What we learned from Seymour Hersh 7.

During 2002 and early 2003, OSP took on CIA and the State Department. W. Patrick Lang[1] summed up what he saw of the arguments within the Bush Administration over intelligence: the people at OSP “banded together to dominate the government’s foreign policy, and they’ve pulled it off. They’re running Chalabi. The D.I.A. [Defense Intelligence Agency] has been intimidated and beaten to a pulp. And there’s no guts at all in the C.I.A.” (p. 208.)   One source told Hersh in early 2002 that “if it became known that Rummy[2] wanted [D.I.A.] to link the government of Tonga to 9/11, within a few months they would come up with sources who’d do it.” One former CIA officer told Hersh that “George [Tenet] knows he’s being beaten up, and his analysts are terrified. George used to protect his people, but he’s been forced to do things their way.” Another told Hersh that the “analysts at the C.I.A. were beaten down defending their assessments. I’ve never seen a government like this.” (Quotes from p. 224.) CIA analysts working on Iraq and briefing senior officials “got pounded on, day after day,” according to one Bush administration official. Without any substantial support from George Tenet in response to the criticism, “Pretty soon you say ‘Fuck it.’” (Quoted, p. 228.)

In late February 2002, the State Department sent former ambassador Joe Wilson[3] to Niger to investigate the “yellow cake” uranium story floated by the Italians. Wilson came back by early March 2002 and wrote a report discrediting the story. What he found was that all of Niger’s “yellow cake” uranium came from only two mines. Both were operated by a single French company. The entire output of the mines was sold by prior contract to power companies in France, Spain, and Japan. “Five hundred tons can’t be siphoned off without anyone noticing,” an IAEA official told Hersh. (p. 237.) So, that was the end of that. Except that it wasn’t.

On 24 September 2002, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet[4] and others briefed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Iraq’s WMD.   Tenet told the senators that a) a shipment of aluminum tubes, suitable for use in constructing uranium-enriching centrifuges, had recently been intercepted, and b) reports had been received that Iraq had sought to purchase “yellow cake” uranium from Niger between 1999 and 2001. That same day the British made public a similar report about the “yellow cake” uranium. On 26 September 2002, Secretary of State Powell repeated the assertion about the attempt to purchase “yellow cake” uranium before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In early October 2002, an Italian journalist who served as the conduit for an Italian businessman with political connections (who had been a proven source for an earlier story), contacted the American embassy. She transmitted what appeared to be documents from Niger about Iraq’s attempts to purchase uranium. She turned over the documents on 9 October 2002. (pp. 231-232.) Soon afterward, the Italian journalist investigated the story in Niger and concluded—like Joe Wilson back in March—that the story was bogus. Hersh reports that the CIA officers who examined the documents regarded them a fake from the get-go. (p. 233.)

Nevertheless, on 23 January 2003, in an op-ed piece in the NYT, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice[5] affirmed “Iraq’s efforts to get uranium from abroad.” On 26 January 2003, Secretary of State Powell asked, in a public forum, “why is Iraq still trying to procure uranium?” On 28 January 2003, President Bush repeated the assertions about the aluminum tubes and the “yellow cake” uranium in his State of the Union address. On 5 February 2003, Powell made the American case for war against Iraq in a speech to the UN Security Council.

On 5 or 6 February 2003, IAEA officials concluded that the documents from Niger—which they only received from the Americans on 4 February 2003, were obvious forgeries. (p. 237.) IAEA informed the Americans and the British, then waited for a response. No response came. (p. 237.) A month later, on 7 March 2003, Mohammed ElBaradei[6] informed the UN Security Council that the documents upon which the accusations about “yellow cake” were based were forgeries.

On 19 March 2003, the United States and a “coalition of the willing” attacked Iraq.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._Patrick_Lang

[2] Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_C._Wilson

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Tenet

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Condoleezza_Rice

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohamed_ElBaradei

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