MEMORANDUM FOR: The President
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for
SUBJECT: The Forgery Flap
By now you are all too familiar with the play-by-play.
The Iraq-seeking-uranium-in-Niger forgery is
a microcosm of a mischievous nexus of overarching
problems. Instead of addressing these problems,
your senior staff are alternately covering up
for one another and gently stabbing one another
in the back. CIA Director George Tenet's extracted,
unapologetic apology on July 11 was classic--I
confess; she did it.
It is now dawning on our until-now somnolent
press that your national security adviser, Condoleezza
Rice, shepherds the foreign affairs sections
of your state-of-the-union address and that
she, not Tenet, is responsible for the forged
information getting into the speech. But the
disingenuousness persists. Surely Dr. Rice cannot
persist in her insistence that she learned only
on June 8, 2003 about former ambassador Joseph
Wilson's mission to Niger in February 2002,
when he determined that the Iraq-Niger report
was a con-job. Wilson's findings were duly reported
to all concerned in early March 2002. And, if
she somehow missed that report, the New York
Times' Nicholas Kristoff on May 6 recounted
chapter and verse on Wilson's mission, and the
story remained the talk of the town in the weeks
denials are reminiscent of her claim in spring
2002 that there was no reporting suggesting
that terrorists were planning to hijack planes
and slam them into buildings. In September,
the joint congressional committee on 9/11 came
up with a dozen such reports.
Secretary of State Colin Powell's credibility,
too, has taken serious hits as continued non-discoveries
of weapons in Iraq heap doubt on his confident
assertions to the UN. Although he was undoubtedly
trying to be helpful in trying to contain the
Iraq-Niger forgery affair, his recent description
of your state-of-the-union words as "not
totally outrageous" was faint praise indeed.
And his explanations as to why he made a point
to avoid using the forgery in the way you did
was equally unhelpful.
Whatever Rice's or Powell's credibility, it
is yours that matters. And, in our view, the
credibility of the intelligence community is
an inseparably close second. Attempts to dismiss
or cover up the cynical use to which the known
forgery was put have been--well, incredible.
The British have a word for it: "dodgy."
You need to put a quick end to the dodginess,
if the country is to have a functioning intelligence
The Vice President's Role
Attempts at cover up could easily be seen as
comical, were the issue not so serious. Highly
revealing were Ari Fleisher's remarks early
last week, which set the tone for what followed.
When asked about the forgery, he noted tellingly--as
if drawing on well memorized talking points--that
the Vice President was not guilty of anything.
The disingenuousness was capped on Friday, when
George Tenet did his awkward best to absolve
the Vice President from responsibility.
those of us who experienced Watergate these
comments had an eerie ring. That affair and
others since have proven that cover-up can assume
proportions overshadowing the crime itself.
All the more reason to take early action to
get the truth up and out.
is just too much evidence that Ambassador Wilson
was sent to Niger at the behest of Vice President
Cheney's office, and that Wilson's findings
were duly reported not only to that office but
to others as well.
important, it was Cheney who launched (in a
major speech on August 26, 2002) the concerted
campaign to persuade Congress and the American
people that Saddam Hussein was about to get
his hands on nuclear weapons--a campaign that
mushroomed, literally, in early October with
you and your senior advisers raising the specter
of a "mushroom cloud" being the first
"smoking gun" we might observe.
this campaign was based largely on information
known to be forged and that the campaign was
used successfully to frighten our elected representatives
in Congress into voting for war is clear from
the bitter protestations of Rep. Henry Waxman
and others. The politically aware recognize
that the same information was used, also successfully,
in the campaign leading up to the mid-term elections--a
reality that breeds a cynicism highly corrosive
to our political process.
The fact that the forgery also crept into your
state-of-the-union address pales in significance
in comparison with how it was used to deceive
Congress into voting on October 11 to authorize
you to make war on Iraq.
It was a deep insult to the integrity of the
intelligence process that, after the Vice President
declared on August 26, 2002 that "we know
that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire
nuclear weapons," the National Intelligence
Estimate (NIE) produced during the critical
month of September featured a fraudulent conclusion
that "most analysts" agreed with Cheney's
assertion. This may help explain the anomaly
of Cheney's unprecedented "multiple visits"
to CIA headquarters at the time, as well as
the many reports that CIA and other intelligence
analysts were feeling extraordinarily great
pressure, accompanied by all manner of intimidation
tactics, to concur in that conclusion. As a
coda to his nuclear argument, Cheney told NBC's
Meet the Press three days before US/UK forces
invaded Iraq: "we believe he (Saddam Hussein)
has reconstituted nuclear weapons."
Russert:...the International Atomic Energy Agency
said he dose not have a nuclear program; we
Vice President Cheney: I disagree, yes. And
you'll find the CIA, for example, and other
key parts of the intelligence community disagree
... we know he has been absolutely devoted to
trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe
he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.
I think Mr. ElBaradei (Director of the IAEA)
frankly is wrong.
Contrary to what Cheney and the NIE said, the
most knowledgeable analysts--those who know
Iraq and nuclear weapons--judged that the evidence
did not support that conclusion. They now have
been proven right.
Adding insult to injury, those chairing the
NIE succumbed to the pressure to adduce the
known forgery as evidence to support the Cheney
line, and relegated the strong dissent of the
State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and
Research (and the nuclear engineers in the Department
of Energy) to an inconspicuous footnote.
It is a curious turn of events. The drafters
of the offending sentence on the forgery in
president's state-of-the-union speech say they
were working from the NIE. In ordinary circumstances
an NIE would be the preeminently authoritative
source to rely upon; but in this case the NIE
itself had already been cooked to the recipe
of high policy.
Joseph Wilson, the former US ambassador who
visited Niger at Cheney's request, enjoys wide
respect (including, like several VIPS members,
warm encomia from your father). He is the consummate
diplomat. So highly disturbed is he, however,
at the chicanery he has witnessed that he allowed
himself a very undiplomatic comment to a reporter
last week, wondering aloud "what else they
are lying about." Clearly, Wilson has concluded
that the time for diplomatic language has passed.
It is clear that lies were told. Sad to say,
it is equally clear that your vice president
led this campaign of deceit.
This was no case of petty corruption of the
kind that forced Vice President Spiro Agnew's
resignation. This was a matter of war and peace.
Thousands have died. There is no end in sight.
We recommend that you call an abrupt halt to
attempts to prove Vice President Cheney "not
guilty." His role has been so transparent
that such attempts will only erode further your
own credibility. Equally pernicious, from our
perspective, is the likelihood that intelligence
analysts will conclude that the way to success
is to acquiesce in the cooking of their judgments,
since those above them will not be held accountable.
We strongly recommend that you ask for Cheney's
Games Congress Plays
unedifying dance by the various oversight committees
of the Congress over recent weeks offers proof,
if further proof were needed, that reliance
on Congress to investigate in a non-partisan
way is pie in the sky. One need only to recall
that Sen. Pat Roberts, Chair of the Senate Intelligence
Committee, has refused to agree to ask the FBI
to investigate the known forgery. Despite repeated
attempts by others on his committee to get him
to bring in the FBI, Roberts has branded such
a move "inappropriate," without spelling
Rep. Porter Goss, head of the House Intelligence
Committee, is a CIA alumnus and a passionate
Republican and agency partisan. Goss was largely
responsible for the failure of the joint congressional
committee on 9/11, which he co-chaired last
year. An unusually clear indication of where
Goss' loyalties lie can be seen in his admission
that after a leak to the press last spring he
bowed to Cheney's insistence that the FBI be
sent to the Hill to investigate members and
staff of the joint committee--an unprecedented
move reflecting blithe disregard for the separation
of powers and a blatant attempt at intimidation.
(Congress has its own capability to investigate
Waxman's recent proposal to create yet another
congressional investigatory committee, patterned
on the latest commission looking into 9/11,
likewise holds little promise. To state the
obvious about Congress, politics is the nature
of the beast. We have seen enough congressional
inquiries into the performance of intelligence
to conclude that they are usually as feckless
as they are prolonged. And time cannot wait.
As you are aware, Gen. Brent Scowcroft performed
yeoman's service as National Security Adviser
to your father and enjoys very wide respect.
There are few, if any, with his breadth of experience
with the issues and the institutions involved.
In addition, he has avoided blind parroting
of the positions of your administration and
thus would be seen as relatively nonpartisan,
even though serving at your pleasure. It seems
a stroke of good luck that he now chairs your
President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board
We repeat, with an additional sense of urgency,
the recommendation in our last memorandum to
you (May 1) that you appoint Gen. Brent Scowcroft,
Chair of the President's Foreign Intelligence
Advisory Board to head up an independent investigation
into the use/abuse of intelligence on Iraq.
refusal to allow UN inspectors back into Iraq
has left the international community befuddled.
Worse, it has fed suspicions that the US does
not want UN inspectors in country lest they
impede efforts to "plant" some "weapons
of mass destruction" in Iraq, should efforts
to find them continue to fall short. The conventional
wisdom is less conspiratorial but equally unsatisfying.
The cognoscenti in Washington think tanks, for
example, attribute your attitude to "pique."
We find neither the conspiracy nor the "pique"
rationale persuasive. As we have admitted before,
we are at a loss to explain the barring of UN
inspectors. Barring the very people with the
international mandate, the unique experience,
and the credibility to undertake a serious search
for such weapons defies logic. UN inspectors
know Iraq, know the weaponry in question, know
the Iraqi scientists/engineers who have been
involved, know how the necessary materials are
procured and processed; in short, have precisely
the expertise required. The challenge is as
daunting as it is immediate; and, clearly, the
US needs all the help it can get.
The lead Wall Street Journal article of April
8 had it right: "If the US doesn't make
any undisputed discoveries of forbidden weapons,
the failure will feed already-widespread skepticism
abroad about the motives for going to war."
As the events of last week show, that skepticism
has now mushroomed here at home as well.
We recommend that you immediately invite the
UN inspectors back into Iraq. This would go
a long way toward refurbishing your credibility.
Equally important, it would help sort out the
lessons learned for the intelligence community
and be an invaluable help to an investigation
of the kind we have suggested you direct Gen.
Scowcroft to lead.
If Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
can be of any further help to you in the days
ahead, you need only ask.
/s/ Ray Close, Princeton, NJ
David MacMichael, Linden, VA
Raymond McGovern, Arlington, VA
Steering Committee, Veteran Intelligence Professionals