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September 8, 2006
Phase II 'Accuracy' Report Proves Joe Wilson A Liar

The Senate Select Commitee on Intelligence Phase II reports may take some time to process, reading the source data rather than just relying on the conclusions, but I've found one interesting nugget already. In the WMD accuracy report, a significant passage demonstrates the falsity of one leftist talking point (page 16, emphases mine):

On February 4, 2003, the U.S. government provided copies of the Niger uranium documents to the IAEA with talking points which stated, "two streams of reporting suggest Iraq has attempted to acquire uranium from Niger. We cannot confirm these reports and have questions regarding specific claims. Nonetheless, we are concerned that these reports may indicate Baghdad has attempted to secure an unreported source of uranium yellowcake for a nuclear weapons program." The two streams of reporting refer to the intelligence reports from the foreign intelligence service and a CIA intelligence report reflecting the findings of a former Ambassador's visit to Niger.

This confirms what we read in the previous SSCI report: Joe Wilson told the CIA that Iraq had attempted to buy uranium from Niger, and the CIA included that data in its assessment of Iraqi nuclear-weapons development. It corroborated rather than contradicted CIA intel on Saddam's WMD ambitions. That flies in the face of Wilson's assertions since May 2003, when he apparently decided he needed to cover his ass after American troops came up empty on nukes.

In fact, when one reads pages 11-16, it becomes apparent that almost the entire American intelligence community believed that Saddam continued to pursue nukes right up until we invaded in March 2003 -- especially the CIA. They argued that the aluminum tubes had to be intended for a nuclear program and that no other explanation could be possible. The INR (State) and Department of Energy quibbled; the former believed that the intel could not provide a "compelling" case for reconstitution, while the latter believed that the case was compelling without the tubes, which it questioned. The CIA not only did not question the nature of the tubes, it provided a counteranalysis when the IAEA argued against their interpretation:

["]We judge that Iraq would use any suitable tubes rather than try to procure perfect ones." The paper reiterated the CIA's assessment that the tubes' special material, dimensions, precise manufacturing tolerances, high cost, and the involvement of senior Iraqi leaders indicated the tubes were most likely for gas centrifuges to enrich uranium.

Over and over again, the CIA and the rest of the American intelligence community told the Bush administration what it had told the Clinton administration -- that Saddam was busily reconstituting his nuclear-weapons programs. Even the INR judged that the evidence could have demonstrated a limited reconstitution effort. Joe Wilson's report fed into that narrative by showing that Iraq had actively sought sources for yellowcake uranium after the IAEA and UNSCOM had locked up their own supplies.

Rather than showing that Bush lied about the intel he was given, this shows that the White House relied on a broad consensus among military and civilian intelligence services to determine that Saddam Hussein was pursuing nukes. The only liar uncovered in the beginning of the Phase II report is Joe Wilson.

UPDATE: I've posted links to this a number of times, but apparently people still forget about the previous SSCI report:

[Wilson's] intelligence report indicated that former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki was unaware of any contracts that had been signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of yellowcake while he was Prime Minister (1997-1999) or Foreign Minister (1996-1997). Mayaki said that if there had been any such contract during his tenure, he would have been aware of it. Mayaki said, however, that in June 1999,(REDACTED) businessman, approached him and insisted that Mayaki meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Niger and Iraq. The intelligence report said that Mayaki interpreted "expanding commercial relations" to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales. The intelligence report also said that "although the meeting took place, Mayaki let the matter drop due to the UN sanctions on Iraq."

Wilson has claimed that this misrepresented his report, but this latest document shows that the CIA had in fact heard exactly this from Wilson:

On February 27,2003, the CIA responded to a January 29,2003 letter from Senator Carl Levin which asked the CIA to detail “what the U.S. IC knows about Saddam Hussein seeking significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” The CIA’s response was almost identical to the points passed to the IAEA in early February, saying “two streams of reporting suggest Iraq had attempted to acquire uranium from Niger.” The response said the CIA believes the government of Niger’s assurances that it did not contract with Iraq but said, “nonetheless, we question, based on a second source, whether Baghdad may have been probing Niger for access to yellowcake in the 1999 time frame.” The CIA’s response left out the sentence, “we cannot confirm these reports and have questions regarding some specific claims,” that had been included in the U.S. government’s IAEA brief.
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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 8, 2006 9:54 PM

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