Thursday :: Jul 31, 2003

After CIA Told The Brits The 45-Minute Claim Was Bogus, Bush Used It Anyway Three Times In A Week


by Steve

As the media turns away from its victory in holding Bush accountable over the bogus African uranium claims, perhaps it can now focus on another Bush whopper: the bogus British claim that Saddam could launch a strike against the US within 45 minutes of notice of attack. It was this unsubstantiated claim and resulting media firestorm that led to the suicide of British scientist and former weapons inspector David Kelly.

In a July 20 story by Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus of the Washington Post, they reported that the CIA was not consulted by the White House before the Administration began touting the 45-minute claim in September 2002 as one of its rationales that Saddam posed an imminent threat to the US.

The 45-minute allegation did not appear in the major speeches Bush made about Iraq in Cincinnati in October or in his State of the Union address, both of which were made after consultation with the CIA. But the White House considered the 45-minute claim significant and drew attention to it the day the British dossier was released. Asked if there was a "smoking gun" in the British report, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer on Sept. 24 highlighted that charge and the charge that Iraq sought uranium in Africa.

"I think there was new information in there, particularly about the 45-minute threshold by which Saddam Hussein has got his biological and chemical weapons triggered to be launched," Fleischer said. "There was new information in there about Saddam Hussein's efforts to obtain uranium from African nations. That was new information."

The White House use of the 45-minute charge is another indication of its determination to build a case against Hussein even without the participation of U.S. intelligence services. The controversy over the administration's use of intelligence has largely focused on claims made about the Iraqi nuclear program, particularly attempts to buy uranium in Africa. But the accusation that Iraq could launch a chemical or biological attack on a moment's notice was significant because it added urgency to the administration's argument that Hussein had to be dealt with quickly.

However, tonight we find out from the Guardian that in fact the CIA told the British that the claim was garbage when a draft of the dossier was given to the Americans on September 11, 2002. So before it was published on September 24, the CIA was on record to the Brits that the claim was bogus. Yet the White House went ahead and used the claim after its own intelligence agency had debunked it to the Brits.

Where was Condi Rice during those 13 days?

In fact, Bush used the claim not once but three times in a span of four days. In addition to the Ari Fleischer press gaggle on the 24th, the claim was also used in a September 26, 2002 “global message” in the Rose Garden with congressional leaders, and again in a September 28, 2002 radio address. So Bush again ignored the assessment of his own intelligence service to make claims based on British intelligence he had not seen.

Even if you assume that the CIA took several days after they saw a draft of the dossier on September 11th to report back to the Brits that the claim was unsubstantiated, the Administration would still have a week before the Ari Fleischer press conference, the Rose Garden speech, and the radio address to learn that its own intelligence agency had told our closest ally that the claim in the dossier was crap. Yet Bush used it three different times in less than four days, and the Brits knew we objected to it when they released the dossier on the 24th.

Bush may try and lie his way through this one again by saying that the Brits had said this, but we now know that our own intelligence service told our ally it was crap. Either Bush knew this and used the unsubstantiated claim anyway three times, or Condi Rice failed at her job during that time.

You pick. Either Rice is responsible, or Bush is. And after today, we know he supposedly accepts responsibility for whatever he says, right?

Steve :: 12:03 AM :: Comments (9) :: Digg It!