Friday :: Jul 18, 2003

White House Starts War With CIA


by Steve

In the White House’s effort to quell the controversy over the African uranium claims today, by having a “senior administration official” field questions for 75 minutes without attribution, the Administration has caused more problems that it solved. And it has instigated a credibility war with the CIA, directly challenging the account given by senior CIA official Alan Foley to the Senate Intelligence Committee this week.

George Tenet has taken responsibility for allowing his subordinates to negotiate text that had the “British” qualifier, after initial drafts contained claims that Tenet himself had successfully gotten deleted from an October Bush speech. Yet the “senior administration official” today said the CIA raised no objection to any statement about uranium in Africa in the State of the Union speech.

But of greater consequence, the claims today by the official, who it is said “coordinated” the SOTU, are squarely at odds with the comments by Condi Rice over the last ten days. Rice has indicated that language was traded back and forth on drafts of the SOTU until the CIA underlings could sign off on the text. However, the “senior administration official” said Friday that "there was not a sharing of various language or anything like that" between the White House and the CIA.

So if we are to believe this “senior administration official” who coordinates the SOTU, the original text prepared by the NSA’s Robert Joseph on Iraq went through as it was first proposed, with no problems from the CIA. If you believe this, then George Tenet, Alan Foley, and yes, Condi Rice have been lying. Given that this “senior administration official" also admitted in this story that neither Bush or Rice read the National Intelligence Estimate, and that it is now claimed that Bush didn’t know that the State Department had major doubts about the African uranium stories, one is left with the impression that Rice has been derelict in her duties, since the job of summarizing and presenting intelligence information to the president falls squarely on the NSA.

A senior administration official who briefed reporters yesterday said neither Bush nor national security adviser Condoleezza Rice read the NIE in its entirety. "They did not read footnotes in a 90-page document," said the official, referring to the "Annex" that contained the State Department's dissent. The official conducting the briefing rejected reporters' entreaties to allow his name to be used, arguing that it was his standard procedure for such sessions to be conducted anonymously.

The official said Bush was "briefed" on the NIE's contents, but "I don't think he sat down over a long weekend and read every word of it." Asked whether Bush was aware the State Department called the Africa-uranium claim "highly dubious," the official, who coordinated Bush's State of the Union address, said: "He did not know that."

"The president was comfortable at the time, based on the information that was provided in his speech," the official said of the decision to use it in the address to Congress. "The president of the United States is not a fact-checker."

No shit. What we are left with after this spin job is that Robert Joseph, a hardliner who is in lockstep with Cheney on Iraq, writes a speech that makes a claim that was the subject of a George Tenet excise job against Joseph months before. The October claim was specific; the SOTU claim according to the account today was more general and linked to what the British claimed to have as evidence. According to this account today, the CIA did not have a problem with the original draft and there was no trading of language back and forth. And the president was comfortable with the text, because he does not read footnotes, nor did his NSA think it was important to make sure he knew of dissenting views from his Secretary of State.

So if he is comfortable with what came out of his mouth that day because it reflected what he wanted to, or cared to know, why does he not accept responsibility for what he said, instead of getting into a credibility war with his CIA and basically calling them liars? Even if you accept his line of argument on this that it was the fault of his staff and not him, does this not mean that it was the fault of Rice, and not Tenet, that Bush did not know about the dissenting views of State?

And where the hell was Colin Powell during all of this?

So who do we think is this “senior administration official” who coordinates the SOTU, who is so willing to say such things that directly point back to Rice’s defects as a NSA in order to shield the president? Well, the only person I can think of right off who would be senior and have direct SOTU coordination responsibilities is Andrew Card. Your guesses are welcome.

Steve :: 11:28 PM :: Comments (11) :: Digg It!