October 04, 2003

Of Lies and Leaks: Bush Threatened By New Revelations

Excellent analysis from Corn on both the Wilson
scandal and the WMD scandal. Read it so that you can
watch how the "US mainstream news media" attempts at
every turn to lessen the negative impact for the
_resident -- even now, although certainly the grip is
loosening and the fix is coming unstuck...

Corn in the Nation: "Leaking and lying--these are not actions easy to explain away. Drip, drip, drip--that's the sound often associated with Washington scandals. But now it may also be the sound of the truth catching up to the propagandists and perps of the Bush White House. "

Of Lies and Leaks: Bush Threatened By New Revelations
10/04/2003 @ 11:09pm
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The spin is not holding. Facing two controversies--the
Wilson leak (click here if you have somehow managed to
miss this story) and the still-MIA WMDs--the White
House has been tossing out explanations and rhetoric
that cannot withstand scrutiny.

Let's start with the Wilson leak. In the issue coming
out October 6, Newsweek will be reporting that after
Bob Novak published a July 14 column containing the
leak attributed to "senior adminsitration officials"
that identified former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's
wife, Valerie Plame, as an undercover CIA operative,
NBC News reporter Andrea Mitchell was contacted by
White House officials who touted the Novak column and
encouraged her to pursue the story about Wilson's
wife. The newsmagazine also notes that, according to a
source close to Wilson, shortly after the leak
occurred Bush's senior aide Karl Rove told Hardball
host Chris Matthews that Wilson's wife was "fair
game." Matthews told Newsweek that he would not
discuss any confidential conversation. (He told me the
same weeks ago when I made a similar inquiry about
this chat with Rove.) An anonymous source described as
familiar with the exchange--presumably Rove or someone
designated to speak for him--maintained that Rove had
only said to Matthews it was appropriate to raise
questions about her role in Wilson's mission to Niger.
(In February 2002, Wilson had been asked by the CIA to
visit Niger to check out allegations Iraq had been
shopping for uranium there; he did so and reported
back that the charge was probably untrue. In July, he
publicly challenged the White House's use of this
claim and earned the administration's wrath.)

These disclosures do not reveal who were the original
leakers. (The Justice Department, at the CIA's
request, started out investigating the White House; it
has widened its probe to include the State Department
and the Defense Department.) But these new details are
significant and undercut the White House line on the
leak. At a White House press briefing, Scott
McClellan, Bush's press secretary, repeatedly said
that Bush and his White House took no action after the
Novak column was published on July 14 because the leak
was attributed only to anonymous sources. "Are we
supposed to chase down every anonymous report in the
newspaper?" McClellan remarked.

He was arguing that a serious leak attributed to
anonymous sources was still not serious enough to
cause the president to ask, what the hell happened?
And he made it seem as if the White House just ignored
the matter. Not so. Mitchell's remark and even the
Rove-friendly account of the Rove-Matthews
conversation are evidence the White House tried to
further the Plame story--that is, to exploit the leak
for political gain. Rather than respond by trying to
determine the source of a leak that possibly violated
federal law and perhaps undermined national security (
The Washington Post reported that the leak also blew
the cover of a CIA front company, "potentially
expanding the damage caused by the original
disclosure"), White House officials sought to take
advantage of it. Spin that, McClellan.

Newsweek is also disclosing that a National Security
Council staffer previously worked with Valerie Wilson
(nee Plame) and was aware of her position at the CIA.
McClellan has indicated in his press briefings that
the White House did not--and has not--acted to
ascertain the source of the leak. But shouldn't Bush
or chief of staff Andrew Card (if Card is not one of
the leakers) have asked this person whether he
mentioned Valerie Wilson's occupation to anyone in the
White House? (I believe I know the name of this person
but since he or she may be working under cover I am
not at this point going to publish it.)

McClellan has had a tough time providing straight
answers. At the October 1 press briefing, he was asked
what Bush did after the leak first appeared. He
replied by saying that "some news reports" have noted
that Valerie Wilson's CIA connection "may have been
well-known within the DC community." That hardly seems
so. Her neighbors did not know, and Wilson maintains
their close friends did not know. No reporter that I
have talked to--and I've spoken to many covering this
story--had heard that.

During that briefing, reporters wondered if Bush
approved of the Republican campaign to depict Wilson
as a partisan zealot lacking credibility. McClellan
sidestepped: "The President is focused on getting to
the bottom of this." The next day, he was once more
asked whether it was appropriate for Republicans to be
attacking Wilson. "I answered that question
yesterday," he said. One problem: he hadn't. He also
maintained that Bush "has been the one speaking out
front on this." Not quite. For over two months, Bush
had said nothing about the leak. And on this day, Bush
met with reporters for African news organizations and
joked about the anti-Wilson leak. When asked what he
thought about the detention in Kenya of three
journalists who had refused to reveal sources, he
said, "I'm against leaks." This prompted laughter, and
Bush went on: "I would suggest all governments get to
the bottom of every leak of classified information."
Addressing the reporter who had asked the question,
Bush echoed the phrase that McClellan had frequently
used in his press briefings and quipped, "By the way,
if you know anything, Martin, would you please bring
it forward and help solve the problem?"

Perhaps Bush needed a good chuckle after reading--or
being briefed on--the testimony that chief weapons
hunter David Kay was presenting that day to Congress.
In an interim report, Kay had noted that his Iraq
Survey Group had found evidence of "WMD-related
program activities," but no stocks of unconventional
weapons. Kay also had an interesting observation about
the prewar intelligence on Iraq's WMDs: "Our
understanding of the status of Iraq's WMD program was
always bounded by large uncertainties and had to be
heavily caveated."

Wait a minute. That was not what Bush and his
compadres had said prior to the war. Flash back to
Bush's get-out-of-town speech on March 17, two days
before he launched the war. He maintained,
"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments
leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to
possess and conceal" weapons of mass destruction. Yet
Kay was saying there had been "large uncertainties" in
the intelligence. How does that square with Bush's
no-doubt claim? It doesn't.

Kay's testimony is more proof that Bush misrepresented
the intelligence. Regular readers of this column will
know that Kay's remark were preceded by similar
statements from the House intelligence committee and
former deputy CIA director, Richard Kerr, who has been
reviewing the prewar intelligence. Both the committee
(led by Representative Porter Goss, a Republican and
former CIA officer) and Kerr have concluded the
intelligence of Iraq's WMDs was based on
circumstantial and inferential material and contained
many uncertainties.

Prior to the invasion, administration officials
consistently declared there was no question Iraq had
these weapons. On December 5, 2002, for instance, Ari
Fleischer, then the White House press secretary, said,
"the president of the United States and the secretary
of defense would not assert as plainly and bluntly as
they have that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction if
it was not true, and if they did not have a solid
basis for saying it." But what had been that
"solid_basis"? Intelligence "bounded by large

Look at what Kay said about Iraq's nuclear weapons

"With regard to Iraq's nuclear program, the testimony
we have obtained from Iraqi scientists and senior
government officials should clear up any doubts about
whether Saddam still wanted to obtain nuclear weapons.
They have told [the Iraq Survey Group] that Saddam
Husayn remained firmly committed to acquiring nuclear
weapons. These officials assert that Saddam would have
resumed nuclear weapons development at some future

"Despite evidence of Saddam's continued ambition to
acquire nuclear weapons, to date we have not uncovered
evidence that Iraq undertook significant post-1998
steps to actually build nuclear weapons or produce
fissile material….

"Saddam, at least as judged by those scientists and
other insiders who worked in his military-industrial
programs, had not given up his aspirations and
intentions to continue to acquire weapons of mass

Compare this assessment to what Bush and Dick Cheney
had said before the war. In his 2003 State of the
Union speech, Bush declared that Hussein was a threat
because he had "an advanced nuclear weapons
development program" in the 1990s. (Bush had failed to
mention that the International Atomic Energy Agency
had reported in 1998 that it had demolished this
"advanced" program.) And Cheney on March 16 said, "we
believe [Hussein] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear
weapons." His aides later said Cheney had meant to say
"nuclear weapons programs."

But, according to Kay, the evidence so far collected
indicates only that Hussein maintained a desire to
acquire nuclear weapons and had not developed a
program to satisfy that yearning. Kay later added that
it would have taken Iraq five to seven years to
reconstitute its nuclear weapons program. So what was
the evidence for Bush's and Cheney's assertions that
the program was already revved up? By the way, Kay
says his team has found "no conclusive proof" Hussein
tried to acquire uranium in Niger. In fact, he
reported that one cooperating Iraqi scientist revealed
to the ISG that another African nation had made an
unsolicited offer to sell Iraq uranium but there is no
indication Iraq accepted the offer.

Kay also reported, "Our efforts to collect and exploit
intelligence on Iraq's chemical weapons program have
thus far yielded little reliable information on
post-1991 CW stocks and CW agent production, although
we continue to receive and follow leads related to
such stocks." But before the war, the Bush
administration had said flat-out that Iraq possessed
chemical weapons. Did it neglect to pass along to Kay
the information upon which it based this claim?
(Actually, the Defense Intelligence Agency in
September 2002 concluded there was no "reliable
information" on whether Iraq had produced or
stockpiled chemical weapons, but that did not stop
Bush and his aides from stating otherwise.)

How did Bush respond to Kay's interim findings? He
proclaimed they proved that he had been correct all
along. The "interim report," Bush remarked, "said that
Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program spanned
more than two decades. That's what [Kay] said....He's
saying Saddam Hussein was a threat, a serious danger."

Reality check: Bush had said that the main reason to
go to war was because Hussein possessed "massive"
stockpiles of unconventional weapons and at any moment
could hand them off to al Qaeda (with whom Bush
claimed Hussein was "dealing"--even though the
evidence on that point was and continues to be, at
best, sketchy). Now Bush is asserting that Hussein was
a threat that could only be countered with invasion
and occupations because he had weapons research
programs that indeed violated United Nations
resolutions but that had not produced any weapons.
That's a much different argument. Bush, Cheney,
McClellan, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz,
Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and others continue to
deny they overstated (or misrepresented) the case for
war. But the evidence is incontrovertible, and it
keeps on piling up.

So all they have is spin. Bush changes the terms.
McClellan, Rumsfeld, RIce insist that before the war
everybody knew that Iraq had WMDs. Everybody, that is,
except the folks putting together the intelligence
assessments chockfull of uncertainties. When it comes
to the Wilson affair, the White House ducks and
covers, claiming it had no reason to react to the
original anonymous-source leak, even though its
officials (at the least) considered the leak solid
enough to talk up to other reporters. And instead of
confronting the ugly (and perhaps criminal)
implications of the leak, the White House's allies in
Washington lash out at Wilson, in a vicious
blame-the-victim offensive, while Mister
Change-the-Tone has nothing to say publicly about
this. What if Wilson is a Democratic partisan? That
does not excuse what was done to his wife.

Leaking and lying--these are not actions easy to
explain away. Drip, drip, drip--that's the sound often
associated with Washington scandals. But now it may
also be the sound of the truth catching up to the
propagandists and perps of the Bush White House.

Corn's new book, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering
the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). For more
information and a sample, check out the book's
official website: www.bushlies.com.

Posted by richard at October 4, 2003 02:10 PM