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[casi] Waxman Letter: Who Knew What, When?

The Henry Waxman Letter:
Who Knew What, And When?

by Jeffrey Steinberg
Executive Intelligence Review
EIR June 13, 2003

TheWaxman Letters

Representative Waxman's letter was a follow-up to one
he had written on March 17 to the President on the same
topic. The chronology of events, spelled out in the Waxman
letters, and in documentation cited in those letters, is as

. Sometime in late 2001, the Central Intelligence Agency
received several documents, purporting to show Iraqi
government efforts to purchase large volumes of  "yellow
cake" from the African government of Niger.

According to EIR intelligence sources, the Niger
documents were produced at the country's embassy
in Rome, and were passed on to the Italian Carabinieri,
who passed them along, without further comment, to
the British MI6 and the CIA.

. According to a May 6, 2003 New York Times report
"Missing In Action: Truth," by Nicholas D. Kristof, "more
than a year ago, the Vice President's office asked for an
investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S.
ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger.

In February 2002, according to someone present at
the meetings, that envoy reported to the CIAand State
Department that the information was unequivocally
wrong and that the documents had been forged.

The envoy reported, for example, that a Niger minister
whose signature was on one of the documents had in fact
been out of office for more than a decade...

The envoy's debunking of the forgery was passed around
the Administration and seemed to be accepted--except
that President Bush and the State Department kept
citing it anyway."

. Despite the fact that top Bush Administration officials
--including Vice President Cheney--knew that the Niger
documents were fabrications as early as February 2002,
the same documents continued to be cited--by both
American and British government officials.

On Sept. 24, British Prime Minister Tony Blair's 10
Downing Street office issued a 50-page public dossier,
titled "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction--The
Assessment of the British Government," which stated,
in part, "there is intelligence that Iraq has sought the
supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

The same day, according to a March 31, 2003 New
Yorker article by Seymour Hersh, "Who Lied to Whom?"
a group of senior U.S. intelligence officials delivered a
closed-door, classified briefing to the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, citing the same Niger "yellow cake"
evidence of Iraq's nuclear weapons program. Two days
later, Secretary of State Colin Powell reported on the
same subject and repeated the CIA material.

. Two weeks later, the U.S. Congress voted to grant
President Bush authority to go to war against Iraq.

As Representative Waxman wrote to Bush on March
17, 2003, "Despite serious misgivings, I supported the
resolution because I believed Congressional approval
would significantly improve the likelihood of effective
UN action. Equally important, I believed that you had
access to reliable intelligence information that
merited deference."

"Like many other members, I was particularly
influenced by your views about Iraq's nuclear

. On Dec. 19, 2002, the U.S. State Department, in
response to Iraq's weapons declaration to the UN
Security Council, issued a one-page fact sheet,
"Illustrative Examples of Omissions From the Iraqi
Declaration to the United Nations Security
Council," which cited eight cases.

The third item, "Nuclear Weapons," simply read:
"The Declaration ignores efforts to procure uranium
from Niger. Why is the Iraqi regime hiding their
uranium procurement?"

. In January 2003, senior Administration officials
repeated the allegations about Iraq's attempted
procurement of uranium, including National Security
Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld--and President Bush, in his Jan.
28, 2003 State of the Union address.

. On March 7, Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei, the
Director General of the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA), testified before the UN Security
Council, and flatly declared that the Niger documents
were forgeries.

"Based on thorough analysis," he testified publicly, "the
IAEA has concluded, with the concurrence of outside
experts, that these documents-which formed the basis
for reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq
and Niger--are in fact not authentic. We have therefore
concluded that these specific allegations are unfounded."

. Even following Dr. ElBaradei's public discrediting of
the Niger forgeries, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney
appeared, on March 16, on the Sunday TV talk-show
"Meet the Press" --three days before the invasion
of Iraq--and repeated the false charges.

Referring to Saddam Hussein, "We know," Cheney told
host Tim Russert, "he's been absolutely devoted to trying
to acquire nuclear weapons, and we believe he has,
in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."

. On March 17, 2003, Rep. Henry Waxman wrote the
first letter to President Bush, detailing the Niger forgery,
and seeking an explanation.

. On April 29, 2003, Representative Waxman received a
one-page reply from Paul V. Kelly, Assistant Secretary of
State for Legislative Affairs. After reviewing the sources
of the Niger allegations, Kelly wrote,

"Not until March 4 did we learn that in fact the second
Western European government had based its assessment
on the evidence already available to the U.S. that was
subsequently discredited."

"Based on what appeared at the time to be multiple
sources for the information in question, we acted in good
faith in providing the information earlier this year to the
International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors responsible
for verifying Iraq's claims regarding its nuclear program."

. On June 2, 2003, Representative Waxman sent his
second letter to the President on the forged Niger
documents and the Administration's continued references
to the documents, long after they were known to be fakes.

Waxman wrote: "Unfortunately, to date I have received
only a cursory, one-page response from the State
Department's Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs.
Although this April 29, 2003, letter asserts that the
Administration acted in 'good faith,' the letter in fact
further confuses the situation and raises additional

The Cheney Question

One additional question certainly raised, is the particular
role of Vice President Cheney, who was among the first
Administration officials to be informed that the Niger
documents were forgeries, and who was the only senior
Administration official to continue to assert the Niger-
Iraq uranium story after Dr. ElBaradei addressed
the UN Security Council on March 7, 2003.

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