do further harm.
The presence of U.S. troops in Iraq was not itself the cause of continuing violence. The notion that attackers were motivated only by anger at the United States "just isn't right," she said.
Syria must go beyond its stated intention to withdraw troops and security forces from Lebanon and remove "undeclared" security forces as well.
Tighter control of the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico is justified to "help you to prevent people who are trying to come in to hurt us."
Rice declined to say whether anyone should be fired as a result of the panel's findings.
As President Bush's national security adviser, she relied on what turned out to be flawed intelligence about Iraq's weapons to help make the administration's case for an invasion two years ago. She succeeded Colin L. Powell as secretary of state in January.
"We have very good intelligence analysts who were doing their best," Rice said yesterday, "but obviously the President's intelligence has to be better than what we got on Iraq."
International suspicions about Iran and North Korea go far beyond what U.S. intelligence may have found, she suggested.
North Korea has announced it already has nuclear weapons, and it has refused to return to international arms talks. Iran says it is not hiding a weapons program behind a legitimate drive for civilian nuclear energy, "but they've been caught in a number of suspicious activities," Rice said.
"While we may never know the exact nature of any of these programs," she said, "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."