Condoleezza Rice: I told Bush not to come back after 9/11

Condoleezza Rice has revealed that she shouted at President George Bush and banned him from returning to Washington to run the country in the chaotic few hours following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Roughly 30 minutes after terrorists flew a second hijacked airliner into the World Trade Centre in New York, Ms Rice, then the National Security Adviser, became involved in a heated exchange with President Bush when he telephoned to announce plans to fly back to the White House, which at the time was still considered a potential terrorist target, to take control of the unfolding security crisis.

She told him several times to remain in the comparative safety of Florida, where he'd been visiting a school at the time of the attacks. When President Bush attempted to over-rule her, Ms Rice responded by shouting at him. Before he could further argue the toss, she promptly ended the call.

"The President got on the phone and he said: 'I'm coming back'," she recalled, in an interview for a British documentary. "I said: 'You cannot come back here. The United States of America is under attack, you have to go to safety. We don't know what is going on here'. He said: 'I'm coming back'."

"I said: 'You can't'. I said to him in a raised voice, and I had never raised my voice to the President before, 'You cannot come back here'. I hung up. The President was quite annoyed with me to say the least. I've known the President a long time and I knew that he wanted nothing more than to be there at the helm of the ship."

The comments by Ms Rice, which will be aired in Channel Four documentary 9/11: State of Emergency on Saturday, provide an intriguing insight into the circumstances surrounding President Bush's immediate response to the 2001 terrorist attack, which at the time were mocked by his opponents.

As Michael Moore famously documented in his film Fahrenheit 9/11, Mr Bush was informed of the first plane hitting the World Trade Centre when he was on his way to visit a Florida elementary school. Shortly afterwards, an aide told him that a second plane had hit the World Trade Centre, and that the US was "under attack". His immediate response was to read a book called The Pet Goat to a group of schoolchildren for nearly seven minutes.

While the President was prevaricating, it now emerges that fear and chaos were developing in the bunker beneath the White House where Ms Rice had retreated with Vice President Dick Cheney and most of their staff.

Communications systems were failing, forcing staff to use unsecured phone lines to organise their response to the disaster, she claims. "There were so many people in the bunker that the oxygen levels started dropping, and the secret service came in and said 'we've got to get some people out of here'," Rice recalled. "They literally went around telling people they weren't essential and they had to leave."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk