Bush Adviser "Apologizes" Over Iraq Claim
Stephen Hadley, President Bush's deputy national security adviser... became the second administration official to apologize for allowing a tainted intelligence report on Iraq's nuclear ambitions into Bush's State of the Union address... "There were a number of people who could have raised a hand" to have the passage removed from the draft of Bush's Jan. 28 address, Hadley said. "And no one raised a hand."
Bush Adviser Apologizes Over Iraq Claim
23 minutes ago
By TOM RAUM, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - Stephen Hadley, President Bush's deputy national security adviser, on Tuesday became the second administration official to apologize for allowing a tainted intelligence report on Iraq's nuclear ambitions into Bush's State of the Union address.
Hadley, in a rare on-the-record session with reporters, said that he had received two memos from the CIA and a phone call from agency Director George Tenet last October raising objections to an allegation that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium ore from Africa to use in building nuclear weapons.
As a result, Hadley said the offending passage was excised from a speech on Iraq the president gave in Cincinnati last Oct. 7. But Hadley suggested that details from the memos and phone call had slipped from his attention as the State of the Union was being put together.
"The high standards the president set were not met," Hadley said. He said he apologized to the president on Monday.
Tenet previously issued a statement saying that he should have raised objections to the Iraq-Africa-uranium sentence when the CIA reviewed an advance copy of the president's State of the Union message.
Hadley is the top aide to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (news - web sites).
The controversial passage citing a British intelligence report "should have been taken out of the State of the Union," Hadley said. He said he was taking responsibility on behalf of the White House staff just as Tenet had for the CIA.
"There were a number of people who could have raised a hand" to have the passage removed from the draft of Bush's Jan. 28 address, Hadley said. "And no one raised a hand."
"The process failed," said White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett.
Still, Bartlett said that Bush, while perturbed by the developments, "has full confidence in his national security adviser, his deputy national security adviser and the director of central intelligence."
Hadley's statement came as the administration went into full damage-control mode, reaching out to its Republican allies in Congress in an effort to counter criticism of Bush's Iraq policy and his use of discredited intelligence to advance the case for toppling Saddam Hussein (news - web sites).
With Bush's job approval ratings slipping and U.S. casualties in Iraq climbing, the White House sought to move the debate away from the flap over Bush's 16-word assertion that Iraq had been trying to buy uranium in Africa.
The White House presented Hadley's apology on a day when public attention on Iraq was focused on the killing of Saddam's sons Odai and Qusai.
Bartlett said he did not know if Hadley had offered to resign in his private conversation with Bush but that no resignation was expected.
According to Hadley's account, an unsigned CIA memo was sent to him and to presidential speechwriter Michael Gerson in an Oct. 5 memorandum advising that "the CIA had reservations about the British reporting" on Iraq's alleged attempts to buy uranium from the west African country of Niger.
"These reservations were confirmed by the CIA" in a second memo on Oct. 6, a day before Bush's Cincinnati speech, Hadley said.
He said that Tenet delivered similar reservations in a phone call around the same time and asked him to delete the phrase from the speech — which was done.
Hadley said the memos were lengthy and included other recommendations, and he noted that he has frequent phone conversations with Tenet. "As I sit here, I do not remember" details of the CIA reservations, Hadley said.
Still, he said, "I should have recalled (the issue) at the time of the State of the Union address. ... If I had done so, it would have avoided the entire current controversy."
The first CIA memo was discovered over the weekend by Gerson, the White House speechwriter.
Gerson did not attend the session with reporters. But, Bartlett said, "he had no recollection" of the controversy.
Separately the administration is pressing its GOP allies in Congress to do more to emphasize some of the upside to deposing Saddam.
Other aggressive efforts are expected by the administration in the days ahead to try to regain control of the message, including a possible speech on the issue by Vice President Dick Cheney (news - web sites), administration and congressional GOP aides said.
Bush himself has said the uranium phrase had been cleared by intelligence agencies. The president has sidestepped questions on whether he felt personally responsible for the tainted information.
The White House last week began an offensive to try to stem the criticism, including putting out newly declassified portions of an October 2002 intelligence report that reflected widespread concern that Iraq was in fact in pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Two GOP sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the topic of Democratic attacks against Bush came up last week when the president met at the White House with House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.
Hastert expressed concern that Bush needed a stronger defense against the pummeling, and the congressional leaders said they and others were eager to help.
An aide to Hastert said advisers to L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. occupation governor for Iraq, traveled to the Capitol Saturday night to help prepare the lawmaker for Sunday interviews. Bremer and Hastert met Sunday at a television studio where they both were appearing.
On Sunday, Hastert said that Bush's critics "want to be president" and are out "to hurt the credibility of the president, to throw mud and see what sticks."
On Monday, Frist cited the "relative silence in the press about the conditions on the ground" in Iraq "in terms of progress, in terms of improvement."
Hey Hadley... Hey dipstick... I'm not at all sure I'm the most in need of apology. Why don't you start by apologizing to Ali personally? I'm sure that'll fix everything... http://homepage.tinet.ie/~gulufuture/baghdad_jesus.htm
Hey Bast... I mean, Hastert... if the mud sticks, why not wear it?
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