Profile: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

"When Rice speaks, she speaks for the president," the magazine reported in a gushing write-up. "With her silver-tongued diplomacy and steely nerve, Rice has played a key, behind-the-scenes role in helping to steer the United States through two wars, as well as the resulting controversies."

Her rise to power within the Bush administration came shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks when she staunchly stood by the president during the shocked and devastating days following the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

Part of a group of foreign-policy advisers to Bush nicknamed "The Vulcans" -- a group that includes Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz -- Rice is believed to be one of the formulators of Bush's controversial "pre-emptive strikes" doctrine.

Security Failings Leading Up to 9/11

With the war against al Qaeda raging in Afghanistan and the man behind the attacks, Osama bin Laden still at large -- probably in the remote mountainous border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan -- Rice nevertheless supported the Bush agenda to attack Iraq.

But it was during the investigation into the terrorist attacks by an independent commission in late 2003 that Rice faced her biggest challenge in public office.

As the national security adviser argued over the ground rules of testifying under oath to the commission, her earlier quote that no one "could have predicted that they would try to use a ... hijacked airplane as a missile" was exposed as an outright lie in the face of mounting evidence of U.S. intelligence reports warning that al Qaeda was interested in airplane attacks.

Finally, Rice testified before the commission on April 8, 2004, saying that legal barriers had prevented law enforcement and intelligence agencies from pooling information. But she insisted there was no "silver bullet" that could have prevented the attacks on New York and Washington.

ABC News' Ed O'Keefe contributed to this report

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