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White House on Defensive Over Iraq Intelligence

In a rare direct shot at the president involving national security policy, Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said, "This may be the first time in recent history that a president knowingly misled the American people during the State of the Union address This was not a mistake. It was no oversight and it was no error."
White House on Defensive Over Intelligence

The State of the Union should not have claimed that Iraq tried to get African uranium, it says.

July 9, 2003
By James Gerstenzang, Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON The White House scrambled Tuesday to defend President Bush's credibility, one day after conceding that he had been wrong to assert in his State of the Union address in January that Saddam Hussein had tried to obtain uranium from Africa.

That statement had been one of Bush's central arguments as he presented the case for war against Iraq to the United States and the world.

At the core of the claim was a British report, now acknowledged to have been bogus, that Iraq had tried to obtain a form of uranium, known as yellowcake, that can be used to make a nuclear bomb. The administration used the British allegation to bolster its assertion that Hussein had embarked on a program to build weapons of mass destruction that would threaten the United States.

On Tuesday, the administration's use of that intelligence entered the presidential election debate.

Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, a candidate for the Democratic nomination, called for a broad inquiry into the intelligence available to the administration as it prepared for war. Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, another Democratic hopeful, agreed, saying, "This continued recklessness represents a failure of presidential leadership."

And Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), joining the call for an investigation, said: "It's bad enough that such a glaring blunder became part of the president's case for war. It's far worse if the case for war was made by deliberate deception We cannot risk American lives based on shoddy intelligence or outright lies."

For a second day, the White House acknowledged that Bush's speech should not have referred to the British report, which involved uranium from Niger.

Other intelligence reports supported the idea that Hussein had sought to obtain uranium from somewhere in Africa, the White House said, while noting that those reports were not sufficiently reliable to be included in a presidential speech.

Still, the administration stood by its assertion that Hussein had been trying to restart his program to build illegal weapons. That claim was based not on the alleged uranium purchases but on reports that Iraq was seeking parts for a centrifuge, a key component in creating the fuel for a nuclear weapon, it said.

The White House response came after Joseph C. Wilson IV, a State Department expert on Africa and the last U.S. diplomat to meet with Hussein before the 1991 Persian Gulf War, identified himself in an interview with the Washington Post as the envoy the CIA dispatched to Africa in February 2002 to determine the truth about reports that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Niger.

In a New York Times op-ed article published Sunday, Wilson said he soon concluded "that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place." He has said the administration manipulated his findings, possibly to bolster its case for war.

Interviewed Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," Wilson disputed the administration's contention that his report never reached high-level officials. He said Vice President Dick Cheney's office had inquired about the alleged link between Iraq and Niger.

"The question was asked of the CIA by the office of the vice president. The office of the vice president, I am absolutely convinced, received a very specific response to the question it asked, and that response was based upon my trip out there," Wilson said.

In his State of the Union address, Bush said that the International Atomic Energy Agency had confirmed in the 1990s that Hussein "had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb."

He then stated: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

On Tuesday, as the president began a five-day tour of Africa, the argument to support that claim was unraveling.

One administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that without the specific document on which the British report was based, "the whole case looks wobbly."

However, he added with emphasis, when other undisclosed reports on which the administration has relied are taken into consideration, "it looks pretty damn solid."

Growing questions and doubts about the overall policy regarding Iraq from the intelligence leading to the war to the aftermath and continued attacks on U.S. troops were taking a political toll on both sides of the Atlantic.

In London on Monday, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said the intelligence document had undermined the case for war. The report contained material lifted from a thesis written 12 years earlier by an American graduate student and posted on the Internet.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Tony Blair came under intense questioning for 2 hours in Parliament over whether his government had overemphasized the threat from Hussein.

Michael Anton, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said Tuesday that "the documents alleging a transaction between Iraq and Niger were not the sole basis for the line in the president's State of the Union speech referring to recent Iraqi attempts to acquire uranium from Africa."

"We now know that documents alleging a transaction between Iraq and Niger had been forged," he said.

The administration's opponents, who have largely sounded uncertain notes on Iraq, were less shy Tuesday.

Graham, a former chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said it was "past time for the president to comply with a full, thorough and public investigation into the intelligence that led to war with Iraq. What else do we know?"

In a rare direct shot at the president involving national security policy, Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said, "This may be the first time in recent history that a president knowingly misled the American people during the State of the Union address This was not a mistake. It was no oversight and it was no error."

Times staff writers Nick Anderson and Janet Hook contributed to this report.

homepage: homepage: http://www.ctnow.com/news/custom/newsat3/la-fg-backoff9jul09,0,4921249.story?coll=hc-headlines-newsat3
address: address: Los Angeles Times

Drama Unfolds 10.Jul.2003 10:14

Tiger Lily

Interesting. I would wager that the story has yet to play its hand out and that the administration is holding a few cards up thier sleeves. Coming Soon to a media theater near you! Found: WMD'S, luckily just in time for November and the big election! Hope we can all stay alert and ferret out the info to keep the masses from believing them if they do try to pull that tactic. May the truth be revealed!

Impeach the Terrorist 10.Jul.2003 11:42

Legal Eagle

USC Title 18, Section 2331, (a new category) - "domestic terrorism" - has been created and means activities that:

"involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping, and occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States."

Bush lied about Saddam's WMD capabilities (criminal fraud) to intimidate and coerce the public and congress to get his oil war in Iraq. Bush is, by definition of his own Patriot Act, a terrorist.