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Friday, March 03, 2006 

White House documents prove that Bush deceived the nation

The fine investigative reporter at the National Journal, Murray Waas, has revealed further documentary evidence that George Bush, his Vice President, and closest advisors engaged in a campaign of deception in the months before the invasion of Iraq. Those who've been following the Downing Street memo story may remember that, when it first appeared, many apologists for the President were heard to say that it was not really decisive; that critics were guilty of reading too much into it; that it was not the "smoking gun" (ever elusive). Since then, a small mountain of documents and supporting testimony has piled up, always pointing in the same direction...toward a conspiracy, on both sides of the Atlantic, to deceive the public about whether Saddam Hussein was in fact known to be a threat.

Now we learn about some of the most embarrassing documents of all, intelligence reports created for George Bush himself. In his new report, Waas reveals the existence of two Presidential Summaries given to Bush by George Tenet, in Oct. 2002 and Jan. 2003. These Summaries were based upon National Intelligence Estimates that shot holes in the case for war that the administration had been making.

Bush and his minions, like Condoleezza Rice, have always insisted that Bush simply did not know that various intelligence agencies had expressed doubts about these matters. The information, they claim, was buried so deep in the NIEs that it went unremarked. Therefore, by this account, Bush did not lie to the nation. He was just woefully underinformed about the state of the evidence (which, you'll recall, he expressed certainty about).

The idea was always ludicrous, even though plenty of people have pretended to believe it. In any case, Bush and Cheney have been busted now. Bush not only received these one-page Summaries of the NIEs, he also read them in Tenet's presence. These Summaries highlighted the very doubts in question, and one of them flatly contradicted a key part of Bush's case for attacking Iraq.

The article at National Journal is very much worth reading in full. Although scandals galore now circle the White House like jets around a snow-bound O'Hare airport, jostling for attention, this one has the potential to shatter the remaining shreds of Bush's credibility among his few remaining die-hard supporters.

What are these Presidential Summaries? The first, in Oct. 2002, advised Bush that several agencies strongly dissented from the claims that his administration had already been making about intercepted aluminum tubes. In fact, a second Memo that circulated in January among high-ranking members of the Administration repeated the earlier warning that the aluminum tubes could not be assumed to be part of a nuclear weapons program.

The one-page October 2002 President's Summary specifically told Bush that although "most agencies judge" that the use of the aluminum tubes was "related to a uranium enrichment effort... INR and DOE believe that the tubes more likely are intended for conventional weapons uses."

The lengthier NIE -- more than 90 pages -- contained significantly more detail describing the disagreement between the CIA and the Pentagon's DIA on one hand, which believed that the tubes were meant for centrifuges, and State's INR and the Energy Department, which believed that they were meant for artillery shells. Administration officials had said that the president would not have read the full-length paper....

But the one-page summary, several senior government officials said in interviews, was written specifically for Bush, was handed to the president by then-CIA Director George Tenet, and was read in Tenet's presence.

In addition, Rice, Cheney, and dozens of other high-level Bush administration policy makers received a highly classified intelligence assessment, known as a Senior Executive Memorandum, on the aluminum tubes issue. Circulated on January 10, 2003, the memo was titled "Questions on Why Iraq Is Procuring Aluminum Tubes and What the IAEA Has Found to Date."

The paper included discussion regarding the fact that the INR, Energy, and the United Nations atomic energy watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, all believed that Iraq was using the aluminum tubes for conventional weapons programs.

So the defense thus far against the charge of lying, that Bush was too lazy or foolish to read the full NIE about the very grounds for war that he was trumpeting, now becomes irrelevant. For those who've forgetten, it was only a few days after reading this Presidential Summary that Bush said, in a speech in Cincinnati

Evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his 'nuclear mujahedeen' -- his nuclear holy warriors.... Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.

I write this from Cincinnati, where these words still hang like diesel fumes over the city. They still turn my stomach, as I walk to and from work every day. During the fall and winter of 2002/2003, Bush administration officials continued to make similar claims about the notorious aluminum tubes (some of which Waas documents). As I remarked to friends at the time, those claims gradually backed away ever so slightly from the initial claims of absolute certainty that the tubes could be used ONLY for a nuclear centrifuge. It was clear even at the time that Bush & Co. were under pressure to admit that the tubes's existence proved nothing, yet they were unwilling to do more than admit a small possibility that the tubes could have other uses.

Many of us suspected that the President was being intellectually dishonest. The earlier release of the NIE should have proven beyond reasonable doubt that was exactly what the administration was up to. In any case these Presidential Summaries now confirm it decisively. George Bush deliberately lied, in Cincinnati as elsewhere, and he was joined by Cheney, Powell, Rice, and others.

How sensitive is the revelation that this Summary absolutely contradicts Bush's public statements in the run up to war?

But the Bush administration steadfastly continued to refuse to declassify the President's Summary of the NIE, which in the words of one senior official, is the "one document which illustrates what the president knew and when he knew it." The administration also refused to furnish copies of the paper to congressional intelligence committees.

You may perhaps recall that when those words were uttered by Howard Baker in Senate hearings about Nixon, they were intended to throw up a roadblock on the path toward impeachment. The idea was that it would prove virtually impossible, once the Senate began pursuing that path, to find decisive evidence regarding what Nixon and knew and when, so as to pin him down. It didn't turn out that way, but at the moment it appeared to be the best possible stalling tactic. Yet here, a generation later but still suffering under the rule of many of those same rascals, we have documentary evidence of what Bush knew and when he knew it.

As for the second Presidential Summary we now know Bush received, in January 2003, it advised the President that ALL intelligence agencies agreed that it was highly improbable that Saddam Hussein was remotely likely to attack the United States except if he thought the U.S. was about to topple him from power. As Waas also points out, other senior members of the administration as well as some Congressmen received similar briefings.

According to interviews and records, Bush personally read the one-page summary in Tenet's presence during the morning intelligence briefing, and the two spoke about it at some length. Sources familiar with the summary said it was highly significant that the president was informed that it was the unanimous conclusion of the intelligence agencies participating in the production of the January 2003 NIE that Saddam was unlikely to consider attacking the U.S. unless Iraq was attacked first.

Cheney received virtually the same intelligence information, according to the same records and interviews. The president's summaries have been shared with the vice president as a matter of course during the Bush presidency.

The conclusion among intelligence agencies that Saddam was unlikely to consider attacking the United States unless attacked first was also outlined in Senior Executive Intelligence Briefs, highly classified daily intelligence papers distributed to several hundred executive branch officials and to the congressional intelligence oversight committees.

During the second half of 2002, the president and vice president repeatedly cited the threat from Saddam in their public statements.

Indeed, last year when I drew up an overview of the development of the Administration's rhetoric about Iraq for this website, I identified 10 distinct phases. Of these, Phase 4 was that period in which Bush Co. raised the level of alarm about Iraqi WMD claims by focusing on the imminent threat that Hussein posed to attack the US (and the rest of the world). As far as I could see, this Phase began around the start of February, 2003.

What this underlines, I think, is that the administration's propaganda began to focus to an extraordinary degree on Saddam Hussein's alleged intentions to attack the U.S. in the two months before our invasion of Iraq--and this occured shortly after Bush read and discussed a Presidential Summary that stated as flatly as possible that no such intention was perceptible to any of our intelligence agencies.

The White House declined to comment for this story. In a statement, Frederick Jones, a spokesman for the National Security Council said, "The president of the United States has talked about this matter directly, as have a myriad of other administration officials. At this juncture, we have nothing to add to that body of information."

When you've lied your way into a deep dark hole, there comes a time when it makes some sense to shut up. Don't let us shut up about these revelations. They're potentially quite important for public perception of the President.

 posted by smintheus  # 7:22 PM  
I believe this to be true but how do we know about the omitted info on aluminium tubes? Has this since been declassified?
By omitted info, do you mean the Presidential Summary from Oct. 2002 (which told Bush even more forcefully what was already stated in the NIE, that the two main agencies in a position to evaluate the aluminum-tube claim thought it was wrong)?

That summary has not been declassified that I know. We know about it because Murray Waas, an excellent journalist, has sources who told him that the Summary included that information. The White House has been fighting since June or July 2003 every attempt to declassify this document or to put it (classified) into the hands of Congress.

In fact, a few weeks after the article I'm commenting on here was published, Waas published another report at National Journal that described in detail how intent Karl Rove was in 2003 to keep these very Presidential Summaries secret. Rove announced to other top WH officials that if news of them got out, it could destroy Bush's re-election bid.

Here is a link to that report by Murray Waas. My post from March 31 on this blog talks about that report.
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