Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Tuesday, July 22, 2003
 
Condi Rice's original statements about the yellowcake question are by now looking rather absurd. Rice stated that knowledge that the reports of Iraq seeking to buy uranium in Africa had been questioned by intelligence experts had remained buried in the bureaucracy and not reached anybody at the senior level. (Does anybody have the exact quote? I remember hearing it on one of the Sunday morning gabbles, but couldn't find a transcript.) But a briefing by an unnamed official at the White House Friday said that both Rice and Bush had been given an NIE detailing the skepticism of some experts about the claim - but hadn't bothered to read it carefully. Really, I know that the NSC Chair has a lot of stuff crossing her desk and can't read every word, and the President even moreso - but doesn't it seem that reports on countries they're preparing to start a war with ought to be marked for special attention and actually read?

Today Rice's top aide, Stephen Hadley, admitted that he also had been warned - several times. But it seems he forgot. And only a week after the SOTU, Colin Powell, who nobody claims was acting off new information, knew enough about the questionable background of the uranium story to ignore it entirely when he spoke to the UN. In fact, the State Department, as Powell surely knew, had gone further in the NIE and advanced a challenge to the whole idea of an active Iraqi nuclear program that we now know was almost certainly correct: "Lacking persuasive evidence that Baghdad has launched a coherent effort to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program, [the State Department's intelligence office] is unwilling to speculate that such an effort began soon after the departure of UN inspectors or to project a timeline for completion of activities it does not now see happening."

That's four senior officials who should have known or seemed to know - most of the top security figures. And probably more - it seems likely that Rumsfeld, Cheney, and probably others would have been on the distribution list for the NIE.



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