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[casi] Wolfowitz committee instructed White House to use Iraq/uranium reference in State of the Union speech



http://www.onlinejournal.com/Special_Reports/07-16-03Leopold/07-16-03leopold
.html


EXCLUSIVE!

Wolfowitz committee instructed White House to use Iraq/uranium reference in
State of the Union speech

By Jason Leopold
Online Journal Assistant Editor

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2003A Pentagon committee led by Paul Wolfowitz, the
Deputy Secretary of Defense, advised George W. Bush to include a reference
in his January State of the Union address about Iraq trying to purchase 500
tons of uranium from Niger to bolster the case for war in Iraq, despite the
fact that the CIA warned Wolfowitz's committee that the information was
unreliable, according to a CIA intelligence official and four members of the
Senate's intelligence committee who have been investigating the issue.

The senators and the CIA official said they could be forced out of
government and brought up on criminal charges for leaking the information to
this reporter and as a result requested anonymity. The senators said they
plan to question CIA Director George Tenet in a closed-door hearing to find
out whether Wolfowitz and members of a committee he headed misled Bush and
if the Bush knew about the erroneous information prior to his State of the
Union address.

Spokespeople for Wolfowitz and Tenet vehemently denied the accusations. Dan
Bartlett, the White House communications director, would not return repeated
calls for comment.

The revelations by the CIA official and the senators, if true, would prove
that Tenet, who last week said he erred by allowing the uranium reference to
be included in the State of the Union address, took the blame for an
intelligence failure that he was not responsible for. The lawmakers said it
could also lead to a widespread probe of prewar intelligence.

At issue is a secret committee set up in 2001 by Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld called the Office of Special Plans, which was headed by Wolfowitz,
Abrum Shulsky and Douglas Feith, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, to
probe allegations of links between Iraq and the terrorist organization
al-Qaeda and whether the country was stockpiling a cache of weapons of mass
destruction. The Special Plans committee disbanded in March after the start
of the war in Iraq.

The committee's job, according to published reports, was to gather
intelligence information on the Iraqi threat that the CIA and FBI could not
uncover and present it to the White House to build a case for war in Iraq.
The committee relied heavily on information provided by Iraqi defector Ahmad
Chalabi, who has provided the White House with reams of intelligence on
Saddam Hussein's weapons programs that has been disputed. Chalabi heads the
Iraqi National Congress, a group of Iraqi exiles who have pushed for regime
change in Iraq.

The Office of Special Plans, according to the CIA official and the senators,
routinely provided Bush, Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney and National
Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice with questionable intelligence information
on the Iraqi threat, much of which was included in various speeches by Bush
and Cheney and some of which was called into question by the CIA.

In the months leading up to the war in Iraq, Rumsfeld became increasingly
frustrated that the CIA could not find any evidence of Iraq's chemical,
biological and nuclear weapons program, evidence that would have helped the
White House build a solid case for war in Iraq.

In an article in the New York Times last October, the paper reported that
Rumsfeld had ordered the Office of Special Plans to "to search for
information on Iraq's hostile intentions or links to terrorists" that might
have been overlooked by the CIA.

The CIA official and the senators said that's when Wolfowitz and his
committee instructed the White House to have Bush use the now disputed line
about Iraq's attempts to purchase 500 tons of uranium from Niger in a speech
Bush was set to give in Cincinnati. But Tenet quickly intervened and
informed Stephen Hadley, an aide to National Security Adviser Rice, that the
information was unreliable.

Patrick Lang, a former director of Middle East analysis at the Defense
Intelligence Agency, said in an interview with the New Yorker magazine in
May that the Office of Special Plans "started picking out things that
supported their thesis and stringing them into arguments that they could use
with the President [sic]. It's not intelligence. It's political propaganda."

Lang said the CIA and Office of Special Plans often clashed on the accuracy
of intelligence information provided to the White House by Wolfowitz.

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, the author of a May New Yorker story
on the Office of Special Plans, reported, "former CIA officers and analysts
described the agency as increasingly demoralized. George knows he's being
beaten up," one former officer said of George Tenet, the CIA director. "And
his analysts are terrified. George used to protect his people, but he's been
forced to do things their way." Because the CIA's analysts are now on the
defensive, "they write reports justifying their intelligence rather than
saying what's going on. The Defense Department and the Office of the Vice
President write their own pieces, based on their own ideology. We collect so
much stuff that you can find anything you want."

"They see themselves as outsiders, " a former C.I.A. expert, who spent the
past decade immersed in Iraqi-exile affairs, told Hersh in regard to the
Special Plans people. He added, "There's a high degree of paranoia. They've
convinced themselves that they're on the side of angels, and everybody else
in the government is a fool."

By last fall, the White House had virtually dismissed all of the
intelligence on Iraq provided by the CIA, which failed to find any evidence
of Iraq's weapons programs, in favor of the more critical information
provided to the Bush administration by the Office of Special Plans

Hersh reported that the Special Plans Office "developed a close working
relationship with the (Iraqi National Congress), and this strengthened its
position in disputes with the C.I.A. and gave the Pentagon's pro-war
leadership added leverage in its constant disputes with the State
Department. Special Plans also became a conduit for intelligence reports
from the I.N.C. to officials in the White House."

In a rare Pentagon briefing recently, Office of Special Plans co-director
Douglas Feith said the committee was not an "intelligence project," but
rather a group of 18 people that looked at intelligence information from a
different point of view.

Feith said when the group had new "thoughts" on intelligence information it
was given; they shared it with CIA Director Tenet.

"It was a matter of digesting other people's intelligence," Feith said of
the main duties of his group. "Its job was to review this intelligence to
help digest it for me and other policy makers, to help us develop Defense
Department strategy for the war on terrorism."

Jason Leopold spent two years covering California's electricity crisis as
bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires. He has written more than 2,000 news
stories on the issue and was the first journalist to report that energy
companies were engaged in manipulative practices in California's newly
deregulated electricity market. Mr. Leopold is also a regular contributor to
CNBC and National Public Radio and has been the keynote speaker at more than
two-dozen energy industry conferences around the country.



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