Both of them are members of the National Intelligence Council (NIC). They are current National Intelligence Officer (NIO) for WMD and Proliferation, Robert Walpole (formerly NIO for Strategic and Nuclear Programs (1998-2004), and Robert G. Houdek, National Intelligence Officer for Africa since October 1997. You can read their professional bios here.
And both of them wrote crucial memos to the administration in late January 2003. In those memos lie important clues to how Bush and Cheney manipulated so-called intelligence on WMD to start a war that wrongfully has killed 10,000s of people.
We must demand that Congress bring Walpole and Houdek before them. After their testimony, let's then hear from Cheney and Bush.
Let's go back to September 2002. The October National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was being prepared, a document destined to be used in selective form by Bush, Cheney, Libby, and possibly others, to push the WMD/nuclear/Iraq angle to justify the Administrations push for war. According to last Sunday's Washington Post article, "A 'Concerted Effort' to Discredit Bush Critic":
Iraq's alleged uranium shopping had been strongly disputed in the intelligence community from the start. In a closed Senate hearing in late September 2002, shortly before the October NIE was completed, then-director of central intelligence George J. Tenet and his top weapons analyst, Robert Walpole, expressed strong doubts about the uranium story, which had recently been unveiled publicly by the British government. The State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, likewise, called the claim "highly dubious." For those reasons, the uranium story was relegated to a brief inside passage in the October estimate.
OK, but in a 2004 UPI article by Richard Sale, it's claimed that:
...a congressional investigative memo -- confirmed by agency sources -- is strongly critical of Robert Walpole who, as the agency's national intelligence officer for proliferation, played a key role in promoting the bogus claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction in October 2002.
So, Sept. 2002, Walpole is critical of WMD claims. One month later, he's promoting the "bogus claims". By January 2003, he's also preparing the materials for Colin Powell's speech before the U.N., only weeks away. Sale's article makes two more important points about Walpole.
Things Get Both Murkier and Clearer
Let's go back to the WaPo article I cited above. It goes on to say:
Tenet interceded to keep the claim out of a speech Bush gave in Cincinnati on Oct. 7, 2002, but by Dec. 19 it reappeared in a State Department "fact sheet." After that, the Pentagon asked for an authoritative judgment from the National Intelligence Council, the senior coordinating body for the 15 agencies that then constituted the U.S. intelligence community. Did Iraq and Niger discuss a uranium sale, or not? If they had, the Pentagon would need to reconsider its ties with Niger.
The council's reply, drafted in a January 2003 memo by the national intelligence officer for Africa, was unequivocal: The Niger story was baseless and should be laid to rest.
The National Intelligence Officer for Africa is one Robert J. Houdek. His NIC document arrives around the same time as the Walpole memorandum. But no one had heard of it until recently. But the Walpole memo had been written about as early as July 23, 2003, in the New York Times, as covered by mkt's Daily Kos diary of July 17, 2005, "What was Judith Miller Covering in July 2003?
Quoting Judy herself (actually, David Sanger "with Judith Miller") from the New York Times article:
According to the outline of events the White House gave today, Mr. Tenet's warnings to the National Security Council that the information was unreliable came only six days after the intelligence director published it in the ''National Intelligence Estimate,'' the gold-standard of intelligence documents circulated to the highest levels of the administration and to Congress.
.... Three months later, on Jan. 24, another senior C.I.A. official, Robert Walpole, sent Mr. Hadley and other White House officials another memorandum that again said Iraq had sought to obtain the uranium, citing the language in the Oct. 1 intelligence estimate.
That memorandum, which was not part of the White House discovery this weekend, was intended to aid Secretary of State Colin L. Powell as he prepared to make the case against Saddam Hussein at the United Nations. But it arrived at the White House just four days before the State of the Union speech, and seemed to support the president's now disputed statement. It contained none of the cautions that Mr. Tenet had voiced...
Unfortunately, the NYT did not mention, or did not know about Houdek's NIC conclusions, stated in a document that appears to still be classified. I had thought, very wrongly, that the latter was the January 24 memo referred to in Fitzgerald's filings, one of three papers Judy was shown in the Grand Jury. (See emptywheel's article on this last weekend.)
We may not get Congressional investigations until the Democrats win back Congress in November 2006. But when they do, they should put Walpole and Houdek at the top of their witness list. Here's some of the questions I would ask them:
Mr. Walpole: Did you change your mind about Iraq WMD between September 2002 and October 2002? If so, why? Who were you reporting to then? Where did you get your information? Did you know that Valerie Wilson aka Plame was with WINPAC?
Mr. Houdek: Where did you gather your information on the Niger story? What did you write in your NIC document on the subject? Who did you know read it, or signed off on it? Did you know Valerie Plame Wilson? Did you know Joesph Wilson? What do you know about the work of Robert Walpole?
Walpole is said to be Tenet's man, but also close to neocon Joseph. Walpole's 1/24 document may have coincidentally arrived at the same time as Houdek's, allowing Bush/Cheney to cherry-pick again. Or the timing was perhaps more than accident, more of a preemption against the Pentagon-backed Houdek NIC investigation.
Many questions... I think some of the answers will lead us right into the heart of the conspiracy in the Plame/Iraq/WMD case. And don't forget, with news about bombing Iran still ringing in our ears, supposedly to axe the Iran WMD/nuclear program, that our current National Intelligence Officer for Weapons of Mass Destruction and Proliferation is -- Robert D. Walpole.
[Much thanks to emptywheel, mkt, and commenters joejoejoe and jeff at thenexthurrah.com -- they don't know me, but their work, analysis and questions, spurred my own thoughts on the Walpole matter. Oh, and to Judy Miller, too! -- and of course, more seriously, the journalists of the MSM, who occasionally get out the truth.]