Tuesday, November 15

Bush Re-Lying on Iraq

Last Friday on Veteran's Day and again yesterday the President fired his harshes attacks ever on critics of the Iraq War and Intelligence failures which lead us into this conflict. On Meet the Press, the President has been supported by John McCain "I don't think the President lied"...

"While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decisions or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began," the president said in a Veterans Day speech in Pennsylvania.

"The stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the national interest is too important for politicians to throw out false charges," he said. "These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will."
But was it the truth?
Bush: "Some Democrats and antiwar critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war," he said. "These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs. They also know that intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein."
Well, that's isn't entirely true now is it? The Washington Post on Saturday responded to the Presidents claims:

President Bush and his national security adviser have answered critics of the Iraq war in recent days with a two-pronged argument: that Congress saw the same intelligence the administration did before the war, and that independent commissions have determined that the administration did not misrepresent the intelligence.

Neither assertion is wholly accurate.

But Bush and his aides had access to much more voluminous intelligence information than did lawmakers, who were dependent on the administration to provide the material. And the commissions cited by officials, though concluding that the administration did not pressure intelligence analysts to change their conclusions, were not authorized to determine whether the administration exaggerated or distorted those conclusions.

National security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, briefing reporters Thursday, countered "the notion that somehow this administration manipulated the intelligence." He said that "those people who have looked at that issue, some committees on the Hill in Congress, and also the Silberman-Robb Commission, have concluded it did not happen."

But the only committee investigating the matter in Congress, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has not yet done its inquiry into whether officials mischaracterized intelligence by omitting caveats and dissenting opinions. And Judge Laurence H. Silberman, chairman of Bush's commission on weapons of mass destruction, said in releasing his report on March 31, 2005: "Our executive order did not direct us to deal with the use of intelligence by policymakers, and all of us were agreed that that was not part of our inquiry."

In the same speech, Bush asserted that "more than 100 Democrats in the House and the Senate, who had access to the same intelligence, voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power." Giving a preview of Bush's speech, Hadley had said that "we all looked at the same intelligence."

But Bush does not share his most sensitive intelligence, such as the President's Daily Brief, with lawmakers. Also, the National Intelligence Estimate summarizing the intelligence community's views about the threat from Iraq was given to Congress just days before the vote to authorize the use of force in that country.

In addition, there were doubts within the intelligence community not included in the NIE. And even the doubts expressed in the NIE could not be used publicly by members of Congress because the classified information had not been cleared for release. For example, the NIE view that Hussein would not use weapons of mass destruction against the United States or turn them over to terrorists unless backed into a corner was cleared for public use only a day before the Senate vote.

The New York Times on the issue of "Pressure applied to analysts".
Mr. Bush has said in recent days that the first phase of the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation on Iraq found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence. . . . Richard Kerr, a former deputy director of central intelligence, said in 2003 that there was "significant pressure on the intelligence community to find evidence that supported a connection" between Iraq and Al Qaeda. The C.I.A. ombudsman told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the administration's "hammering" on Iraq intelligence was harder than he had seen in his 32 years at the agency. . . .
Further the Senate Report included information which was later revealed as Under Secretary of State John Bolton attempting to bolster reports of Cuban Wmd's.
(U)When Chairman Roberts asked whether analysts had been pressured to change their assessments at a Committee hearing on June 19,2003,one [INR] analyst stood up and said that he had some encounters involving some pressure ”but noted that he had not changed his assessments as a result of that pressure.The analyst agreed to meet with Committee staff following the hearing to discuss the issue.

(U)The analyst told Committee staff that his concerns about being pressured were not related to Iraq,but rather to an incident that had occurred with the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security concerning Cuba ’s BW program.The analyst had received a routine request to declassify language concerning Cuba ’s BW program for a speech that the Under Secretary intended to give in an open forum.The analyst told Committee staff that the text of the Under Secretary ’s speech contained a sentence which said that the U.S. believes Cuba has a developmental,offensive biological warfare program and is providing assistance to other rogue state programs.The text also called for international observers of
Cuba ’s biological facilities.The analyst said the portion of the speech he was given contained top secret codeword information.
There was also a report on a Pentagon "Desk Officer" in the Office of Special Plans who I strongly suspect is actually Lt. Col Karen Kwaitkowski who has been extremely vocal in her criticism of the Iraq War and Bush Administration.
(U)Committee staff contacted a former desk officer in the Office of the Deputy Under
Secretary of Defense for Special Plans and NESA who had come to the Committee ’s attention through press accounts of the desk officer ’s experiences.

(U)The desk officer told Committee staff that she never worked the Iraq issue and had no direct knowledge of any attempts to pressure or coerce intelligence analysts. She obtained the information that she provided to Committee staff based on looking at the secret level intranet in the Pentagon and through discussions with colleagues.

(U)The desk officer told Committee staff that a DIA senior intelligence analyst had told her that he had been pressured by the Deputy Under Secretary to change a briefing he was giving on Iraq and that he refused to change the briefing because the intelligence did not support the Deputy Under Secretary ’s conclusion.She said that after this incident the senior analyst was excluded from bilateral exchange visits.Committee staff interviewed the DIA senior intelligence analyst (See page 280)who said that he had not been asked to change any briefings on Iraq, but said he was asked not to use the word “assassinations ”when giving a brief on the Israeli Defense Force.He provided no information to show that he had been excluded from the bilateral visits because of his analysis.
It's interesting to note that the "Desk Officer" heard one thing, but when the person she heard it from was brought before the commitee - he denied everything. If there was in fact pressure, one of the key elements of that pressure would have been to "deny the pressure". It's the cornerstone of any cover-up.

"First Rule of Fight Club: You do not talk about Fight Club. Second Rule of Fight Club: You do not talk about Fight Club".

What the British Government felt according to the Downing Street Minutes:
It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.
And then you have other countries such as France, Russia and Germany who voted in the UN against the invasion of Iraq and were accused by Bush's supporters of doing so because they'd received kick-backs from Saddam Hussein via the Oil-for-Food program. An allegation that has proved uniformly false.

Bush says now that Congress received the same intellegence, but there are many reasons to doubt that claim.
Media Matters: It should be further noted, that the Bush Whitehouse initially refused to supply any Intelligence Information to the Congress -- the White House reportedly objected to the production of such a [National Intelligence Estimate] at the time. An article in the September 22, 2003, edition of The New Republic described how the then-chairman of the committee, Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), and Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) pushed for the NIE after reviewing a classified CIA assessment of the Iraqi threat that reportedly took "the most aggressive view of all available information":

Stunned by what they read, Graham, Durbin and others on the committee intensified their demands for [then-director of central intelligence George J.] Tenet to produce an NIE on the Iraq threat. It was not a request that Tenet could easily fulfill. "The White House didn't want it," says a source with direct knowledge of the effort. "They wanted to draw their own analytical conclusions

In short, Bush's claim that Congress received the same information as the White House is simply false. They don't get the same information, and even what they did get they had to beg in order to get. But all of this back and forth sometimes obscures the core issue -- why was the intelligence so wrong?

Well it turns out that if you looked closely at it - it wasn't wrong. What started this entire hullabaloo with the President is the recent declassification of a DIA report concerning an detainee who repeatedly claimed that Iraq was working with Al-Qaeda - who simply "wasn't credible".
On November 6, both the Post and the Times reported on a newly declassified document proving that the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) had voiced strong doubts about the credibility of an Al Qaeda operative whose statements provided the basis for many of the administration's prewar claims regarding Iraqi training of terrorists. The DIA report -- produced and distributed in February 2002 -- raised serious questions about the first interrogation report on the operative and determined that "it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers." Both newspapers noted that administration officials, in late 2002 and early 2003, repeatedly cited the alleged chemical and biological training as proof of an Iraq-Al Qaeda connection but never noted that the DIA considered this intelligence suspect. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), who released the new materials, stated "that he could not be certain that White House officials read the DIA report, but his 'presumption' was that someone at the National Security Council saw it because it was sent there," according to the Post
More on this Detainee from William Rivers Pitt.
The operative, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, was exposed as a liar by the Defense Intelligence Agency in February of 2002. Their report bluntly stated that al-Libi was deliberately misleading interrogators, and any information he provided was not to be trusted. By 2004, al-Libi had completely recanted all of his testimony.

"The (Defense Intelligence Agency) document provides the earliest and strongest indication of doubts voiced by American intelligence agencies about Mr. Libi's credibility," reported the Times. "Without mentioning him by name, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Colin L. Powell, then secretary of state, and other administration officials repeatedly cited Mr. Libi's information as 'credible' evidence that Iraq was training al Qaeda members in the use of explosives and illicit weapons. Among the first and most prominent assertions was one by Mr. Bush, who said in a major speech in Cincinnati in October 2002 that 'we've learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and gases.'"

This is information that the Administration possessed, but certainly didn't share either with the American people or Congress. Even when you look at the information that was eventually provided to the Congress via the NIE - there was a substantial section questioning the conclusions on Iraq's Nuclear Threat supplied by the State Departmentt.
NIE "key judgments" had included a lengthy dissent on behalf of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) regarding the claim that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program.
That dissent had included the likelyhood that the Niger Uranium documents were forgeries.

Other information provided in that report was found by the Senate Intelligence Committee to be "totally wrong", particularly when the informant Curveball was relied upon.
In a scathing report released Thursday, President Bush's intelligence commission found that the CIA "failed to convey to policy-makers new information casting serious doubt on the reliability of a human intelligence source known as 'Curveball."' The commission found that several agency officers said they had doubts about the source and raised those doubts with senior leadership, including then-CIA Director George Tenet. In separate statements Friday, Tenet and former acting CIA Director John McLaughlin denied the accounts. "It is deeply troubling to me that there was information apparently available within CIA as of late September or October of 2002 indicating that Curveball may have been a fabricator," Tenet said in a detailed seven-page rebuttal. "There is nothing more serious or galvanizing in the intelligence business than associating the word fabricator with a human source." McLaughlin said "unequivocally" that he wouldn't have allowed Curveball's information to be used "if someone had made these doubts clear".

Despite the apparent concerns, the commission found that information from Curveball remained a centerpiece of former Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations about the need to attack Iraq, as well as in an authoritative intelligence estimate prepared for policy-makers in the run-up to the Iraq war.
From the Dulfer Report on Curveball.
...the Dulfer Report showed... that many key allegations of WMD activity by Saddam all came from a single source, code-named Curveball. A source that his own German intelligence handlers found "not credible", yet his claims of mobile laboratories and imminent mushroom clouds still managed to find their way into Presidential Speeches and public comments by Secretary Powell, then-NSA Chief Condoleeza Rice and even Clinton Admin hold-over George Tenet, Director of the CIA.
So we have one liar in Guantanemo (al-Libi), another liar in Germany (Curveball) and a set of forged documents from Niger that apparently no one noticed except for members of the INR. Only the DIA had noted al-Libi's fabrications and only the DIA had even bothered to actually go visit Curveball "face-to-face" - the result of that meeting was a complete loss in confidence in that source by those who took the trip to Germany. CIA had no clue, and apparently neither did Congress.

Meanwhile the President and his chief Adversers ignored (or were blocked from learning) of warnings coming from the DIA in Feb 2002, the INR and Joe Wilson's report to the CIA on uranium sales - and continued making wildly inaccurate claims:
Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.

- Dick Cheney, 8/26/2002
There is already a mountain of evidence that Saddam Hussein is gathering weapons for the purpose of using them. And adding additional information is like adding a foot to Mount Everest.

- Ari Fleischer, 9/6/2002
We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.

- Condoleeza Rice, 9/8/2002
Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.

- George W. Bush, 9/12/2002
Iraq has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons, and is rebuilding the facilities used to make more of those weapons. We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons - the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have.

- George W. Bush, 10/5/2002
And surveillance photos reveal that the regime is rebuilding facilities that it had used to produce chemical and biological weapons.

- George W. Bush, 10/7/2002
After eleven years during which we have tried containment, sanctions, inspections, even selected military action, the end result is that Saddam Hussein still has chemical and biological weapons and is increasing his capabilities to make more. And he is moving ever closer to developing a nuclear weapon.

- George W. Bush, 10/7/2002
We've also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas.

- George W. Bush, 10/7/2002
Iraq could decide on any given day to provide biological or chemical weapons to a terrorist group or to individual terrorists ...The war on terror will not be won until Iraq is completely and verifiably deprived of weapons of mass destruction.

- Dick Cheney, 12/1/2002
If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world.

- Ari Fleischer, 12/2/2002
We know for a fact that there are weapons there.

- Ari Fleischer, 1/9/2003
The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production.

- George W. Bush, 1/28/2003
Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent.

- George W. Bush, 1/28/2003
We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more.

- Colin Powell, 2/5/2003
There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more. And he has the ability to dispense these lethal poisons and diseases in ways that can cause massive death and destruction. If biological weapons seem too terrible to contemplate, chemical weapons are equally chilling.

- Colin Powell, 2/5/2003
If Iraq had disarmed itself, gotten rid of its weapons of mass destruction over the past 12 years, or over the last several months since (UN Resolution) 1441 was enacted, we would not be facing the crisis that we now have before us ... But the suggestion that we are doing this because we want to go to every country in the Middle East and rearrange all of its pieces is not correct.

- Colin Powell, 2/28/2003
Let's talk about the nuclear proposition for a minute. We know that based on intelligence, that has been very, very good at hiding these kinds of efforts. He's had years to get good at it and we know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.

- Dick Cheney, 3/16/2003
Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.

- George W. Bush, 3/17/2003
Well, there is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical particularly ... all this will be made clear in the course of the operation, for whatever duration it takes.

- Ari Fleischer, 3/21/2003
We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.

- Donald Rumsfeld, 3/30/2003

Yet, when UN Inspectors re-entered Iraq in the Winter of 2002 following the passage of HJ 141 (The Iraq War Resolution) and UN Security Council Resolution 1441 -- they found nothing (except a few missles whose range was 15 miles beyond sanctioned limits).

CBS News - Inspectors Call U.S. Tips 'Garbage'

Feb. 20, 2003
U.N. weapons inspectors prepare to investigate a
private battery acid plant outside of Baghdad. (AP)

So frustrated have the inspectors become that one
source has referred to the U.S. intelligence they've
been getting as "garbage after garbage after garbage."

(CBS) While diplomatic maneuvering continues over
Turkish bases and a new United Nations resolution,
inside Iraq, U.N. arms inspectors are privately
complaining about the quality of U.S. intelligence and
accusing the United States of sending them on
wild-goose chases.

CBS News Correspondent Mark Phillips reports the U.N.
has been taking a precise inventory of Iraq's
al-Samoud 2 missile arsenal, determining how many
there are and where they are.

Discovering that the al-Samoud 2 has been flying too
far in tests has been one of the inspectors' major
successes. But the missile has only been exceeding its
93-mile limit by about 15 miles and that, the Iraqis
say, is because it isn't yet loaded down with its
guidance system. The al-Samoud 2 is not the
800-mile-plus range missile that Secretary of State
Colin Powell insists Iraq is developing.

In fact, the U.S. claim that Iraq is developing
missiles that could hit its neighbors – or U.S. troops
in the region, or even Israel – is just one of the
claims coming from Washington that inspectors here are
finding increasingly unbelievable. The inspectors have
become so frustrated trying to chase down unspecific
or ambiguous U.S. leads that they've begun to express
that anger privately in no uncertain terms.

U.N. sources have told CBS News that American tips
have lead to one dead end after another.

Normally Senior Advisers such as Tenet and Powell would be relied upon to provide information to Congress directly, either in report format or via testimony. Although the full investigation of how or why intelligence information may have been manipulated within the Bush Administration has yet to take place -- it seems clear based on many reports and most obviously the treatment of Joe Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame as well as comment by the CIA ombudsman that in the cases of Tenet and Powell, their were mid-level politcal appointees who were prioritizing, de-prioritizing and coloring certain reports which fit their own agenda and preeferred opinion - rather than the facts.

Bush argues "Garbage in - Garbage out", but it's not really that simple. It's common today to sort your garbage prior to simply throwing it into the can -- and apparently it was the sifting, filtering and vetting process to seperate the credible information from the flat-out incredible that broke down -- or was deliberately subverted.

How much Bush was involved or aware of this at the time remains an open question -- but his comments now, in the face of such overwhelming amounts of information show that whether or not he was deliberately lying then - he's definately lying now.


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