Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Why should Condoleeza Rice worry?
Henry Waxman’s letter
to Condoleezza Rice
Dear Dr. Rice:
On June 10, 2003, I wrote to you to seek answers to basic questions regarding the Bush Administration’s repeated claims that Iraq sought uranium from Africa. I asked why you claimed on national television that no White House officials “knew that there were doubts and suspicions” about these claims when both the CIA and the State Department’s intelligence bureau had raised significant concerns with White House officials prior to the President’s State of the Union address. I also wanted to know who in the Administration had expressed doubts about the information, who had been briefed on those concerns, and what role Vice President Cheney or his office played in this matter.
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 11, 2003
Press Gaggle with Ari Fleischer and Dr. Condoleeza Rice
Aboard Air Force One
Q Dr. Rice, there are a lot of reports, apparently overnight, that CIA people had informed the NSC well before the State of the Union that they had trouble the reference in the speech. Can you tell us specifically what your office had heard, what you had passed along to the President on that?
DR. RICE: The CIA cleared the speech. We have a clearance process that sends speeches out to relevant agencies -- in our case, the NSC, it's usually State, Defense, the CIA, sometimes the Treasury. The CIA cleared the speech in its entirety.
Now, the sentence in question comes from the notion the Iraqis were seeking yellow cake. And, remember, it says, "seeking yellow cake in Africa" is there in the National Intelligence Estimate. The National Intelligence Estimate is the document the that Director of Central Intelligence publishes as the collective view of the intelligence agencies about the status of any particular issue.
That was relied on to, like many other things in the National Intelligence Estimate, relied on to write the President's speech. The CIA cleared on it. There was even some discussion on that specific sentence, so that it reflected better what the CIA thought. And the speech was cleared.
Now, I can tell you, if the CIA, the Director of Central Intelligence, had said, take this out of the speech, it would have been gone, without question. What we've said subsequently is, knowing what we now know, that some of the Niger documents were apparently forged, we wouldn't have put this in the President's speech -- but that's knowing what we know now.
The President of the United States, we have a higher standard for what we put in presidential speeches. The British continue to stand by their report. The CIA's NIE continues to talk about efforts to acquire yellow cake in various African countries. But we have a high standard for the President's speeches. We don't make the President his own fact witness, we have a high standard for them. That's why we send them out for clearance. And had we heard from the DCI or the Agency that they didn't want that sentence in the speech, it would not have been in the speech. The President was not going to get up and say something that the CIA --