Friday, July 11, 2003

Don't pin your hopes on George Tenet

Matt Singer brings up an important point about all the finger pointing:
Regardless, Bush, Rice, and Powell have now all said that the "CIA cleared the speech" -- if by clear the speech they mean backed off on the misleading version after Rove demanded it, then Bush is misleading the public. What makes me doubt what's going on here is that Rice never makes a statement that truly contradicts the CBS story. Here's what she says, fisked: "The CIA cleared the speech. The CIA cleared the speech in its entirety," Rice said, en route to Uganda. CBS Reported: But CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin reports that before the State of the Union speech was delivered, CIA officials warned members of the president's National Security Council staff that the intelligence was not good enough to make the flat statement Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa. According to sources, White House officials responded that a September dossier issued by the British government contained the unequivocal assertion: "Iraq has…sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." As long as the statement was attributed to British intelligence, the White House officials argued, it would be factually accurate. The CIA officials dropped their objections. There's no contradiction there. The CIA cleared the speech after it was changed, despite the fact that all knew the change was misleading. Both the CIA and the White House screwed up on this one.
The message of the CBS story is that the CIA allowed itself to be brow-beaten into signing off on a technically accurate but substantially misleading statement in the SOTU speech. The White House may be to blame for pushing for this deception, but the CIA is not blameless in this no matter how much they protested to begin with. This will make it hard for George Tenet to simply come out and say, "No I didn't" because yes, he DID. Those of us hoping for Tenet to burn Bush might want to reconsider. Tenet's ass is on the line as much as Condi, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell and Bush. To really blow this open we are going to need someone one level below Tenet who still objected, on the record, to the Niger/Uranium claims even after the White House finessed the claim. We need that someone to go on the record and point the finger at BOTH the White House AND George Tenet. Update: I may have to re-assess this if today's trends continue. It looks like the Bushies are settling on Tenet to take the fall for it. So, if he is already going to be humiliated, there isn't much benefit to him to not blow the whistle.

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