In his piece The Stovepipe
, Seymour Hersh sought to make the connections between the Plame Case and the intentional twisting of intelligence by the Bush administration, particularly the Vice-President and his Chief of Staff I. Lewis Libby. The piece came a month after an interview Vice-President Cheney gave to Tim Russert on Meet the Press. (link
) Russert specifically asked Cheney if he exerted pressure on the intelligence community and Cheney said no:
MR. RUSSERT: This is what concerns people, that the administration hyped the intelligence, misled the American people. This article from The Washington Post about pressuring from Cheney visits: "Vice President Cheney and his most senior aide made multiple trips to the CIA over the past year to question analysts studying Iraq's weapons programs and alleged links to al Qaeda, creating an environment in which some analyst felt they were being pressured to make their assessments fit with the Bush administration's policy objectives, according to senior intelligence officials.
With Cheney taking the lead in the administration last August in advocating military action against Iraq by claiming it had weapons of mass destruction, the visits by the vice president and his chief of staff `sent signals, intended or otherwise, that a certain output was desired from here,' one senior agency official said."
VICE PRES. CHENEY: In terms of asking questions, I plead guilty. I ask a hell of a lot of questions...blah... blah...blah...
MR. RUSSERT: No pressure?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Shouldn't be any pressure. I can't think of a single instance. Maybe somebody can produce one. I'm unaware of any where the community changed a judgment that they made because I asked questions.
Hersh's piece which was published the next month after the Cheney interview on Meet the Press, sought to put the truth to Cheney's lie and connect the pressure by Cheney (and Libby) specifically with the Niger info:
By early 2002, the sismi intelligence (the forged Niger papers) --still unverified--had begun to play a role in the Administration's warnings about the Iraqi nuclear threat. On January 30th, the C.I.A. published an unclassified report to Congress that stated, "Baghdad may be attempting to acquire materials that could aid in reconstituting its nuclear-weapons program." A week later, Colin Powell told the House International Relations Committee, "With respect to the nuclear program, there is no doubt that the Iraqis are pursuing it."
The C.I.A. assessment reflected both deep divisions within the agency and the position of its director, George Tenet, which was far from secure. (The agency had been sharply criticized, after all, for failing to provide any effective warning of the September 11th attacks.)
In the view of many C.I.A. analysts and operatives, the director was too eager to endear himself to the Administration hawks and improve his standing with the President and the Vice-President. Senior C.I.A. analysts dealing with Iraq were constantly being urged by the Vice-President's office to provide worst-case assessments on Iraqi weapons issues. "They got pounded on, day after day," one senior Bush Administration official told me, and received no consistent backup from Tenet and his senior staff. "Pretty soon you say `Fuck it.' " And they began to provide the intelligence that was wanted.
In late February, the C.I.A. persuaded retired Ambassador Joseph Wilson to fly to Niger to discreetly check out the story of the uranium sale.
Clearly there are sources that connect pressure from Cheney's office, including Libby, with the effort to confirm that Iraq was trying to buy yellowcake from Niger. Despite Joe Wilson's report, the administration decided to use the Niger information anyway.
When Ambassador Wilson publicly challenged the administration's lies he became subject to shameless politically motivated attacks on him and his family. The plan of attack in his case seems to be an attempt to portray him as an unprofessional nobody who was only sent to Niger because his wife got the job for him. This included revealing her status as an undercover operative.
There was obviously a discussion that included major players like Karl Rove and Dick Cheney and that was discussion was about what to use to challenge Wilson's integrity and how to get the information out. This is the point at which Scooter Libby and Karl Rove began making calls to people like Robert Novak. In case you've forgotten what they said at the time, Media Matters has what Chris Matthews and David Brooks were saying after they got their phone calls.
This past August Walter Pincus summed up this smear effort by the White House (link):
Valerie Wilson's other role, according to intelligence officials, was to tell Wilson he had been selected, and then to introduce him at a meeting at the CIA on Feb. 19, 2002, in which analysts from different agencies discussed the Niger trip. She told the Senate committee she left the session after her introduction.
Senior Bush administration officials told a different story about the trip's origin in the days between July 8 and July 12, 2003. They said that Wilson's wife was working at the CIA dealing with weapons of mass destruction and that she suggested him for the Niger trip, according to three reporters.
The Bush officials passing on this version were apparently attempting to undercut the credibility of Wilson, who on Sunday, July 6, 2003, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" and in The Washington Post and the New York Times that he had checked out the allegation in Niger and found it to be wrong. He criticized President Bush for misrepresenting the facts in his January 2003 State of the Union address when he said Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium from Africa.
The attack on Ambassador Wilson is more heinous but not dissimilar to attacks on others who challenged the Bush administration's official version of events. The most important deception this administration has covered up through these distasteful tactics is that from the first day of his presidency George W. Bush wanted to invade Iraq. Long before Ambassador Wilson went to Niger on his fact-finding trip the decision to invade Iraq had already been made. Here's what Paul O'Neill said (link):
"From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go," says O'Neill, who adds that going after Saddam was topic "A" 10 days after the inauguration - eight months before Sept. 11.
"From the very first instance, it was about Iraq. It was about what we can do to change this regime," says Suskind. "Day one, these things were laid and sealed."
When O'Neill spoke out on 60 Minutes and Ron Suskind's book The Price of Loyalty was published, someone in leadership developed a plan to discredit O'Neill. They questioned O'Neill's integrity by accusing him of revealing classified documents. (link) Powerline blog and others on the right did their best to help by accusing Suskind and O'Neill of perpetrating a hoax, misrepresenting miniscule details of what Suskind and O'Neill actually said. (link) In the end, the issue was so clouded that the larger deception that O'Neill had tried to reveal remained doubtful to most Americans.
Another important former administration official who tried to reveal the deception about when the actual decision was made to go to war is Richard Clarke. (link) After Clarke published his book Against All Enemies and appeared on 60 Minutes, he also fell subject to attacks on his integrity. Condi Rice led the attack (link) but even Time Magazine participated in the effort. (link) Despite forceful defenses of Clarke by Fred Kaplan of Slate (link) and others, again the issue was so clouded that Clarke's central point remained doubtful to most Americans.
The Bush administration has also attacked others who challenged their assessment of how the war in Iraq should be conducted or how much it would cost. Many people in positions of authority voiced concerns. General Shinseki, Army Chief of Staff, was publicly criticized by members of the Bush administration after he (correctly!) said they need several hundred thousand troops in Iraq. General Zinni also spoke out about the war and then was effectively fired, not reappointed as a Middle East envoy. General Zinni was even accused of being an anti-Semite. When Bruce Lindsay, a senior White House advisor, spoke out about the real potential costs (also correctly!) of the Iraq War, he too was fired. Thomas White, civilian head of the army, was fired before he publicly spoke out about the lack of necessary troop strength but that likely was a major point of contention between him and Rumsfeld.
As I mentioned last week, I too was subject to threats by the Bush administration and Republican leadership. I was forced to choose between my job as a staffer on the House Armed Services Committee and my loyalty to General Clark. I know that the Republican leadership and the Bush administration coordinate with each other on everything, including these attacks and threats. That's why it came as no surprise to me to see Newt Gingrich's name, along with that of Dick Cheney and Lewis Libby, in an article that discussed the Office of Special Plans that was supposedly the hub of intelligence manipulation prior to the Iraq War. (link)
I was elated this past week to see Senator Reid force the issue on investigation of intelligence manipulation prior to the Iraq War. But unless Democrats can regain control of at least one house of congress it is going to be difficult to fully expose the misdeeds of the Bush administration and it's co-conspirators among the Republican leadership. That's why I need your help to unseat Randy Kuhl in New York's 29th congressional district. When it comes to supporting Tom DeLay and the Bush administration, Kuhl is "Rubberstamp Randy."
Please visit my website to learn more about my race for the 29th District of New York.