On Thursday, July 10, the CBS News website ran an article about President Bush’s alleged knowledge of a false charge about Iraq’s nuclear program. The headline was, “Bush Knew Iraq Info Was False.” Later, the headline was changed to, “Bush Knew Iraq Info Was Dubious.” Both headlines are false.
This reflected concern about what was actually in the report by CBS Evening News national security correspondent David Martin, who admitted that Bush’s controversial statement about Iraq’s nuclear program in his State of the Union address was “technically correct” and that CIA officials had dropped their objections to the statement before Bush delivered it. That Bush statement was, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” However, CIA director Tenet then announced that the statement should not have been included in the speech because the CIA could not confirm it.
The British say the statement is true. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw insists they have “reliable intelligence” which had not been shared with the United States. That’s apparently because it was too sensitive to be provided to the CIA, which raises questions about the CIA. This may be another CIA failure. Straw noted that a report by Ambassador Joe Wilson, who visited Niger in early 2002 to investigate the subject on behalf of the CIA, confirmed that in 1999 an Iraqi delegation “sought the expansion of trade links with Niger?and that former Niger government officials believed that this was in connection with the procurement of yellowcake” or uranium oxide. Uranium is Niger’s main export. He also noted that documentation and centrifuge parts?”necessary for the enrichment of uranium?were discovered buried at the home of an Iraqi nuclear scientist in Baghdad.”
The main point is that Iraq had a nuclear program, and the evidence has already been discovered. The Iraqi nuclear scientist with the nuclear components buried at his home was Mahdi Obeidi, who headed Iraq’s gas centrifuge program for enriching uranium before the Persian Gulf War. He has said that he hid the parts in his garden 12 years ago under orders from Saddam Hussein’s son Qusay and Saddam’s then-son-in-law, Hussein Kamel.
According to CNN, Obeidi “approached international journalists at random outside the well-known Palestine Hotel in the Iraqi capital until he was able to convince one to contact David Albright, a former weapons inspector he had met in the 1990s. Albright, who heads the Institute for Science and International Security, a nuclear nonproliferation institute in Washington, said he talked to various agencies for a week before the CIA became interested in interviewing the scientist.”
Albright said CIA officials “initially did not understand the significance of Obeidi’s offer,” and added, “I have never seen anything like it. Obeidi is sending all sorts of signals, and they just missed it completely.” It looks like yet another CIA failure. This is the real scandal that deserves more coverage.