Yesterday, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley told reporters that President Bush was first briefed on the National Intelligence Estimate’s conclusions on Wednesday, Nov. 28.
But today in an interview with CNN, Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker’s Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative journalist, revealed that Bush actually knew about the NIE at least two days earlier and had a “private discussion” about it with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert before the Middle East peace summit in Annapolis, MD, last week:
Israel objects to this report. I’m told that Olmert had a private discussion with Bush about it during Annapolis — before Annapolis. Bush briefed him about it. The Israelis were very upset about the report. They think we’re naive, they don’t think we get it right. And so they have a different point of view.
Bush had two meetings with Olmert — one on Monday, Nov. 26, and one on Wednesday, Nov. 28. But as Hersh makes clear, Bush discussed the NIE with Olmert at the first meeting before the conference, on Nov. 26 — two days before Hadley alleged that Bush first was briefed on the report. This revelation provides evidence that the Bush administration is misleading about when it first learned that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program.
UPDATE: Last night on NBC News, Brian Williams reported, “[D]uring last week’s Middle East peace conference where so much of the talk was centered around the Iran threat, US intelligence officials had information indicating they knew better, and the administration said so today.”
BLITZER: But you were suggesting that there was a real run-up to war developing within the administration, even as there were some in the administration — the intelligence community — suggesting, Hey, hold off. Maybe they did suspend or freeze their nuclear weapons program.
HERSH: Well, of course. I think it’s still not over.
BLITZER: Because I want to press you on this. Does that mean, now that this new NIE has been released publicly, it is over, the run-up to a potential military confrontation with Iran?
HERSH: Well, there’s always Israel.
BLITZER: What’s that mean?
HERSH: Well, it means that Israel can always decide to take military action, or with us covertly. Israel objects to this report. I’m told that Olmert had a private discussion with Bush about it during Annapolis — before Annapolis. Bush briefed him about it. The Israelis were very upset about the report. They think we’re naive, they don’t think we get it right. And so they have a different point of view.