Wednesday :: Apr 5, 2006

Uranium from Africa and the Aluminum Tubes - Some Observations on the Recent Articles by Murray Waas (Part 2)

by eriposte

This is second part of a short series (see Part 1) discussing Murray Waas's recent articles in National Journal on the uranium/Nigergate/Plamegate matter and the aluminum tubes issue. In Part 1, I highlighted key pieces of information in Waas' recent articles that I had previously reported here at TLC - as part of my aluminum tubes coverage in the series "WMDgate: Fixing Intelligence Around Policy" and as part of my coverage of the uranium from Africa scandal "Uranium from Africa and the Valerie Plame expose (Treasongate): A Synopsis". In this part, I discuss some information missing in Waas' stories which, when filled in, provides even more evidence for the Bush White House's deliberate deceptions and lies.

The articles of Waas that I focus on here are the ones from 3/30/06, 3/2/06 and 2/2/06. Note that all emphasis in quoted sections is mine.

1. Rice's claim on lack of knowledge of "doubts about the underlying intelligence" in July 2003

2. Rice and the "footnotes" in the NIE

3. Awareness of the Niger uranium claim

4. The role of WINPAC

1. Rice's claim on lack of knowledge of "doubts about the underlying intelligence" in July 2003

Murray Waas, 3/30/06:

Responding, Rice said: "I'm saying that when we put [Powell's speech] together ... the secretary decided that he would caveat the aluminum tubes, which he did.... The secretary also has an intelligence arm that happened to hold that view." Rice added, "Now, if there were any doubts about the underlying intelligence to that NIE, those doubts were not communicated to the president, to the vice president, or me."

In fact, contrary to Rice's statement, the president was indeed informed of such doubts when he received the October 2002 President's Summary of the NIE. Both Cheney and Rice also got copies of the summary, as well as a number of other intelligence reports about the State and Energy departments' doubts that the tubes were meant for a nuclear weapons program.

In Part 1, I already discussed my previous coverage of the the October 2002 NIE summary and the other intel reports that Bush and Rice received - so I won't rehash it here. But I do want to highlight that it was not just the President's Summary that is a smoking gun here. It's the NIE itself, which, both in the Key Judgments and in the body and annex, had clear statements emphasizing the dissenting views on the aluminum tubes' end use. I discussed that in detail in my post on 11/23/05. Why is that significant?

The Left Coaster, 11/23/05 ["WMDgate: Fixing Intelligence Around Policy - The Aluminum Tubes, Part 2B-1"]: far as Condi Rice is concerned, that statement was a lie, as certified 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 (including Rice's shill of an interviewer Gwen Ifill) slept through, as usual :

RICE: ...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.

2. Rice and the "footnotes" in the NIE

Murray Waas, 3/30/06:

On July 18, the Bush administration declassified a relatively small portion of the NIE and held a press briefing to discuss it, in a further effort to show that the president had used the Niger information only because the intelligence community had vouched for it. Reporters noted that an "alternate view" box in the NIE stated that the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (known as INR) believed that claims of Iraqi purchases of uranium from Africa were "highly dubious" and that State and DOE also believed that the aluminum tubes were "most likely for the production of artillery shells."

But White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett suggested that both the president and Rice had been unaware of this information: "They did not read footnotes in a 90-page document." Later, addressing the same issue, Bartlett said, "The president of the United States is not a fact-checker."

Because the Bush administration was able to control what information would remain classified, however, reporters did not know that Bush had received the President's Summary that informed him that both State's INR and the Energy Department doubted that the aluminum tubes were to be used for a nuclear-related purpose.

Murray Waas, 3/2/06:

The lengthier NIE -- more than 90 pages -- contained significantly more detail describing the disagreement between the CIA and the Pentagon's DIA on one hand, which believed that the tubes were meant for centrifuges, and State's INR and the Energy Department, which believed that they were meant for artillery shells. Administration officials had said that the president would not have read the full-length paper. They also had said that many of the details of INR's dissent were contained in a special text box that was positioned far away from the main text of the report.

In Part 1, I already discussed my previous coverage of the the October 2002 NIE summary and the other intel reports that Bush and Rice received - so I won't rehash it here. But, the statement from Bartlett about the NIE "footnotes" was both false and misleading.

The Left Coaster, 11/23/05 ["WMDgate: Fixing Intelligence Around Policy - The Aluminum Tubes, Part 2B-1"]:

Let me emphasize another point. Even if Condi Rice were to claim that she did not read the "Annex" [footnotes] to the NIE, it wouldn't change anything on the issue of the aluminum tubes, because the first INR text box with the more detailed and devastating dissent by INR (channeling DOE) on the aluminum tubes was NOT in the Annex. It was included in the Key Judgements. Only the second INR text box was in the Annex (as discussed in Section 2).

Further, even if reporters were not aware of the President's Summary they should have been aware of another fact - that Rice subsequently admitted she read the entire NIE (see Section 1 above).

3. Awareness of the Niger uranium claim

Murray Waas, 3/30/06:

The White House was largely successful in defusing the Niger controversy because there was no evidence that Bush was aware that his claims about the uranium were based on faulty intelligence. Then-CIA Director George Tenet swiftly and publicly took the blame for the entire episode, saying that he and the CIA were at fault for not warning Bush and his aides that the information might be untrue.
"Presidential knowledge was the ball game," says a former senior government official outside the White House who was personally familiar with the damage-control effort. "The mission was to insulate the president. It was about making it appear that he wasn't in the know. You could do that on Niger. You couldn't do that with the tubes."

The White House was "largely successful in defusing the Niger controversy" not because Bush was not in the know, but because the media never aggressively pursued the fact that the Bush administration's fables and denials - particularly Condi Rice's denials - were a pack of lies. The notion that the CIA never warned Bush and his aides is not correct; in fact, the real question is why the White House and Bush's speechwriter included the uranium claim in Bush's SOTU speech despite repeated warnings from the CIA to not do so. The latter fact became clear soon after the Joseph Wilson op-ed and was also discussed in detail in the SSCI Report - for example, the CIA's repeated, strong attempts to eliminate the uranium claim from the Bush Cincinnati speech in October 2002 and the attempt by the CIA to have the uranium claim removed from the SOTU speech itself. I would also be careful about dismissing the likelihood that Bush knew that the uranium claim was without merit. The reason for this is obvious. Despite the senior leadership of the CIA having made multiple attempts to get the White House to not use this claim, it was repeatedly stovepiped to the WH by some individuals in WINPAC, who were the White House's plants contacts within the CIA. I have discussed this at length before and would refer readers to that post for details. My main point here is this: just because the public hasn't seen direct evidence of Bush's knowledge does not mean that such evidence does not exist.

Further, one of the points that has not been recognized in the media to-date is that when the uranium claim was added to the body of the NIE (but not to its Key Judgments), it was NOT based on a CIA report or on the insistence of the CIA. Additionally, soon after the NIE was released, the leadership of the CIA strongly tried to distance themselves from it. The Bush administration's October 2002 White Paper, which was the unclassified version of the NIE, actually did not contain the uranium claim (the CIA NESA analyst who drafted the White paper, left out the claim - and likely for good reason).

Here's some more background (in brief).

The Left Coaster, 12/20/05 ["WMDgate: Fixing Intelligence Around Policy, Part 4A -- CIA's WINPAC and Uranium from Africa"]:

3.2.5 Inferences

(a) Technically speaking, Rice's claim that "had there been even a peep that the agency did not want that sentence in or that George Tenet did not want that sentence in, that the director of Central Intelligence did not want it in, it would have been gone" was deliberately misleading since it clearly did not apply to the original uranium from Africa claim inserted by the White House into the SOTU speech. There was *more* than a "peep" - there was active opposition to the wording originally proposed by the White House on the uranium allegation.

(b) Rice's claim that "But the NIE, which, by the way, the Agency was standing by at the time of the -- the time of the State of the Union" was flat out false. After all, the CIA WINPAC Director was doing the *opposite* of "standing by" the NIE claim. Let's recall that the NIE said the following (and provided names of countries in Africa, associated with this claim):

Iraq also began vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake... [page 52]

Yet, the WINPAC Director balked at the following text in the White House draft:

...we also know that he has recently sought to buy uranium in Africa... [page 65]

There is no fundamental difference between the two statements. Yet, the WINPAC Director opposed the statement because the CIA had already declared, after the NIE had been published, that they did not find the uranium from Africa claim credible.

To put it in another way, the CIA WINPAC Director (Alan Foley) was taking the position that the claim, at least in so far as it referred to U.S. intelligence knowledge on the uranium claim, was not something the CIA was willing to stand by, regardless of what the NIE may have stated. The claim that he was opposed to the claim not because it was not credible but because he was concerned about revealing "sources and methods" (or "classified information") was clearly a false cover story because the actual statement in the SOTU draft did not reveal either sources or methods and did not reveal classified information since a uranium from Africa (or Niger) claim had already been mentioned in declassified documents and speeches by both the British Government and the American Government by then. Yet, the WINPAC Director agreed to leave the uranium claim in the speech if it referred to British intelligence, even though the CIA thought the British claim was not trustworthy and even though the WINPAC Director also claimed that he told the NSC Special Assistant that the CIA had asked the British to remove the uranium claim from their White Paper (something the NSC Special Assistant denied).

There is only one explanation for this game that was played: the White House wanted to keep the claim in the speech despite CIA opposition and the WINPAC Director obliged by telling the WH they could refer to the British claim if they wanted, but not to the CIA itself (this is fakery at its worst as I've explained before). After having done so he concocted a fake cover story that his concern related only to "sources and methods" (rather than the issue of credibility of the uranium claim), so that the White House could claim, falsely, that the credibility of the claim was not challenged by the CIA at the time of the SOTU. Thus, even the most generous interpretation of Rice's "had there been even a peep" comment indicates that it was deliberately misleading.

(c) There is a more basic point. The White House introduced the uranium claim in the SOTU draft in January 2003 despite George Tenet having told the White House in October 2002 that the "President should not be a fact witness on this issue" (to stop the White House from using the claim in the Cincinnati speech at that time, despite CIA objections). The White House insisted on keeping the claim in the SOTU speech despite the WINPAC Director's initial opposition and discomfort with the claim at the time of the SOTU, and decided to refer to British intelligence (which the CIA did not consider reliable on this matter) rather than their own NIE. Moreover, the White House's chief speechwriter had also been informed of the dubiousness of the uranium from Africa claim in October 2002 (see below). So, it is at the minimum grossly misleading to assert, as Rice did, that there was not a peep from the CIA or George Tenet expressing reservations about the uranium claim.

It is no surprise, then, that Rice later conveniently attributed her statement as having been based on a faulty memory.

NOTE: Let's also keep in mind that the CIA memos expressing concern over the use of the uranium from Africa claim in the Cincinnati speech were also sent to the the White House's Chief Speechwriter:

MR. RUSSERT: But when you say that no one in our circles, and it was maybe down in the bowels of the Intelligence Agency, a month after that appearance, you said this, “The CIA cleared the speech in its entirety.”

And then your top deputy, Stephen Hadley, on July 23, said this.

Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley told reporters that he received two memos from the CIA in October that cast doubt on intelligence reports that Iraq had sough[t] to buy uranium from Niger to use in developing nuclear weapons. Both memos were also sent to chief speechwriter Michael Gerson and one was sent to national security adviser, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Hadley said.”

All in all, Rice's claim was false. The CIA did not "stand by" the NIE uranium claim.

4. The role of WINPAC

Murray Waas, 2/2/06:

At one point during that period -- the summer of 2003 -- Libby confronted a senior intelligence analyst briefing him and the vice president and accused the CIA of willfully misleading him and the administration on Niger. Libby was said to be upset that the CIA, in his view, had routinely minimized the extent to which Iraq was pursuing weapons of mass destruction and was now prematurely attempting to distance itself from the Niger allegations.

Libby had also complained about the CIA's Center for Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control. WINPAC, as the center is known, scrutinizes unconventional-weapons threats to the United States, including the pursuit by both foreign nations and terrorist groups of nuclear, radiological, chemical, and biological weapons.

Libby, according to people with knowledge of the events, said that he and Cheney had come to believe that WINPAC was presenting Saddam Hussein's pursuit of such weapons in a far more benign light than Iraq's intents and capabilities reflected. Libby cited CIA bureaucratic inertia and caution and his view that many of WINPAC's analysts were aligned with foreign-policy elites who did not support the war with Iraq.

I commented on this in an earlier post. As is typical with the Bush administration, and particularly with Libby and Cheney, this notion of Libby's is simply false. As I showed in a previous analysis, if anything the White's House's WINPAC contacts were instrumental in exaggerating, distorting or lying about the actual WMD evidence, and particularly on the uranium from Africa issue.

The Left Coaster, 12/20/05 ["WMDgate: Fixing Intelligence Around Policy, Part 4A -- CIA's WINPAC and Uranium from Africa"]:

5.1 The WINPAC/White House stovepipe

In this post I have presented direct and inferred evidence using the Senate (SSCI) Report that indicates the following:

  • the uranium from Africa hoax in the Bush SOTU was largely due to the "cooperation" (with the White House) of a few individuals at WINPAC
  • there were significant opposing views within the CIA on the uranium claim (especially within CIA NESA, even setting aside INR's well-known dissent that the claim was "highly dubious"), and
  • the position of the CIA's top management (including then-DCI George Tenet) was that the uranium claim was not credible

The picture that emerges is that the uranium from Africa claim was stovepiped to the White House by certain individuals at WINPAC (Sec. 3.4) using known bogus (raw) "intel" (Sec. 3.3), in order to meet the White House's expectations, while a parallel communication channel that even included then-DCI George Tenet was trying hard (and ultimately unsuccessfully) to get the WH to drop the uranium claim (Sec. 3.2). Thus, a rogue operation involving select WH-cooperative personnel in a WH-created group within the CIA (WINPAC) was conveniently used to paint the "CIA" as a monolithic entity that got the intel "wrong".

The data shows a clear pattern that when the White House wanted to have a (uranium) claim approved, they went to their contacts in WINPAC. Some WINPAC personnel were repeatedly misrepresenting the CIA's actual judgment on the uranium claim on multiple occasions. Most of these incidents occurred after George Tenet and other senior CIA officials had directly told the White House/NSC that the uranium claim was not credible, that the British claim was not credible on this matter and that the President should not be a "fact witness" on this issue. Many incidents occurred after senior WINPAC officials knew that the claim was bogus (Sec. 3.3). In fact, the White House's "approvers" within WINPAC were so blatant in misrepresenting the intelligence that it was even discussed in an email exchange between a DOE analyst and an INR analyst (Sec.

In my next post, I summarize some new findings in Waas' articles.

eriposte :: 7:09 AM :: Comments (2) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!