Friday, June 27, 2003

Josh Marshall is ON IT! 

Josh Marshall in Talking Points Memo, is on it, folks. All the president's men knew the Nigerian document was a fake:

Following up on the previous post, let's assume for a moment that neither the president nor any of his top advisors knew that the Niger-uranium documents were bogus when the president delivered his State of the Union speech. (Let's call it an extreme hypothetical.) Let's say it was just a snafu.

If it's really true that folks at the State Department knew the story was bogus, and folks in the intelligence community knew it was bogus, and folks at the NSC were told it was bogus, and folks at the OVP were told it was bogus ... If all those people knew, and somehow the information never got to the president or any of his top advisors, isn't that the kind of Category-5 screw-up that, almost by definition, costs a National Security Advisor her job?

If the president were given information to tell the public, even while many people in his own government knew the information was bogus -- and I think we now know that's true -- don't you figure he'd want some answers or explanations? From someone?

I think this is the sort of mystery Ockham's Razor slices right through.

Josh Marshall is on it folks, in the hillnews.com, but I will disagree with him on one point: I believe the president knew the documents were a forgery, and decided to go with it anyway:

But let’s zoom in on one case of possible deception which is starting to look more and more clear-cut.

Last January, in his State of the Union Address, President Bush told the American people that Iraq had recently tried to purchase uranium from Niger. Later, of course, we discovered that the documents in question were forgeries — a low-budget hoax that the head of International Atomic Energy Agency’s Iraq inspections unit, Jacques Baute, was able to debunk with a few quick Google searches.

So when did the White House discover they were fakes?

On June 8th, Condi Rice conceded that the documents were fraudulent but told Tim Russert that the White House hadn’t known before the speech. “Maybe someone knew down in the bowels of the Agency [i.e., the CIA], but no one in our circles knew that there were doubts and suspicions that this might be a forgery.”

But Rice wouldn’t have had to look too far down into the “bowels of the Agency” since just about everyone in the intelligence community — and at least some people on her own National Security Council staff — had known the documents were phonies for almost a year.

Vice President Cheney had first asked the CIA to look into the matter. And in February 2002 the CIA sent an as-yet-unnamed former US Ambassador to Niger back to the country to investigate.

His report back was unambiguous: the story was bogus.

The White House first claimed that the CIA just hadn’t told them about its findings.

But in the last several weeks lots of people from the national security and intelligence apparatus have been coming forward to say that’s just not true.