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March 30, 2006

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» Uranium from Africa and the Aluminum Tubes - Some Observations on the Recent Articles by Murray Waas (Part 1) from The Left Coaster
Murray Waas has been publishing a series of important articles in National Journal on the uranium/Nigergate/Plamegate matter and the aluminum tubes issue (note that others in the blogosphere have discussed his latest article). I am going to use this op... [Read More]

» Uranium from Africa and the Aluminum Tubes - Some Observations on the Recent Articles by Murray Waas (Part 1) from The Left Coaster
Murray Waas has been publishing a series of important articles in National Journal on the uranium/Nigergate/Plamegate matter and the aluminum tubes issue (note that others in the blogosphere have discussed his latest article). I am going to use this op... [Read More]

» WMDgate: Fixing Intelligence Around Policy, Part 5: The Anatomy of a Cover-Up from The Left Coaster
This post is part of a series (see Introduction and Parts 1, 2A-1, 2A-2, 2A-3, 2A-4, 2A-5, 2B-1, 2B-2, 2C, 3, 3A, 4A) focused on building a case to demonstrate the Bush White House's intelligence manipulation, fixing and misrepresentation, mostly... [Read More]

Comments

And was Sen. Pat Roberts complicit in the non-acquisition of key documents?

This is grist for a special select committee of the Senate ... not an Intel Subcmte.

Thanks emptywheel, great post and of course, the relevance to the Intelligence Committee is brilliant in its practicality.

Gee, good thing Sen. Roberts waited before moving to Phase II. Now he has some data. He's something, that Roberts. Always doing the right thing.

RonK

You and what army.

Here's a passage from a post I wrote in response to Waas' first article on this withheld summary:

Then, they went after the White House.
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said Sunday that President Bush's aides had pledged to provide "every document" they have been denying the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence,

Sounds like Roberts has those SAOs bowed down in terror, huh? Until you finish the sentence, that is.

but the White House replied with a noncommittal statement.

Or read further.

"I have talked with very top White -- or almost the top, you know, White House official, and he has promised that," Roberts said. "Every document we want will be made available."

That would be a remarkable concession by the White House, which has long resisted yielding internal records to Capitol Hill, even about matters less sensitive than war planning. The White House later issued a statement after Roberts's appearance that stopped far short of the commitment he described.

[snip]

"While the committee's jurisdiction does not cover the White House, we want to be helpful," the statement continued. "We will continue to talk to and work with the committee in a spirit of cooperation."

Roberts sounds like a manly man, huh?

And don't forget that Fristie threatened to shut down the Senate if the SSCI pushed for these things. They had a confrontation not dissimilar to the one they recently had on the NSA spying program.

Ought to be a tip-off that OVP is trying to cover up crimes again.

I'm going to reiterate my suspicion that that Judy direct discourse is tangible evidence of this campaign: The entire conversation matches the campaign Waas describes:

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.

I find it curious that any internal dissent at all remained in the presidential summary. I mean, after hacking the collected analyses of the intelligence agencies on Iraq down to 90 pages (a footnote of dissent on the tubes, right?), then further cutting that document into a single-page summary.... it just seems odd that any lingering hints of doubt remained. How does stuff that gets chucked into a footnote at one level of summary reclaim prominence at a deeper level of summary?

My cynical hunch is that this classified presidential summary was not so much a summary of (the summary of) the intelligence agencies' findings, but rather a report on how well the NIE intelligence had been fixed. Instead of actual summary wording like, "INR disputes that the tubes are for centrifuges because...," my guess is that it's more along the lines of, "There is a continued risk that the INR dissent over aluminum tubes may come back to bite us on the ass."

Jane Hamsher just posted this at FDL: "I’m very excited to announce that on June 9, 2006 we’ll be having a panel at the Yearly Kos convention to discuss the CIA leak investigation. I’ll be moderating, and the panel members will be:
. Christy Hardin Smith, former prosecutor and blogger at Firedoglake
. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, husband of Valerie Plame and author of The Politics of Truth.
. Marcy Wheeler, who blogs as "emptywheel" at The Next Hurrah
. Larry Johnson, former CIA official and blogger at No Quarter
. Dan Froomkin, whose column "White House Briefing" appears at the washingtonpost.com"

Bush, Cheney, Rove, Libby, Hadley, Rice, Roberts and company have all the attributes I associate with the Devil.

This comment is a response to William Ockham, who wondered whether Tenet is the source for this article (I thought I'd put it here and hope he sees it). If this story is sourced to Tenet, it's rather interesting, because this article asserts something the CIA had tried to refute in the past. Today's claim:

Behind the scenes, the White House and Tenet had coordinated their statements for maximum effect. Hadley, Libby, and Rove had reviewed drafts of Tenet's statement days in advance. And Hadley and Rove even suggested changes in the draft, according to government records and interviews.

The claim of some leaker who appears to know Rove and Libby well:

Back at the White House, Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby had been at work all week, along with Ms. Rice's deputy, Stephen Hadley, helping to craft a statement that was issued on Friday by George Tenet, the C.I.A. director. Mr. Tenet did precisely what the White House needed: he took responsibility for the inclusion of the 16 words on uranium in the president's speech, and he made clear that Mr. Cheney had neither dispatched Mr. Wilson to Niger nor been briefed on what he found there.

The claim of a "former senior CIA official":

On July 9, Tenet and top aides began to draft a statement over two days that ultimately said it was "a mistake" for the CIA to have permitted the 16 words about uranium to remain in Bush's speech. He said the information "did not rise to the level of certainty which should be required for presidential speeches, and the CIA should have ensured that it was removed."

A former senior CIA official said yesterday that Tenet's statement was drafted within the agency and was shown only to Hadley on July 10 to get White House input. Only a few minor changes were accepted before it was released on July 11, this former official said. He took issue with a New York Times report last week that said Rove and Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, had a role in Tenet's statement.

In other words, today's story seems to support the Libby-Rove version of how Tenet's mea culpa got written.

so is this new story part of the Plame indictment wars? so soon after the leak of Rove's "cooperation" with Fitzgerald seems kind of convenient timing to me....

I always figured that Tenet dealt with Hadley but hadley dealt with Rove and Libby, with or without Tenet's knowledge. No wonder Hadley thought he would be indicted--he should be. The "former senior government official" was either Tenet or Fleischer.

Why did Tenet quit? What was the final straw?

Time for Condi to call Paul Tagliabue abput that job opening. And Bush can succeed the hapless Bud Selig as baseball commissioner, Dick can retire to an undisclosed duck blind and we can have real, sane adults at the head of our government again.

Jane, I think this goes a long way in clarifying the actual meaning of the Rove/Hadley email.

Cooper talks to Rove of July 11, 2003 and Rove writes the email to Hadley:

"Matt Cooper called to give me a heads-up that he's got a welfare-reform story coming. When he finished his brief heads-up, he immediately launched into Niger. Isn't this damaging? Hasn't the president been hurt? I didn't take the bait, but I said if I were him, I wouldn't get Time far out in front on this."

As we've discussed, people have been thinking this was intentionally misleading or a forgery. That is, that Rove was trying to cover his tracks by telling Hadley that he didn't "take the bait" and mention Wilson's wife. Not at all. It's an accurate update. Shorthand, but not contradictory. What Rove is saying here is that Cooper called him, Cooper and he talked about Niger, Plame and the whole story. In this sense the word "Niger" is just a shorthand for the whole story that they are trying to get out. Cooper started asking questions like "Isn't this damaging? Hasn't the president been hurt? But, Rove didn't take the bait.

As we learn from Murray Waas today, the primary objective was to deflect responsibility or even awareness of Wilson's Niger trip and the entire aluminum tubes business from Bush, so "not taking the bait" meant that Rove didn't fall into the trap of giving up that Bush knew anything about Niger. Likewise, Rove cautioned Cooper not to get too far out ahead on this, meaning to stay clear of Bush in his reporting.

It all fits.

More on this and what it means here and here.

Sorry...i meant emptywheel...

I always make some big goof-up...

Still, I'd be interested in yout thought's...

MF

It may well be. But the welfare reform reference still stinks.

emptywheel,

I disagree with your reading of today's article. I think it splits the difference on the mea culpa in very interesting ways. In the Rove-Libby version, they worked with Hadley to write the statement. They clearly imply that Tenet was just a sock puppet. In the CIA version, Hadley gets a one-day advance preview and suggests minor changes. Neither of those is really likely. In today's version, Tenet and the White House work together (days in advance), but Hadley and Rove only "suggest changes". Waas sources the "Hadley and Rove even suggested changes" to government records and interviews. That sounds like somebody showed him the paper trail. I agree that that part of the article likely didn't come from Tenet. Actually that sounds like something Andy Card is dumb enough to do (but that's speculation even ranker than my normal stuff).

The bigger picture painted in the article is one of key White House personnel covering Bush's lies through a variety of nefarious activities. I really doubt that Rove and/or Libby is behind that. In one respect, I agree with Libby's lawyers in that this has always been about the pushback from the professionals (at State and CIA) against the Cabal.

There is a lot to chew on in Waas' piece. But for the moment, check this out, from Hadley and Bartlett's dramatic press conference on July 22, 2003, and look how close they came to having to deal with the apparent fact that the CIA's memo to Hadley et al two days before Bush's October 2002 Cincinnati speech dealt not only with the uranium business, but also with the aluminum tubes. Needless to say, this was a memo discovered by the CIA, not by Gerson or someone else at the White House. We pick up with Hadley speaking:

Today I learned of a second memorandum sent by the CIA on October 6. This is commenting on draft eight of the Cincinnati speech. And by this time, by draft eight, the reference to Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium has already been deleted from the speech, as DCI Tenet asked me to do in his telephone request. And what the memorandum does is provide some additional rationale for the removal of the uranium reference.

The memorandum describes some weakness in the evidence, the fact that the effort was not particularly significant to Iraq's nuclear ambitions because the Iraqis already had a large stock of uranium oxide in their inventory. The memorandum also stated that the CIA had been telling Congress that the Africa story was one of two issues where we differed with the British intelligence.

This memorandum was received by the Situation Room here in the White House, and it was sent to both Dr. Rice and myself.

Q So there were two issues --

MR. HADLEY: Yes. And the other issue I think was the aluminum tubes issue. But I'm not sure. We need to check that. I was not party to those conversations, so we're going to have to find out from the agency what the second issue was. And we can get that --

Q It doesn't say so in --

MR. HADLEY: No. It just says, one of two issues.

Q This memorandum is classified?

MR. HADLEY: Yes.

Q Are they about to be declassified?

MR. HADLEY: That's not my call.

MR. BARTLETT: I'll try to get answers to these questions. At this time, we do not -- we'll try to give you all the information we have as soon as we get it. We'll see what we can do as far as declassification.

MR. HADLEY: I'm not being flip. I'm not part of that declassification process.

Based on these memorandum, the fact is that I had been advised on October 5 that CIA had reservations about British reporting on attempts by Iraq to purchase up to 500 metric tons of uranium oxide from Africa, which I understood to involve Niger. And these reservations were reaffirmed by the CIA memorandum on October 6.

They dodged the bullet on that one, as the coverage the next day appears to have focused exclusively on the Niger uranium doubts.

EW

I agree it is still a puzzle. Best I've come up with on that is that Rove wasn't supposed to do his part until Novak had broken the story. He was headed out of town, so he figured he'd tell Cooper. Unlikely Time would break the story anyway, since they are a weekly. He was just letting Hadley know that he hadn't initiated the exchange with Cooper. Kinda weak but maybe it is some little white lie like that.

William

Fair enough. I was thinking just in response to your Tenet speculation. I strongly suspect McLaughlin was the source on the NYT article, or maybe Bill Harlow (or maybe both). So it's possible Tenet is taking a different approach.

Jeff

Wow, nice catch. Yes, they really did manage to avoid trouble on that one. Though the Press has always seemed to treat the aluminum tubes as insufficiently sexy for them, even if it did justify a war.

MF

I'm not saying you're wrong. It's just that the welfare reform has always come off as a real stretch...

EW

Just read the news over at DKos. Now I may have to come. Congratulations!


I would love to see Jeff on the panel as well, best commenter on Plame on the internet. I think it might be interesting to see if Leopold would go as well.

polly

I think you and Jeff own a piece of that title. Though Jeff does put in all the hard time over at Maguire's site.

I'd love to see you there.

I think &y's comment upthread is worth revisiting.

"My cynical hunch is that this classified presidential summary was not so much a summary of (the summary of) the intelligence agencies' findings, but rather a report on how well the NIE intelligence had been fixed."

A summary is not the place to reintroduce material. Unless.... it was only temporarily removed from the NIE for the purposes of misleading someone other than the president.
Maybe that someone other was the public but would they be looking that far into the future and given that the conspirators could reasonably expect the NIE to remain classified?

Or could it be because someone else who would see the NIE needed to be brought onboard?

If the summary backed up what they are saying then they would be falling all over themselves to release it. So it must be damaging.

I don't know enough about all this works but I think &y has a significant point that wararants more thought.

Any chance Libby is Waas' source here? It reads that way to me, especially in light of the recent speculation about Rove selling Libby out.

Emptywheel,
kudos for being on the dKos Convention panel.

I think it is a brilliant idea and having Joseph Wilson on it as well is nothing short of a coup.

Well if Congress won't do the job, go round 'em and do it yourself. Simply BRILLIANT!

EW,

Just FYI...I reported on the Oct 2002 briefing of Bush on this very topic last year...in my WMDgate series...
http://www.theleftcoaster.com/archives/006106.php#4

This National Journal article downplays reality.

Did differing "intelligence agencies" (CIA, DoD, State, Energy) have different opinions on the meaning of the aluminum tubes? Sure.

But the _actual_ scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratories, the actual Americans who manage/develop/refine the American uranium enrichment process, they knew that the tubes were not good for it.

We all have heard about the coatings.

But I've also heard that if these particular tubes were actually used to enrich uranium to levels required for uranium bombs... they'd split and break open!

National Journal, in treating all the intelligence departments equally (even listing Energy last, and no mention of the connection to Oak Ridge National Labs or actual scientists) does a disservice to the reading community.

Just wanted to second the "great find" comment regarding the 7/22/03 presser that Jeff found. Once again, nice work by Jeff.

And congrats to EW on being on the Kos panel, too.

eRiposte

Thanks for pointing that out--I pointed to that post today from the DKos thread, but didn't see that. Noted accordingly in the post.

Any thoughts, btw, on the possibility that MZM and SAIC and some other contractors were getting contracts tied to the Robb-Silberman committee? It's a curious concept, particularly given the fact that R-S didn't totally blow the investigation.

JS Narins

I agree with you--the experts refuted this publicly during 2002 (as eRiposte, among others, has pointed out). But pretend you're Bush, for a moment, and you have no way to assess expertise from a hole in the wall. To prove that Bush was not acting in good faith, you need to fall back to the position of just proving that Bush did know some of the intelligence agencies disputed the intelligence.

Sad state of affairs, but for a guy who has traded in his rationality for the endorsement of a couple of fancy religious demagogues, ...

According to the Nelson Report (via warandpeace), there's speculation about whether Josh Bolton, once he replaces Card, will fire Rumsfeld. The Nelson Report seems to lean in favor of the idea that Rummy will be gone. The Nelson Report then goes on to handicap replacement candidates for Rummy. Interestingly (or ludicrously) the Nelson Report lists Armitage as a dark-horse candidate.

I just pass this bit of supposedly high-level gossip so that everyone could get a laugh. Armitage as Sec of Defense?!? As if.

Jim E

Well, maybe Armitage knows more than he lets on. And he's at the point where he can choose to roll up the entire cabal, or play along and let Libby take the fall.

Yeah, right. I'm laughing with you.

Though Jeff does put in all the hard time over at Maguire's site.

very true, he does a great job..


Here's Boucher at State on the aluminum tubes. Quite a bit follows.


QUESTION: In addition to the controversy about the Niger allegation, the President in his State of the Union address talked about the metal tubes, the aluminum tubes, that he said in his State of the Union, "Saddam has attempted to purchase high strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production," and, yet, seven days later, a week later, Secretary Powell did mention it, but he talked about it in terms of, you know, there has been some disagreement about this, however, he still decided to include it.

Can you talk about why he decided to include that?
Press Briefing 7/14/03

Boucher again on 7/16/03


QUESTION: Can we go to Niger for a second?

In the week between the State of the Union Address and the Secretary's presentation at the UN, did Secretary Powell receive any additional information to further knock down the Niger uranium link?

MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary talked about this to, I think, great extent at his press conference at the White House Filing Center in South Africa. It is not so much a question of new information; it was a matter of going through the information in a different way, with the presence of all of the analysts, and finding that the Agency was not carrying it as a major item or a credible item at that point. Therefore, it was not included.
Press Briefing 7/14/03

I don't remember hearing about Powell having a press conference on the Africa trip. I can't find a Powell press conference yet.

Well, I think polly does a great job too, although we don't see her often enough.

Sorry for being slow, but it strikes me as painfully obvious that the aluminum tibe bit of the SOTU was written in the same spirt 0 how strong a statemtn can we make that is still true - as the uranium claim. That suggest the speechwriters were well aware of problems.

Here is the SOTU, via Waas:

The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production."

And how did Waas describe the Sept summary?

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."

As presented, those two assertions are not contradictory - INR may well have agreed that the tubes were suitable for nuclear weapons production, even if they considered another use to be more probable.

Just as sourcing the uranium to the Brits was true, but, hmm, aggressive.

One problem is, we don't know how the one page summary phrased the key passage. That said, the declassified NIE was clearly against my version of events:

INR accepts the judgment of technical experts at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) who have concluded that the tubes Iraq seeks to acquire are poorly suited for use in gas centrifuges to be used for uranium enrichment and finds unpersuasive the arguments advanced by others to make the case that they are intended for that purpose. INR considers it far more likely that the tubes are intended for another purpose, most likely the production of artillery rockets.

polly - back atchya.

It's obvious that Waas has multiple different sources for this story. But it's maddeningly difficult to tell whether the article is just the result of Waas' amazing investigative reporting or also a result of the ongoing tactical effort by players in the Plame and intelligence mess to frame the story. The sudden prominence of Hadley - in Libby's latest public motion to compel discovery and in Waas' article, as well as in Leopold's - makes it tempting to think there is something going on in the investigation that the players are aware of and are trying to spin in advance of the rest of us finding out. But if could just be a coincidence, or a matter of Waas following up on Hadley's prominence in the Libby motion.

As for timing, the White House talking points on the Niger business appear to have been set pretty early, by mid-June at the latest, which would speak to an earlier review by Hadley perhaps. But I can't tell whether that's really the case.

A couple of narrowly Plame-related facts: Waas is very clear that Rove and Libby's claim is that Rove talked with Novak on July 9 (not July 8, as has been periodically reported as well); and Waas specifies that the Libby-Rove conversation took place at the end of a White House senior staff meeting, on July 11.

Just to clarify what Hadley admits to on July 22, 2003: it appears the October 2002 memo from the CIA to Hadley regarding Bush's Cincinnati speech just observed that there were two issues that were controversial earlier on and that the Americans reminded the British were really qualified. I'm not sure the October 2002 memo specified that one of those matters was the aluminum tubes. But in any case, that was the other issue with the British in fall 2003.

polly - I've never been able to find Powell's South Africa press conference, but it appears to have taken place on July 10, if you look at this question from the July 11 2003 gaggle or press conference with Fleischer and Rice:

Q So a week later, Colin Powell goes to the U.N., and he decides, as he told us yesterday, not to put that sentence in at all. So what was the new development in those seven days that led him to take it out all together?

Similarly, on July 12 Fleischer references the briefing at the filing center on the evening of the 10th:

MR. FLEISCHER: Dr. Rice was always scheduled to brief yesterday, just as Secretary Powell was scheduled to brief at the filing center the night before. So we actually, literally the day before the trip or the week before the trip -- sit down. She was scheduled to brief on the flight to Nigeria. It was moved up to the morning flight. It was easier to do it that way, frankly, and to disseminate whatever she said.

But I've never been able to find the thing itself.

Ha! In an earlier version of the random observations comment I just posted, I had this:

One other observation: the 19 (or twenty, depending on how you count "high-strength") words in the SOTU was a knowing lie on Bush's part. But it sticks to technical, legalistic truth in two ways, and get ready to hear this from the righties, if Waas' story is big news: by using "suitable", and Bush never said "all our intelligence sources tell us," just that our intelligence sources tell us. It's pitiful, I know, but get ready for it.

Well, TM beat me to part of it anyway. And it's just a matter of time before the response to the damning NIE passage TM cites comes: Bush saying "suitable" is not inconsistent with the INR and DOE's judgment that the the tubes were "poorly suited" for uranium enrichment. After all, Bush didn't say they were "very well suitable", did he? He could have been including the possibility that they were "poorly suitable" in his more generic characterization of the tubes as "suitable." Nor is there a logical contradiction between saying that the tubes were suitable for uranium enrichment and the judgment that it was far more likely they were intended for some other purpose, to say nothing of the President's Summary's more watered down version that appears to have taken out the "far" before "more likely."

That, of course, is what we in the ordinary human world call a lie.

I think Waas has had Hadley in his sites since Rove testified a fourth time. And several of the details related are details that were being leaked last summer.

Here are two quotes from Howard Fineman's Rove at War article:

raveling in Africa, Secretary of State Colin Powell, who had long harbored doubts, disowned the "sixteen words" about Niger that had ended up in Bush's prewar State of the Union speech.

[snip]

Powell was ruled out. He wasn't a team player, as he had proved by his dismissive comments about the "sixteen words."

And a bonus quote? Here's how the entire article begins:

Karl Rove is a hunter. His favorite quarry in Texas is quail; in Washington, it's foes of George W. Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney.

Here's the July 10 2003 press briefing from Powell.

In one of my previous comments, I wrote "fall 2003" when I meant "fall 2002."

ew- Is it possible that Hadley himself is a source for Waas? Or is it more likely he gets his read on Hadley's state of mind and actions in summer 2003 from someone lower down who witnessed them?

Jeff, thanks for finding the Powell press briefing. A couple of Powells comments on Niger stood out.

but there wasn't enough that would say, take this one to the UN next week. So we didn't. We weren't trying to over-sell a case.

There was sufficient evidence floating around at that time that such a statement was not totally outrageous or not to be believed or not to be appropriately used.

EW, excellent bonus.

Hope to make it to Vegas. You going Jeff? Tom? Jim E?

Tom, I'll be by next week. I want to float this bit of speculation and see what you guys think.

Forgot to add, on the NSC

One group that may have known of the connection before that time is the handful of CIA officers detailed to the White House, where they work primarily on the National Security Council staff. A former NSC staff member said one or more of those officers may have been aware of the Plame-Wilson relationship.
WaPo 10/11/03

It suggested desperation and unsteadiness in a national security team that had often been heralded for its smooth competency.
Dickerson 2/7/06

Jeff

Yes, I do think it's possible. How else would Waas have the "almost declassified the NIE summary but then realized he couldn't" bit? Maybe from someone who worked directly with Hadley, but that's awfully close to Hadley. I'm still thinking about how it jibes with the rest of the story, though.

Polly

The first NSC quote likely refers to David Shedd, who had obviously been identified by October 2003 (by Corn at least) as a likely source for Plame's identity. But the national security team referred to by Dickerson probably doesn't relate exclusively to NSC. Condi and Hadley, sure. But I gotta believe he included Rove and Libby and Cheney and Rummy in that as well.

Thanks all around; this is a terrific diary and thread. Though I have little to add, I am impressed by the degree to which the Waas article not only colors the context of what we already know, but shows how Fitz's investigative playing field has shifted. Aluminum tubes, indeed.

I've heard talk that many analysts -- from the ground up -- expressed strong doubts about the tubes' relevance to a possible Iraqi uranium refinement program. (After all, the tubes had a clear and obvious ballistic application.) To trace the deceit from its origins, through Cheney and Judy Miller, up to Bush's State of the Union address, to Rice's after-the-fact lies about who knew what and when, and up to this very day with Pat Roberts' refusal to address or investigation the issue, why, that's worth a timeline diary, isn't it? I'm not really qualified to put it together, but I think it's one that everyone can understand.

But it sticks to technical, legalistic truth in two ways, and get ready to hear this from the righties, if Waas' story is big news...

Well, regardless of the fact that obvious does not equal false, my point was that the speechwriters wrote this passage as if they knew caveats were appropriate - I find that mildly telling.

As to whether it is a "lie", the declassified NIE includes this:

Most agencies believe that Saddam's personal interest in and Iraq's aggressive attempts to obtain high-strength aluminum tubes for centrifuge rotors--as well as Iraq's attempts to acquire magnets, high-speed balancing machines, and machine tools--provide compelling evidence that Saddam is reconstituting a uranium enrichment effort for Baghdad's nuclear weapons program. (DOE agrees that reconstitution of the nuclear program is underway but assesses that the tubes probably are not part of the program.)

One might argue that the dispute over the tubes is a technical point obscuring a larger picture of consensus, since even the DOE agreed that the nuclear program was being reconstituted. Here is the INR:

The Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research (INR) believes that Saddam continues to want nuclear weapons and that available evidence indicates that Baghdad is pursuing at least a limited effort to maintain and acquire nuclear weapons-related capabilities. The activities we have detected do not, however, add up to a compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing what INR would consider to be an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons.

I thought eriposte told us that the Times covered the tube dispute in Sept 2002; the IAEA debunked the tubes and the forgeries in March 2003 (Timely, yes? No.)

Polly - no Vegas for me. And although I understand that what is said in Vegas stays in Vegas, I am curious to see the EW after-action report - as the panelist most closely grounded in reality, she bears a special burden.

As to several people being in the Woodward interview with Official One - hard to credit that. But maybe someone stuck their head in, or a phone rang, or some such. But geez, who would interrupt Woodward and... well, anybody?

QS

I've been contemplating doing just that for some time now. So just you wait, you might see that out of me in the near future.

Too bad I'm crunching at work before I leave town next week...

EW is "the panelist most closely grounded in reality . . ."

I am continually amazed that Reddhead and Hamsher are so kind to TM.

my point was that the speechwriters wrote this passage as if they knew caveats were appropriate - I find that mildly telling.

I think I agree: it was telling of the fact that they knew there were problems, right? That seems to be part of the point of Waas' article. But it was also written in such a way as to deliberately convey a misleading impression, while not meeting, say, the technical definition of a lie, or the legal definition of perjury. That was part of my point. And far from being a technicality, the aluminum tubes was a piece of evidence, and a key piece in the SOTU, offered as part of the justification for war. There was a consensus with little basis in evidence, and then evidence that there was pretty major dispute over. It's like Tenet's infamous "slam dunk" comment: the CIA presents Bush with its most compelling evidence, Bush says it's not compelling enough, and Tenet says the case is a slam dunk, without anything to back it up and in the very face of what the President has just judged to be an inadequate case from his own agency. Lame all around.

You quote the INR's view. Well, if Bush had gotten up and said, "Here's what the State Department says:

Baghdad is pursuing at least a limited effort to maintain and acquire nuclear weapons-related capabilities. The activities we have detected do not, however, add up to a compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing what INR would consider to be an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons.

And I say to you, the American people, a limited effort to maintain and acquire nuclear weapons-related capabilities that does not add up to an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons is enough to go to war over," so be it, let the debate play out. But do you remember how Bush got laughed out of the house when, in the wake of the failure to find wmd, he fell back on claiming something or other about Iraq's wmd-program-related capabilities? I suspect that's what would have happened in early 2003 as well.

I thought eriposte told us that the Times covered the tube dispute in Sept 2002

If you're referring to Gordon and Miller's 9-13-02 followup to their infamous 9-8-02 article, that article does not come anywhere close to your rightly high standards for coverage of the tube dispute. I mean, disagreement from DOE and INR is discussed, but the whole thing is discussed from the perspective of the hard-liners (that's Gordon and Miller's term). From what I can tell, they did not seek out or at least did not find the actual advocates of the dissenting view. Here's a sampling of their "coverage":

Specifically, Washington officials said, some experts in the State Department and the Energy Department were said to have raised that question. But other, more senior, officials insisted last night that this was a minority view among intelligence experts and that the C.I.A. had wide support, particularly among the government's top technical experts and nuclear scientists.

"This is a footnote, not a split," a senior administration official said.

Ooh, more senior officials pulling rank, it must be true! "A footnote, not a split" pretty much says it all (or most of it). Elsewhere, the article is deliberately misleading and, I believe, flat out false, and the whole thing is a great exercise in circular reporting.

You going Jeff?

I'd love to go; we'll see. (I'm also hoping to close the italics i accidentally left open - sorry.)

And it's just a matter of time before the response to the damning NIE passage TM cites comes: Bush saying "suitable" is not inconsistent with the INR and DOE's judgment that the the tubes were "poorly suited" for uranium enrichment. After all, Bush didn't say they were "very well suitable", did he? He could have been including the possibility that they were "poorly suitable" in his more generic characterization of the tubes as "suitable." Nor is there a logical contradiction between saying that the tubes were suitable for uranium enrichment and the judgment that it was far more likely they were intended for some other purpose, to say nothing of the President's Summary's more watered down version that appears to have taken out the "far" before "more likely."

That, of course, is what we in the ordinary human world call a lie.

I'd like to see an apologist define "suitable" in a manner that converts that statement into an honest claim rather than the blatantly and deliberately deceptive claptrap it is.

... my point was that the speechwriters wrote this passage as if they knew caveats were appropriate - I find that mildly telling.

"Mildly telling"? Such understatement. The speechwriters wrote the passage, like just about every last statement on WMDs issued by a Bush Admin official, with a carefully designed and very deliberate attempt to deceive their audience.

The tubes statement is a fine example of one of the Admin's patented techniques of deception. Make a statement that, when read in an extremely literal fashion, is true (or not unequivocally false). But of course the statement is crafted in such a fashion as to suggest something quite different to its audience.

Compare Bush's Cincinnati statement (7 Oct. 2002), which displays the technique even more starkly:

“Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.”

Transcribed like this, with this punctuation, one might argue that this statement is technically correct (actually, it's not, as one certainly doesn't need aluminum tubes, let alone high-strength ones, to construct gas centrifuges for uranium-enrichment). But of course the entire statement trades on a surreptitious mid-sentence shift from a specific reference to "aluminum tubes" (and "other equipment") to a generic reference to these as general classes of entity (a shift, in philosophical jargon, from tokens to types) in order to preserve any shred of truthfulness. The convenient ambiguity of the words "needed" and "which" do the rest of the rhetorical work here.

Of course, what any normal person watching Bush's speech on TV understands is that Iraq has tried to buy tubes/equipment that Bush and his Admin know for a fact to be intended for uranium enrichment. But if challenged they can always backtrack, do a lawyerly parsing of language, and say "We didn't lie!"

(The more indiscreet among them let slip things like "only really suited for nuclear weapons programs". Oh, I'm being too harsh. Perhaps I need to know what Ms. Rice meant by "really" before prejudging her statement.)

And in today's barren, facile and cowardly political discourse, of course, no one is permitted to come out and state the irrefutable brute fact that these guys lied about Iraq and WMDs, over and over and over and over again.

Just as sourcing the uranium to the Brits was true, but, hmm, aggressive.

More lessons in the magic of redescription. The 16 words were false on their face. Outright false. Even when parsed literally.

The most comprehensive discussion of the coverage of the tubes is Michael Massing's "Now They Tell Us."

Here's an excerpt:

In early October, Landay's curiosity was further aroused when the CIA released a declassified version of its new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. For the most part, the document blandly summarized the agency's longstanding findings regarding Iraq's ties to terrorists and its efforts to develop WMD. In a brief section on the aluminum tubes, however, it noted that, while the intelligence community as a whole believed the tubes were intended for use in centrifuges, some experts disagreed, believing they were intended for conventional weapons. This was a rare public acknowledgment of dissent within the intelligence agencies, and Landay, intrigued, began making more calls. He eventually reached a veteran of the US uranium enrichment program. "He'd been given data on the tubes, and he said that this wasn't conclusive evidence," Landay recalled. In early October, Landay wrote about how the CIA report had "exposed a sharp dispute among US intelligence experts" over Iraq's arsenal. One expert was quoted as saying he did not believe the tubes were intended for use in nuclear weapons because "their diameters were too small and the aluminum they were made from was too hard."

KM

That is some nice hermeneuting of the Cincinnati speech. I was going to say in my last comment that you could probably go through the entirety of Powell's infamous UN speech and not find a single thing that cannot be read, literal-mindedly, as technically true. But even Powell now recognizes that speech for the misleading disgrace that it was.

Quick followup on Gordon and Miller's September 13 2002 article: the SSCI report confirms what I thought was a flat-out falsehood. On p. 94 (transcribing):

A September 13, 2002 New York Times article which discussed the IC debate about the aluminum tubes, noted that an administration official said, ". . . the best technical experts and nuclear scientists at laboratories like Oak Ridge supported the CIA assessments." The [redacted] contractors told Committee staff, however, that before September 16, 2002, they had not seen any of the intelligence data on the Iraqi tubes. DOE officials, including the Director of the Oak Ridge Field Intelligence Element, told Committee staff that the vast majority of scientists and nuclear experts at the DOE and the National Labs did not agree with the CIA's analysis.

Do we know if the aluminum tube story was illegally declassified by Cheney's crowd, before the Presidential law tweak supposedly giving the VP this authority in March 2003?

A couple more points about some TM arguments:

One might argue that the dispute over the tubes is a technical point obscuring a larger picture of consensus, since even the DOE agreed that the nuclear program was being reconstituted.

A technical point? That's a good one. Take away the aluminum tubes and Niger frauds -- both exposed before the war -- and what the heck is left?

The DOE cravenly tried to prove it was a team player by going along with the laughable claims about Iraq's "nuclear programme" (and Niger), only after having been repeatedly attacked and denigrated for its unwillingness to prostitute its institutional reputation by abetting the ridiculous "centrifuge" case for the aluminum tubes. But of course for some this is evidence of a "larger picture of consensus" on reconstitution.

Let's be very clear here. The entire Admin case for an Iraqi nuclear programme was, quite simply, a joke. Completely laughable. In every single respect. Various parts of the intelligence community were at various times and in various ways clearly complicit with the massive campaign of deception that the Admin created re: WMDs in Iraq; but most were just complicit. A few (like the astounding WINPAC) went far beyond this, playing active roles in collaborating with the Admin to manufacture the fraud. At any rate, please don't insult your intelligence and mine by pretending that the Administration was just the unwitting victim and passive recipient of faulty and wholly independent intelligence-community judgements about nuclear reconstitution.

... the IAEA debunked the tubes and the forgeries in March 2003 (Timely, yes? No.)

The IAEA had been vigorously expressing its strong scepticism about the "centrifuge" theory of the tubes since July 2001. During the 2002-3 round of inspections the IAEA had already issued a provisional conclusion that the tubes were meant for rockets and not centrifuges in their 9 Jan. 2003 report, and El Baradei's final conclusion -- "Based on available evidence, the IAEA team has concluded that Iraq's efforts to import these aluminum tubes were not likely to have been related to the manufacture of centrifuges." -- was issued in his Feb. 7 report.

According to the SSCI, the IAEA definitively informed the US government that the uranium documents were forgeries on 4 March 2003. More plausible reports indicate that the IAEA informed the UK and US about the forgeries (and its plans to publicly announce them as such) two weeks before their 7 March public announcement and offered both countries a chance to add any independent evidence supporting their claims; both governments were silent and did nothing to dissuade the IAEA from its course of action. Of course the only reason all of this happened so late in the first place was because the Admin had repeatedly ignored repeated, specific requests from the IAEA since late 2002 to hand the documents over. Gee, I wonder why that was. And are we forgetting that the US handed over the documents with the sheepish admission that "we cannot confirm these reports and have questions regarding some specific claims"?

And in his Jan. 27 report El Baradei had already issued the following statement: "Barring exceptional circumstances and provided there is sustained co-operation by Iraq, we should be able within the next few months to provide credible assurance that Iraq has no nuclear weapons programme." Able, that is, to reconfirm the IAEA's 1997 report concluding that Iraq had no nuclear weapons programme.

So I'm very curious to hear what is meant by the cryptic and telegraphic "(Timely, yes? No.)"

I can think of some yearlyDkos invitations that might improve the panel, but it should be zesty and invigorating as configured; kind of a continental congress; complete with a firedoglakebreakfast, as if mere vigor and zest were insufficient. Jane truly is moderate. They need a legalese side conference if the venue permits, Glenn, Tom, Jeff, Armando, Jeralyn. It may be too soon for that; maybe it will be sufficient for everyone to meet and decide what new blogs need to go online. Certainly the competence in the TNH website will enhance the event.

There are some new documents in the Libby case that have been made public. I'll leave aside the judge's ruling on ex parte submissions, and get to Fitzgerald's response to Libby's third motion to compel discovery. There is some major news.

Headlines: Cheney "expressed concerns" to Libby after Wilson's op-ed about whether Wilson's trip was legit or a nepotistic junket. Libby got approval from Bush via Cheney to disclose otherwise classified material to Miller. But was it declassified? Addington said yes. Details of July 12, 2003 flight finally revealed: Cheney told Libby to do the heavy lifting with the press on Wilson.

There can be no question that this filing by Fitzgerald makes clear a whole dimension of the investigation that we've only been dimly aware of, though Libby's last filing raised its profile: the question of the disclosure of the NIE and whether it was declassified.

There are some new documents in the Libby case that have been made public. I'll leave aside the judge's ruling on ex parte submissions, and get to Fitzgerald's response to Libby's third motion to compel discovery.

p. 7: "Some documents produced to defendant could be characterized as reflecting a plan to discredit, punish, or seek revenge against Mr. Wilson."

p. 7: "The government has no knowledge of the existence of any notes reflecting comments by former Secretary of State Powell regarding Ms. Wilson during a September 2003 meeting."

p. 9: It appears to be the case that Fitzgerald nails down Craig Schmall as Libby's June 14 2003 CIA briefer described in paragraph 11 of the indictment, and Bob Grenier as the senior CIA officer Libby spoke with on June 11 2003 and heard about Plame from. see also p. 11.

p. 9: More interestingly, Fitzgerald says that the government at this time does not intend to call Tenet, Hadley and Rove at trial. But it does intend to call Schmall, Grenier, Grossman, and Fleischer. On p. 10 Fitzgerald goes on to note that Grossman will be the government's lone State Department witness.

p. 10: In connection with Grossman, we have confirmation of something we've known: "As a result of defendant's inquiries, information was gathered and a classified report was prepared by the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research ("the INR report"). Also, on p. 11: "Defendant has been provided with a copy of the INR report in classified discovery, and the government understands that no contemporaneous reports written by Mr. Grossman about his conversations with defendant in May and June 2003 are available."

p. 11: "The central issue at trial will be whether defendant lied when he testified that he was not aware that Mr. Wilson's wife worked at the CIA prior to his purported conversation with Tim Russert about Mr. Wilson's wife on or about july 10, 2003."

p. 11: Schmall and Grenier are the government's only CIA witnesses, it appears. And Fleischer is the government's only White House witness.

p. 13: Interesting argument, with regard to potential defense witnesses Armitage, Powell, Tenet, Harlow and perhaps other CIA folks and Rove, that the prosecution does not have to provide, in essence, impeaching material of those witnesses if it is not also material and exculpatory per the Brady test. Armitage (and maybe Powell and Tenet), I'm looking at you.

p. 17: Fitzgerald appears to confirm some level of involvement by Libby and OVP in Tenet's infamous July 11 2003 statement, since it has documents from OVP, including notes of defendant and drafts of Tenet's statement, responsive to Libby's request for all documents reflecting dicussion in the government of whether to release a public statement that July week regarding the 16 words, including all drafts of Tenet's statement.

p. 18: This will drive righties and lefties crazy: "The evidence will show that the July 6, 2003, Op Ed by Mr. Wilson was viewed in the Office of Vice President as a direct attack on the credibility of the Vice President (and the President) on a matter of signal importance: the rationale for the war in Iraq. Defendant undertook vigorous efforts to rebut this attack during the week following July 7, 2003."

And how about this as some news? p. 18: "At some point after the publication of the July 6, 2003 Op Ed by Mr. Wilson, Vice President Cheney, defendant's immediate superior, expressed concerns to defendant regarding whether Mr. Wilson's trip was legitimate or whether it was in effect a junket set up by Mr. Wilson's wife." And Fitzgerald keeps on going, in all sorts of interesting ways, including ones that should make Maguire's maniacs reconsider whether Fitzgerald is in Wilson's pocket: "And, in considering 'context,' there was press reporting that the Vice President had dispatched Mr. Wilson on the trip (which in fact was not accurate). Disclosing the belief that Mr. Wilson's wife sent him on the Niger trip wass one way for defendant to contradict the assertion that the Vice President had done so, while at the same time undercutting Mr. Wilson's credibility if Mr. Wilson were percieved to have received the assigment on account of nepotism."

p. 18-19: "Defendant's participation in a critical conversation with Judith Miller on July 8 (discussed further below) occurred only after the Vice President advised defendant that the President specifically had authorized defendant to disclose certain information in the NIE. Defendant testified that the circumstances of his conversation with reporter Miller - getting approval from the President through the Vice President to discuss material that would be classified but for that approval - were unique in his recollection." And the hits keep on coming: "Defendant further testified that on July 12, 2003, he was specifically directed by the Vice President to speak to the press in place of Cathie Martin (then the communications person for the Vice President) regarding the NIE and Wilson. Defendant was instructed to provide what was for him an extremely rare 'on the record' statement, and to provide 'background' and 'deep background' statements, and to provide information contained in a document defendant understood to be the cable authored by Mr. Wilson."

p. 22 confirms that regarding the NIE we're talking about a declassification - presumably by Bush - made known to Libby by Cheney, and states that Libby testified that he udnerstood no one at other agencies (like, say, the CIA) was aware of or involved in that declassification. I presume this was a good part of what Fitzgerald wanted to ask Bush about, though I can't be sure.

p. 23: more on the purported (by Libby) rationale for disclosing to Miller the key judgments of the classified NIE - thought the NIE was pretty definitive against Wilson and CHeney thought it was very important for those key judgments to come out. Libby brought up with Cheney that he couldn't do it because the NIE was classified, and Cheney later told him the President had authorized Libby to disclose the relevant portions of the NIE. And check this out, Murray Waas, on p. 23: "Defendant testified that he also spoke to David Addington, then Counsel to the Vice President, whom defendant considered to be an expert in national security law, and Mr. Addington opined that Presidential authorization to publicly disclose a document amounted to a declassification of the document." Wow. Wow. But is all this true, since Fitzgerald goes on to dispute Libby's testimony in important respects?

p. 23: in fact Libby discussed with Miller the contents of a then classified CIA report which Libby told Miller was written by Wilson - this appears to be the report that resulted from Wilson's trip.

p. 24 appears to imply that Libby also discussed the NIE's key judgments with Cooper.

It appears to be the case that Fitzgerald is implying that Cheney told Libby to talk about the Wilsons, though Libby limited Cheney's direction to Wilson. Is this why he lied?

p. 24 appears to suggest that Fitzgerald is skeptical of Libby's account, since no one else knew the President had declassified the part of the NIE and were not told even though key official including Cabinet level officials (I assume this includes at least Tenet and possibly Hadley) were pressed to declassify the NIE, the report about Wilson's trip and another classified document dated January 24, 2003 - what's that?

That's all I can do tonight. More tomorrow.

Can somebody reduce this to an answer to the decades-old question: "What did the president know and when did he know it?"

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