Wednesday, July 14, 2004

What Were You Thinking?

Mr. President, here is a question from the press corps and your answer, February 2, 2004:

Q Yes, Mr. President. I'd like to ask you about this intelligence investigation that you're going to order. Do you think that the country is owed an explanation about the Iraq intelligence failures before the election, so that voters have this information when they elect a new President?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the -- first of all, I want to know all the facts. We do know that Saddam Hussein had the intent and the capabilities to cause great harm, we know he was a danger. And he was not only a danger to people in the free world, he was a danger to his own people; he slaughtered thousands of people, imprisoned people.

What we don't know yet is what we thought and what the Iraqi Survey Group has found, and we want to look at that. But we also want to look at our war against proliferation and weapons of mass destruction, kind of in a broader context. And so I'm putting together an independent, bipartisan commission to analyze where we stand, what we can do better as we fight this war against terror.

Before I move forward with the commission, I want to sit down with Mr. Kay. I appreciate his service. I've invited him to come down to the White House. I'll be doing so soon. I do want to get a briefing from him.

Yes, I want to know what you thought, too. I believe that the intelligence presented to you did not indicate that Iraq was a threat (imminent, grave, gathering - you pick the adjective, Mr. President). Yet you hyped that intelligence, slanted it, massaged it, and - dare I say it - lied about what the intelligence agencies told you prior to invading Iraq.

That's what I believe, but it would be nice to know for sure what you knew before sending eight hundred and counting of our young men and women to their deaths.

The SSCI report released Friday amply demonstrates that the intelligence agencies did not believe that Iraq posed a threat to the United States or the region. But we know you, Mr. President, you're not the kind of guy who reads lengthy reports and delves into the nuts and bolts of an analytical review.

You, Mr. President, are more of a one-page summary kind of guy. Screw the details, just tell me in a few short, clear sentences whatever it is that you want to say.

It would be nice if we could see that one-page summary, wouldn't it?

The White House and the Central Intelligence Agency have refused to give the Senate Intelligence Committee a one-page summary of prewar intelligence in Iraq prepared for President Bush that contains few of the qualifiers and none of the dissents spelled out in longer intelligence reviews, according to Congressional officials.

Senate Democrats claim that the document could help clear up exactly what intelligence agencies told Mr. Bush about Iraq's illicit weapons. The administration and the C.I.A. say the White House is protected by executive privilege, and Republicans on the committee dismissed the Democrats' argument that the summary was significant.

Also in today's Times, James Risen on Niger uranium, the story no serious person ever believed.