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This article appears in the June 13, 2003 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

The Henry Waxman Letter:
Who Knew What, and When?

by Jeffrey Steinberg

U.S. Representative Henry Waxman (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, sent a letter to President George W. Bush, demanding a full explanation from the Administration, as to why senior officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and the President himself "cited forged evidence about Iraq's efforts to obtain nuclear materials." (Representative Waxman's letter and the Executive's reply appear below in Documentation.)

Informed of Waxman's June 2 letter to the President, Democratic Presidential pre-candidate Lyndon LaRouche immediately seized on the significance of senior Administration officials having used a proven forged foreign government document, to win Congressional and public support for the Iraq War, based on the fabricated claim that Iraq was attempting to purchase large quantities of uranium precursor, "yellow cake," from the Niger government. LaRouche insisted that it is an urgent matter of national security to determine "who knew what, and when?"

LaRouche's own track record of challenging the wall of disinformation thrown up by the Straussian neo-conservative network inside the Bush Administration, to launch the Iraq War, puts him in a unique position to hold the other Democratic Presidential candidates—as well as Bush Administration top officials—accountable for their repeated failure, up until now, to challenge the avalanche of disinformation and "spun" intelligence products.

On Feb. 9, 2003, LaRouche had issued a campaign statement, "Powell Apparent Victim of Hoax," sharply criticizing the Secretary of State's Feb. 5 report to the United Nations Security Council, during which he had presented a series of fraudulent charges about Iraq's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. Appended to the LaRouche statement was a grid of comments from the other declared Democratic Presidential candidates, which, for the most part, revealed that they, too, had been uncritical endorsers of the fakery.

The Waxman Letters

Representative Waxman's letter was a follow-up to one he had written on March 17 to the President on the same topic. The chronology of events, spelled out in the Waxman letters, and in documentation cited in those letters, is as follows:

  • Sometime in late 2001, the Central Intelligence Agency received several documents, purporting to show Iraqi government efforts to purchase large volumes of "yellow cake" from the African government of Niger. According to EIR intelligence sources, the Niger documents were produced at the country's embassy in Rome, and were passed on to the Italian Carabinieri, who passed them along, without further comment, to the British MI6 and the CIA.

  • According to a May 6, 2003 New York Times report "Missing In Action: Truth," by Nicholas D. Kristof, "more than a year ago, the Vice President's office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger. In February 2002, according to someone present at the meetings, that envoy reported to the CIA and State Department that the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged. The envoy reported, for example, that a Niger minister whose signature was on one of the documents had in fact been out of office for more than a decade.... The envoy's debunking of the forgery was passed around the Administration and seemed to be accepted—except that President Bush and the State Department kept citing it anyway."

  • Despite the fact that top Bush Administration officials—including Vice President Cheney—knew that the Niger documents were fabrications as early as February 2002, the same documents continued to be cited—by both American and British government officials. On Sept. 24, British Prime Minister Tony Blair's 10 Downing Street office issued a 50-page public dossier, titled "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction—The Assessment of the British Government," which stated, in part, "there is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

    The same day, according to a March 31, 2003 New Yorker article by Seymour Hersh, "Who Lied to Whom?" a group of senior U.S. intelligence officials delivered a closed-door, classified briefing to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, citing the same Niger "yellow cake" evidence of Iraq's nuclear weapons program. Two days later, Secretary of State Colin Powell reported on the same subject and repeated the CIA material.

  • Two weeks later, the U.S. Congress voted to grant President Bush authority to go to war against Iraq. As Representative Waxman wrote to Bush on March 17, 2003, "Despite serious misgivings, I supported the resolution because I believed Congressional approval would significantly improve the likelihood of effective UN action. Equally important, I believed that you had access to reliable intelligence information that merited deference. Like many other members, I was particularly influenced by your views about Iraq's nuclear intentions. Although chemical and biological weapons can inflict casualties, no argument for attacking Iraq is as compelling as the possibility of Saddam Hussein brandishing nuclear bombs."

  • On Dec. 19, 2002, the U.S. State Department, in response to Iraq's weapons declaration to the UN Security Council, issued a one-page fact sheet, "Illustrative Examples of Omissions From the Iraqi Declaration to the United Nations Security Council," which cited eight cases. The third item, "Nuclear Weapons," simply read: "The Declaration ignores efforts to procure uranium from Niger. Why is the Iraqi regime hiding their uranium procurement?"

  • In January 2003, senior Administration officials repeated the allegations about Iraq's attempted procurement of uranium, including National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld—and President Bush, in his Jan. 28, 2003 State of the Union address.

  • On March 7, Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), testified before the UN Security Council, and flatly declared that the Niger documents were forgeries. "Based on thorough analysis," he testified publicly, "the IAEA has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that these documents—which formed the basis for reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger—are in fact not authentic. We have therefore concluded that these specific allegations are unfounded."

  • Even following Dr. ElBaradei's public discrediting of the Niger forgeries, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney appeared, on March 16, on the Sunday TV talk-show "Meet the Press"—three days before the invasion of Iraq—and repeated the false charges. Referring to Saddam Hussein, "We know," Cheney told host Tim Russert, "he's been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons, and we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."

  • On March 17, 2003, Rep. Henry Waxman wrote the first letter to President Bush, detailing the Niger forgery, and seeking an explanation.

  • On April 29, 2003, Representative Waxman received a one-page reply from Paul V. Kelly, Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs. After reviewing the sources of the Niger allegations, Kelly wrote, "Not until March 4 [2003] did we learn that in fact the second Western European government had based its assessment on the evidence already available to the U.S. that was subsequently discredited. Based on what appeared at the time to be multiple sources for the information in question, we acted in good faith in providing the information earlier this year to the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors responsible for verifying Iraq's claims regarding its nuclear program."

  • On June 2, 2003, Representative Waxman sent his second letter to the President on the forged Niger documents and the Administration's continued references to the documents, long after they were known to be fakes. Waxman wrote: "Unfortunately, to date I have received only a cursory, one-page response from the State Department's Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs. Although this April 29, 2003, letter asserts that the Administration acted in 'good faith,' the letter in fact further confuses the situation and raises additional questions."

The Cheney Question

One additional question certainly raised, is the particular role of Vice President Cheney, who was among the first Administration officials to be informed that the Niger documents were forgeries, and who was the only senior Administration official to continue to assert the Niger-Iraq uranium story after Dr. ElBaradei addressed the UN Security Council on March 7, 2003.