Posted on Sunday 29 April 2007

George Tenet told former Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley in October 2002 that allegations about Iraq’s attempt to acquire yellowcake uranium from Niger should immediately be removed from a speech President Bush was to give in Cincinnati. Tenet told Hadley that the intelligence was unreliable.

"Steve, take it out," the ex-CIA director writes in a new book, "At the Center of the Storm," about a conversation he had with Hadley on October 5, 2002, about the 16 words that alleged Iraq tried to obtain uranium from Niger. As deputy National Security Adviser, Hadley was also in charge of the clearance process for speeches given by White House officials. "The facts, I told him, were too much in doubt."

The 16 words in question, "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa," was cited by Bush in a January 28, 2003 State of the Union address and was widely seen as the single most important element that helped convince Congress and the public to back an invasion of Iraq. However, the intelligence was wholly unreliable and based on forged documents. Tenet says that White House officials knew that and used the language anyway.

Following his conversation with Hadley, one of Tenet’s aides sent a follow-up letter to then Deputy National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Hadley, and Bush’s speechwriter Mike Gerson highlighting additional reasons the language about Iraq’s purported attempts to obtain uranium from the African country of Niger should not be used to try and convince Congress and the public that Iraq was an imminent threat, Tenet wrote in the book.

"More on why we recommend removing the sentence about [Saddam’s] procuring uranium oxide from Africa," Tenet wrote in the book, apparently quoting from a memo sent to the White House. "Three points: (1) The evidence is weak. One of the two mines cited by the source as the location of the uranium oxide is flooded. The other mine cited by the source is under the control of French authorities; (2) the procurement is not particularly significant to Iraq’s nuclear ambitions…And (3) we have shared points one and two with Congress, telling them the Africa story is overblown and telling them this was one of two issues where we differed with the British."

The revelation about the behind-the-scenes jockeying, as portrayed by Tenet, related to the so-called 16 words has not been previously reported. A copy of Tenet’s book was purchased by a Truthout reporter at a bookstore Saturday afternoon. The book officially goes on sale Monday. Tenet received a $4 million advance for "At the Center of the Storm," according to news reports.
Reviews of Tenet’s book are mixed. The harshest comes from Ray McGovern in truthout:
George’s concern over being scapegoated is touching. But could he not have seen it coming? Not even when Rumsfeld asked him in the fall of 2002 (that is, before the war) whether he had put in a system to track how good the intelligence was compared with what would be found in Iraq? The guys I know from Queens usually can tell when they’re being set up. Maybe Tenet was naive enough to believe that the president, whom he describes as a "kindred soul," would protect him from thugs like Vice President Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, even when – as was inevitable – someone had to take the fall. Or did he perhaps actually believe the Cheney dictum that US forces would be greeted as liberators?

So now George is worried about his reputation. He tells "60 Minutes:"

"At the end of the day, the only thing you have … is your reputation built on trust and your personal honor, and when you don’t have that anymore, well, there you go."

I immediately thought back to former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s response when he was asked if he regretted the lies he told at the UN on February 5, 2003. Powell said he regretted that speech because it was "a blot on my record." So we’ve got ruined reputations and blots on records. Poor boys. What about the 3,344 American soldiers already killed in a war that could not have happened had not these poor fellows deliberately distorted the evidence and led the cheering for war? What about the more than 50,000 wounded, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis whose deaths can be attributed directly to the invasion and its aftermath? There are blots, and there are blots. Why is it that Tenet and Powell seem to inhabit a different planet?
While I agree that we were let down by a lot of people back then. There were lots of people who could’ve been heros ten times over who didn’t step up to the plate. I thought about Durbin’s speech about being on the Senate Intelligence Committee and knowing that the public face on the war was a lie. I wanted him to have taken his place in history by going on television and saying, "What they are telling you is not true!" but he didn’t. A lot of people didn’t.

Well, at least they’re talking now. It’s their conscience they have to live with. I think our imperative right now is not the people who missed the opportunity to make a stand for integrity and honor. Our focus is the Band of Thieves who took over our government at a time when all of us were vulnerable and frightened and used it for their own misguided purposes. So, I want us to create an environment where telling the truth is what matters, even at this late date. Tenet’s sin is being an egotistical politician. In the words of the Vatican, it’s Venal. We’re after the Mortal sinners right now. The truth has been so elusive, I’ll take it no matter how bad it makes someone look, no matter how belated its telling, and say, "Thanks."

    April 30, 2007 | 10:30 PM

    Band of Thieves, empowered by PNACers, ‘protected’ by AIPACers, ‘blackmailed’ by the various tentacle groups of this 2-headed atrocity. Speedy Trials, big pits. End of story.

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