On Tuesday, President Bush said he was never forewarned by the intelligence community that Iran had suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003:
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.
Now the White House is revealing that wasn’t true. In fact, Bush did know what the information was. CNN reports:
President Bush was told in August that Iran’s nuclear weapons program ‘may be suspended,’ the White House said Wednesday, which seemingly contradicts the account of the meeting given by Bush Tuesday.”
The White House statement released by Dana Perino tonight also states McConnell told Bush “the new information might cause the intelligence community to change its assessment of Iran’s covert nuclear program.”
On Tuesday, Bush said “nobody ever told me” to back down from his hawkish rhetoric on Iran. No, maybe not. But Bush knew Iran “may have suspended” its nuclear weapons program and that the intelligence community was in the process of “changing its assessment.” And yet, he continued to warn of “World War III” and a “nuclear holocaust” because nobody told him specifically to stop.
UPDATE: Dan Froomkin reported today that Bush deceptively “changed the way he talked about Iran” starting in August. “Instead of directly condemning Iranian leaders for pursuing nuclear weapons, he started more vaguely accusing them of seeking the knowledge necessary to make such a weapon. Even as he did that, however, he and the vice president accelerated their rhetorical efforts to persuade the public that the nuclear threat posed by Iran was grave and urgent.”