Saddam’s Uranium Shopping

SADDAM’S URANIUM SHOPPING….Both the Washington Post and Tom Maguire bury the lead today in reporting about Iraq’s alleged prewar uranium cravings. Here it is:

Iraq’s alleged uranium shopping had been strongly disputed in the intelligence community from the start….[In 2002] the Pentagon asked for an authoritative judgment from the National Intelligence Council.

….The council’s reply, drafted in a January 2003 memo by the national intelligence officer for Africa, was unequivocal: The Niger story was baseless and should be laid to rest. Four U.S. officials with firsthand knowledge said in interviews that the memo, which has not been reported before, arrived at the White House as Bush and his highest-ranking advisers made the uranium story a centerpiece of their case for the rapidly approaching war against Iraq.

In other words, well before the 2003 State of the Union Address, when George Bush stated unequivocally that “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” his own intelligence experts had told him unequivocally and in writing that the story was bogus.

I for one would sure like to see that memo. Wouldn’t you? A couple of questions spring immediately to mind:

  • Does “unequivocal” mean that the memo debunked the whole story, or just the Niger part?

  • Does “unequivocal” mean that the memo addressed and debunked the supposedly “independent” British reports about Saddam’s attempts to purchase uranium? After all, the CIA’s deputy director was already on record telling Congress that “we don’t think they are very credible,” so it seems like the kind of thing the NIC might address.

Inquring minds want to know. This seems like a memo that could stand to be declassified in the public interest, no?