Monday :: Jul 25, 2005

Uranium from Africa and the Senate (SSCI) Report - Part 2


by eriposte

This is the second part of this series focusing on the findings on the "uranium from Africa" issue in the whitewash Senate Report - the report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI). Previous parts are here: Introduction, Part 1. This part addresses the following question:

Did the Senate Report show that the great WMD hoax was just a "failure of intelligence" and had nothing to do with Bush administration book-cooking on intelligence?

By definition the answer is NO, because, as most of you are aware, the Senate Report intentionally ignored the issue of the Bush administration's mishandling or misrepresentation of the intelligence findings leading up to the Iraq invasion.

But even if you are a fervent Bush apologist and believe that the Senate Report somehow vindicated the Bush administration, the answer is NO. This is because there are telltale signs within this report that attempts were made by the White House to misrepresent the views of the intelligence community or use dubious, uncorroborated information. In the following, I provide some examples found just in the Niger/uranium section of the Senate report (all highlights/bold text in quotes in this post are my emphasis).

1. A Few Smoking Guns

1.1 Cincinnati speech
1.2 Another speech
1.3 WINPAC paper
1.4 Powell U.N. speech

2. INR and CIA v. NSC and DIA

2.1 Condoleezza Rice and the NIE/CIA

CONCLUSIONS


1. A Few Smoking Guns

1.1 Cincinnati speech

One of the most obvious instances in the Senate Report where it becomes clear that the National Security Council (NSC)/White House was trying to peddle information that was NOT approved by the CIA was this:

Based on the analyst's comments, the ADDI [Associate Deputy Director for Intelligence] drafted a memo for the NSC outlining the facts that the CIA believed needed to be changed, and faxed it to the Deputy National Security Advisor and the [Cincinnati] speech writers. Referring to the sentence on uranium from Africa the CIA said, "remove the sentence because the amount is in dispute and it is debatable whether it can be acquired from the source. We told Congress that the Brits have exaggerated this issue. Finally, the Iraqis already have 550 metric tons of uranium oxide in their inventory."

Later that day, the NSC staff prepared draft seven of the Cincinnati speech which contained the line, "and the regime has been caught attempting to purchase substantial amounts of uranium oxide from sources in Africa." Draft seven was sent to CIA for coordination.

The ADDI told Committee staff he received the new draft on October 6, 2002 and noticed that the uranium information had "not been addressed," so he alerted the DCI. The DCI called the Deputy National Security Advisor directly to outline the CIA's concerns. On July 16, 2003, the DCI testified before the SSCI that he told the Deputy National Security Advisor that the "President should not be a fact witness on this issue," because his analysts had told him the "reporting was weak." The NSC then removed the uranium reference from the draft of the speech.

Although the NSC had already removed the uranium reference from the speech, later on October 6, 2002 the CIA sent a second fax to the White House which said, "more on why we recommend removing the sentence about procuring uranium oxide from Africa: Three points (1) The evidence is weak. One of the two mines cited by the source as the location of the uranium oxide is flooded. The other mine cited by the source is under the control of the French authorities. (2) The procurement is not particularly significant to Iraq's nuclear ambitions because the Iraqis already have a large stock of uranium oxide in their inventory. And (3) we have shared points one and two with Congress, telling them that the Africa story is overblown and telling them this is one of the two issues where we differed with the British. [pages 56-57]

Thus, the NSC (which is linked closely with the White House) initially kept the "uranium from Africa" reference in the President's [Cincinnati] speech draft despite being told specifically to remove it. It took a call from then-DCI George Tenet to the Deputy NSA to get it removed! Is it any surprise then that, facing pressures from top-down, at other occassions lower level analysts may have agreed to leave the uranium reference (or other dubious claims) behind in white papers and speeches? This incident provides a small window into the expansive book-cooking that was being done by the White House before they blamed the CIA for their own mendacity and deception.

1.2 Another speech

Some time in September [2002] a member of the NSC staff discussed the Niger uranium issue with a CIA analyst. The CIA analyst told Committee staff that during coordination of a speech (he was not sure which one) with an NSC staff member, the CIA analyst suggested that the reference to Iraqi attempts to acquire uranium from Africa be removed. The CIA analyst said the NSC staff member said that would leave the British "flapping in the wind." [page 51]

Predictably, the NSC staffer disputed the CIA analyst's claim and said that he had "no recollection" (i.e., a non-denial denial) of utterring the "flapping in the wind" phrase.

1.3 WINPAC paper

On December 17, 2002, WINPAC analysts produced a paper...and made only two points regarding the nuclear program - one noted Iraq's failure to explain its procurement of aluminum tubes the IC assessed could be used in a nuclear program, and the other noted that the declaration "does not acknowledge efforts to procure uranium from Niger, one of the points addressed in the U.K. Dossier." An e-mail from the INR Iraq nuclear analyst to a DOE analyst on December 23, 2002 indicated that the analyst was surprised that INR's well-known alternative views on both the aluminum tubes and the uranium information were not included in the points before they were transmitted to the NSC. The DOE analyst commented in an e-mail response to INR that, "it is most disturbing that WINPAC is essentially directing foreign policy in this matter. There are some very strong points to be made in respect to Iraq's arrogant non-compliance with UN sanctions. However, when individuals attempt to convert those "strong statements" into the "knock out" punch, the Administration will ultimately look foolish - i.e. the tubes and Niger!" [page 60]

Somewhat prescient, although the DOE analyst clearly didn't realize that the people that the administration and their pals in Congress would make fools of were the very analysts who warned them against using dubious or false claims.

1.4 Powell U.N. speech

At the White House's request, the initial input for the [Powell UN] speech came from the CIA. The CIA sent the input to the White House which reworked it and added additional material.
...
According to the CIA's former ADDI for Intelligence for Strategic Programs, who was the point person for coordinating the [Powell] speech, the CIA removed some of the information that the White House had added to the speech, gathered from finished and raw intelligence, because the information was single sourced and uncorroborated. [pages 66-67]


2. INR and CIA v. NSC and DIA

The examples above (1.1, 1.2 and 1.4) taken from the Senate Report are clear smoking guns indicating that there was an attempt made by the NSC/White House to manipulate the facts or include dubious, uncorroborated claims, against the wishes of the key intelligence agencies/analysts (namely, those from INR and the CIA). The INR was clearly questioning the validity of the uranium claims from the get go, as we saw in Part 1 of this series. The CIA was also doing the same, although there were occasions where CIA staff members allowed such claims to get into papers or speech drafts, which may easily be due to the pressure they felt from the White House.

The aggressive role played by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) to "overstate" intelligence is also obvious from the Senate Report. The example discussed below is illustrative.

On April 5, 2003, the NIC issued a Sense of the Community Memorandum (SOCM)...The SOCM said, "we judge it highly unlikely that Niamey has sold uranium yellowcake to Baghdad in recent years. The IC agrees with the IAEA assessment that key documents purported showing a recent Iraq-Niger sales accord are a fabrication. We judge that other reports from 2002 - one alleging warehousing of yellowcake for shipment to Iraq, a second alleging a 1999 visit by an Iraqi delegation to Niamey - do not constitute credible evidence of a recent or impending sale." [page 71]

What did the DIA write in their memo - over two months later - to then Deputy Secretary of Defense [Crying] Wolfowitz?

On June 12, 2003, the DIA sent an information memorandum to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, in response to questions about Iraq's nuclear program. The memo said, "while the Intelligence Committee agrees that documents the IAEA reviewed were likely 'fake,' other unconfirmed reporting suggested that Iraq attempted to obtain uranium and yellowcake from African nations after 1998." The other reporting mentioned was the Navy report from November 2002, which said uranium destined for Iraq was being stored in a warehouse in Cotonou, Benin. [page 71]

Thus, even though the NIC's memo clearly considered the Benin warehouse intel as not credible, the DIA memo used that claim anyway! Additionally, also note how the DIA was trying to downplay the IAEA report by claiming that the "documents the IAEA reviewed were likely 'fake'...". No, they were not likely fake. They were 100%, certainly fake and that was figured out using a Google search. The DIA's statement is the equivalent of saying that "the statement that 'the earth is flat' is likely fake."

Indeed, five days after the DIA memo, the CIA issued its own memo that echoed and went beyond the April NIC memo:

On June 17, 2003, nearly five months after the President delivered the State of the Union address, the CIA produced a memorandum for the DCI which said, "since learning that the Iraq-Niger uranium deal was based on false documents earlier this spring, we no longer believe that there is sufficient other reporting to conclude that Iraq pursued uranium from abroad." This memorandum was not distributed outside the CIA and the Committee has not been provided with any intelligence products in which the CIA published its corrected assessment on Iraq's pursuit of uranium from Niger outside of the agency. [page 71]

2.1 Condoleezza Rice and the NIE/CIA

Some additional comments are appropriate here to describe the egregious behavior by then-National Security Advisor (and part of the NSC) to cover for the White House in the wake of the uranium from Africa issue. Remember what the White House said in mid-July 2003 to stem the tide of questions surrounding why they pushed the SOTU claim despite the stated INR dissent in the NIE regarding the uranium in Africa claim?

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."

Well, the claim that Condoleezza Rice did not read parts of the NIE (the INR dissent was not in a "footnote" either) was false, as certified inadvertently by, no other than Condi Rice herself - soon afterwards, in early August 2003. Here's Bob Somerby's note on that admission which the mainstream media slept through, as usual:

RICE: First of all, the memo that people are referring to is a set of clearance comments on a speech the president gave in October. So let’s be very clear on what this memo was. And it was a clearance memo that cleared some 20 or more items. I don’t remember reading the memo and probably in the normal course of things I would not, because when George Tenet said, “Take it out,” we simply take it out. We don’t need a rationale from George Tenet as to why to take it out.

I did read everything that the CIA produced for the president on weapons of mass destruction. I read the National Intelligence Estimate cover to cover a couple of times. I read the reports; I was briefed on the reports. This is—after 20 years, as somebody who has read a lot of intelligence reports—this is one of the strongest cases about weapons of mass destruction that I had ever read.

Needless to say, Ifill made no attempt to follow up on Rice’s statement. More specifically, Ifill didn’t ask about the change in the official White House account. After all, if Rice did read the NIE, then she must have known that the State Department objected to the uranium story. Any real journalist would have asked her about it. But as we saw in her recent NewsHour session with Rice, Ifill is a pure press corps shill...

Moreover, if Rice read everything produced by the CIA on WMDs, then clearly her claim that she was not aware of the dubious nature of the uranium was false. For, here's just one example of something the CIA specifically produced for the NSC/White House on WMDs, from the Senate report (October 4, 2002 timeframe):

Based on the analyst's comments, the ADDI [Associate Deputy Director for Intelligence] drafted a memo for the NSC outlining the facts that the CIA believed needed to be changed, and faxed it to the Deputy National Security Advisor and the [Cincinnati] speech writers. Referring to the sentence on uranium from Africa the CIA said, "remove the sentence because the amount is in dispute and it is debatable whether it can be acquired from the source. We told Congress that the Brits have exaggerated this issue. Finally, the Iraqis already have 550 metric tons of uranium oxide in their inventory."

Later that day, the NSC staff prepared draft seven of the Cincinnati speech which contained the line, "and the regime has been caught attempting to purchase substantial amounts of uranium oxide from sources in Africa." Draft seven was sent to CIA for coordination.

The ADDI told Committee staff he received the new draft on October 6, 2002 and noticed that the uranium information had "not been addressed," so he alerted the DCI. The DCI called the Deputy National Security Advisor directly to outline the CIA's concerns. On July 16, 2003, the DCI testified before the SSCI that he told the Deputy National Security Advisor that the "President should not be a fact witness on this issue," because his analysts had told him the "reporting was weak." The NSC then removed the uranium reference from the draft of the speech.

Although the NSC had already removed the uranium reference from the speech, later on October 6, 2002 the CIA sent a second fax to the White House which said, "more on why we recommend removing the sentence about procuring uranium oxide from Africa: Three points (1) The evidence is weak. One of the two mines cited by the source as the location of the uranium oxide is flooded. The other mine cited by the source is under the control of the French authorities. (2) The procurement is not particularly significant to Iraq's nuclear ambitions because the Iraqis already have a large stock of uranium oxide in their inventory. And (3) we have shared points one and two with Congress, telling them that the Africa story is overblown and telling them this is one of the two issues where we differed with the British. [pages 56-57]

So, either Rice read this CIA memo to the NSC and read the NIE or she did not. If she did not read the NIE or the CIA reports, then she lied blatantly about having done so. Quite obviously, she did read the NIE and the CIA reports and simply decided to ignore them.

The blatant falsehoods from Condi Rice were just an epitome of what lengths the White House was prepared to go to to blame the CIA or their own well-known incompetence to take the focus off their deliberate misleading and misrepresentation to take the country into war.


CONCLUSIONS

The public record has long been replete with actual instances of the Bush administration's improper pressuring of analysts and cooking the intelligence books to intentionally deceive America to go to war with Iraq. The Downing Street Memos are an example of an official confirmation of what they did, but there are numerous media reports over the years that showed the same thing. Despite this, the Republican leadership in Congress, determined to cover-up the role of the Bush White House in misleading and lying to the American public in the march to war, made a deliberate choice to avoid any investigation into that issue.

However, although the Senate Report never intended to address the issue of the Bush White House's manipulation and misrepresentation of intelligence in the run up to the Iraq invasion, the Report ultimately left enough telltale signs that make it clear to those who read it carefully that any assertion that the Bush administration played no role in misrepresenting or twisting intelligence to deceive the public, is completely false. As the public record has independently revealed, the truth is just the opposite.

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