Saturday :: Jun 14, 2003

More Inconsistencies From the Bushies on WMDs

by Steve

Today’s conflicting WMD follies show the following:

Newsday repeats this week’s developments where the CIA took pains earlier in the week to make clear they did tell the Bush Administration that they couldn’t corroborate the Niger uranium story. But if you look closely at the stories, you will see that the Administration is getting its stories messed up.

According to the Newsday piece today,

Months before President George W. Bush asserted in his Jan. 28 State of the Union speech that Iraq had been shopping in Africa for uranium to build nuclear bombs, the CIA told the White House it had "serious questions" about key intelligence behind the claim, according to a senior intelligence official.

The CIA repeated its reservations - about purported deals by Iraq to buy uranium oxide from Niger - in a classified National Intelligence Estimate distributed to the White House and other agencies in October, the official said. He said the State Department, in the report, asserted "even more firmly" than the CIA that there were serious questions about the intelligence claim.

Within days of receiving the U.S. claim this year, United Nations inspectors found that the documents underpinning it were forgeries.

A White House official confirmed Friday that the National Security Council had received the CIA cable last spring but said the forged documents formed "only one piece ... in a large body of evidence suggesting Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium from Africa." The senior intelligence official agreed that the CIA had distributed to policy-makers "a little bit, not a lot" of other such reports, and had made clear they were unverified.

The CIA's worry over the veracity of the Niger claims was "reported ... to all of God's children [within the policy-making community], all of whom seem not to have read that."

When “a White House official” and “the senior intelligence official” are used interchangeably in the same paragraph streaming from the same set of quotes, it is safe to assume that we are talking about the same person here. So who is this person inside the White House who can confirm that the Administration is now backtracking from earlier claims made by Condi Rice that no one at her level knew of the CIA’s concerns of March 2002? Who is this person who is confirming that the CIA did in fact tell “all of God’s children” about their concerns, again a backtrack from Condi’s assertions last week on Meet the Press, while now acknowledging that many didn’t read it? The only people that meet those descriptions of White House and senior intelligence official with this kind of knowledge are either Condi or her staff, right?

In today’s LA Times, it is reported that George Tenet has reassigned two analysts who worked on the Iraq WMD assessments, a move that some insiders are calling an “exile.” But two other pieces of news in that report are interesting.

The weapons controversy has exposed new fault lines between the White House and the intelligence community.

In a series of media appearances this week, senior White House officials including national security advisor Condoleezza Rice stressed that all of the administration's prewar claims came straight out of briefings from the CIA.

"You had a director of central intelligence that produced an estimate that said this regime had weapons of mass destruction," Rice said in a television interview.

Yet according to the Newsday piece, a White House official said just yesterday that “the forged documents formed "only one piece ... in a large body of evidence suggesting Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium from Africa." So what is it? Condi says the White House’s case was based solely on the CIA’s briefings. Yesterday, a White House official says it was based on a large body of evidence, after the CIA successfully rebutted earlier claims that they hadn’t told the White House about their concerns.

And now, Tenet has taken over the job of finding WMDs in Iraq from Rummy.

This week, the White House put Tenet in charge of the ongoing weapons hunt, a job that had belonged to the Pentagon.

"They handed the whole ball to George," said one intelligence source familiar with the details of the assignment. He said the message being sent to Tenet seemed clear: "You said [the banned weapons] were there. You go find them."

Another congressional aide said the move reflected not only an eagerness to put Tenet on the hook for the weapons search mission, but also dissatisfaction with the way the Pentagon had managed the assignment.

"It's a little of both," the aide said, noting that the weapons search has been plagued by breakdowns, shortages of necessary equipment and infighting.

This week, Tenet tapped a former U.N. weapons inspector, David Kay, to serve as a "special advisor" to the search effort in Baghdad. The move was somewhat surprising from an administration that had openly derided the effectiveness of United Nations teams before the war.

Kay will report directly to Tenet and have authority over the 1,300-member Iraq Survey Group recently dispatched to step up the search.

Many in the intelligence community are now skeptical that stocks of anthrax, botulin, sarin gas or other agents Iraq was accused of producing will be found.

"It's not that they were never there or that we worked for years on erroneous information," one intelligence official said. Rather, there is growing concern that the nation's spy community missed the destruction of the materials because analysts were not prepared to consider Hussein capable of taking such a step.

"We didn't have the hypothesis that maybe this guy would decide it's too dangerous to have this stuff," the official said, noting that some think Hussein focused on preserving technology that would enable him to restart his programs later.

"If you save design work you can gin it back up pretty quickly," the official said. "The only one you can't gin up is nuclear."

Then there is this:

Meanwhile, staffers on the House and Senate Intelligence committees are already poring over thousands of pages of prewar intelligence documents turned over by the CIA in recent days.

One Capitol Hill aide who has reviewed the material said there are troubling contradictions in the documents and statements. In some cases, records show officials reaching one conclusion on Iraq's weapons, only to offer a contradictory conclusion a few months later.

The aide declined to discuss specifics but said the tangled nature of the material is likely to add fuel to the controversy.

"It's all fodder for the Democrats," the aide said. "What they'll find is people having said things that aren't consistent with what they're saying now."

So the story now is that no one thought for a moment that Saddam would just get rid of the WMDs because they were too much trouble? And its up to Tenet at the same time to find WMDs? So that’s the cover story, that it was the CIA’s fault that they didn’t tell Rummy and Cheney that he could have dumped them, like that would have stopped Bush from invading? Bush built his case on an imminent threat rationale, remember? It wouldn’t have mattered if the CIA had convinced anyone that Saddam dumped them. The Administration was going to go in anyway. So this is just another smokescreen that may not work, while they try and pin it on the CIA, while they give Tenet the job of finding WMDs that no one thought he could have dumped.


Steve :: 3:31 PM :: Comments (7) :: Digg It!