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July 11, 2003

TENET TAKES THE FALL....CIA Director George Tenet has officially taken the fall for Uranium-Gate:

"These 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the president," Tenet said in a statement released after Bush and his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, blamed the miscue on the CIA and members of Congress called for someone to be held accountable.

...."Officials who were reviewing the draft remarks on uranium raised several concerns about the fragmentary nature of the intelligence with National Security Council colleagues," Tenet said. "Some of the language was changed. From what we know now, agency officials in the end concurred that the text in the speech was factually correct that the British government report said that Iraq sought uranium from Africa."

"This should not have been the test for clearing a presidential address," the statement continued. "This did not rise to the level of certainty which should be required for presidential speeches, and CIA should have ensured that it was removed."

That's probably the end of the controversy, and if they'd fessed up earlier this whole thing never would have gone anywhere in the first place.

Now, it's still the case that the administration's arguments for war were exaggerated, and it's equally the case that the CIA is the last agency that should take the blame for this, but none of that matters. Others in the administration — possibly including Bush — probably knew that the uranium charges were bogus, but with Tenet taking the bullet there will never be a smoking gun to prove it, and that's what it takes. Anything less will inevitably be written off as just the usual partisan bickering.

Unless something big turns up, this controversy will now die and Bush is off the hook.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall thinks there's more:

But all of this begs the obvious and singularly important question: the charge is that CIA didn't push hard enough to keep bogus information out of the president's speech. Who was pushing on the other side? Who was pushing to keep the bogus information in? And why?

Well, we already know who, and we know why. And while that kind of stuff is interesting to news junkies, it's pretty meaningless to the general public. I just don't think there's enough oxygen left to keep this going.

UPDATE 2: I guess I'd better clear up my meaning here. I'm not suggesting that (a) I'm never going to write about this story again or (b) that the general topic of missing WMD and how Bush led us into war is a dead letter. I'm just predicting that Tenet's confession will take the air out of the sails of this particular story and it will die. I hope I'm wrong, but my rational side tells me that it has only a few news cycles left.

Posted by Kevin Drum at July 11, 2003 06:38 PM | TrackBack


Comments

"To the executive, personal responsibility means holding someone else personally responsible."

Posted by: Stirling Newberry at July 11, 2003 06:42 PM | PERMALINK

Time will tell, Kevin. A lot will depend upon whether the media keeps digging, and what they find. Looks like MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell has already found some additional material (noted at Eschaton).

I'm also struck by the fact that several news outlets are reporting this specifically as Tenet taking responsibility for "allowing" Bush to go ahead with his allegations in the SOTU. The distinction may be lost on most people, but that may not be the case for the media.

Tenet was careful with what he said, and I don't think that got past at least some journalists who are now looking for details.

Posted by: Jonathan at July 11, 2003 06:53 PM | PERMALINK

The cognitive dissonance is being pushed so much farther than I ever though it could be. The administration must use wind-tunnels for these whoppers.

"This patented Bush lying technology (tm) is literally years ahead of the competition.

Wait, make that centuries!"

Posted by: SamAm at July 11, 2003 07:08 PM | PERMALINK

The question that has to be asked is what was the Brits evidence and who knew its particulars in the White House. Was it just an insider lie and con game that the powers that be could use as a cover and a smoke screen for PANC lies. If it is so; then no one in this corrupt crew should be able to get away with this smarmy bait and switch job.

Posted by: AllyCat aDave at July 11, 2003 07:11 PM | PERMALINK

" . . . insider status is just a stage that information goes through on its way to becoming public . . . if the knowledge is of any interest it cannot help but escape. It may take an hour, it may take years, but the circle inside of which information is held grows inevitably larger and larger; it cannot grow smaller, and the boundaries of the circle are not firm enough to hold it in. Insiders use inside information to buy respect from those that they deal with, thus blurring to indefinable the line of the privy circle."
-- Bill James, "Tanner's Fall," 1986 (emphasis added)

Posted by: penalcolony at July 11, 2003 07:19 PM | PERMALINK

It's pretty easy to counter-spin this one, though.

Some day soon, Tenet is going to get grilled by some Senate committee and some Democrat is going to say, "'Allowed'? Who put it there in the first place?"

There is more to this story. Why is this coming out now? What did they have to do to Tenet to get him to say this?

Posted by: taktile at July 11, 2003 07:21 PM | PERMALINK

If this wakes up the damned media and gets them to drop Bush's bizarre free ride, then it will have served some purpose.

Posted by: Jaquandor at July 11, 2003 07:26 PM | PERMALINK

"I just don't think there's enough oxygen left to keep this going."

This is just the beginning.

Posted by: nameless at July 11, 2003 07:29 PM | PERMALINK

Regarding the media, Walter Pincus of the WaPo said on PRI's The World radio show today that he'd written a story questioning the Niger stuff three days prior to the war's beginning, but it was on page A17; he sounded a little annoyed about it. I'm not sure whether he might have been annoyed about all the attention it's suddenly getting or annoyed that it was buried in the first place. Either way, hopefully the press begins to start pushing as hard as it should, as Jaguandor says.

Posted by: Linkmeister at July 11, 2003 07:30 PM | PERMALINK

Also, we still don't know who did the forging. If that trail leads back to the Administration, or the CIA, this story will grow. URAIN'TIUM ain't over yet.

Posted by: arthur at July 11, 2003 07:31 PM | PERMALINK

FACTUALLY ACCURATE??

Note this cheat: Tenet said: "The text in the speech was factually correct that the British government report said that Iraq sought uranium from Africa."

And I've also heard one conservative pundit (Fred Barnes on Fox News's "Special Report") make the point that what the Prez said was factually accurate because the British report did say the event happened, and all Bush said was that the Brits said that it happened.

But wait. Bush didn't merely say that the Brits *SAID* that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa. He said, "The British government has *LEARNED* that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

There is a big difference between merely saying that so-and-so SAID that such-and-such, and saying that so-and-so LEARNED that such-and-such. To say the latter entails that such-and-such is true! "Learned that", I believe, is what linguists & philosphers [I'm one of the latter] call a factive verb: One cannot be said to have learned that such-and-such unless such-and-such is so. You don't have to be a linguist to see that: We all know that if the Cubs didn't win today, you cannot say that Tim has LEARNED that the Cubs did win, even if Tim has somehow come to believe that they did. By contrast, the fact that the Cubs didn't win is no bar to saying that Tim SAID that the Cubs won.
So, if Hussain didn't seek uranium from Africa, then it can't be that the Brits learned that he did -- and Bush's statement is factually INaccurate, after all.
All quite technical, I know. But it's the Bush administration & its defenders that got so precise in the first place, with their claims that even if the Africa thing didn't really happen, what the Prez said was still "factually accurate." Ironic, then, that it turn out that what the Prez really said -- that the Brits have LEARNED that... -- can't be factually accurate unless the Africa thing really did happen.

Posted by: Keith DeRose at July 11, 2003 07:55 PM | PERMALINK

I think a lot depends on what happens to Tony Blair- If he goes down, then Bush is headed down the slippery slope as well....

Posted by: peter ung at July 11, 2003 08:02 PM | PERMALINK

As I continued my browsing of blogs, I discovered that in a post on Crooked Timber, Brian Weatherson made the same point I made above about the President not being even factually accurate because "learned" is factive. (Brian is a philosopher, too. No surprise that we'd both see the same thing. It would grab the attention of anyone who's worked in the relevant parts of philosophy of language.) See:
http://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/000235.html

Posted by: Keith DeRose at July 11, 2003 08:15 PM | PERMALINK

I'm starting to get just a little annoyed about the constant and artificial distinctions being drawn between "news junkies" and "the general public."

"Yeah, you 'news junkies' care about these details, but take it from me, the 'general public' doesn't care about your pointy-headed concerns. So wise up."

I dunno, maybe they care and maybe they don't. There's a lot of "general public." Some of the "general public" are spouses of soldiers in Iraq. Some of them are Bush enthusiasts. Some of them are Presbyterian choir directors. Some of them are model-railroad buffs. Some of them like Hoagy Carmichael. Some off them prefer their steak medium rare. Some of them are recently and suddenly unemployed. And some of them are arguably "news junkies." Funny about that.

Telling people who care about this stuff that they're marginal is a basic bad-guy technique. You know: Get real. Get clued in. Demonstrate that you're one of the tough-minded kool kidz by dissing your own impulses to care. If you trash your own idealistic impulses with enough ironic elegance, maybe the smart, cool-guy libertarian right-wingers will like you.

Why are you participating in this routine? Do you not recall, at least distantly, that it's morally and intellectually depraved?

Posted by: Patrick Nielsen Hayden at July 11, 2003 08:42 PM | PERMALINK

We have a winner in the Name That Scandal Contest: FactiveVerbGate

Patrick: yes. And yes again.

Tenet saying "they kept telling me to lie, and telling me, and telling me, and so finally I said 'ok'" does not, in my mind, constitute an end to this story.

And I'm as much the "general public" as anybody.

But... sigh... I can't say Calpundit's prediction is entirely off.

Posted by: Realish at July 11, 2003 08:50 PM | PERMALINK

but with Tenet taking the bullet there will never be a smoking gun to prove it

So we'll just have to close the balloon door now that the President has stuck to his paddle.

(Hi Keith! Hope mid-July in New Haven isn't too horrible.)

Posted by: Kieran Healy at July 11, 2003 08:51 PM | PERMALINK

Patrick: I wasn't expressing approval, just stating what I think is a fact. And I hate to say it, but these things that we think of as wild improprieties just don't resonate with most people. I'm sure conservatives felt the same way in 1998 when Clinton's poll numbers stayed high.

The general topic of Iraq and whether Bush pushed us into war on false pretenses will stay alive. However, the uranium story won't, I think. Someone in the administration was smart enough to realize that it's the coverups that kill you, not the wrongdoing in the first place.

Of course, none of this means that *I'm* never going to write about it again....

Posted by: Kevin Drum at July 11, 2003 09:09 PM | PERMALINK

"I wasn't expressing approval, just stating what I think is a fact. And I hate to say it, but these things that we think of as wild improprieties just don't resonate with most people. I'm sure conservatives felt the same way in 1998 when Clinton's poll numbers stayed high."

Yes, and you'll note who was inaugurated as President on January 20, 2001.

One of these days, we'll get around to learning from this.

Posted by: Patrick Nielsen Hayden at July 11, 2003 09:19 PM | PERMALINK

For what it's worth, the lead NYT editorial for tomorrow makes the very point that Josh Marshall makes:

"We're glad that someone in Washington has finally taken responsibility for letting President Bush make a false accusation about Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons program in the State of the Union address last January, but the matter will not end there. [...] Now the American people need to know how the accusation got into the speech in the first place [...]" (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/12/opinion/12SAT1.html)

Looks pretty oxygenated to me.

Posted by: jhp at July 11, 2003 09:36 PM | PERMALINK

I saw the same thing about "learned"--I don't know anything about philosophy but I used to work in journalism. If I reported "So and so has learned that the mayor was bribed" instead of "so and so says" or "so and so claims"--I would have been in a mess of trouble.

My guess is they get away this, but it has stirred the peacefully slumbering 800 pound gorillas in the media. If they wake all the way up, all bets are off.

Posted by: Katherine at July 11, 2003 09:40 PM | PERMALINK

On 9/11 Tenet was at the CIA for 6 years! Since it was obvious he was into the Saudi world, and didn't blow the necessary whistles, people at the time wondered why he wasn't fired by BUsh. (He was a Clinton hold over.)

It turns out that IF Bush had fired Tenet he'd have had to appoint somebody else. And, the Senate is more or less at 'parity.' So that anyone coming in for appointment would have been scrutinized up the ying-yang.

An old Bush guy from the father's CIA? That would not have passed muster.

Someone wrote that Bush's best choice was to leave Tenet in place. And, avoid the dogfight in Congress.

There's more to what's going on now that just this headline.

The roadmap's been reactivated. And, it may also be harming Bush. Since it wasn't what Americans wanted after Gulf War #2. (In other words the repeat of Gulf War #1, with the birth of Madrid to Oslo, isn't helping BUsh right now.) ANd, AMericans are becoming aware of just how much money gets schmeared around. We probably thought it was all UN (with American tax collars) ... but Bush ran into troubles with the UN. There were screams we leave them and let them go to "Brussels" for the headquarters, or something. Don't you remember?

Then in comes Tenet. In comes this palsy-walsy stuff with Abu Mazen, hand-picked to replace Arafat (if he just wouldn't keep resigning and/or bluffing). There's the hudna. (Not part of the dismantling stuff in the roadmap.)

ANd, there's this business with bolstering Abbas with Israeli opening up its prisons and discharging its collection of murderers and terrorists.

I'm not ready to say "Thank you, Mr. Tenet."

Maybe, to freeze stuff ... Tenet's gonna have to be fired? Isn't there something that happened at the NY Times where people whose resignations wouldn't be accepted, are suddenly out the door? (Doesn't responsibility and 'buh-bye' contect someplace?

Hmm. ANd, now Sharon's coming to the WHite House early. (Before the big August vacation ... even though the Saudis have been known to visit Crawford.)

What's the rush?

Bush didn't exactly rush into Iraq. He had most of us on pins and needles.

And, Blair still LUVS Arafat. (Because Arafat was officially elected and Abbas was just 'hand picked.')

Personally, what angers me MOST is that we're not more aggressive. We've been much too nice for much too long ... and there's NO ENDGAME in being nice!

ONE BOMB. ONE PLANE. VICTORY WOULD HAVE FOLLOWED. Surrender comes when your opponent's out for the count of 10. Not when momma taps her foot repeatedly on the floor.

Bush is a big wus. He may have to fire Tenet. And, then he's gonna face the fire of Congress ... as men with hungry ambition come flying out and upsetting every applecart in site.

I don't see this as a good thing.

I don't even know why we had to add WMDs to taking out Saddam. It's been so overdue! We just got cold feet in 1991. And, now? Again? Oy vey.

Posted by: Carol Herman at July 11, 2003 09:42 PM | PERMALINK

Even if Tenet is really the culprit, Bush is not off the hook.

Why, when a week later Bush supposedly learned that the intel. was false, did Bush not inform the American public that the situation had changed?

Doesn't Bush have the responsibility to do this.

He still went to war knowing that the public backed him based on false statements.

Posted by: E. Avedisian at July 11, 2003 10:07 PM | PERMALINK

Out of oxygen? Are you even paying attention. Tenet just copped to bowing to pressure from the White House to signing off on a claim that he knew was bogus in the SOTU.

That means he indirectly accused Bush of pressuring him to buy off on a lie.

And that, my friends, is exactly the same crime that Nixon committed and would have been impeached for if he had not resigned. Abuse of power is unequivocally an impeachable offense.

Tenet may have been trying to defuse the situation, but instead just opened an oxygen tank...

But if respected bloggers like you try to push the meme that this story is died, you will help make it true. And shame on you if you succeed.

Posted by: Bones at July 11, 2003 10:28 PM | PERMALINK

Man, Kevin, you are attracting some name brand name philosophers to this blog. Kudos.

Posted by: epist at July 11, 2003 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

Attack Tenet.

The Bushies will have to defend him, since he played along with the gag. That will be quite an awkward position for them.

Posted by: taktile at July 11, 2003 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

This just in from the beeb: "The CIA is blaming us for the error in the state of the union speech."

The split between the Bushies and their Brit poodles grows a little wider.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement at July 11, 2003 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not as pessimistic as Kevin that this issue is now dead; but Tenet's 'admission' is playing on the news as 'Tenet takes blame, end of story'. Most people will not pay much further attention. Even NPR radio made it sound like the CIA only realized the Niger documents were unreliable *after* the State of the Union address.

But... On the other hand, the cowardly journalists have just realized they ALL can't be punished by the White House for getting out of line. Bush and Saddam both had the same thing in common: they kept control through fear. With Bush, though, it was control maintained via the threat of cutting off journalists' access to the White House.

This story still has momentum, especially in Britain, who are just realizing the magnitude or the screwing they received.

This weekend will be interesting. Watch the Beeb.

Posted by: squiddy at July 11, 2003 11:17 PM | PERMALINK

Two hundred and fifty nine families deserve an answer.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement at July 11, 2003 11:21 PM | PERMALINK

I just don't think there's enough oxygen left to keep this going.

What is that suppose to mean? Sounds like your satisified that Tenet said it's my fault and shouldn't confort anyoen it shows the CIA doesn't know shit. No wonder 3000 people died on 9/11.


Tenet says I did it and everyone says okay, will if it was just you then it's okay that there are still NO WMD, so what??? Lets just pretend everyone knows Tenet is a idiot and that makes the lack of WMD understandable now -- excuse me? How does that solve anything but instead create more problems? It's not just nuclear weapons folks but all the missing WMD and it's suddenly okay, I don't so and I don't think most Americans think that way either. The case is still getting worse by the moment every single day. American troops are still dying in Iraq for what has been a lie and placesments are not easy to come for troops that have station in Iraq.

I think Bush will get impeached with his lying the damages is far to great to do otherwise at monent in time.

Posted by: Cheryl at July 11, 2003 11:42 PM | PERMALINK

Impeachment is the politics of No Returns.

After Nixon's resignation, politicans went to war. And, CLinton's "impeachment" was a cooking of the books, looking under rocks, but it was supposed to succeed.

Of course, politicians in the democratic party made a whopping error giving Gore the presidential primary to run in 2000. True, it gets very boring watching the 7 or 8 dwarves emerge for photo ops.

Just as the hearings against Nixon were so interesting EVERYBODY put their TVs on to watch, what came later was rediculous. Including the Thomas hearings that failed spectacularly. A side show to a circus. It's as if all the serious people just up and left Washington.

I have a suspicion that the Grey Davis recall will boomerang. I think citizens hate this stuff. It's like being called into a rigged jury. (And, now everything just feels rigged.)

Tenet is among friends, the same way Howell Raines was among friends. The little Pinch was sure he could boldly state "he'd never accept the resignation."

But just to go back to Nixon a minute, don't you remember how he'd hang people out to dry? "Twisting in the wind" was a famous line of his. "And, Mitchell, his A-G (also forced to resign at some point), wanted to put Catherine Graham's nipples in a wringer.

Men sometimes get over-excited and lose sight of the ball. Or the goal posts. Or whatever they're supposed to be doing while they're parading around and acting "macho."

Gads, you'd think we were a 3rd rate republic the way we're being treated to stuff out of this White House. You know the one. The one that was going to clean up the stains on the Oval Office floor. (As if men don't get erections and look to young damsels for pleasure.)

What a crock that whole Linda Tripp episode was!

But America is changing. In 1948 Ingrid Bergman was driven out of town for sleeping with her director, getting pregnant, and keeping the babies. She also divorced one husband (who abused her) and changed countries. Boy, you'd think she'd never would have been forgiven.

Time passes. Clinton's personal errors will be forgiven (but not forgotten.) Again, as Nixon would say, it doesn't matter what they say about you, as long as they spell your name correctly.

When celebrity-hood becomes the definition of popularity, then, people get remembered for their shortcomings.

Bush wants to be as successful as Reagan. Because he thought Reagan was an empty headed fool, who knew how to hit is mark. And, who substituted Hallmark Greeting Card Photo-Ops for real progress.

Funny what happens to people who are always hungry. They don't lose their appetites they just have to hold their tempers until the voting booths open.

I don't think most AMericans are sheep. I think Bush's ways scare more people than you can imagine. I think there's little hope now that we will solve any mess in the Middle East ... (One that would have required socking it to the Saudis) ...

ANd, Tenet? My guess is that he is out of a job this summer. Perhaps, Bush is hoping he can appoint someone while Congress is out on vacation ... But who knows? The requirements to serve at the top of the CIA requires "consent." Are we gonna have a summer where Bush just nominates people to bypass senate approval?

So many screwy things are going on to discount our Constitution ... it's a wonder that somebody in the WHite House thinks this is a workable plan.

Kool aid, anyone?

Posted by: Carol Herman at July 12, 2003 12:43 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think this is over..although I do think that the CW is going to be that it is.

My opinion? This is going to combine with the 9/11 report to create a tempest that is bigger than everything combined.

What's the new idea? Bush puts pressure on various departments to make facts match ideology. Terrorism vs. Rogue Nations, Global Warming, Tax Cuts, all things where Bush has really pushed back against reality.

Quite frankly, that's the scandal.

Posted by: Glenn at July 12, 2003 03:06 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think this matter will lose steam. In fact, I think its just getting started. Congress is finally starting to rumble or is it mumble. Did anyone see the speech that the libertarian/republican Rep. Ron Paul from Texas gave in congress the other day? It was pretty amazing. The speech in its entirety is on BuzzFlash.com. If the moderate republicans in congress start to realize they too have been decieved...well...perhaps all is not lost? After all, there is nothing more revengeful than an American who has been lied to, according to Margret Meade anyway.

Posted by: Farranuff at July 12, 2003 04:46 AM | PERMALINK

Somebody could call for Tenet's resignation. There is doubt that a Democrat would do this, because Tenet was a Clinton holdover. I think he's a neocon through and through anyway.

The second thing is to start looking at all the other fakes, the drones, the aluminum tubes all the rest. You could also ask where the 100,000 Kurds are, who were supposed to be buried in mass graves. To my knowledge they haven't turned up yet. That would make the genocide of the Kurds a mirage, a fake.

Posted by: Eric M at July 12, 2003 05:30 AM | PERMALINK

The other thing is, this story will keep going as long as US troops keep getting killed in Iraq. It's another way of expressing the country's unhappiness at people dying. In a way it's the same thing. I mean is Tenet's admission going to stop the US guys getting killed?

The truth is that Saddam was bad, but he wasn't as bad as we were led to believe. For plenty of Iraqis he was better. Those Iraqis are killing our guys. If that can only be expressed in terms of WMD, then that is the story we will see in the US. Because nobody in the US cares whether Iraqis starve or not. We only care whether they can nuke us. If they had no intention or ability to nuke us, then why are we in this war? etc.

Posted by: Eric M at July 12, 2003 05:42 AM | PERMALINK

1. Bush was the guy who didn't lie. I think millions of Americans will come away from this thinking they lawyered the SOTU speech before the invasion. That's what Clinton does, natch, and I think it will matter, now and in 2004.
2. Beltway folks are linking this to next week's 9/11 report. I'm waiting until then to see if there's a chess game here. If not, Tenet is handing the CIA door keys to Rumsfeld, which seems unlikely enough to keep me guessing.
3. I emailed Keith DeRose's point yesterday to the NYT (Mark Kleiman also makes it). "The National Enquirer has learned that Elvis had an alien baby."
4. A CNN anchor said this morning that this will go on for weeks, and said it twice. CNN seems ready to play ball. That's a welcome change.
5. Katherine, that NYT opening looks a bit like an 800 lb. gorilla waking up. Also, what Patrick said.
6. Bones: "It's no good, Jim, he's dead." "But Bones!" "Look, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a miracle worker."
7. McCain called for someone to be fired, and Hagel said something similar. I don't think this is over. And someone pointed out that Tenet taking a dive would have come out on White House letterhead (not the rare CIA letterhead), and begun: "The President regretfully accepts..."

Posted by: John Isbell at July 12, 2003 06:37 AM | PERMALINK

Holy crap, this fresh from CNN: "Was President Chirac right after all? He says bien sur. We'll get the latest about President Bush's faux pas about Iraq's nuclear intentions." (With a shot of Bush and Chirac shaking hands).
It almost makes me think CNN is liberal. Commie pinko bastards.

Posted by: John Isbell at July 12, 2003 06:44 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin - Kevin - Kevin. Do you really think that Clinton would have gotten off the hot seat if he had said, "I did not have intercourse with that woman!"? Even if that was 'technically correct' he would have still been placed in the stocks of republican impeachment.

The statement by Tenent is clear to me. We should not have allowed the White House to bully us into approving something that THEY knew at the time was specious.

The truth is that the White House knew the information was bogus and decided to scrub it so that 'technically' it would be correct to use that to cover their asses.

Sheesh. I know that you supported this bloody war but I did not think that you would cave so easily.

Posted by: Marie Foster at July 12, 2003 08:17 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

I definitely think you are wrong that Tenet's admission of CIA error will take the sails out of this story.

Actually, I think that it was a mistake for the Administration to insist that Tenet and the CIA take the blame here because it raises the question even for a relatively incurious media about whether they is anyone else who should be accepting blame for insisting that the uranium from Niger line be included in the SOTU despite CIA and State Department objections about the credibility of the claim.


I also think this story will draw attention to much of the other faith-based intelligence analysis presented in the Administration's disingeneous case for war. Afterall, the only other specific information about an ongoing Iraqi nuclear program concerned the also discredited aluminum tubes to build centrifuges.

I think the Administration made a critical mistake in how it decided to try to respond to this story. Right now, Condi Rice probably has the most questions to answer, and her attemp to shift the blame won't be kindly received by the media.

Posted by: Ben Brackley at July 12, 2003 08:24 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry for the typos. I should really review my comments more carefully before posting. I'll try again.

Kevin-

I definitely think you are wrong that Tenet's admission of CIA error will take the sails out of this story.

Actually, I think that it was a mistake for the Administration to insist that Tenet and the CIA take the blame here because it raises the question even for a relatively incurious media about whether there is anyone else who should be accepting blame for insisting that the uranium from Niger line be included in the SOTU despite CIA and State Department objections about the credibility of the claim.

I also think this story will draw attention to much of the other faith-based intelligence analysis presented in the Administration's disingenuous case for war. After all, the only other specific information about an ongoing Iraqi nuclear program concerned the also discredited aluminum tubes to build centrifuges.
I think the Administration made a critical mistake in how it decided to try to respond to this story. Right now, Condi Rice probably has the most questions to answer, and her attempt to shift the blame won't be kindly received by the media.

Posted by: Ben Brackley at July 12, 2003 08:34 AM | PERMALINK

Just as I predicted, Bush is protecting Tenet presumably because he played ball.

So simply attack Tenet! Defending him won't score them any points with anybody.

Posted by: taktile at July 12, 2003 09:06 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think this story is going to go away so quietly. Sure, many of the Saturday papers carried the story that "Tenet takes blame for erroneous information", (even though a cursory reading of his statement would indicatew otherwise) which seemingly would put this contreversy to rest.

However, who didn't remove what from a speech is not really the big issue here. To paraphrase Howard Dean, the real issue is whether the President of the US led us into a war based on faulty intellegence that HE KNEW WAS FAULTY before the war began.

I think that's the point we need to keep driving home. Forget all the back and forth about the re-wording of the SOTU and how "technically accurate" those 16 words were. The bottom line is the main justifications for this war (Nukes & Bio/Chem weapons presenting a clear and present danger) turned out to be absolutely bogus, and the President and his top advisers all knew this before the first bomb was dropped!

Posted by: Clownshoes at July 12, 2003 09:30 AM | PERMALINK

If we just keep digging, we can bring forth evidence that both governments were getting warnings about the credibility of information sources they were using. Reassemble the puzzle from as many sources as can be found, because there simply is more 'there' there.

I think it can be reconstructed one piece after another. Or are we to believe that such warnings delivered to Netizens never reached officialdom? If so, officialdom is admitting to a glaring capacity for ignorance on their own part.

There is a long history of coverup that is obviously continuing, and just as Woodward and Bernstein kept digging till the lies could not be ignored, I think it incumbent on each of us to do so.

Beat the dead horse ad infinatum!

Posted by: Cowboy Kahlil at July 12, 2003 09:42 AM | PERMALINK

No one would care about this story if the effort to remake Iraq were going well. The hullabaloo is a proxy for the realization that we've grabbed a tar baby. Unless things on the ground improve in Iraq and Iraqis stop killing a soldier or more a day, and we stop spending $4B a month, there are only going to be even closer parsing of administration promises and warnings leading up to the war. On a side note, I'm astounded that no one seems interested in who forged the Niger documents in the first place. Surely the CIA would want to know who was trying to fool them? Was it Chalabi? He's linked to the forged documents accusing British liberal MP Galloway of treason. Or was this cooked up by MI5 as a courtesy to Washington? MI5 apparently cribbed sections of a term paper from a California student on the Internet for its widely tauted white paper that makes the African uranium allegations in the first place. Maybe they downloaded the Niger docs from some Freeper. Regardless it all stinks to high heaven.

Posted by: fastback at July 12, 2003 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

While the Tenet "admission" of blame here may seem like it closes the issue, I don't see that it does.

To begin with, it's hardly a satisfactory result for such a major blunder to occur without ANYONE suffering serious repercussions. It's so transparently convenient for Tenet to say, with false contrition, that he was at fault, and then for Bush to say, with false magnanimity, that he forgives Tenet. How can anyone with a brain not realize that Bush and Tenet sure spoke beforehand, George to George, and Big George told Little George that if Little George took the blame, Big George would forgive Little George all?

The smell test on this whole charade fails miserably.

Yet the real problem is that the attempt to divert blame still doesn't answer all kinds of open questions. Why did Tenet pass on this, when he had expressed his misgivings earlier about mentioning the African uranium in a Bush administration speech? What DID Tenet, after all, think about the reliability of the British claims? (His doting President may be willing to overlook the blunder, but why should, say, Democratic members of Congress?) How did the statement get into the SOTU in the first place? How much push back was there on both sides? Did Tenet and the CIA feel that they had to acquiesce in the end, because no other answer would be tolerated?

Controversies go away when the most important questions get satisfactory answers, or when the stonewalling is sufficiently effective that no other answers are likely to be forthcoming. I don't see how this issue has come close to reaching this state at this point.

Posted by: frankly0 at July 12, 2003 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

I do not fully understand how Tenet can even take the blame when our own government officials are admitting that Cheney was the one who pressured the CIA into failing to properly dispute the British "intelligence" in the first place...

http://www.sltrib.com/2003/Jul/07102003/commenta/73933.asp

A diplomat's undiplomatic truth about false evidence for war

By Robert Scheer
The Los Angeles Times

"They may have finally found the smoking gun that nails the culprit responsible for the Iraq war. Unfortunately, the incriminating evidence wasn't left in one of Saddam Hussein's palaces but rather in Vice President Dick Cheney's office.
Former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson publicly revealed over the weekend that he was the mysterious envoy whom the CIA, under pressure from Cheney, sent to Niger to investigate a document -- now known to be a crude forgery -- that allegedly showed Iraq was trying to acquire enriched uranium that might be used to build a nuclear bomb. Wilson found no basis for the story, and nobody else has either.
What is startling in Wilson's account, however, is that the CIA, the State Department, the National Security Council and the vice president's office were all informed that the Niger-Iraq connection was phony. No one in the chain of command disputed that this "evidence" of Iraq's revised nuclear weapons program was a hoax.
Yet, nearly a year after Wilson reported back the facts to Cheney and the U.S. security apparatus, Bush, in his 2003 State of the Union speech, invoked the fraudulent Iraq-Africa uranium connection as a major justification for rushing the nation to war: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium in Africa."
What the president did not say was that the British were relying on their intelligence white paper, which was based on the same false information that Wilson and the U.S. ambassador to Niger had already debunked. "That information was erroneous, and they knew about it well ahead of both the publication of the British white paper and the president's State of the Union address," Wilson said Sunday on "Meet the Press."


How can the public simply ignore a former Ambassadors statement that the British, CIA, State Dept., National Security Council, and vice president's office all knew the Niger document was a forgery a full year before the statement made it's way in the President's State of the Union speech.

Posted by: forgottenyouth at July 12, 2003 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

fastback writes: "MI5 apparently cribbed sections of a term paper from a California student on the Internet for its widely tauted white paper that makes the African uranium allegations in the first place"

My understanding is that political operatives connected to the Prime Minister were responsible for that document, not MI5. MI5 seems to have a bit more self-respect than Tenet has shown, and would rightly be embarrassed to put their name on such shoddy work.

Posted by: Jon H at July 12, 2003 01:38 PM | PERMALINK

What Jon H. said. Also, I think we should call Galloway a Labour MP.
Evidently the first UK dossier (the one Blair prefers) was also lifted off the internet. Breaking news.

Posted by: John Isbell at July 12, 2003 01:56 PM | PERMALINK

Slept on it. Tenet's a red herring. Iran's close to gaining real nuke capabilities (from those wonderful folk in Russia, Pakistan and North Korea).

The whole WMD debate is not weakening the White House, but is out there like summer shark entertainment.

I'd even be willing to bet that down the line Bush will show the WMD cards. And, he'll collect the chips on the table.

Poker faces are good things for top commanders to have.

Why is Sharon in Britain? And, coming to Washington two months sooner than expected? Who are the good guys if we have to go after Iran? Hmm.

Just asking those who yawn a lot and keep saying 'huh?' I think there's more going on under the surface right now than meets the eye. That's all.

AND I DO PRAY FOR AMERICA. We're the good guys. I want us to win.

Posted by: Carol Herman at July 12, 2003 03:27 PM | PERMALINK

Carol Herman writes: "AND I DO PRAY FOR AMERICA. We're the good guys. I want us to win."

I think Ali ought to have won something. Instead, we blew his arms off and burnt him up real good. As if being a teenager weren't hard enough, as if living in Iraq weren't hard enough.

Yay us. It feels good to win, don't it Carol?

I'm sure God smiled on that. He likes it when a 12 year old gets his limbs blown off and his family wiped out.

The New Testament is chock full of parables where Jesus rips the wings off a baby sparrow, right?

Posted by: Jon H at July 12, 2003 04:32 PM | PERMALINK

I disagree. This one is not going to go away soon. Along with the serial dissembling this week, the White House also has the very real problem of explaining why they are just now acknowledging and fixing blame for something that has been known for months -- i.e. that the Niger documents were forgeries and the nuclear-Iraq connection is now demonstrably exaggerated if not outright false.
There was deliberate deception in the SOTU speech; it is probable that the White House knew Bush was lying and was content to ride it out even after the forgeries were made public in March, assuming a swift victory in Iraq (which they got) and the resulting ripple effect of peace and joy in the Middle East (which they didn't get) would serve to wipe out any memories of those pesky details. But with the fiasco unfolding daily in Iraq, the complete absence of WMD, the doubling of monthly costs and projection for the duration of an occupation moving to 5 years, the deceptions are now attracting attention. Far from this being the capper to a ``one-sentence'' problem, -- which was the dodge that GOP mouthpieces used to begin the week -- this is going to open the entire rationale for war and Bush foreign policy to scrutiny. Or it should, if enough of the media can get off its ass long enough to practice some journalism.

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