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Undelivered Rice speech scrutinized

Democratic senator seeks release of text

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Condoleeza Rice
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September 11 attacks

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- National security adviser Condoleeza Rice planned to deliver a speech on September 11, 2001, about national security that said nothing about Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda or Islamic fundamentalist groups.

A description and excerpts of that undelivered speech were first reported in The Washington Post on Thursday, and the excerpts were confirmed by administration sources.

But the administration disputed suggestions that the speech showed the administration was not focused on terrorism before the deadly attacks.

"What matters is what we were doing on terrorism, not whether there is a speech on terrorism. We were acting on terrorism," National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack said.

Rice is scheduled to testify next Thursday before an independent commission investigating the 9/11 attacks, according to a news release from the commission.

Administration sources confirmed the accuracy of leaked excerpts from the prepared text of the speech that were printed in The Washington Post, but would not provide the full text.

Rice was scheduled to deliver the speech at the School of Advance International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, but the plans were scrapped with the 9/11 attacks.

NSC officials said the speech was meant to be a broad look at the administration's efforts to fight terrorism. In it, Rice argued that the United States should build a missile defense system.

One line printed in the Post referred to "the suitcase bomb, the car bomb and the vial of sarin released in the subway" and noted the government spent about twice as much on "counterterrorism efforts" as on missile defense.

"In May the president appointed Vice President Cheney to oversee a coordinated national effort to better protect the U.S. homeland against a terror attack using WMD. But why not missile defenses as well?" she was to have said, the Post reported.

Deputy National Security Adviser for Communications Jim Wilkinson dismissed the suggestion that because al Qaeda and bin Laden were not mentioned in the text that the White House was not focused on the threat they posed.

But Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, urged the White House to release the full text of the speech.

"Dr. Rice's speech suggests that at the very least there was a disconnect between the public security message and the policy prescriptions top White House officials were pushing and the private warnings federal agencies were issuing about imminent threats to our homeland," Schumer said in a letter sent to the White House and released by his office.

The question of whether the administration recognized the terrorism threat was raised during public hearings last week by the independent commission investigating the 9/11 attacks.

Former counterterrorism chief Richard Clark charged the administration did not heed his warnings about the magnitude of the terrorism threat before 9/11, and that the administration undermined the war on terror by invading Iraq.

His assertions have been disputed by the White House. President Bush, who initially refused to let Rice testify publicly before that commission, changed his mind Tuesday, following weeks of public criticism.

Rice is scheduled to testify April 8 in a Capitol Hill office building from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux contributed to this report.

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