Murray Waas (hat tip Jeff) has a great new article detailing how Stephen Hadley completed a review of the claims Bush made and the intelligence he used to make those claims. Hadley determined that Bush had made claims that he had previously been warned were challenged within the Intelligence Community. In particular, Bush's claims about the aluminum tubes were shaky:
For one, Hadley's review concluded that Bush had been directly and repeatedly apprised of the deep rift within the intelligence community over whether Iraq wanted the high-strength aluminum tubes for a nuclear weapons program or for conventional weapons.
For another, the president and others in the administration had cited the aluminum tubes as the most compelling evidence that Saddam was determined to build a nuclear weapon -- even more than the allegations that he was attempting to purchase uranium.
Go read Waas' story. I'd just like to point out a few implications of Waas' story, about the timing of Hadley's review, about Judy's testimony, about the orders to leak information from the NIE, and about the SSCI report.
The Timing of Hadley's Review
Waas provides no exact date for when Hadley's review took place. He describes Rove warning White House aides they needed to insulate the President "shortly after" Hadley completed the review in summer 2003.
Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser, cautioned other White House aides in the summer of 2003 that Bush's 2004 re-election prospects would be severely damaged if it was publicly disclosed that he had been personally warned that a key rationale for going to war had been challenged within the administration. Rove expressed his concerns shortly after an informal review of classified government records by then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley determined that Bush had been specifically advised that claims he later made in his 2003 State of the Union address -- that Iraq was procuring high-strength aluminum tubes to build a nuclear weapon -- might not be true, according to government records and interviews.
Waas then describes Hadley's review to be part of the damage control effort in response to Wilson's allegations (though Waas does not specify whether this effort started before Wilson came out publicly in July 2003).
The previously undisclosed review by Hadley was part of a damage-control effort launched after former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV alleged that Bush's claims regarding the uranium were not true.
Finally, Waas portrays the damage control assessment as being part of a three-prong effort to respond to Wilson's allegations.
The pre-election damage-control effort in response to Wilson's allegations and the broader issue of whether the Bush administration might have misrepresented intelligence information to make the case for war had three major components, according to government records and interviews with current and former officials: blame the CIA for the use of the Niger information in the president's State of the Union address; discredit and undermine Wilson; and make sure that the public did not learn that the president had been personally warned that the intelligence assessments he was citing about the aluminum tubes might be wrong.
Nowhere in the article does Waas provide an exact date for this review. Did it happen the week of July 7?
One of the reasons I'm so interested in the date of the review is because of an observation I made about Judy's account of her testimony. Using a bunch of narratological mumbo jumbo, I argued that anything Judy said in direct discourse was a lie, the story Libby coached her to tell, both of them knowing it was a lie.
Judy then goes on to relate--using direct discourse--what Libby said to her during [the June 23] meeting. Now, I said earlier that I think all of the times Judy uses direct discourse, she is actually relating what Libby told her to say--but knew was incorrect--rather than what Libby told her as the truth. The other examples are all pretty clearly misinformation: Valerie Flame. Victoria Wilson. And Libby the "former Hill staffer." The last of these, even Judy admitted was Libby explicitly asking her to mislead.
And the stuff Judy recounts as Libby's honest portrayal just doesn't pass the sniff test. Mostly, that's because Libby spins what we know to be the truth as lies, pretending that claims that Cheney (these are Judy's words) "embraced skimpy intelligence ... while ignoring evidence to the contrary" was (and these are Libby's) "'highly distorted'." The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), under a lot of pressure from Cheney, would beg to differ--and that's even before we get to Phase II of their investigation! Most interesting is that Libby used precisely the same formulation to describe CIA actions relating to Wilson's trip, as Tenet would in his mea culpa. The CIA "took it upon itself to try and figure out more." Tenet says they did so "on their own initiative." It appears that everything Judy wrote in her notes was talking points which Libby (and presumably Judy, although who knows how credulous she really is?) knew to be false.
So consider the implications, if I'm right. That means that all of the following direct discourse statements are simply the story Libby wanted Judy to write, not his depiction of reality:
"Was the intell slanted?"
The CIA was guilty of "selective leaking."
Their strategy was, "if we find [WMDs], fine, if not, we hedged."
Reports of Cheney embracing skimpy intelligence were "highly distorted."
The CIA "took it upon itself to try and find out more" by sending "a clandestine guy" to investigate.
"Veep didn't know of Joe Wilson ... Veep never knew what he did or what was said. Agency did not report to us."
"Wife works in bureau?"
"No briefer came in and said, 'You got it wrong, Mr. President,'"
In other words, I argued, all these assertions (which Judy presented as Libby telling the truth) were really the tale that Libby asked Judy to spread.
Look at the last of these:
"No briefer came in and said, 'You got it wrong, Mr. President,'"
Thanks to Waas, we now know that in October 2002, a briefer came in and said, "Mr. President, you're making claims the Intelligence Community doesn't agree on."
The summary said that although "most agencies judge" that the aluminum tubes were "related to a uranium enrichment effort," the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Energy Department's intelligence branch "believe that the tubes more likely are intended for conventional weapons."
Not quite, "You got it wrong." But if Hadley had completed his review before this June 23 meeting, it may well mean that Scooter Libby was trying to plant a denial of precisely the conclusion Hadley had just reached in his review: that the President had gotten it wrong. (If Hadley did the review later, then this argument doesn't hold.)
Leaking the NIE
And Hadley's review may have contributed to the orderly leakage of the NIE. What better way to insulate Bush against charges that he ignored the one-page NIE summary then by leaking the passages of the full NIE that support Bush's claims? Again, this raises the question of timing, since Bob Woodward says he was given details of the NIE in June (and Fitzgerald says Libby testified to leaking details in June).
I have four pages of typed notes from this interview, and I testified that there is no reference in them to Wilson or his wife. A portion of the typed notes shows that Libby discussed the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, mentioned "yellowcake" and said there was an "effort by the Iraqis to get it from Africa. It goes back to February '02." This was the time of Wilson's trip to Niger.
But it also returns us to the question of which superiors ordered Libby to leak classified information.
First, we learn from this that the intent of the July 8 conversation--the one where Judy had to come to DC for breakfast at the St. Regis? Well, the stated reason for that meeting was so Libby could leak the classified contents of the NIE to Judy. Now, apparently Libby "was authorized to dislcose information about the NIE to the press by his superiors." (6) Hmm. Libby is the Chief of Staff to the VP. Who are his superiors. Hold on, I know!! Dick Cheney! George Bush!
I don't really know whether Bush is the one who ordered Libby to leak this. In a previous column, Waas said,
The public correspondence does not mention the identities of the "superiors" who authorized the leaking of the classified information, but people with firsthand knowledge of the matter identified one of them as Cheney. Libby also testified that he worked closely with then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove in deciding what information to leak to the press to build public support for the war, and later, postwar, to defend the administration's use of prewar intelligence.
Cheney, definitely (no surprise there). And Hadley and Rove--both mentioned prominently in today's article--were involved.
I may be going too far in speculating about the implications of Waas' article, but I'm guessing that the NIE leakage was a direct response to Hadley's report, an attempt to inoculate Bush against charges that he ignored the NIE Summary he received in October 2002.
The SSCI Report
One final point that Waas makes, returning to his earlier reporting on Addington's and Libby's efforts to withhold information from the SSCI.
As National Journal first disclosed on its Web site on October 27, 2005, Cheney, Libby, and Cheney's current chief of staff, David Addington, rejected advice given to them by other White House officials and decided to withhold from the committee crucial documents that might have shown that administration claims about Saddam's capabilities often went beyond information provided by the CIA and other intelligence agencies. Among those documents was the President's Summary of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate.
In July 2004, when the Intelligence Committee released a 511-page report on its investigation of prewar intelligence by the CIA and other agencies, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said in his own "Additional Views" to the report, "Concurrent with the production of a National Intelligence Estimate is the production of a one-page President's Summary of the NIE. A one-page President's Summary was completed and disseminated for the October 2002 NIE ... though there is no mention of this fact in [this] report. These one-page NIE summaries are ... written exclusively for the president and senior policy makers and are therefore tailored for that audience."
In short, this NIE Summary, the one that proves Bush knew that he was making dodgy claims, was among the material that Addington and Libby refused to turn over to the SSCI. And they refused to turn it over even while Durbin insisted that only the Summary would reveal what Bush knew and when he knew it.
They deliberately refused to turn over the evidence that Bush knew the intelligence was dodgy.
But it's not too late. It seems to me this NIE Summary is precisely the kind of thing the Phase II investigation needs to have to be able to determine whether BushCo politicized the intelligence. C'mon, Senate
Whitewash Intelligence Committee, Murray Waas has done your work for you. Tell us again, did President Bush politicize the intelligence?
Update: Check out eRiposte's November 2005 catch from the Robb-Silberman report describing the contents of the NIE Summary.