Pentagon committee led by Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of
Defense, advised President Bush to include a reference in his January
State of the Union address about Iraq trying to purchase 500 tons
of uranium from Niger to bolster the case for war in Iraq, despite
the fact that the CIA warned Wolfowitz's committee that the information
was unreliable, according to a CIA intelligence official and four
members of the Senate's intelligence committee who have been investigating
Senators and the CIA official said they could be forced out of government
and brought up on criminal charges for leaking the information to
this reporter and as a result requested anonymity. The Senators said
they plan to question CIA Director George Tenet Wednesday morning
in a closed-door hearing to find out whether Wolfowitz and members
of a committee he headed misled Bush and if the President knew about
the erroneous information prior to his State of the Union address.
for Wolfowitz and Tenet vehemently denied the accusations. Dan Bartlett,
the White House communications director, would not return repeated
calls for comment.
revelations by the CIA official and the senators, if true, would prove
that Tenet, who last week said he erred by allowing the uranium reference
to be included in the State of the Union address, took the blame for
an intelligence failure that he was not responsible for. The lawmakers
said it could also lead to a widespread probe of prewar intelligence.
is a secret committee set up in 2001 by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
called the Office of Special Plans, which was headed by Wolfowitz,
Abrum Shulsky and Douglas Feith, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy,
to probe allegations links between Iraq and the terrorist organization
al-Qaeda and whether the country was stockpiling a cache of weapons
of mass destruction. The Special Plans committee disbanded in March
after the start of the war in Iraq.
committee's job, according to published reports, was to gather intelligence
information on the Iraqi threat that the CIA and FBI could not uncover
and present it to the White House to build a case for war in Iraq.
The committee relied heavily on information provided by Iraqi defector
Ahmad Chalabi, who has provided the White House with reams of intelligence
on Saddam Hussein's weapons programs that has been disputed. Chalabi
heads the Iraqi National Congress, a group of Iraqi exiles who have
pushed for regime change in Iraq.
Office of Special Plans, according to the CIA official and the senators,
routinely provided Bush, Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney and
National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice with questionable intelligence
information on the Iraqi threat, much of which was included in various
speeches by Bush and Cheney and some of which was called into question
by the CIA.
months leading up to the war in Iraq, Rumsfeld became increasingly
frustrated that the CIA could not find any evidence of Iraq's chemical,
biological and nuclear weapons program, evidence that would have helped
the White House build a solid case for war in Iraq.
article in the New York Times last October, the paper reported
that Rumsfeld had ordered the Office of Special Plans to "to
search for information on Iraq's hostile intentions or links to terrorists"
that might have been overlooked by the CIA.
CIA official and the senators said that's when Wolfowitz and his committee
instructed the White House to have Bush use the now disputed line
about Iraq's attempts to purchase 500 tons of uranium from Niger in
a speech the President was set to give in Cincinnati. But Tenet quickly
intervened and informed Stephen Hadley, an aide to National Security
Adviser Rice, that the information was unreliable.
Lang, a former director of Middle East analysis at the Defense Intelligence
Agency, said in an interview with the New Yorker magazine in
May that the Office of Special Plans "started picking out things
that supported their thesis and stringing them into arguments that
they could use with the President. It's not intelligence. It's political
said the CIA and Office of Special Plans often clashed on the accuracy
of intelligence information provided to the White House by Wolfowitz.
reporter Seymour Hersh, the author of a May New Yorker story
on the Office of Special Plans, reported, "former CIA officers
and analysts described the agency as increasingly demoralized. George
knows he's being beaten up," one former officer said of George
Tenet, the CIA director. "And his analysts are terrified. George
used to protect his people, but he's been forced to do things their
way." Because the CIA's analysts are now on the defensive, "they
write reports justifying their intelligence rather than saying what's
going on. The Defense Department and the Office of the Vice-President
write their own pieces, based on their own ideology. We collect so
much stuff that you can find anything you want."
see themselves as outsiders," a former CIA. expert who spent
the past decade immersed in Iraqi-exile affairs said of the Special
Plans people, told Hersh. He added, "There's a high degree of
paranoia. They've convinced themselves that they're on the side of
angels, and everybody else in the government is a fool."
fall, the White House had virtually dismissed all of the intelligence
on Iraq provided by the CIA, which failed to find any evidence of
Iraq's weapons programs, in favor of the more critical information
provided to the Bush administration by the Office of Special Plans
reported that the Special Plans Office "developed a close working
relationship with the (Iraqi National Congress), and this strengthened
its position in disputes with the CIA and gave the Pentagon's pro-war
leadership added leverage in its constant disputes with the State
Department. Special Plans also became a conduit for intelligence reports
from the INC to officials in the White House."
rare Pentagon briefing recently, Office of Special Plans co-director
Douglas Feith, said the committee was not an "intelligence project,"
but rather an group of 18 people that looked at intelligence information
from a different point of view.
said when the group had new "thoughts" on intelligence information
it was given; they shared it with CIA director Tenet.
was a matter of digesting other people's intelligence," Feith
said of the main duties of his group. "Its job was to review
this intelligence to help digest it for me and other policy makers,
to help us develop Defense Department strategy for the war on terrorism."