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.
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 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 married Canadian-born ABC News 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 (known as Jake and president of the Stanford College Republicans or SCR) and daughter Maris.
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. In 2012, when serving as UN ambassador, Rice reportedly opposed efforts to publicly censure Rwandan President Paul Kagame for again supporting a Congolese rebel group, this time in the 2012 Congo conflict. The Rwandan government was a client when Rice worked at Intellibridge in 2001–02.
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.
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".
On July 7, 1998, Rice was a member of an American delegation to visit detained Nigerian president-elect Basorun M. K. O. Abiola. During this meeting, Abiola suffered a fatal heart attack.
Rice was inducted into Stanford's Black Alumni Hall of Fame in 2002.
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.
On November 5, 2008, Rice was named to the advisory board of the Obama–Biden Transition Project.
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.
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."
As the 2011 Libyan Civil War progressed, Rice made clear that 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 military intervention, 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".
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."
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, saying that if she were nominated, "the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive, and costly."
Three male Security Council diplomats took issue with Rice's negotiating style, calling it "rude" and overly blunt. According to David Rothkopf of Foreign Policy magazine, Rice can be challenging to work with due to her "tough manner"—in the mold of James Baker or Henry Kissinger—but has the asset of a close relationship with the U.S. president. 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.
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".
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:
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.
Rice was picked to succeed Tom Donilon as National Security Advisor immediately 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.
Rice succeeded Tom Donilon as 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 as 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.
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.
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.
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.
In August 2017, Eli Lake reported in Bloomberg View that Rice's successor as National Security Adviser, H. R. McMaster, "has concluded that Rice did nothing wrong".
On March 28, 2018, Rice was appointed to the board of directors at Netflix.
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.