DOES URANIUM HAVE LEGS?….Maybe I spoke too soon. Even after George Tenet’s Shogun-like dive onto his sword yesterday, the question remains: who put the uranium sentence into the State of the Union speech in the first place? Here is what Tenet says, after a bunch of background material explaining that for the entire previous year the CIA had known the uranium claims were highly suspect:
The background above makes it even more troubling that the 16 words eventually made it into the State of the Union speech. This was a mistake.
Portions of the State of the Union speech draft came to the C.I.A. for comment shortly before the speech was given. Various parts were shared with cognizant elements of the agency for review. Although the documents related to the alleged Niger-Iraqi uranium deal had not yet been determined to be forgeries, officials who were reviewing the draft remarks on uranium raised several concerns about the fragmentary nature of the intelligence with National Security Council colleagues. 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 ? i.e. that the British government report said that Iraq sought uranium from Africa. This should not have been the test for clearing a presidential address. This did not rise to the level of certainty which should be required for presidential speeches, and C.I.A. should have ensured that it was removed.
As a number of bloggers have noted, if the CIA, both in its official National Intelligence Estimates and in private conversations was saying that the uranium sentence didn’t belong in the speech, then who was arguing to keep it in? As the New York Times says today:
The uranium charge should never have found its way into Mr. Bush’s speech. Determining how it got there is essential to understanding whether the administration engaged in a deliberate effort to mislead the nation about the Iraqi threat.
That’s exactly right, and it’s important to remember that while the uranium claim is only one small detail, this entire scandal hinges on the much larger problem that no WMD has been found in Iraq. If it weren’t for that, nobody would care.
But the fact is that there’s no WMD, and that calls into question the Bush administration’s entire argument for war. We need some more answers about that.