U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice says the Bush administration did understand the importance of the terrorist threat from al-Qaida before the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001. Ms. Rice made her comments before the independent commission investigating the attacks.
In her opening statement, Ms. Rice told commission members that, for decades, the United States did not respond sufficiently to the rising threat of terrorism.
Ms. Rice testified, however, that before the September 11 attacks, the first major national security policy directive developed by the Bush administration was aimed at the elimination of the al-Qaida terrorist network.
"President Bush understood the threat, and he understood its importance," said Ms. Rice. "He made clear to us that he did not want to respond to al-Qaida one attack at a time. He told me he was tired of swatting flies."
Ms. Rice's testimony follows allegations by former White House counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke, who says the Bush administration did not make terrorism an urgent priority before the September 11 attacks.
Ms. Rice told commissioners there was troubling intelligence in the weeks before the attacks, but called it frustratingly vague.
She told the panel there was no "silver bullet," or simple solution, that could have prevented the attacks.