Post: Niger story proved irresistible to Bush speechwriters

RAW STORY
Published: Saturday April 8, 2006

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A front page story in Sunday's Washington Post details the 'concerted effort' pushed forth by the Bush Administration to discredit a critic of the war in Iraq, which went so far as to leak intelligence that had already been disproven.

Excerpts from the article written by Barton Gellman and Dafna Linzer:

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Libby is charged with perjury and obstruction of justice for denying under oath that he disclosed Plame's CIA employment to journalists. There is no public evidence to suggest Libby made any such disclosure with Cheney's knowledge. But according to Libby's grand jury testimony, described for the first time in legal papers filed this week, Cheney "specifically directed" Libby in late June or early July 2003 to pass information to reporters from two classified CIA documents: an October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate and a March 2002 summary of Wilson's visit to Niger.

One striking feature of that decision -- unremarked until now, in part because Fitzgerald did not mention it -- is that the evidence Cheney and Libby selected to share with reporters had been disproved months before.

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Iraq's alleged uranium shopping had been strongly disputed in the intelligence community from the start. In a closed Senate hearing in late September 2002, shortly before the October NIE was completed, then-director of central intelligence George J. Tenet and his top weapons analyst, Robert Walpole, expressed strong doubts about the uranium story, which had recently been unveiled publicly by the British government. The State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, likewise, called the claim "highly dubious." For those reasons, the uranium story was relegated to a brief inside passage in the October estimate.

But the White House Iraq Group, formed in August 2002 to foster "public education" about Iraq's "grave and gathering danger" to the United States, repeatedly pitched the uranium story. The alleged procurement was a minor issue for most U.S. analysts -- the hard part for Iraq would be enriching uranium, not obtaining the ore, and Niger's controlled market made it an unlikely seller -- but the Niger story proved irresistible to speechwriters. Most nuclear arguments were highly technical, but the public could easily grasp the link between uranium and a bomb.

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Full article at this link.