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In Watergate, we witnessed the metamorphosis of obscure administration figures into major key figures of the scandal, people like Jeb Magruder and John Dean. Recent revelations, and the work of some key investigators (including Judy Miller!) have pointed the way to two primary, yet relatively unremarked figures at the heart of the WMD/Iraq/Plamegate scandal. Unnoticed, that is, until now.

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.

(More details...)

Walpole's Role

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.

  • Walpole is close to neo-con Robert Joseph on the National Security Council staff (while the WaPo characterizes him as Tenet's "top weapon's analyst").

  • When the CIA's Office of Directorate of Intelligence, especially the Weapons Inspection and Proliferation and Arms Control unit, or WINPAC, criticized the Niger story, Walpole ignored them, and helped Joseph get the yellowcake tale into the SOTU. -- And WINPAC, btw, is where Libby told Judy that Wilson's wife worked. See link.

    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.)

    Summing up

    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.]

  • Originally posted to Valtin on Tue Apr 11, 2006 at 12:39 AM PDT.

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    Comment Preferences

    •  That's interesting... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bob Love, Cedwyn, Valtin, Overseas
      I, for one, would love to get the various Bush sycophants under oath, under penalty of perjury.  We might finally get some factual statements from them.  Walpole would seem to be a good choice, based on this excellent diary.  But my favorite choice is Colin Powell, who, if he recants all of his idiotic lies/palpable falsehoods in Congressional testimony under oath, might just have a political impact.

      Let justice reign though the heavens tremble

      by Viceroy on Tue Apr 11, 2006 at 12:42:45 AM PDT

      •  And yet Powell (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Valtin, Viceroy

        would get away with any number of complete self-contradictions, as has Condi.

        "... Just so long as I'm the dictator." - GWB, 12/18/00

        by Bob Love on Tue Apr 11, 2006 at 12:45:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's why we need to get the underlings first (7+ / 0-)

          Powell, Condi, the whole rotten bunch will be strung up by the testimony of the bureaucrats, their minions.

          Is Robert Walpole, for instance, a neo-con or a true believer? Or is he a bureaucrat in the end?

          And what of the role of George Tenet?... obscure, as would befit the head of the CIA.

          "... the laborers still form an incoherent mass scattered over the whole country, and broken up by their mutual competition."

          by Valtin on Tue Apr 11, 2006 at 12:49:02 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  My guess about Tenet (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Avila, myrealname

            is that he's like a Swiss Army knife - a multiple-use tool.

            "... Just so long as I'm the dictator." - GWB, 12/18/00

            by Bob Love on Tue Apr 11, 2006 at 01:02:43 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Absolutely!~ (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Avila, Valtin
            Just like in the Watergate hearings, our hypothetical investigating committee would start with the Anthony Ulasciwitz's of the world and build momentum leading to the star performance of Powell et.al. - none of whom have had to be under oath (other than in Fitz's prosecution which is really only tangentially related to the entire "lying us into a never-ending disastrous war" scandal").  Every single sycophant as well as high ranking military and intelligence officers would be required to give information and tell the truth.  As opposed to what we've been hearing for years now...

            Let justice reign though the heavens tremble

            by Viceroy on Tue Apr 11, 2006 at 01:48:25 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Wow, you know about Ulasewicz (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Avila, singing bridge, Unduna

              Talk about your "minor" but interesting players. You hit the nail on the head in the comparison to Walpole.

              On 17th September, 1971, John Dean and Jeb Magruder arranged with Jack Caulfield to establish a new private security firm. Caulfield was told that Ulasewicz and his associates would be required to carry out "surveillance of Democratic primaries, convention, meetings, etc.," and collecting "derogatory information, investigative capability, worldwide." Ulasewicz was told that this was an "extreme clandestine" operation. Given the name Operation Sandwedge, its main purpose was to carry out illegal electronic surveillance on the political opponents of Richard Nixon.

              Ulasewicz was given $50,000 by Herbert W. Kalmbach to carry out this work during the 1972 presidential election campaign. Charles Colson suggested to Jack Caulfield that his men fire-bomb the Brookings Institute (a left-wing public policy group involved in studying government policy in Vietnam). Caulfield sent Ulasewicz to investigate the location of offices, security provisions, etc. According to Caulfield the fire-bomb plan was eventually "squelched" by John Dean.

              When the Watergate break-in took place John Ehrlichman immediately assumed that Ulasewicz had been involved. Ulasewicz found the whole case very confusing. As he wrote later: "as the burglars didn't even know enough to tape the door jam up and down instead of from front to back which exposed it, I assumed the break-in at the DNC had been orchestrated with an army in order to cover the real purpose of the effort ".

              Follow the link for more on Ulasewicz (for those old Watergate junkies that can't get enough).

              "... the laborers still form an incoherent mass scattered over the whole country, and broken up by their mutual competition."

              by Valtin on Tue Apr 11, 2006 at 02:00:33 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  The concluding comments (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Valtin, Unduna
                seem particularly pertinent:

                In 1977 Ulasewicz had a meeting with Richard Nixon at his home at San Clemente. They had a "heart to heart" talk. Nixon asked him: "What was it, Tony? What did it? What do you think caused Watergate? Ulasewicz replied: "You had a lot of guys around you who were trying to protect their own future at your expense." He admitted in his autobiography, The President's Private Eye (1990) that he did not tell him the full truth.

                It suggests strongly that Nixon was betrayed and, of course, the guys who were protecting their own future are with us still.

                Forget "GOD, GUNS, GAYS, GIRLS & GETS"

                by hannah on Tue Apr 11, 2006 at 07:21:38 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  The concluding comments (0+ / 0-)
                seem particularly pertinent:

                In 1977 Ulasewicz had a meeting with Richard Nixon at his home at San Clemente. They had a "heart to heart" talk. Nixon asked him: "What was it, Tony? What did it? What do you think caused Watergate? Ulasewicz replied: "You had a lot of guys around you who were trying to protect their own future at your expense." He admitted in his autobiography, The President's Private Eye (1990) that he did not tell him the full truth.

                It suggests strongly that Nixon was betrayed and, of course, the guys who were protecting their own future are with us still.

                Forget "GOD, GUNS, GAYS, GIRLS & GETS"

                by hannah on Tue Apr 11, 2006 at 07:23:22 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  I did not emphasize enough... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Unduna

            and record it here for posterity and collective memory: Walpole's WMD 1/24 pushing the bogus uranium Africa claim was sent to "[Stephen] Hadley and other White House officials".

            "... the laborers still form an incoherent mass scattered over the whole country, and broken up by their mutual competition."

            by Valtin on Tue Apr 11, 2006 at 12:17:24 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  under oath? Under a lie detector (0+ / 0-)

        voice stress analyzer and any other methods we have of getting at the truth. Maybe some dogs and a waterboarding action would refresh their memories?

    •  It's always surprising to find out (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Overseas

      after the fact who the keystones actually were in these Keystone Kops farces. I'm hoping one of the keystones will be loosened soon and the whole facade will come crumbling down.

      Fitz, don't fail me now!

      "I was very careful never to say that Saddam Hussein ordered the attacks on America." - George W. Bush, Mis-Leader

      by DavidW in SF on Tue Apr 11, 2006 at 02:11:47 AM PDT

    •  I'd a thought (0+ / 0-)

        That Robert Walpole was an eighteenth-century Whig Prime Minister of Great Britain.

        This Robert Walpole, however, speaks Finnish "fluently" and has a B.A. in Interior Design from Brigham Young University.

        I wonder if they are related?

    •  Great diary, Valtin. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Valtin
      It is a real shame that it didn't get more attention. Thank you SusanG for getting me here!

      "In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder, a secret order." Carl Jung

      by Unduna on Tue Apr 11, 2006 at 10:05:42 PM PDT

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