Tuesday :: Jul 15, 2003

Tenet Claims His Revenge

by Steve

The full ramifications of George Tenet’s forced mea culpa last Friday have finally become clear: not only will Tenet make sure the media knows that Bush had no solid evidence on Iraqi nuclear ambitions, but he has also obtained veto authority on all future Bush Administration speeches on WMDs. The evidence of this comes tonight in three different stories in three different papers, on two different topics from several different reporters who are on winning streaks of late. It seems that Tenet or his supporters have declared war against the Bushies through leaks and planted stories.

The first shocker is in tomorrow’s Washington Post, where the CIA’s best friend at the Post Walter Pincus writes a damning analysis that out-and-out exposes the lack of substantiation that the Administration had for its nuclear materials case against Iraq. Pincus, writing a story that seems to have at least been suggested due to its in-your-face attack at Bush credibility, lays out the case that despite Bush’s argument he had other intelligence, in fact they had none. Specifically, as Mary and others have noted, not only have the African uranium claims dissolved, but the aluminum tubes claims were discredited by the time the Administration was using them. Pincus in fact speculates that the only reason why the Administration is holding on to the African uranium story through the “British” cover, is that without this one part of the rationale, there is not any other credible evidence on other parts of the rationale. Without the Brits, there is no evidence of any Iraqi nuclear material efforts.

In recent days, as the Bush administration has defended its assertion in the president's State of the Union address that Iraq had tried to buy African uranium, officials have said it was only one bit of intelligence that indicated former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was reconstituting his nuclear weapons program.

But a review of speeches and reports, plus interviews with present and former administration officials and intelligence analysts, suggests that between Oct. 7, when President Bush made a speech laying out the case for military action against Hussein, and Jan. 28, when he gave his State of the Union address, almost all the other evidence had either been undercut or disproved by U.N. inspectors in Iraq.

By Jan. 28, in fact, the intelligence report concerning Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa -- although now almost entirely disproved -- was the only publicly unchallenged element of the administration's case that Iraq had restarted its nuclear program. That may explain why the administration strived to keep the information in the speech and attribute it to the British, even though the CIA had challenged it earlier.

Pincus then goes on to point out the holes in the evidence used by Bush, even with the concerns of the intelligence community already on the record, and the pushing by Dick Cheney and others to use the unsubstantiated data anyway. Again, the focus and tone of this piece is damning to the Administration. But more importantly, note the timing of the piece: it was set for publication on the morning of Tenet’s testimony behind closed doors at the House Wednesday, with no time for the White House to spin it or deal with it effectively.

Brilliant. My hat is off to Tenet. This is almost the ultimate Bronx Salute to Bush.

Tell Walter Pincus you appreciate his coverage and what you think of the Bush lies. Pincus can be reached at pincusw@washpost.com.

The second jaw-dropper tonight is written for tomorrow’s Knight-Ridder papers by the all-star team of Walter Stroebel and Jonathan Landay, who report that it appears with his newfound power gained from his sword-falling of last Friday, George Tenet just shut down planned testimony today on alleged Syria WMD capabilities by Undersecretary of State John (“Cuba has WMDs”) Bolton because the CIA wrote upwards of forty (40) pages of rebuttal to Bolton’s claims.

In a new dispute over interpreting intelligence data, the CIA and other agencies objected vigorously to a Bush administration assessment of the threat of Syria's weapons of mass destruction that was to be presented Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

After the objections, the planned testimony by Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton, a leading administration hawk, was delayed until September.

U.S. officials told Knight Ridder that Bolton was prepared to tell members of a House of Representatives International Relations subcommittee that Syria's development of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons had progressed to such a point that they posed a threat to stability in the region.

The CIA and other intelligence agencies said that assessment was exaggerated.
The objections by the intelligence community come as the Bush administration is defending itself over complaints that it embellished intelligence secrets to justify the war against Iraq.

Bolton's planned remarks caused a "revolt" among intelligence experts who thought they inflated the progress Syria has made in its weapons programs, said a U.S. official who isn't from the CIA, but was involved in the dispute.

He and other officials who provided similar accounts spoke only on the condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity and because they aren't authorized government spokesmen.

The CIA's objections and comments alone ran to 35 to 40 pages, the official said.

The conflict appears to illustrate how battles over prewar intelligence on Iraq have spread to other issues and have heightened sensitivity among Bush aides about public descriptions of threats to the United States.

Bolton set off a controversy in May 2002 when he asserted in a speech that Cuba has a biological warfare program. A State Department intelligence expert, Christian Westermann, recently told a closed-door Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that available intelligence data don't support that assertion, U.S. officials have said.

The first U.S. official said that after months of complaining about pressure to skew their analyses, rank-and-file intelligence officials "have become emboldened" by the recent public debate over Iraq.

"People are fed up," he said.

Another official confirmed that the CIA had "a good deal of concern" over the classified portion of Bolton's testimony.

In other words, the PNAC nutcases like Bolton, Rummy, Rice, and Cheney can no longer lie and deceive their way into WMD-inspired wars any more without taking on the Agency. Plainly, Bush will have to choose between Tenet from now on, or the PNAC cabal.

Lastly, according to tomorrow’s story in the New York Times, after a weekend in which Condi and Rummy said the African stories were in the speech because of information in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and British accounts, both the CIA and the White House are now trying to back away from the NIE.

The White House, asked tonight whether Mr. Hadley had read the National Intelligence Estimate before Mr. Tenet warned him that the section on Niger might be unreliable, declined to comment. But one administration official said that it appeared that Mr. Hadley had not read the report before he spoke with Mr. Tenet, or finished reviewing the Cincinnati speech.

While that call was disclosed last weekend, White House officials were asking today why the information about uranium from Niger had been published in the intelligence estimate at all. The White House has said repeatedly over the past eight days that the estimate was one of the reports that they relied upon as evidence that Iraq had a global program to get an atomic weapon in the president's State of the Union speech.

"This report was supposed to be the gold standard of our intelligence about Iraq," said one senior administration official. Asked why the agency backed away from it days after it was circulated, the official replied, "Who knows?"

C.I.A. officials explain the discrepancy by saying that classified intelligence reports sometimes include information that does not necessarily rise to the level of certainty required of a public address by the president. The report contained a footnote that made clear that there were doubts at the State Department about the uranium evidence.

"It's one thing to have information in a classified document with caveats and footnotes, and another to have the president flatly assert something," an intelligence official said.

Another Bronx Salute from Tenet to Bush.

In other words, “we put caveats in there, you moron; we didn’t think you would then run with such questionable information to sell the American people on the case for war.”

Going back to the Post, I think the Post has more on this story to come. I have been led to believe that at least two major papers are closely looking into what the Brits actually have, or more likely don’t have on the “other intelligence” now that both France and Italy have denied they gave intelligence to the US and UK. Given the tone of Pincus’s story tomorrow, and the fact that he is the CIA’s guy at the Post, it is likely he and others already know that there is no other credible intelligence to support the African uranium story. If that is the next shoe to drop, then the failure to find any imminent threat from WMDs leaves only the alleged Saddam/Al Qaeda/September 11 rationale. And the CIA had already established that this was shaky at best.

And from there it is a short walk towards a call for impeachment hearings.

Steve :: 11:15 PM :: Comments (12) :: Digg It!