Monday :: Apr 17, 2006

State Department Warned White House About Niger Forgeries Before 2003 State of the Union Message

by Steve

Going over some ground that Eriposte has covered to some degree here at the Left Coaster, Jason Leopold over at today reveals that State told the CIA and the White House on January 12, 2003 that the Niger uranium claims were based on forged documents, at least several weeks before Bush’s 2003 SOTU. Yet even with this in hand from State, Stephen Hadley and the Vice President’s office inserted the infamous “16 words” into the SOTU anyway.

Eleven days before President Bush's January 28, 2003, State of the Union address in which he said that the US learned from British intelligence that Iraq had attempted to acquire uranium from Africa - an explosive claim that helped pave the way to war - the State Department told the CIA that the intelligence the uranium claims were based upon were forgeries, according to a newly declassified State Department memo.
The revelation of the warning from the closely guarded State Department memo is the first piece of hard evidence and the strongest to date that the Bush administration manipulated and ignored intelligence information in their zeal to win public support for invading Iraq.
On January 12, 2003, the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) "expressed concerns to the CIA that the documents pertaining to the Iraq-Niger deal were forgeries," the memo dated July 7, 2003, says.
Moreover, the memo says that the State Department's doubts about the veracity of the uranium claims may have been expressed to the intelligence community even earlier.

Remember that Eriposte has already confirmed that the Agency backed away from the uranium claims at least several months before State informed the Agency and White House that it too believed the claim was based on forged documents.

But the memo's author, Carl Ford, said in a previous interview that he has no doubt the State Department's reservations about the Niger intelligence made its way to President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
One high-ranking State Department official said that when the department's analysts briefed Colin Powell about the Niger forgeries Powell met with former Director of the CIA George Tenet and shared that information with him.
Tenet then told Vice President Dick Cheney and then-National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice and her former deputy, Stephen Hadley, that the uranium claims were "dubious," according to current and former State Department and CIA officials who have direct knowledge of what Tenet discussed with the White House at the time.
The White House has long maintained that they were never briefed about the State Department's or the CIA's concerns related to the Niger uranium claims.
"I refuse to believe that the findings of a four-star general and an envoy the CIA sent to Niger to personally investigate the accuracy of the intelligence, as well as our own research at the State Department, never got into the hands of President Bush or Vice President Cheney. I don't buy it," said a high-ranking State Department official. "Saying that Iraq sought uranium from Niger was all it took, as far as I'm concerned, to convince the House to support the war. The American people too. I believe removing Saddam Hussein was right and just. But the intelligence that was used to state the case wasn't."
Many career State Department officials interviewed Monday said they were upset that the so-called "16 words" made their way into the State of the Union address and they are pleased that the INR memo has been declassified so as to prove that their colleagues sounded early warnings about the dubious Niger intelligence.
A State Department official who has direct knowledge of the now declassified INR memo said when the request came from Cheney's office for a report on Wilson's Niger trip it was an opportunity to put in writing a document that would remind the White House that it had been warned about the Niger claims early on.
Many other State Department officials believed that the existence of a memo that would, in essence, disagree with the White House's own assessment on Niger would eventually hurt the administration.
"This was the very first time there was written evidence - not notes, but a request for a report - from the State Department that documented why the Niger intel was bullshit," said one retired State Department official.
"It was the only thing in writing, and it had a certain value because it didn't come from the IAEA. It came from State. It scared the heck out of a lot of people because it proved that this guy Wilson's story was credible. I don't think anybody wanted the media to know that the State Department disagreed with the intelligence used by the White House. That's why Wilson had to be shut down."

Does George Tenet have a surprise coming days before the midterms this fall? It appears so.

A spokeswoman for Tenet said Monday that the former head of the CIA wouldn't comment on the newly declassified document but promised that Tenet would tell the "full story" about how the infamous 16 words wound up in Bush's State of the Union address in Tenet's book, "At the Center of the Storm," expected to be published in late October.
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