Friday, December 19, 2008

Gonzales, Rice Lied to Congress About Niger Intelligence

No shit, Sherlock. I doubt we could count all the lies they've told to Congress, the 9/11 commission and on countless TeeVee news shows, to the American people.

By Jason Leopold
The Public Record
Thursday, December 18, 2008

Condoleezza Rice was verbally warned by a high-ranking CIA official in September 2002 that allegations that Iraq had sought large quantities of yellowcake uranium from Niger were untrue and that she, as national security adviser, should not allow President George W. Bush to cite it in a speech he gave that month about the supposed threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s regime, according to new evidence obtained by Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The Niger uranium claim was removed from two speeches Bush gave in September 2002 after Rice spoke with the CIA official who advised her the intelligence was unreliable.

However, it was cited by President George W. Bush in his Jan. 28, 2003, State of the Union Address as what became known as the “Sixteen Words”: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Rice and other White House officials blamed the CIA and claimed they were never advised the agency had doubts about the authenticity of the intelligence.

Those 16 words helped the Bush administration win support from Congress to launch a preemptive strike against Iraq and directly led senior Bush administration officials to leak the undercover status of CIA operative Valerie Plame after her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, exposed the Niger uranium allegations as bogus.

The White House has never provided a full accounting of how the Niger story, despite warnings from several government agencies that it was unreliable, wound its way to the White House from strange-looking documents that surfaced in Italy and became a key element in Bush’s case for war.

Waxman subpoenaed Rice last year in order to compel her to testify about whether she knew in advance that the Niger intelligence was unreliable. Rice refused to comply with the subpoena and Waxman held her in contempt.

When the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence launched a formal inquiry into the Niger uranium claims after Wilson publicly accused the White House of “twisting” the intelligence to win support for the Iraq war, then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales told Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, in a letter that the CIA “orally cleared” the uranium claim “for use by the President” in both speeches. Gonzales had responded to the committee’s questions on behalf of then-National Security Adviser Rice, who was one of several top officials who vetted Bush’s speeches.

But new evidence obtained by Waxman suggests that Gonzales and Rice may have lied to Congress when they claimed the CIA green-lit use of the uranium claim in Bush's September 2002 speeches, in which Bush urged Congress to authorize the use of force in lraq.

Waxman said Rice received a telephone call on Sept. 24, 2002, from Jami Miscik, then-Deputy Director of Intelligence at the CIA, who told Rice to remove the uranium reference. Miscik is now an adviser to President-elect Barack Obama's transition team. Sept. 24, 2002 is also the date former British Prime Minister Tony Blair released a 50-page dossier claiming Iraq had a cache of chemical and biological weapons and the capability to unleash weapons of mass destruction within 45-minutes, allegations that turned out to be untrue.

“During an interview with the Committee, Miscik...stated that [National Security Council] officials who worked with Rice at the NSC "wouldn't take [the uranium claim] out of the speech,” Waxman wrote in an 11-page memo to members of the Oversight Committee. "Ms. Miscik stated that she spoke with Dr. Rice directly over the telephone on September 24, 2002. Ms. Miscik explained that the CIA's reasons for requesting that the removal of the uranium claim "had been conveyed to the NSC counterparts" before the call began and that she and Dr. Rice "were getting on the phone call with that information.

“As a result, Miscik was asked to explain directly to Dr. Rice "the reasons why we didn't think this was credible,” Waxman added. “Ms. Miscik stated, "[i]t was clear that we had problems or we at the most fundamental level wouldn't have been having the phone call at all." According to Ms. Miscik, the CIA's reasons for rejecting the uranium claim, "had been conveyed to the NSC counterparts" before the call, and Dr. Rice was "getting on the phone call with that information." Ms. Miscik told Dr. Rice personally that the CIA was "recommending that it be taken out." She also said "[i]t turned out to be a relatively short phone call" because "we both knew what the issues were and therefore were able to get to a very easy resolution of it."

Yet Rice "asserted publicly she knew nothing about any doubts the CIA had raised about this claim prior too the 2003 State of the Union address," Waxman's memo says. Gonzales "asserted to the Senate — on her behalf — that the CIA approved the use of this claim in several presidential speeches.

“Unfortunately, Dr. Rice resisted efforts by the Committee to obtain her testimony about these matters. Thus, I am not able to report to you how she would explain the seeming contradictions between her statements and those of Mr. Gonzales on her behalf and the statements made to the Committee by senior CIA and NSC officials.”

Despite the verbal warnings Rice was given, she penned an Op- Ed January 23, 2003 claiming Iraq was actively trying "to get uranium from abroad" to help further strengthen the administration's case for a U.S. led invasion of Iraq.

“Writing on Dr. Rice's behalf on January 6, 2004, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales addressed the uranium claim in the Rose Garden speech. He asserted: "On September 24, 2002, CIA officials orally cleared the [uranium claim] for use by the President." Mr. Gonzales wrote: The language cleared by CIA was identical to the language proposed for clearance by White House staff, except that it appears that CIA may have suggested that the second sentence read "in the process" rather than "of the process.”

Waxman has spent the past five years investigating the Niger intelligence, specifically, the genesis of the “Sixteen Words.”

During the course of the Waxman's investigation, committee investigators questioned John Gibson, who was Director of Speechwriting for Foreign Policy at the National Security Council. Gibson told investigators that he “he tried to insert the uranium claim into this speech at the request of Michael Gerson, chief White House speechwriter, and Robert Joseph, the Senior Director for Proliferation Strategy, Counterproliferation, and Homeland Defense at the NSC.”

“According to Mr. Gibson, the CIA rejected the uranium claim because it was "not sufficiently reliable to include it in the speech." Mr. Gibson stated that the CIA "didn't give that blessing," the "CIA was not willing to clear that language," and "[a]t the end of the day, they did not clear it."

During a closed-door briefing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence back in July 2003, Alan Foley, the former director of the CIA's nonproliferation, intelligence and arms control center, said he had spoken to Joseph, a day or two before President Bush's 2003 State of the Union address and told Joseph that detailed references to Iraq and Niger should be excluded from the final draft. Foley told committee members that Joseph had agreed to water down the language and would instead, he told Foley, attribute the intelligence to the British.

Gibson also told investigators that Gonzales’s claims to the Senate Intelligence Committee that the intelligence was cleared by the CIA were “incorrect.”

“He told the Committee that "the CIA had never cleared" the use of the uranium claim,” Waxman wrote in his memo. “During her interview with the Committee, Ms. Miscik made the same point, stating that the White House assertions were "not accurate" and "misleading." She explained further: "We had not cleared on this speech until the discussion that Dr. Rice and I had."

In July 2003, five days after Wilson’s column was published in The Times, Rice blamed the CIA for failing to vet the Niger claims. Former CIA Director George Tenet accepted responsibility, which many people interpreted as Tenet falling on his sword to protect the president.

Two weeks later, however, the CIA revealed that agency officials sent then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley two memos in October 2002, warning him not to continue peddling the Niger claims to the White House because the intelligence was not accurate. Hadley, who didn't heed the CIA's warnings at the time, said during a press conference on July 23, 2003, that he had forgotten about the memos.

Waxman’s committee deposed Tenet in June 2007 and the former CIA director said he spoke with Hadley personally and told him to remove the uranium claims from a speech Bush was prepared to give in Cincinnati in October 2002.

"In his deposition, Mr. Tenet provided new details about the explicit nature of these warnings," Waxman wrote. "According to Mr. Tenet, his staff at the CIA approached him and asked him to intervene. They stated: [W]e need to get this stuff out. We don't believe this. 'We need to get it out of the speech. It's not coming out. Can you call Mr. Hadley? Mr. Tenet explained that he called Mr. Hadley to direct him to remove the language. He told the Committee: [S]taff came down to say there was specific language that they wanted out and, essentially, I called Mr. Hadley up. It was a very short conversation. And I said Steve, take it out. We don't want the President to be a fact witness on this issue.”

Mr. Tenet stated further: "The facts, I told him, were too much in doubt." According to Mr. Tenet, the President's speech in Cincinnati did not include the uranium claim because the CIA had explicitly informed the White House that it was not cleared for a Presidential speech. Mr. Tenet stated: "We sent two memos to Mr. Hadley saying, this is why you don't let the President say this in Cincinnati."

Following his conversation with Hadley, one of Tenet's aides sent a follow-up letter to Rice, Hadley, and Bush's speechwriter Mike Gerson highlighting additional reasons the language about Iraq's purported attempts to obtain uranium from the African country of Niger should not be used to try and convince Congress and the public that Iraq was an imminent threat, Tenet wrote in his book, At the Center of the Storm.

"More on why we recommend removing the sentence about [Saddam's] procuring uranium oxide from Africa," Tenet wrote in the book, apparently quoting from a memo sent to the White House. "Three points: (1) The evidence is weak. One of the two mines cited by the source as the location of the uranium oxide is flooded. The other mine cited by the source is under the control of French authorities; (2) the procurement is not particularly significant to Iraq's nuclear ambitions...And (3) we have shared points one and two with Congress, telling them the Africa story is overblown and telling them this was one of two issues where we differed with the British."

The Niger case began in early 2002 when CIA officials were looking for people with the right connections to check out the claims that Iraq had obtained uranium from Niger.

The CIA’s counter-proliferation unit selected Joseph Wilson, a former senior diplomat in both Iraq and Africa, where Wilson’s wife worked as a covert officer, who used “non-official cover” to track dangerous weapons in the Middle East. “Non-official cover” assignments are considered some of the CIA’s riskiest.

After agreeing to undertake the unpaid assignment, Wilson traveled to Niger in February 2002, met with a number of high-level contacts and returned with the conclusion that the Niger suspicions were almost surely false. Wilson’s assessment matched with other internal reviews.

But the White House continued to peddle the bogus uranium claims and attacked officials who said the intelligence the claims were based upon was unreliable.

That led to a battle that pitted the White House against former Ambassador Wilson, which finally came to the surface on July 6, 2003, when Wilson wrote a New York Times op-ed revealing his February 2002 trip to Niger and directly challenging Bush’s use of the bogus yellowcake story.

In the following days, even as the administration was forced to backtrack on the Niger claims by acknowledging that the information should not have been included in Bush’s State of the Union, Bush’s aides and allies stepped up the campaign to discredit Wilson.

That was the angle that right-wing columnist Robert Novak took in an article on July 14, 2003, that relied on information from Armitage and White House political adviser Karl Rove to report that Valerie Plame Wilson worked at the CIA and had a hand in arranging her husband’s trip to Africa.

Waxman said in his letter Thursday that the new evidence on Niger proves that Bush’s “core arguments” for invading Iraq was “illegitimate.”

“For more than five years, I have been seeking answers to basic questions about why the President made a false assertion about such a fundamental matter,” Waxman wrote. “As the President's National Security Advisor at the time, Condoleezza Rice asserted publicly that she knew nothing about any doubts the CIA had raised about this claim prior to the 2003 State of the Union address. And former White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales asserted to the Senate - on her behalf - that the CIA approved the use of the claim in several presidential speeches. The Committee has obtained evidence that just the opposite is true.

“This evidence would appear to raise serious questions about the veracity of the assertions that Mr. Gonzales made to Congress on behalf of Dr. Rice about a key part of the President's case for going to war in Iraq.”

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

No comments: