Bush: DNI Told Me ‘We Have Some New Information, He Didn’t Tell Me What The Information Was’

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"Bush: DNI Told Me ‘We Have Some New Information, He Didn’t Tell Me What The Information Was’"

At a press briefing this morning, President Bush said he was told by his Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell “in August” that “we have some new information” regarding Iran’s nuclear program. But Bush asserted “he didn’t tell me what the information was”:

BUSH: I was made aware of the NIE last week. In August, I think it was John — Mike McConnell came in and said, We have some new information. He didn’t tell me what the information was. He did tell me it was going to take a while to analyze.

Later, when a reporter followed-up on this statement, Bush asserted no one ever told him to stop ratcheting up the rhetoric against Iran:

REPORTER: Are you saying at no point while the rhetoric was escalating, as World War III was making it into conversation — at no point, nobody from your intelligence team or your administration was saying, Maybe you want to back it down a little bit?

BUSH: No — I’ve never — nobody ever told me that.

Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/12/bushirannie.320.240.flv]

Yesterday, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said, “when the President was told that we had some additional information, he was basically told: stand down; needs to be evaluated; we’ll come to you and tell you what we think it means.” Later in the briefing, Hadley reversed course and said, “In terms of stand down, they did not tell the President to stand down and stop talking about Iran’s nuclear program.”

White House officials are obfuscating on what they knew and when they knew it because the answer has the potential of further damaging the credibility of what they have asserted about Iran in the past few months. As ThinkProgress has noted, while the intelligence community was processing new information that Iran was “less determined to develop nuclear weapons,” President Bush was specifically warning that Iran was trying to “build a nuclear weapon.”

To recap: At the same time Bush was ratcheting up the rhetoric on Iran, he was told by his National Intelligence Director that we have “some new information.” Yet Bush wants the public to believe he never learned what the information was, nor was he interested.

UPDATE: The Washington Post reports this morning that “intelligence officials began briefing senior members of the Bush administration” about the new information “beginning in July.” But apparently, Bush was left completely in the dark until last Tuesday.

Transcript:

QUESTION: Mr. President, thank you. I’d like to follow on that. When you talked about Iraq, you and others in the administration talked about a mushroom cloud. Then there were no WMD in Iraq.

When it came to Iran, you said in October — on October 17th, you warned about the prospect of World War III, when, months before you made that statement, this intelligence about them suspending their weapons program back in ’03 had already come to light to this administration. So can’t you be accused of hyping this threat? And don’t you worry that that undermines U.S. credibility?

BUSH: I don’t want to contradict an august reporter such as yourself, but I was made aware of the NIE last week. In August, I think it was John — Mike McConnell came in and said, We have some new information. He didn’t tell me what the information was. He did tell me it was going to take a while to analyze.

Why would you take time to analyze new information? One, you want to make sure it’s not disinformation. You want to make sure the piece of intelligence you have is real. And secondly, they want to make sure they understand the intelligence they gathered. If they think it’s real, then what does it mean?

And it wasn’t until last week that I was briefed on the NIE that is now public.

And the second part of your question has to do this: Look, Iran was dangerous. Iran is dangerous. And Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.

[...]

QUESTION: President, thank you. Just to follow, I understand what you’re saying about when you were informed about the NIE. Are you saying at no point while the rhetoric was escalating, as World War III was making it into conversation — at no point, nobody from your intelligence team or your administration was saying, Maybe you want to back it down a little bit?

BUSH: No — I’ve never — nobody ever told me that.

Having said — having — having laid that out, I still feel strongly that Iran’s a danger. Nothings changed in this NIE that says, OK, why don’t we just stop worrying about it? Quite the contrary.

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