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White House silenced expert doubts about Iraq intel 6 months before war

By Jason Leopold - posted Friday, 20 June 2003

Six months before the United States was dead-set on invading Iraq to rid the country of its alleged weapons of mass destruction, experts in the field of nuclear science warned officials in the Bush administration that intelligence reports showing Iraq was stockpiling chemical and biological weapons were unreliable and that the country did not pose an imminent threat to its neighbors in the Middle East or the U.S.

But the dissenters were told to keep quiet by high-level administration officials in the White House because the Bush administration had already decided that military force would be used to overthrow the regime of Iraq's President Saddam Hussein, interviews and documents have revealed.

The most vocal opponent to intelligence information supplied by the CIA to the hawks in the Bush administration about the so-called Iraqi threat to national security was David Albright, a former United Nations weapons inspector and president and founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington, D.C. based group that gathers information for the public and the White House on nuclear weapons programs.


With the likelihood of finding WMD in Iraq becoming increasingly remote, new information, such as documents and interviews provided by Albright and other weapons experts, proves that the White House did not suffer from an intelligence failure on Iraq's WMD. Instead, it shows how the Bush administration embellished reams of intelligence and relied on murky intelligence to get Congress and the public to back the war. That may explain why it is becoming so difficult to find WMD: because it's entirely likely that the weapons don't exist.

"A critical question is whether the Bush Administration has deliberately misled the public and other governments in playing a 'nuclear card' that it knew would strengthen public support for war," Albright said in a March 10 assessment of the CIA's intelligence, which is posted on the ISIS website.

John Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, wrote in a column last week that if President Bush mislead the public in building a case for war in Iraq, largely because the WMD have yet to be found. If Bush did distort intelligence information to make a case for war he could a case for impeachment could be made, according to Dean.

"Presidential statements, particularly on matters of national security, are held to an expectation of the highest standard of truthfulness," Dean wrote this week. "A president cannot stretch, twist or distort facts and get away with it. President Lyndon Johnson's distortions of the truth about Vietnam forced him to stand down from re-election. President Richard Nixon's false statements about Watergate forced his resignation."

In September, USA Today reported that "the Bush administration is expanding on and in some cases contradicting U.S. intelligence reports in making the case for an invasion of Iraq, interviews with administration and intelligence officials indicate."

"Administration officials accuse Iraq of having ties to al-Qaeda terrorists and of amassing weapons of mass destruction despite uncertain and sometimes contrary intelligence on these issues, according to officials," the paper reported. "In some cases, top administration officials disagree outright with what the CIA and other intelligence agencies report. For example, they repeat accounts of al-Qa'ida members seeking refuge in Iraq and of terrorist operatives meeting with Iraqi intelligence officials, even though U.S. intelligence reports raise doubts about such links. On Iraqi weapons programs, administration officials draw the most pessimistic conclusions from ambiguous evidence."


In secret intelligence briefings last September on the Iraqi threat, House Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi, (D-Calif.), said administration officials were presenting "embellishments" on information long known about Iraq.

A senior Bush administration official conceded privately that there are large gaps in U.S. knowledge about Iraqi weapons programs, USA Today reported.

The concerns jibe with warnings about the CIA's intelligence information Albright first raised last September, when the agency zeroed in on high-strength aluminum tubes Iraq was trying to obtain as evidence of the country's active near-complete nuclear weapons program.

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About the Author

Jason Leopold is the author of the National Bestseller, News Junkie, a memoir. Visit for a preview. Mr. Leopold is also a two-time winner of the Project Censored award, most recently, in 2007, for an investigative story related to Halliburton's work in Iran.

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