White House Refuses To Deny Spying On Iraqi Prime Minister

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"White House Refuses To Deny Spying On Iraqi Prime Minister"

Excerpts from investigative journalist Bob Woodward’s new book, “The War Within: A Secret White House History, 2006-2008,” reveal that the White House has conducted an “extensive spying operation” on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, supposedly one of the Bush administration’s strongest allies.

Today in the press briefing, reporters gave White House Press Secretary Dana Perino a chance to deny the allegations. Perino refused to do so, however, adding that she wouldn’t even comment on the book:

Q To follow up on that Dana, why are you not simply denying the allegations in Woodward’s book?

MS. PERINO: Why am I not denying what allegations?

Q Denying that there is — that spying —

MS. PERINO: I didn’t deny it. I said I declined to comment on it. And I will decline to comment on it.

Watch it:

The Iraq government reacted sharply to the allegations today. Spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said that Baghdad plans to press the Bush administration for an explanation. “It reflects also that the institutions in the United States are used to spy on their friends and their enemies in the same way,” al-Dabbagh said in a statement.

Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Ron Suskind also recently revealed that U.S. intelligence agencies had tapped the phones of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated last year.

Transcript:

Q Dana, to the Woodward book, if you have any comments on the Woodward book in general? And particularly, the allegations of spying on the Iraqi government? The Iraqi government spokesman said today, “If it is true, it casts a shadow on the future relations with such institutions,” referring to the CIA and others. And your concerns about whether this might slow down any sort of strategic forces agreement?

MS. PERINO: Okay. I haven’t — I don’t have a copy of the book yet. We did receive one or two at the White House late yesterday evening, and they are working through it. So all I know is the coverage of the book that I’ve seen, and that I’ve read in news reports of it. […]

So with that said, I would just point to the fact that we would not comment on any of the assertions in the book regarding the allegation that you brought up. What I can tell you is we have extensive cooperation with Prime Minister Maliki. Our ambassador sees him almost daily. President Bush speaks to him by secure video teleconference at least every other week, if not more. And we have a good idea of what Prime Minister Maliki is thinking, because he tells us very frankly and very candidly, as often as he can.

And that’s one of the reasons we’ve been able to succeed in a lot of these different areas, especially in the economic, diplomatic and security areas. […]

Q To follow up on that Dana, why are you not simply denying the allegations in Woodward’s book?

MS. PERINO: Why am I not denying what allegations?

Q Denying that there is — that spying —

MS. PERINO: I didn’t deny it. I said I declined to comment on it. And I will decline to comment on it.

Q And also, what is the latest on the negotiations with the Iraqi government on the strategic framework agreement? Is there a possibility that any announcement on this will be coupled with an announcement on the troop —

MS. PERINO: I don’t believe so. I don’t think that they’re going to be coupled. We still have some things to work out with them. And our negotiators had a little bit of a break over the past week and I’m sure they’ll be starting that up again early next week and let me give you an update when we — when they get back. But I don’t think that that announcement would be coupled. If that changes I’ll let you know.

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