Rice hammered Clinton, who leveled his charges in a contentious weekend interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News Channel, for his claims that the Bush administration "did not try" to kill Osama bin Laden in the eight months they controlled the White House before the Sept. 11 attacks.
"The notion somehow for eight months the Bush administration sat there and didn't do that is just flatly false - and I think the 9/11 commission understood that," Rice said during a wide-ranging meeting with Post editors and reporters.
"What we did in the eight months was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years," Rice added.
The secretary of state also sharply disputed Clinton's claim that he "left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy" for the incoming Bush team during the presidential transition in 2001.
"We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al Qaeda," Rice responded during the hourlong session.
Her strong rebuttal was the Bush administration's first response to Clinton's headline-grabbing interview on Fox on Sunday in which he launched into an over-the-top defense of his handling of terrorism - wagging his finger in the air, leaning forward in his chair and getting red-faced, and even attacking Wallace for improper questioning.
The "Fox News Sunday" show had its best ratings since the capture of Saddam Hussein in December 2003, according to Nielsen Media Research. Two versions of the interview were the two most-watched clips on YouTube yesterday, totaling more than 800,000 views.