Salon: Former CIA officers report Bush 'didn't give a fuck about intelligence'
Months before the Iraq invasion, President Bush apparently ignored a 2002 Oval Office briefing in which CIA director George Tenet provided the president with intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction, according to former Clinton advisor and Salon columnist Sidney Blumenthal.
Reporting in Salon, Blumenthal writes that according to his sources, two former CIA officers,"Bush dismissed as worthless this information from the Iraqi foreign minister, a member of Saddam's inner circle, although it turned out to be accurate in every detail. Tenet never brought it up again."
Blumenthal also adds that the intelligence from that day was left out of the National Intelligence Estimate of October 2002, which definitively stated that Iraq had WMD.
"The president had no interest in the intelligence," a CIA officer disclosed. "Bush didn't give a fuck about the intelligence. He had his mind made up."
"No one in Congress was aware of the secret intelligence that Saddam had no WMD as the House of Representatives and the Senate voted, a week after the submission of the NIE, on the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq," Blumenthal writes. "The information, moreover, was not circulated within the CIA among those agents involved in operations to prove whether Saddam had WMD."
Blumenthal's sources confirm a 2006 interview with the CIA's chief of clandestine operations for Europe, Tyler Drumheller, who told CBS's 60 Minutes that his agency had received intelligence from Saddam Hussein's foreign minister, Naji Sabri, indicating Iraq possessed no WMD.
"[The two former CIA officers] have confirmed Drumheller's account to me and provided the background to the story of how the information that might have stopped the invasion of Iraq was twisted in order to justify it," Blumenthal reports. "They described what Tenet said to Bush about the lack of WMD, and how Bush responded, and noted that Tenet never shared Sabri's intelligence with then Secretary of State Colin Powell."
Powell would later present US evidence justifying the preemptive invasion of Iraq to the United Nations--without knowledge of the Sabri information.
The former officials instead say that the information was "distorted in a report written to fit the preconception that Saddam did have WMD programs." That information was in turn passed to British intelligence, who used it in briefing Prime Minister Tony Blair as to validation for going to war.
"Tenet told me he briefed the president personally," one of the former CIA officers informed Blumenthal, referring to the Oval Office briefing session on Sept. 18, 2002. Bush, reportedly, thought the information was 'the same old thing,' insisting it was only what Hussein wished him to think.
Prior to Bush's briefing, CIA deputy director John McLaughlin, although reportedly excited about Sabri's report, was concerned that the information conflicted with a source code-named "Curveball," who was to be revealed later as a former Iraqi taxi driver pretending to be a chemical engineer.
Continuing to believe that the Iraqi foreign minister's information was significant, the officers were told by a Tenet deputy that "You haven't figured this out yet. This isn't about intelligence. It's about regime change."
"In the congressional debate over the Authorization for the Use of Military Force," Blumenthal writes that "even those voting against it gave credence to the notion that Saddam possessed WMD...Not a single senator contested otherwise...none of them had an inkling of the Sabri intelligence."
As war approached, the officers on Sabri's case attempted to set up a defection for the foreign minister in order to help show that he stood behind his information. "He dithered," said one officer, and the war began before anything could come of the plan.
"The real tragedy is that they had a good source that they misused," said one of the former CIA officers. "The fact is there was nothing there, no threat. But Bush wanted to hear what he wanted to hear."
Read the full story in Salon here.