Who was Dick Durbin talking about when he told Good Morning America that George Tenet named the White House official who "insisted" on including the shaky Niger material?
(This late-filed report from the AP reports that a "U.S. government official present at the closed-door Senate Intelligence Committee meeting" says it was another CIA official, not Tenet, who dicsussed this stuff with the committee. But this other official doesn't seem to dispute Durbin's contention that a White House official was named at the hearing.)
But, again, who is the White House official in question? The invaluable Chris Nelson of the Nelson Report says he knows.
This from the summary of this evening's Nelson Report ...
Summary: the Iraq intel scandal gets more interesting, as CIA's Tenet decides to pull NSC from behind the curtain. Says proliferation expert Bob Joseph performed the "negotiated truth" of Bush's State of the Union Niger claim. Hints Hadley, Rice (?) had to approve. Senate intel committee chair Roberts loyally trying to shield White House, limit damage to CIA. No deal, Tenet now makes clear. Watch for September public hearings.This is the same official, Robert G. Joseph, a NSC nuclear proliferation expert, mentioned in the July 12th Sanger-Risen New York Times story.
More from this evening's Nelson Report ...
1. With Senate Intelligence Committee chair Pat Robert's promising public hearings in September, it's now clear that CIA Director George Tenet is no longer prepared to let the Agency take the fall for President Bush's use of discredited information on Iraqi nuclear procurement in the State of the Union address.
-- in closed testimony yesterday, sources confirm, Tenet named NSC non-proliferation official Bob Joseph as the White House staffer who forced the CIA to accept the "negotiated truth" Bush used to "prove" assertions by Vice President Cheney, and DOD Secretary Rumsfeld, that the Administration "knew" that Saddam Hussein was trying to "reconstitute" his nuclear bomb program.
2. Tenet's decision shows that the professional intelligence community has been pushed one time too many in a process that includes Cheney's historically unprecedented three visits to Langley, and DOD Undersecretary Feith's rump intel assessment group.
-- while CIA professionals have always had to fight political appointees over the interpretation of intelligence (the misuse of Vietnam war intel being a classic, tragic example), in this case, the straw that broke the camel's back was Joseph's insistence on what he knew was flawed British intelligence for the political purpose of persuading the American people to support the Iraq war.
3. The implications of Tenet's counterattack are potentially huge: while Joseph is a career professional, his highly ideological approach to arms control, and refusal to countenance compromise, has made him a major political player by default, sources confirmed as early as 2002, due to his central role in blocking negotiations with North Koreaâ¦more on this in the next section of today's Report.
-- but no career professional could have had such impact on the decision-making process if he didn't receive the backing of his political masters. Tenet, who came to the CIA from Capitol Hill, thus knew exactly what he was doing when he threw Joseph's name out to the Senators yesterday.
4. As Tenet obviously intended, even Republicans are now asking tough questions about the role of National Security advisor Condi Rice, and, in particular, her deputy, Steve Hadleyâ¦the two senior political appointees who's approval of Joseph's actions were essential, observers agree.
-- Hadley, especially, has some explaining to do, given that Tenet called him in early October, 2002, to warn that the Niger information was doubtful, and should be deleted from the prepared text of an Oct. 9 Bush speech.
5. And this incident alone puts Rice in the difficult position of having to explain why she said just last week (July 11) that no one at her level knew of the CIA's doubts about the Niger information at the time of the State of the Union, several months after the Tenet/Hadley chat.
-- so far, Rice and other White House officials have sought to minimize, or localize, the harm to the "bigger picture" of how the President went about persuading the American people to support a war to overthrow Saddamâ¦that's what this talk of "just 16 little words" is all about.
More soon ...