The most infamous example of the Administration's manipulation of pre-war intelligence is the sixteen words in the 2003 State of the Union Address, in which the President falsely claimed to the American people and the Congress that Iraq was attempting to acquire uranium from Africa. Until now, the Administration's line of defense has been that the President did not know about dissenting viewpoints on this issue and, therefore, acted in good faith when he presented this claim in an unequivocal fashion.
In a moment reminiscent of the revelation that the President received a memo entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States" prior to the September 11 attacks, we now learn -- via fellow Huffington Poster Murray Waas of the National Journal -- that the President received a memo advising him that the notion that Iraq was seeking nuclear weapons was anything but an unequivocal view within his own Administration. We also know that the Administration orchestrated an effort to cover up this fact before the 2004 elections.
According to National Journal, then-Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley summarized a National Intelligence Estimate for the President in October 2002. In that summary, Hadley specifically said that while many agencies believed the aluminum tubes were "related to a uranium enrichment effort," the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Energy Department's intelligence branch "believe that the tubes more likely are intended for conventional weapons."
What did the President do just 3 months later? He stood before Congress, the American people, and the world and contradicted his own experts. During his January 2003 State of the Union Address, he claimed, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production." He failed to mention that not all of our intelligence sources saw it that way.
We also learned from this report that Karl Rove reviewed these documents in advance of the 2004 elections and expressed concerns that Bush's reelection prospects would be severely damaged if it was publicly disclosed that the President had received this warning about the credibility of the Iraq uranium claims.
We now should turn to the White House and ask it to make public the summary the President received. The American people deserve to know what the President knew and when he knew it. For my part, I am writing the President today to ask him to do just that. I have no illusions that this arrogant Administration will be any more responsive to my requests than it has in the past. That is why this issue cries out for an aggressive and concerted effort by the press to get to the bottom of this. The President and his Press Secretary should be asked about this every single day until they come clean.
We have just passed the three-year anniversary of the invasion and no nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons materials have been found in Iraq. In the meantime, the human costs of the war continue to mount. We deserve full, complete and candid answers.
The text of my letter follows:
March 30, 2006
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I write to ask that you publicly release an October 2002 memorandum that informed you that the Energy Department and State Department disagreed with assessments that Iraq was seeking to acquire nuclear weapons materials. The memorandum was submitted to you by then-Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley.
Throughout the past several years, you have claimed frequently that Saddam Hussein had been attempting to acquire the materials necessary to build nuclear weapons. In fact, during your 2003 State of the Union Address, you stated, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production." Shortly after this speech, the United States invaded Iraq, but no nuclear weapons materials have been located.
According to the National Journal, you were aware prior to the 2003 State of the Union that Iraq did not possess such materials. In summarizing a National Intelligence Estimate for you in October 2002, Mr. Hadley noted that, while many agencies believed the aluminum tubes were "related to a uranium enrichment effort," the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Energy Department's intelligence branch "believe that the tubes more likely are intended for conventional weapons." In short, these two intelligence agencies disagreed with your State of the Union assertion.
I am certain you would agree that, as we enter the fourth year of the invasion, it is important for the American people to understand exactly what set of circumstances led to your authorization of military action. For that reason, I ask that you release Mr. Hadley's memorandum.
John Conyers, Jr.