Many on the right claim that the Bush administration launched a smear campaign against Joe Wilson because his claims were false and they needed to set the record straight. The opposite is true. Wilson’s core conclusion – that intelligence “was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat” – was correct. It immediately set into motion a series of events that were not only politically damaging but began to expose how the nation was misled into war. The campaign to smear Joe Wilson was a desperate effort to stop the bleeding.

(Comment on this report here)

July 6, 2003

Wilson Op-Ed Appears In the New York Times: Wilson story: “Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.” [NYT, 7/6/03]

2 Days Later (July 8)

Financial Times: Nuclear Claim Was Based On “Bogus” Information: “The White House on Monday admitted that an assertion by President George W. Bush this year that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium from Africa was based on ‘bogus’ information.” [Financial Times, 7/8/03]

3 Days Later (July 9)

White House Press Secretary Acknowledges Uranium Claim Did Not Rise To Level of Presidential Speech: FLEISCHER: After the speech, information was learned about the forged documents. With the advantage of hindsight, it’s known now what was not known by the White House prior to the speech. This information should not have risen to the level of a presidential speech. [WH Press Briefing, 7/9/03]

Rumsfeld Acknowledges Uranium Claims Were False: PRYOR: When did you know, Secretary Rumsfeld — when did you know that the reports about uranium coming out of Africa were bogus? RUMSFELD: Oh, within recent days, since the information started becoming available. [Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, 7/9/03]

BBC Reveals That The CIA Warned White House Uranium Claims Were Untrue: “The CIA warned the US Government that claims about Iraq’s nuclear ambitions were not true months before President Bush used them to make his case for war, the BBC has learned. Doubts about a claim that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from the African state of Niger were aired 10 months before Mr Bush included the allegation in his key State of the Union address this year, the CIA has told the BBC.” [BBC, 7/9/03]

State Department Analyst Says Senior Officials Misused Intelligence: “A former State Department intelligence analyst said today that senior officials misused the information they were provided.” Greg Thielmann, former State Department analyst: “This Administration has had a faith-based intelligence attitude. It is a top down use of intelligence. We know the answers. Give us the intelligence that support the answers.” [ABC World News Tonight, 7/9/03]

Bush Credibility Suffers; Congress Calls For Investigation

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI): “The reported White House statements only reinforce the importance of an inquiry into why the information about the bogus uranium sales didn’t reach the policy-makers during 2002 and why, as late as the president’s State of the Union address in January 2003, our policy-makers were still using information which the intelligence community knew was almost certainly false.” [AP, 7/9/03]

SEN. BEN NELSON (D-NE): “There is a credibility issue that has to be resolved.” [USA Today, 7/9/03]

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D-FL): “What else don’t we know?” [USA Today, 7/9/03]

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD): “This is a very important admission. It’s a recognition that we were provided faulty information. And I think it’s all the more reason why a full investigation of all of the facts surrounding this situation be undertaken.” [AP, 7/9/03]

4 Days Later (July 10)

Powell Acknowledges Uranium Evidence Was Not Strong Enough For Presentation to U.N.: POWELL: I didn’t use the uranium at that point because I didn’t think that was sufficiently strong as evidence to present before the world. [Briefing, 7/10/03]

Skepticism Grows Over Entire Presentation of Pre-War Iraq Intelligence: Bush “did not directly answer a question about whether he regretted including in his State of the Union address this year a statement that Iraq had tried to acquire uranium in Niger for use in a nuclear weapons program.””¦ “The administration’s failure so far to find any substantial caches of chemical or biological weapons and the weakening of its case that Mr. Hussein was trying to rebuild his nuclear program have fed deep skepticism among many opponents of the war that Iraq was as much of a threat as Mr. Bush made it out to be.” [NYT, 7/10/03]

CBS Lead Story: White House Knew: “We begin tonight with a CBS News exclusive about one of the President Bush’s central reasons for going to war with Iraq. The White House now admits the accusation was based on what was later found to be false intelligence. What you didn’t hear, and what CBS News has learned tonight, was that the White House was warned in advance the intelligence was unreliable, but still used it in the President’s State of the Union address.” [CBS, 7/10/03]

5 Days Later (July 11)

Rice Acknowledges Uranium Claim Did Not Rise To Level of Presidential Speech: RICE: We’ve said that given subsequent information abut the Niger documents, this — and some of the apparent uncertainty that was out there — it doesn’t rise to the level that we would put in a presidential speech. [White House Gaggle, 7/11/03]

Tenet Accepts Responsibility For CIA’s Role: TENET: These 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the President. [Statement, 7/11/03]

Media Begins Reporting That State Department Viewed Uranium Intelligence As “Highly Dubious”: “A CIA report that came out in October 2002 mentioned the allegations but did not give them full credence, stating ‘we cannot confirm whether Iraq succeeded in acquiring uranium ore.’ In addition, the report noted that State Department intelligence analysts found the allegations ‘highly dubious.'” [AP, 7/11/03]

8 Days Later (July 14)

New Information Suggests Aluminum Tubes Evidence May Have Been Exaggerated: “It was Kofi Annan’s inspectors who first discovered that the Niger documents were fake. But there were also questions about another charge in the President’s State of the Union speech last January, accusing Iraq of buying custom-made aluminum tubes to produce a nuclear weapon”¦ a former State Department official says he and Energy Department experts warned months earlier that the tubes were not designed to produce nuclear weapons.” Former State Department official Greg Thielmann: “We had high confidence that the aluminum tubes were not intended for the Iraqi nuclear weapons program.” [NBC Nightly News, 7/14/03]

9 Days Later (July 15)

CIA Inspector General Launches Investigation: CIA’s “inspector general has begun an investigation of how tainted intelligence on Iraq’s nuclear program found its way into a presidential speech, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. A US official said that CIA Inspector General John Helgerson has begun looking into the intelligence on uranium at the request of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.” [Washington Times, 7/15/03]

12 Days Later (July 18)

White House Again Admits Information Should Not Have Risen To Level of Presidential Speech: SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: “¦[T]hat information didn’t rise to the level of a presidential speech. [Background Briefing, 7/18/03]

16 Days Later (July 22)

Hadley Acknowledges President Has To Take Ultimate Responsibility: QUESTION: And I understand that. I just don’t quite understand why Director Tenet takes responsibility for the Agency that he is in charge of, yet the President does not take ultimate responsibility for this failure, this mistake? HADLEY: In some sense, we all work for the President of the United States: Director Tenet, we here… And the President is going to have to make decisions about, with respect to both organizations, how to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. [Briefing, 7/22/03]