(See the footnote on page 57 of the SSCI report or this earlier post.)
That's the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, by the way, and it led me to this:
Now, it's a premise of much reporting and in fact a subtext of the committee report that there were these various reports about Niger...
For whatever reason, that rang a few bells...
This was what Ari had to say on July 14th:
Q Ari, to follow-up on his question, the apple was a reference in a draft to the October speech to a specific quantity of uranium from Niger. To take another apple, the draft of the State of the Union speech -- according to Dr. Rice's briefing on the plane on Friday -- included references to quantity and place, and we were told that that was Niger, they were taken out.
MR. FLEISCHER: She was referring to Cincinnati in that. I talked to her afterwards, and she was referring to Cincinnati when she said that.
Q When she said that on the plane?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes.
So what did Condi say on the 11th?
DR. RICE: I'm going to be very clear, all right? The President's speech -- that sentence was changed, right? And with the change in that sentence, the speech was cleared. Now, again, if the Agency had wanted that sentence out, it would have been gone. And the Agency did not say that they wanted that speech out -- that sentence out of the speech. They cleared the speech.
Now, the State of the Union is a big speech, a lot of things happen. I'm really not blaming anybody for what happened. But there is a fact here, in the way that we clear speeches.
I've read her responses several times now and she is not talking about Cincinnati. A little white lie? Simple confusion between colleagues? I don't think so. The basic theme that Condi and Ari both pounded was that administration claims of Saddam's nuclear ambitions weren't based only on the Niger claims...there were "other African countries" (and the aluminum tubes, but I digress), other reports, other intelligence being relied on. But the bottom line was, if only the CIA had warned them!
So what had the CIA told them?
On July 16, 2003, the DCI testified before the SSCI that he told the Deputy National Security Advisor that the "President should not be a fact witness on this issue," because his analysts had told him the "reporting was weak." The NSC then removed the uranium reference from the draft of the speech.
Although the NSC had already removed the uranium reference from the speech, later on October 6th, 2002 the CIA sent a second fax to the White House which said, "more on why we recommend removing the sentence about procuring uranium oxide from Africa: 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 city by the source is under the control of the French authorities. (2) The procurement is not particularly significant to Iraq's nuclear ambitions because the Iraqis already have a large stock of uranium oxide in their inventory. And (3) we have shared points one and two with Congress, telling them that the Africa story is overblown and telling them this is one of the two issues where we differed with the British."
Did I miss something? It seems to me that the CIA warned them quite strongly about uranium claims from Africa.
It seems that Ari was backtracking since Condi had let the cat out of the bag. They knew full well that Bush's uranium claim in his SOTU was wrong and they knew it before he said it...and they certainly didn't want it out that CIA-requested revisions had been made, just not revisions that would result in the truth. As I said, maybe it was a harmless little lie...SOTU, Cincinnati, potato, potahto, right? Wrong. It's just another tiny piece of the big lie that landed us in the quagmire we call Iraq.
A late addition to this diary, but important. More from Ari on July 14th:
MR. FLEISCHER: It was a different reference in the State of the Union speech.
Q Well, it was similar.
MR. FLEISCHER: But it was different. And it's similar in the fact that it's Iraq and Iraq pursuing weapons -- that's similar, of course. What is dramatically and markedly different and makes the Cincinnati speech different from the State of the Union speech, is the Cincinnati speech had a sentence in it about Iraq pursuing a specific quantity of weapons from one country -- Niger. The Director of Central Intelligence suggested to the White House that that statement should be removed. It was removed.
The State of the Union address had different language, and it was that Iraq is pursuing uranium, seeking uranium from Africa. That's because there was additional reporting from the CIA, separate and apart from Niger, naming other countries where they believed it was possible that Saddam was seeking uranium. So it's an apple in Cincinnati and an orange in the State of the Union. The two do not compare that directly.
But what did George Tenet say on July 11th:
Tenet said CIA officials reviewed portions of the draft speech and raised some concerns with national security aides at the White House that prompted changes in language concerning allegations that Iraq sought to buy uranium from the African nation of Niger.
An outright lie.