Back during 2002 and early 2003 it was near-universally understood that there was conflict between the top leadership of the Bush administration and the bulk of the CIA over Iraq and Iraq-related intelligence. After all, before the push for war began the CIA issued a January 2002 tour de horizon of the global proliferation situation and offered a pretty anodyne assessment of the Iraqi nuclear threat: “Iraq has probably continued at least low-level theoretical R&D associated with its nuclear program.” Since back during this period the bulk of Washington was backing the war, the common assumption was that the CIA was deliberately understating the threat thanks to the CIA’s legendary pacifism.
But then of course it turned out that the CIA had actually been somewhat overstating Iraq’s WMD capabilities and the administration has been wildly overstating the intelligence plus doing some exaggerating, distorting, etc. on the side. At which point suddenly poor Bush became the victim of a CIA and it was all their fault. The story never made much sense, but unfortunately enough powerful people had agreed with Bush about invading Iraq that few really wanted to peer too deeply into this. But here comes a new memo from Henry Waxman and the House Government Oversight Committee kicking another brick out of the wall.
This one concerns the bogus Niger “yellowcake” claims. On behalf of Condoleezza Rice, several years back Alberto Gonzales assured congress that the mistaken claims in Bush speeches had been cleared with the CIA, and the CIA signed off. Not so — Matt Corley guides you through the new information:
During an interview with the Committee, John Gibson, who served as Director of Speechwriting for Foreign Policy at the National Security Council (NSC), stated that he tried to insert the uranium claim into this speech at the request of Michael Gerson, chief White House speechwriter, and Robert Joseph, the Senior Director for Proliferation Strategy, Counterproliferation, and Homeland Defense at the NSC. According to Mr. Gibson, the CIA rejected the uranium claim because it was “not sufficiently reliable to include it in the speech.” Mr. Gibson stated that the CIA “didn’t give that blessing,” the “CIA was not willing to clear that language,” and “[a]t the end of the day, they did not clear it.”
When National Security Council staff refused to take the uranium claim out of Bush’s Sept. 26, 2002 speech, Jami Miscik, the Deputy Director of Intelligence at the CIA, called Rice personally to request it be removed:
According to Ms. Miscik, the CIA’s reasons for rejecting the uranium claim “had been conveyed to the NSC counterparts” before the call, and Dr. Rice was “getting on the phone call with that information.” Ms. Miscik told Dr. Rice personally that the CIA was “recommending that it be taken out.” She also said “[i]t turned out to be a relatively short phone call” because “we both knew what the issues were and therefore were able to get to a very easy resolution of it.”
But, you know, democracy whiskey sexy.