|This documentation appears in the July 25, 2003 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.
`Your Vice President Led
The Campaign of Deceit'
July 14, 2003
MEMORANDUM FOR: The President
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
SUBJECT: Intelligence Unglued
The glue that holds the Intelligence Community together is melting under the hot lights of an awakened press. If you do not act quickly, your intelligence capability will fall apartwith grave consequences for the nation.
The Forgery Flap
By now you are all too familiar with the play-by-play. The Iraq-seeking-uranium-in-Niger forgery is a microcosm of a mischievous nexus of overarching problems. Instead of addressing these problems, your senior staff is alternately covering up for one another and gently stabbing one another in the back. CIA Director George Tenet's extracted, unapologetic apology on July 11 was classicI confess; she did it....
The Vice President's Role
Attempts at cover-up could easily be seen as comical, were the issue not so serious. Highly revealing were Ari Fleisher's remarks early last week, which set the tone for what followed. When asked about the forgery, he noted tellinglyas if drawing on well memorized talking pointsthat the Vice President was not guilty of anything. The disingenuousness was capped on Friday, when George Tenet did his awkward best to absolve the Vice President from responsibility.
To those of us who experienced Watergate, these comments had an eerie ring. That affair and others since have proven that cover-up can assume proportions overshadowing the crime itself. All the more reason to take early action to get the truth up and out.
There is just too much evidence that Ambassador Wilson was sent to Niger at the behest of Vice President Cheney's office, and that Wilson's findings were duly reported not only to that office but to others as well.
Equally important, it was Cheney who launched (in a major speech on August 26, 2002) the concerted campaign to persuade Congress and the American people that Saddam Hussein was about to get his hands on nuclear weaponsa campaign that mushroomed, literally, in early October with you and your senior advisers raising the specter of a "mushroom cloud" being the first "smoking gun" we might observe.
That this campaign was based largely on information known to be forged and that the campaign was used successfully to frighten our elected representatives in Congress into voting for war is clear from the bitter protestations of Rep. Henry Waxman and others. The politically aware recognize that the same information was used, also successfully, in the campaign leading up to the mid-term electionsa reality that breeds a cynicism highly corrosive to our political process.
The fact that the forgery also crept into your state-of-the-union address pales in significance in comparison with how it was used to deceive Congress into voting on October 11 to authorize you to make war on Iraq.
It was a deep insult to the integrity of the intelligence process that, after the Vice President declared on August 26, 2002 that "we know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons," the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) produced during the critical month of September featured a fraudulent conclusion that "most analysts" agreed with Cheney's assertion. This may help explain the anomaly of Cheney's unprecedented "multiple visits" to CIA headquarters at the time, as well as the many reports that CIA and other intelligence analysts were feeling extraordinarily great pressure, accompanied by all manner of intimidation tactics, to concur in that conclusion. As a coda to his nuclear argument, Cheney told NBC's Meet the Press three days before US/UK forces invaded Iraq: "we believe he [Saddam Hussein] has reconstituted nuclear weapons."
Mr. Russert: ... the International Atomic Energy Agency said he does not have a nuclear program; we disagree?
Vice President Cheney: I disagree, yes. And you'll find the CIA, for example, and other key parts of the intelligence community disagree ... we know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons. I think Mr. ElBaradei [Director of the IAEA] frankly is wrong.
Contrary to what Cheney and the NIE said, the most knowledgeable analyststhose who know Iraq and nuclear weaponsjudged that the evidence did not support that conclusion. They now have been proven right.
Adding insult to injury, those chairing the NIE succumbed to the pressure to adduce the known forgery as evidence to support the Cheney line, and relegated the strong dissent of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (and the nuclear engineers in the Department of Energy) to an inconspicuous footnote.
It is a curious turn of events. The drafters of the offending sentence on the forgery in the president's state-of-the-union speech say they were working from the NIE. In ordinary circumstances an NIE would be the preeminently authoritative source to rely upon; but in this case the NIE itself had already been cooked to the recipe of high policy.
Joseph Wilson, the former US ambassador who visited Niger at Cheney's request, enjoys wide respect (including, like several VIPS members, warm encomia from your father). He is the consummate diplomat. So highly disturbed is he, however, at the chicanery he has witnessed that he allowed himself a very undiplomatic comment to a reporter last week, wondering aloud "what else they are lying about." Clearly, Wilson has concluded that the time for diplomatic language has passed. It is clear that lies were told. Sad to say, it is equally clear that your vice president led this campaign of deceit.
This was no case of petty corruption of the kind that forced Vice President Spiro Agnew's resignation. This was a matter of war and peace. Thousands have died. There is no end in sight.
We recommend that you call an abrupt halt to attempts to prove Vice President Cheney "not guilty." His role has been so transparent that such attempts will only erode further your own credibility. Equally pernicious, from our perspective, is the likelihood that intelligence analysts will conclude that the way to success is to acquiesce in the cooking of their judgments, since those above them will not be held accountable. We strongly recommend that you ask for Cheney's immediate resignation....
Ray Close, Princeton, NJ
David MacMichael, Linden, VA
Raymond McGovern, Arlington, VA
Steering Committee, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity