Bu$h and Ri¢e say CIA Cleared Bu$h's State of the Union Speech
The CIA approved in advance President George W. Bush's accusation in his January State of the Union address that Iraq had sought to acquire nuclear material from Africa, U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said on July 11, 2003. 'The CIA cleared the speech in its entirety . . . If the CIA, director of Central Intelligence, had said 'take this out of the speech', then it would have been done,' Rice told reporters flying to Uganda on Air Force One with Bush.
Bush and Rice say CIA Cleared Bush's State of the Union Speech
by Tom Raum
ENTEBBE, Uganda - President Bush said Friday that intelligence services cleared his State of the Union speech, which included a now-discredited allegation that Iraq was seeking to buy nuclear material from Africa.
Bush's national security adviser specifically pointed to the CIA and said it had vetted the speech. If CIA Director George Tenet had any misgivings about that sentence in the president's speech, ''he did not make them known'' to Bush or his staff, said national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
The issue arose a day after other senior U.S. officials said that before and after Bush's Jan. 28 speech, American intelligence officials expressed doubts about a British intelligence report that the president cited to back up his allegations.
Those doubts were relayed to British officials before they made them public, and that word was passed to people at several agencies of the U.S. government before Bush gave that nationally broadcast speech. The White House this week admitted the charge about Iraq seeking uranium should not have appeared in his speech.
Bush, asked how erroneous material had ended up in the address, ''I gave a speech to the nation that was cleared by the intelligence services.'' He did not explain how the allegations wound up in his speech
But he said he made the right decision about invading Iraq and asserted that the world is a more peaceful place for it.
Rice said ''the CIA cleared the speech in its entirety.''
The agency raised only one objection to the sentence involving an allegation that Iraq was trying to obtain ''yellow cake'' uranium, she said. Yellow cake is a slightly processed form of uranium ore the color and consistency of yellow corn meal.
''Some specifics about amount and place were taken out,'' Rice added.
''With the changes in that sentence, the speech was cleared,'' she said. ''The agency did not say they wanted that sentence out.''
Rice made the defense of the White House in a rare 50-minute meeting with reporters aboard the president's plane as Bush flew from South Africa to Uganda. Questions about the allegations in Bush's January speech have followed him on his five-day trip through Africa.
The administration is facing rising criticism on another front in postwar Iraq: increasing attacks against American soldiers there. Two were killed on Thursday.
The Senate on Thursday, in a 97-0 vote, called on Bush to work harder to get other countries to share the military burden in Iraq. Bush said Thursday that U.S. forces would have to ''remain tough'' in the face of attacks that retired Gen. Tommy Franks said were coming at the rate of 10 to 25 a day.
According to Rice, the CIA had mentioned the claim that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium from Africa in a classified National Intelligence Assessment made periodically to the president.
''If the CIA the director of central intelligence had said 'Take this out of the speech,' it would have been gone,'' Rice said. ''We have a high standard for the president's speeches.''
Asked whether Bush had confidence in the intelligence agency, Rice replied, ''Absolutely.''
When queried on reports that the CIA expressed concern to the White House about the allegation, she suggested that Tenet should be asked directly. ''I'm not blaming anyone here,'' Rice said.
''The president did not knowingly say anything that we knew to be false,'' she said. ''We wouldn't put anything knowingly in the speech that was false.''
If anyone at the CIA had doubts about the veracity of the uranium-Iraq allegation, Rice said, ''those doubts were not communicated to the president.''
However, she acknowledged that Secretary of State Colin Powell had reservations about the report and chose not to mention the allegations in his presentation to the U.N. Security Council a few days later.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Friday he was concerned about the reports.
''It is apparent now that one of the statements, and a very important statement made by the president in January, was not technically accurate,'' he said on CBS' ''The Early Show.''
The Congress should be concerned, he said, ''if the intelligence agencies come up with reliable information which is then distorted by political operatives at the White House.''
Rice did say that the State Department's intelligence division considered the uranium-purchasing allegations dubious, and this was also noted in a footnote in the intelligence assessment given to Bush.
Powell, however, did not discuss his misgivings with her or anyone on her staff between the time of the State of the Union address and Powell's presentation to the United Nations, she said.
Other U.S. officials said Thursday that before and after Bush claimed in January that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa, American intelligence officials expressed doubts about a British intelligence report that Bush cited to back up his allegation.
CBS, ABC and CNN reported Thursday that CIA officials who saw a draft of Bush's speech questioned whether his statement was too strong, given the quality of the British intelligence. But the remark was left in, and attributed to the British.
The reports surfaced as Durbin and other Democrats kept up a drumbeat of criticism of the administration's justifications for going to war.
Much of the criticism has focused on Bush's contention that Saddam Hussein's government had chemical and biological weapons and was working to build more of them and develop nuclear bombs. No such weapons have been found in Iraq.
Critics also have attacked the administration's characterizations of the current outlook in Iraq, where the war's former commander, Gen. Tommy Franks, told a House panel Thursday that U.S. troops may have to remain in Iraq for four years.
U.S. officials have said the doubts about the uranium allegations date back to early 2002, when a retired diplomat asked by the CIA to investigate the reports went to Niger and spoke with officials who denied having any uranium dealings with Iraq.
Though the U.S. officials expressed their doubts to the British, the British included their information in a public statement on Sept. 24, 2002, citing intelligence sources, that said Iraq ''sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.''
About a month after Bush's speech, the United Nations determined the uranium reports were based primarily on forged documents initially obtained by European intelligence agencies.
address: Associated Press (via Common Dreams NewsCenter)
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