Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Democrat Henry Waxman (D-Cal) sent this letter to Condi Rice yesterday. Sounds to me like he’s got her dead to rights about some of the many many lies Bushco has been telling about the Reason for The War:

June 10, 2003

The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Dr. Rice:

Since March 17, 2003, I have been trying without success to get a direct answer to one simple question: Why did President Bush cite forged evidence about Iraq's nuclear capabilities in his State of the Union address?
Although you addressed this issue on Sunday on both Meet the Press and This Week with George Stephanopoulos, your comments did nothing to clarify this issue. In fact, your responses contradicted other known facts and raised a host of new questions.

During your interviews, you said the Bush Administration welcomes inquiries into this matter. Yesterday, The Washington Post also reported that Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet has agreed to provide "full documentation" of the intelligence information "in regards to Secretary Powell's comments, the president's comments and anybody else's comments." Consistent with these sentiments, I am writing to seek further information about this important matter.

Bush Administration Knowledge of Forgeries

The forged documents in question describe efforts by Iraq to obtain uranium from an African country, Niger. During your interviews over the weekend, you asserted that no doubts or suspicions about these efforts or the underlying documents were communicated to senior officials in the Bush Administration before the President's State of the Union address. For example, when you were asked about this issue on Meet the Press, you made the following statement:

We did not know at the time -- no one knew at the time, in our circles -- maybe someone knew down in the bowels of the agency, but no one in our circles knew that there were doubts and suspicions that this might be a forgery. Of course, it was information that was mistaken.

Similarly, when you appeared on This Week, you repeated this statement, claiming that you made multiple inquiries of the intelligence agencies regarding the allegation that Iraq sought to obtain uranium from an African country. You stated:

George, somebody, somebody down may have known. But I will tell you that when this issue was raised with the intelligence community... the intelligence community did not know at that time, or at levels that got to us, that this, that there were serious questions about this report.

Your claims, however, are directly contradicted by other evidence. Contrary to your assertion, senior Administration officials had serious doubts about the forged evidence well before the President's State of the Union address. For example, Greg Thielmann, Director of the Office of Strategic, Proliferation, and Military Issues in the State Department, told Newsweek last week that the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) had concluded the documents were "garbage." As you surely know, INR is part of what you call "the intelligence community." It is headed by an Assistant Secretary of State, Carl Ford; it reports directly to the Secretary of State; and it was a full participant in the debate over Iraq's nuclear capabilities. According to Newsweek:

"When I saw that, it really blew me away," Thielmann told Newsweek. Thielmann knew about the source of the allegation. The CIA had come up with some documents purporting to show Saddam had attempted to buy up to 500 tons of uranium oxide from the African country of Niger. INR had concluded that the purchases were implausible - and made that point clear to Powell's office. As Thielmann read that the president had relied on these documents to report to the nation, he thought, "Not that stupid piece of garbage. My thought was, how did that get into the speech?"

Moreover, New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof has reported that the Vice President's office was aware of the fraudulent nature of the evidence as early as February 2002 - nearly a year before the President gave his State of the Union address. In his column, Mr. Kristof reported:

I'm told by a person involved in the Niger caper that more than a year ago the vice president's office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger. In February 2002, according to someone present at the meetings, that envoy reported to the C.I.A. and State Department that the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged.

The envoy reported, for example, that a Niger minister whose signature was on one of the documents had in fact been out of office for more than a decade.... The envoy's debunking of the forgery was passed around the administration and seemed to be accepted - except that President Bush and the State Department kept citing it anyway.
"It's disingenuous for the State Department people to say they were bamboozled because they knew about this for a year," one insider said.

When you were asked about Mr. Kristof's account, you did not deny his reporting. Instead, you conceded that "the Vice President's office may have asked for that report."

Read the rest of the letter.