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Motive, Meet Your Cohorts Opportunity and Intent…


Man, when Murray Waas writes an article, he doesn’t kid around, does he?  His new article in the National Journal puts the justification for going to war in Iraq under a microscope — and asks some pretty damning questions about Presidential lies and how far George Bush’s closest advisors were willing to go to keep the public and the Congress from finding out that proof of those lies exists. 

Karl Rove, President Bush’s chief political adviser, cautioned other White House aides in the summer of 2003 that Bush’s 2004 re-election prospects would be severely damaged if it was publicly disclosed that he had been personally warned that a key rationale for going to war had been challenged within the administration. Rove expressed his concerns shortly after an informal review of classified government records by then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley determined that Bush had been specifically advised that claims he later made in his 2003 State of the Union address — that Iraq was procuring high-strength aluminum tubes to build a nuclear weapon — might not be true, according to government records and interviews.

Hadley was particularly concerned that the public might learn of a classified one-page summary of a National Intelligence Estimate, specifically written for Bush in October 2002. The summary said that although "most agencies judge" that the aluminum tubes were "related to a uranium enrichment effort," the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Energy Department’s intelligence branch "believe that the tubes more likely are intended for conventional weapons."

Oh yeah, this article is a doozy. Not so much for providing information we didn’t all suspect this whole time — but because Murray Waas, who may very well be the world’s best connected human being in Washington, D.C., knows that there is documentation to show that the President and his staff lied their way into the Iraq War. That there are multiple pieces of documentation on this is simply icing on a very deadly cake.  (Josh Marshall has some very intriguing tidbits about cover-ups on the Hill on this as well.  Very intriguing.)

Emptywheel has a fantastic piece of analysis on this at Next Hurrah.  And she hits the exact same question that I did on my read through of the Waas article:  exactly when did the Hadley document review take place?  And how much did our gal Judy know about all of this?  From Emptywheel (citing Waas):

Waas then describes Hadley’s review to be part of the damage control effort in response to Wilson’s allegations (though Waas does not specify whether this effort started before Wilson came out publicly in July 2003).

The previously undisclosed review by Hadley was part of a damage-control effort launched after former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV alleged that Bush’s claims regarding the uranium were not true.

Finally, Waas portrays the damage control assessment as being part of a three-prong effort to respond to Wilson’s allegations.

The pre-election damage-control effort in response to Wilson’s allegations and the broader issue of whether the Bush administration might have misrepresented intelligence information to make the case for war had three major components, according to government records and interviews with current and former officials: blame the CIA for the use of the Niger information in the president’s State of the Union address; discredit and undermine Wilson; and make sure that the public did not learn that the president had been personally warned that the intelligence assessments he was citing about the aluminum tubes might be wrong.

Nowhere in the article does Waas provide an exact date for this review. Did it happen the week of July 7?

Wouldn’t we all like to know the answer to that question?  But suddenly, all the inter-Administration finger-pointing that Team Libby was doing in their latest filing makes a whole lot more sense, doesn’t it?  "Protect my back, our you’ll be protecting your own."  Except, well, now Waas let one big cat out of the multiple warnings bag, didn’t he?  (Or was it someone from the Administration using Waas to castrate the Libby defense threat?  Wouldn’t that be an interesting move on someone’s part?  Who in the Administration would be so devious?  Hmmmm….)

I thought this was a particularly interesting little nugget — and one which will no doubt come back as a question again and again for our current Secretary of State:

Aboard Air Force One, en route to Entebbe, Uganda, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice gave a background briefing for reporters. A reporter pointed out that when Secretary Powell had addressed the United Nations on February 5, 2003, he — unlike others in the Bush administration — had noted that some in the U.S. government did not believe that Iraq’s procurement of high-strength aluminum tubes was for nuclear weapons.

Responding, Rice said: "I’m saying that when we put [Powell’s speech] together … the secretary decided that he would caveat the aluminum tubes, which he did…. The secretary also has an intelligence arm that happened to hold that view." Rice added, "Now, if there were any doubts about the underlying intelligence to that NIE, those doubts were not communicated to the president, to the vice president, or me."

In fact, contrary to Rice’s statement, the president was indeed informed of such doubts when he received the October 2002 President’s Summary of the NIE. Both Cheney and Rice also got copies of the summary, as well as a number of other intelligence reports about the State and Energy departments’ doubts that the tubes were meant for a nuclear weapons program.

So which is it:  was Condaleeza Rice so sloppy that she didn’t even know what was contained in a one page summary about a fundamental claim in the run-up to the Iraq War?  Or was she flat out lying?  You choose.

Or perhaps she just felt that no one would ever catch her in her deception, because the Administration would only selectively declassify those pieces of intelligence which made them look good:

Because the Bush administration was able to control what information would remain classified, however, reporters did not know that Bush had received the President’s Summary that informed him that both State’s INR and the Energy Department doubted that the aluminum tubes were to be used for a nuclear-related purpose.

Waas adds an aside here that had me chuckling, because this has to be some marker from his source to Hadley as a "hello, guess who?" kind of smack upside the head, describing how Hadley had initially considered declassifying the Presidential Summary prior to realizing that it opened the aluminum tubes Pandora’s Box.  (Anyone want to lay odds on whether Murray’s source is Powell, Tenet or McLaughlin?)

It’s unfortunate for the Administration that the Phase II investigation in the Senate Intelligence Committee has been stalled for so long, with the help of their pal, Sen. Pat Roberts.  (And kudos to reader John Casper for catching this and commenting on it at Next Hurrah.  Had to laugh that we had the same snide thought.) 

Had the report been completed, the panel might not have known about the trail of documentary evidence of what President Bush clearly knew (or ought to have known, assuming he at least took the time to read a one page summary of his Presidential Daily Briefings — talk about your Presidential cliff’s notes) about the aluminum tubes being likely meant for artillary usage.  Now the Phase II panel will have to delve into this completely and lay blame where it is due.  Isn’t that a shame?  (And yes, that ought to be read with a sarcastic tone.)

And now we come to the crux of the problem for poor Scooter.  As Fitz previously noted in his filings, he has not given notice of Rule 404(b) "other crimes, wrongs or acts" as yet.  But disclosure of the NIE (with or without proper approval or declassification from the Vice President) and all of the information that Waas lays out in his article on what was behind the Administration’s desparate race to shut down any inquiry into Ambassador Wilson’s allegations — whatever its motivation from protecting the President and the Vice President on down — constitutes a big hunk of motive, opportunity, intent and all of the other goodies that allow all of that evidence to come in at trial:

404(b) Other crimes, wrongs, or acts

Evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith. It may, however, be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident, provided that upon request by the accused, the prosecution in a criminal case shall provide reasonable notice in advance of trial, or during trial if the court excuses pretrial notice on good cause shown, of the general nature of any such evidence it intends to introduce at trial.

You can see why there was a scramble to keep Scooter on the reservation through all of this now, can’t you?  All the fundraising for his legal defense, the wingnut welfare job, everything — all to keep the public from ever finding out that the President lied his way into war.  Lied to the public.  Lied to Congress.  And that documentary proof exists of that fact.  In triplicate and more.

And Fitz still has ample time for that "reasonable notice" that he plans on using the evidence laid out by Waas — and whatever else our boy Fitz may be holding over the heads of whatever cooperating witnesses he has in and out of the Administration.  Doesn’t it just warm your heart to know that?

It’s a whole new can of worms. 

Pat Fitzgerald is currently in the middle of a huge fight known as the Ryan trial to folks in Illinois.  But I’m sure he and his team have been hitting this information pretty hard, too.  And when you consider Fitz’s multiple trips back to the grand jury even after Scooter Libby was indicted in the context of the Waas article, it makes you wonder:  just how far and how many members of the President’s staff were involved in covering for George Bush’s lies?

And how many more indictments are there to come as a result?

NOTE:  I wanted to also address a number of things in the February 23, 2006, hearing transcript that Jeralyn has graciously posted at TalkLeft.  But this was a lot to squeeze into a single article, and there is a lot in that transcript worth discussing.  So it will have to wait for another day this week when I can devote a substantial chunk of time to the legal intricacies.  I apologize that I haven’t gotten to it sooner.  It’s just been one of those weeks.

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com