Thursday, July 10, 2003

Bush Knew Iraq Info Was False

CBS News is reporting that the Bush administration knew that the Niger-uranium link with Iraq was likely false prior to the State of the Union, and made a conscious decision to include this bit of information in the speech.

CIA officials warned members of the President’s National Security Council staff the intelligence was not good enough to make the flat statement Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa.

The White House officials responded that a paper issued by the British government contained the unequivocal assertion: “Iraq has ... sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” As long as the statement was attributed to British Intelligence, the White House officials argued, it would be factually accurate. The CIA officials dropped their objections and that’s how it was delivered.

“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” Mr. Bush said.

The statement was technically correct, since it accurately reflected the British paper. But the bottom line is the White House knowingly included in a presidential address information its own CIA had explicitly warned might not be true.
This should not come as a surprise since the CIA knew the Niger docs were bogus nearly one year before Bush's declaration in the SOTU.

Update: While the Bushies are trying to pin this mess on George Tenet and the CIA, the Washington Post reports that the CIA tried to persuade the British to drop the Niger claim from their intelligence paper, which Bush cited in the SOTU, in September 2002.

Update II: CBS News has revised their headline for this story, which now says, "Bush Knew Iraq Info Was Dubious." The story has also been slightly altered, for better contextualization. Take Back the Media has a capsule on how the CBS story changed over time.