|24th United States National Security Advisor|
July 1, 2013 – January 20, 2017
|Preceded by||Thomas E. Donilon|
|Succeeded by||Michael Flynn|
|27th United States Ambassador to the United Nations|
January 26, 2009 – June 30, 2013
|Preceded by||Zalmay Khalilzad|
|Succeeded by||Samantha Power|
|12th Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs|
October 14, 1997 – January 20, 2001
|Preceded by||George Moose|
|Succeeded by||Walter H. Kansteiner III|
Susan Elizabeth Rice
November 17, 1964
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Ian Cameron (m. 1992)
|Relatives||Lois Dickson (mother)|
Emmett J. Rice (father)
|Education||Stanford University (BA)|
New College, Oxford (MPhil, DPhil)
Susan Elizabeth Rice (born November 17, 1964) is an American former public official who served as the 24th U.S. National Security Advisor to President Barack Obama from 2013 to 2017 and as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 2009 to 2013. The U.S. Senate confirmed her as Ambassador by unanimous consent on January 22, 2009. A former Brookings Institution fellow, she served on the staff of the National Security Council and was the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs during President Bill Clinton's second term.
Mentioned as a possible replacement for retiring U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2012, Rice withdrew from consideration following controversy related to the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
Rice succeeded Tom Donilon as National Security Advisor on July 1, 2013.
Early life and education
Rice was born in Washington, D.C., to Emmett J. Rice (1919–2011), a Cornell University economics professor and the second black governor of the Federal Reserve System, and education policy scholar Lois Rice (née Dickson), who helped design the federal Pell Grant subsidy system and who joined the Brookings Institution in 1992. Her maternal grandparents were Jamaican. Her parents divorced when Rice was ten years of age.
Rice was a three-letter varsity athlete, student government president, and valedictorian at National Cathedral School in Washington, D.C., a private girls' day school. She attended Stanford University, where she received a Truman Scholarship and graduated with a BA with honors in history in 1986. She was elected Phi Beta Kappa her junior year.
Awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, Rice attended New College, Oxford, where she earned a Master of Philosophy in 1988 and a Doctorate of Philosophy in 1990, both in International Relations. Her doctoral dissertation was entitled Commonwealth Initiative in Zimbabwe, 1979–1980: Implications for International Peacekeeping. Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, honored her dissertation as the UK's most distinguished in international relations.
Rice was a foreign policy aide to Michael Dukakis during the 1988 presidential election. She was a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, from 1990 to early 1992. Rice worked in McKinsey's Toronto office.
Rice said that her parents taught her to "never use race as an excuse or advantage", and as a young girl she "dreamed of becoming the first U.S. senator from the District of Columbia".
Rice served in the Clinton administration in various capacities: at the National Security Council (NSC) from 1993 to 1997 (as director for international organizations and peacekeeping from 1993 to 1995, and as special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs from 1995 to 1997); and as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs from 1997 to 2001. Rice's tenure saw significant changes in U.S.-Africa policy, including the passage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, support for democratic transitions in South Africa and Nigeria, and an increased U.S. focus on fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
National Security Council
At the time of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Rice reportedly said, "If we use the word 'genocide' and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November election?" She denied the quote but acknowledged the mistakes made at the time and felt that a debt needed repaying. The inability or failure of the Clinton administration to do anything about the genocide would form her later views on possible military interventions. She said of the experience: "I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required." Later in 2012, during an interview with The New Republic, Rice stated "To suggest that I’m repenting for [Rwanda] or that I’m haunted by that or that I don't sleep at night because of that or that every policy I've implemented subsequently is driven by that is garbage."
Islamists took control in Sudan in a 1989 coup d'état and the United States adopted a policy of disengagement with the authoritarian regime throughout the 1990s. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, however, some critics charged that hardline policy toward Sudan made it difficult to engage Sudanese officials on potential intelligence related to 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, who had been living in Sudan until he was expelled in May 1996. Timothy M. Carney, former U.S. ambassador to Sudan, co-authored an op-ed in 2002 claiming that in 1997 Sudan offered to turn over its intelligence on bin Laden but that Rice, together with then NSC terrorism specialist Richard A. Clarke, successfully lobbied for continuing to bar U.S. officials from engaging with the Khartoum government. Similar allegations were made by Vanity Fair contributing editor David Rose and Richard Miniter, author of Losing Bin Laden. All allegations against Rice were ultimately proven false by the Joint Congressional Inquiry into 9/11 and the 9/11 Commission, which also found no evidence that Sudan ever made an offer to share intelligence on bin Laden.
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, a longtime mentor and family friend to Rice, urged Clinton to appoint Rice as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in 1997. At a confirmation hearing chaired by Senator John Ashcroft, Rice, who attended the hearing along with her infant son whom she was then nursing, made a great impression on senators from both parties and "sailed through the confirmation process".
In the context of the Rwandan, Ugandan, AFDL and Angolan invasion of Zaire (later known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1996 and overthrow of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, Rice is alleged to have said that "Anything's better than Mobutu." According to Gérard Prunier, a staffer to the Assistant Secretary said that "the only thing we have to do is look the other way", with respect to regional intervention in the conflict. New York Times correspondent Howard W. French said that according to his sources, Rice herself made the remark.
Rice supported U.S. efforts to reach both the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement in the Congo and the Lomé Peace Accord in Sierra Leone. Some observers criticized the Sierra Leone agreement as too indulgent of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and for bringing the war criminal Foday Sankoh into government, leading to the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1313, which blamed the RUF for the continuing conflict in the west African country. Rice played a major role in peace negotiations between Ethiopia and Eritrea during the Eritrean–Ethiopian War, leading to the Algiers Agreement in 2000 ending the conflict. For her efforts she was named a co-recipient of the White House's Samuel Nelson Drew Memorial Award for "distinguished contributions to the formation of peaceful, cooperative relationships between nations," alongside Gayle Smith and Anthony Lake.
Rice had a poor relationship with State Department veteran Richard Holbrooke, whom she considered to be meddling on her turf and who in return felt she was rising too quickly in U.S. diplomatic ranks.
Business and think tank activities
Rice was managing director and principal at Intellibridge from 2001 to 2002. In 2002, she joined the Brookings Institution as senior fellow in the foreign policy program. At Brookings, she focused on U.S. foreign policy, weak and failing states, the implications of global poverty, and transnational threats to security.
Rice went on leave from the Brookings Institution to serve as a senior foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama in his 2008 presidential campaign. She was one of the first high-profile foreign policy staffers to sign onto Obama's campaign, as most of her peers had supported Hillary Clinton during the presidential primaries. Rice criticized Obama's Republican opponent in the campaign, John McCain, calling his policies "reckless" and dismissing the Arizona senator's trip to Iraq as "strolling around the market in a flak jacket".
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
On December 1, 2008, Rice was nominated by president-elect Obama to be the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, a position which he restored to cabinet level. Rice became the second youngest person and the first African American woman to represent the U.S. at the UN. Reportedly Rice had coveted the post of National Security Advisor, which instead went to retired United States Marine Corps General, James L. Jones.
At her confirmation hearing, Rice was introduced by Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, who said "I can think of...no better messenger than Dr. Susan Rice. I am honored to present her to this distinguished committee, and I enthusiastically endorse her nomination." Rice was confirmed unanimously by the Senate.
During her tenure at the United Nations, Rice championed a human rights and anti-poverty agenda, elevated climate change and women's rights as global priorities, and committed the U.S. to agreements such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. Rice led the fight to advance LGBT rights at the U.N. Human Rights Council and was recognized for her staunch defense of Israel at the Security Council.
Three male Security Council diplomats took issue with Rice's negotiating style, calling it "rude" and overly blunt, while others attributed those criticisms to sexism. According to David Rothkopf of Foreign Policy magazine, Rice could be challenging to work with due to her "toughness"—in the mold of James Baker or Henry Kissinger—but had the asset of a close relationship with the U.S. president and proved to be an effective policymaker. Some human rights activists took issue with Rice and U.S. foreign policy generally in 2012 for working against UN statements that criticized Rwanda for supporting a rebel group in Congo known for committing atrocities. However, Rice won praise for leading the Security Council to impose the toughest sanctions to date on Iran and North Korea over their nuclear programs, and for reaffirming U.S. commitment to the UN and multilateralism after the damage done by the Bush administration.
Libyan Civil War
As the 2011 Libyan Civil War progressed, the United States and its allies offered a clear choice for Gaddafi and his aides: step down from power or face an international response. Rice offered some of the toughest rhetoric toward Gaddafi, blasting his denials of atrocities against his own citizens as "frankly, delusional". Several UN diplomats said that in a closed door meeting on April 28, Rice's claims of Gaddafi's atrocities included the issuance of Viagra to loyalists in order to further terrorize the population with sexual violence. Together with National Security Council figure Samantha Power, who already supported the U.S.-led military intervention in Libya, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who came to support it, the three overcame internal opposition from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, security adviser Thomas E. Donilon, and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, to have the administration advance a UN proposal to impose a no-fly zone over Libya and authorize other military actions as necessary. On March 17, 2011, the UK, France and Lebanon joined the U.S. to vote for United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 while Brazil, Germany, and India joined permanent Security Council members China and Russia in abstaining. Rice and Clinton played major roles in gaining approval for the resolution. Clinton said the same day that establishing a no-fly zone over Libya would require the bombing of air defenses. Rice said, "we are interested in a broad range of actions that will effectively protect civilians and increase the pressure on the Gaddafi regime to halt the killing and to allow the Libyan people to express themselves in their aspirations for the future freely and peacefully".
Syrian Civil War
In January 2012, after the Russian and Chinese veto of another Security Council resolution calling on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, Rice strongly condemned both countries, saying, "They put a stake in the heart of efforts to resolve this conflict peacefully", and adding that "we the United States are standing with the people of Syria. Russia and China are obviously with Assad". In her words, "the United States is disgusted that a couple of members of this Council continue to prevent us from fulfilling our sole purpose".
2012 Benghazi attack
On September 11, 2012, the U.S. diplomatic mission and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya was attacked, resulting in the deaths of the United States Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens, U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, and two former Navy SEALS, Glen Doherty and Tyrone S. Woods. On September 16, Rice appeared on five major interview shows to discuss the attacks. Prior to her appearance, Rice was provided with "talking points" from a CIA memo, which stated:
The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. diplomatic post and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.
This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and as currently available information continues to be evaluated.
The investigation is ongoing, and the U.S. government is working with Libyan authorities to help bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of U.S. citizens.
Using these talking points as a guide, Rice stated on Face the Nation:
Based on the best information we have to date, what our assessment is as of the present is in fact what began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy—sparked by this hateful video. But soon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that—in that effort with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post-revolution. And that it spun from there into something much, much more violent. We do not—we do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned. I think it's clear that there were extremist elements that joined in and escalated the violence.... Whether they were al Qaeda affiliates, whether they were Libyan-based extremists or al Qaeda itself I think is one of the things we'll have to determine.
Since Rice's five television appearances, there have been persistent accusations that she had intentionally misled the public. However, none of the ten Benghazi investigations conducted by Congress determined she had. The Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee's two-year investigation "did not conclude that Rice or any other government official acted in bad faith or intentionally misled the American people. "In the immediate aftermath of the attack, intelligence about who carried it out and why was contradictory, the report found. That led Susan Rice, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to inaccurately assert that the attack had evolved from a protest, when in fact there had been no protest".
97 House Republicans sent a letter to President Obama on November 19 to say Rice's statements were "misleading" and that she should accordingly not be considered a candidate to succeed Hillary Clinton in 2013 as Secretary of State. Some Republican Senators, who would have had a vote on whether to confirm Rice, also voiced objections and said their meetings with Rice at the end of November 2012 did not ease their concerns. On December 13, 2012, in a letter to President Obama, Rice asked him to remove her name from consideration for Secretary of State, saying "if nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive, and costly—to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities.... Therefore, I respectfully request that you no longer consider my candidacy at this time."
National Security Advisor
Rice was picked to succeed Tom Donilon as National Security Advisor following Donilon's resignation on June 5, 2013. The position of National Security Advisor does not require Senate approval. Rice was sworn in as the 24th National Security Advisor on July 1, 2013.
In May 2014, Rice traveled to Israel for meetings with Israeli officials in which nuclear talks with Iran were discussed. Rice's visit, the first in her role as national security adviser, came after peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed. The Obama administration made clear that Rice's trip was part of regularly scheduled talks and that the stalled Middle East peace discussions were not on the agenda. However, White House Spokesman Jay Carney said negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program would be on the agenda, among other topics.
Rice has been criticized for intensifying the Obama administration's conflicts with Israel during her time as National Security Advisor. Dennis Ross, a Middle East advisor to President Obama, criticized Rice's "combative mind-set" as opposed to her predecessor's, Tom Donilon, who played a more conciliatory role. Ross writes that after Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's public reprimand of the Obama administration's Iran negotiations, Rice fumed to Abe Foxman that, "in her view, the Israeli leader did everything but use 'the N-word' in describing the president".
In releasing the 2015 National Security Strategy, Rice said that the United States was pursuing an "ambitious yet achievable agenda" overseas. She argued that U.S. leadership had been essential for success on issues including Ebola, Iran's nuclear program and sanctioning Russia over Ukraine. Her comments came as President Obama sent his national security strategy to Congress. The document formed a blueprint for foreign policy, defense and national security for the last two years of President Obama's term. It had previously been updated in 2010. In a letter outlining the strategy, President Obama said that the U.S. would "always defend our interests and uphold our commitments to allies and partners", adding, "But we have to make hard choices among many competing priorities and we must always resist the overreach that comes when we make decisions based upon fear."
On a visit to Pakistan in 2015, Rice warned Pakistani political and military leaders that attacks in Afghanistan by militants based in Pakistan threatened regional security. Rice also delivered an invitation from President Obama for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to visit the United States in October. The meetings came at a tense time for Pakistan's relations with neighboring Afghanistan and archrival India, along with uncertainty over whether the United States would release $300 million in military aid to Pakistan. Media reports suggested the money could be held back if the United States determined Pakistan was not doing enough to combat the Haqqani network, accused of some of the deadliest attacks in neighboring Afghanistan.
In a 2015 speech on U.S.–China relations, Rice noted the problems of Chinese hacking, saying, "This is not a mild irritation. It is an economic and national security concern to the United States. It puts enormous strain on our bilateral relationship, and it is a critical factor in determining the future trajectory of U.S.–China ties."
The Obama administration supported the Saudi-and Emirati-led intervention in Yemen and blockade of Yemen, but Rice opposed a coalition attack on the port city of Al Hudaydah and personally called UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed to stop the planned offensive.
On April 3, 2017, Eli Lake reported in Bloomberg View that as National Security Advisor, Rice had requested that the identities of some Americans mentioned in intelligence reports related to the campaign and presidential transition of Donald Trump be unmasked. Any request for an American's identity to be unmasked required approval by the National Security Agency; NSA Director Michael Rogers said the NSA evaluated each request to determine "Is there a valid need to know in the course of the execution of their official duties?" and "Is the identification necessary to truly understand the context of the intelligence value that the report is designed to generate?" Rice said that she asked for identities of U.S. persons to be revealed to provide context to the intelligence reports, and not for political purposes.
The report of Rice unmasking Trump officials followed the announcement of the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Devin Nunes, "that he had seen reports indicating that Mr. Trump or his associates might have been 'incidentally' swept up in the monitoring of foreigners". The Committee was investigating both Trump's ties to Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election and Trump's unfounded allegations that President Obama had Trump Tower under surveillance. Lake's April 3 report of the unmasking specified "Rice's requests to unmask the names of Trump transition officials do not vindicate Trump's own tweets from March 4 in which he accused Obama of illegally tapping Trump Tower." Nevertheless, Republicans called for an investigation into the unmasking while Democrats claimed the unmasking story was a diversion from the Russian influence investigation.
After members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees were able to view the material on which Nunes based his assertions, a number of news organizations reported that both Democrats and Republicans familiar with the material said that there was "no evidence that Obama administration officials did anything unusual or illegal". The report also called Rice's unmasking requests "normal and appropriate".
Rice informed the House Intelligence Committee in September 2017 that she requested the unmasking because of a redacted report provided by the intelligence services concerning an undisclosed visit to the United States by United Arab Emirates crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in December 2016. During the visit al-Nahyan met with Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner at Trump Tower in New York.
On March 8, 2017, Rice joined American University as a Distinguished Visiting Research Fellow in the School of International Service (SIS) at the university. In her residency she plans to work on her next book and mentoring young SIS students.
After U.S. Senator Susan Collins from Maine voted in favor of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, Rice publicly considered a challenge to Collins in 2020. However, on April 11, 2018, Rice announced that she would not seek a Senate run against Collins in 2020.
Rice serves on the boards of several organizations, including the advisory board of Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, the board of directors of the Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (Bloomberg BNA), and the board of directors of Partnership for Public Service. She is a past member of the boards of directors of the National Democratic Institute, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, the Atlantic Council and Internews Network. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Aspen Strategy Group.
Rice married Canadian-born former ABC News executive producer Ian Officer Cameron on September 12, 1992, at the St. Albans School chapel. They met as students at Stanford. They have two children, son John David Rice-Cameron and daughter Maris.
Rice is an avid tennis player, often playing on weekends.
Awards and honors
Rice was inducted into Stanford's Black Alumni Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2017, Rice was presented with the Award of Commander, the Legion of Honour of France, by French president François Hollande for her contributions to Franco-American relations.
- Rice, Susan Elizabeth. 1990. The Commonwealth Initiative in Zimbabwe, 1979–1980: Implications for International Peacekeeping, doctoral thesis, New College, Oxford University.
- Rice, Susan E., Corinne Graff, and Carlos Pascual, editors. 2010. Confronting Poverty: Weak States and U.S. National Security, Brookings Institution Press, Washington, DC
- Rice, Susan. 2019. Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For, memoir, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY
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- Tracy Connor (December 13, 2012), Susan Rice drops out of running for secretary of state, cites 'very politicized' confirmation process NBC News
- "The Meteoric Rise of the State Department's Susan Rice." The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education: 20 (Summer 1998), pp. 40–41.
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- Power, Samantha (September 2001). "Bystanders to Genocide" (Article). The Atlantic. Retrieved December 2, 2008.
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- "Losing Africa, Yet Again" (Article). Newsweek. Policy. October 5, 2008. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
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- Rice, Susan. "Remarks by National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice at American University on Global LGBTQ Rights". The White House. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
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[Rice a director since 2004].
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- "Susan Rice collected news and commentary". The New York Times.
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- "The Ethiopian-Eritrean War: U.S. Policy Options", Before the House Committee on International Relations, Africa Subcommittee, May 25, 1999. Retrieved May 13, 2008.
- Martha Brant, Into Africa, Stanford Magazine, January–February 2000
- Interview with Dave Ross on MyNorthwest.com (audio)
- Profile on Foreign Policy
- Nomination of Hon. Susan E. Rice to be U.N. Representative: Hearing before the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, One Hundred Eleventh Congress, First Session, January 15, 2009
| Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
| National Security Advisor
| United States Ambassador to the United Nations