Today during a White House teleconference, a Fox News reporter asked whether President Bush “fully accepts” the conclusions of the latest NIE, which said that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.
“Has he admitted the possibility at all in his mind that the analysts may be wrong about this?” asked the reporter. Perino replied that Bush has not expressed “anything but support” for the NIE’s findings:
PERINO: I’ve not heard the President express anything but support for the intelligence community. But I think what he has said, and he has repeated both privately and publicly, is that he does not believe that the NIE that was produced — was it two months ago — should provide anyone any comfort that Iran is not a threat. In fact, it underscored for him and for many others, as we’ve learned from around this region, that they also believe that Iran remains a threat.
But over the weekend, Newsweek reported that in private meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Bush disowned the U.S. intelligence community’s judgments:
“He told the Israelis that he can’t control what the intelligence community says, but that [the NIE’s] conclusions don’t reflect his own views” about Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, said the official, who would discuss intelligence matters only on the condition of anonymity.
The reporter said his question was based on exchanges Bush had with Fox News reporter Greta Van Susteren, who will be airing those interviews on Wednesday.