Thursday, October 16, 2003
60 Minutes II -- corrections to be made: Well, I've got the 60 Minutes II piece on the "sexed up" Iraq intelligence and there's really no surprises in the statements coming from former State Department analyst Greg Thielmann. After checking out some background helpfully provided by Robert Musil, what CBS managed to come up with is the same ol', same ol'.
As I mentioned below, CBS perpetuates the idea that we went to war with Iraq because the threat was imminent -- despite the fact that it is demonstrably untrue.
There is at least one correction that CBS is going to have to make with regard to the "Niger-is-the-only-country-in-Africa-so-when-you-say-Africa-you-mean-Niger" claim.
Reporter Scott Pelley replays Bush's infamous 16 words from the State of the Union speech and then follows-up with:
After the war, the White House said the African uranium claim was false, and shouldn't have been in the president's address.
Wrong. From a CNN interview with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice more than three months ago:
RICE: When we got to the State of the Union, there were -- first of all, a lot of time had passed, several months. There were reports in the [National Intelligence Estimate] about other African countries. There was the British report that talked about the efforts to get uranium in Africa.
The British, by the way, still stand by their report to this very day in its accuracy, because they tell us that they had sources that were not compromised in any way by later -- in March or April -- later reports that there were some forgeries.
Now, we have said very clearly that the information went in on the basis of a number of sources, but we have a different standard for presidential speeches, which is that we don't just put in things that are in intelligence sources. We put in things that we believe the intelligence agency has high confidence in, and that's why we have a clearance process.
BLITZER: They didn't have high confidence in this ... That's why we had to pin it on British intelligence, as opposed to U.S. intelligence.
RICE: The British intelligence report, as far as we knew, was a report that was underpinned by reporting that was solid. We sent it out to the agency for clearance, said, "Can you stand by this?" They said, apparently, that's inconsistent. I'm understanding now that the sentence is accurate.
As George Tenet has said, accuracy is not the standard. Of course, the sentence was accurate. But we were asking about confidence. And George Tenet rightly says that the agency cleared the speech, it should not have been cleared with that sentence in.
The White House has never admitted that the intelligence was false, and to this day both the White House and British Intelligence stand behind the report. The only admission was that the fact shouldn't have been in the State of the Union speech because our intelligence agencies couldn't verify it.
Will CBS correct this error? I won't hold my breath.