04 October 2004

Condoleezza Caught in a Lie?

Funny ennit, how hard it is to get clean after you've been rolling about in sh*t?


Rice says she knew of debate over Iraqi tubes; "stands by" US intelligence

WASHINGTON (AFP) Oct 03, 2004

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice said Sunday she knew of a debate within the US government about the purpose of aluminum tubes bought by Iraq, but stood by her assessment of Saddam Hussein's nuclear ambitions, which she had used the tubes to support.

In a series of television interviews Sunday, Rice insisted she only later learned that the Energy Department believed the aluminum tubes were actually meant for conventional weapons, denying a report in The New York Times that she knew of those concerns before brandishing the tubes to bolster the argument for war.

"At that time we understood there were some debates within the intelligence community. I later learned that the Energy Department believed that these tubes might be for something else," she told NBC television's "Today Show."

"But in fact, the intelligence community assessment -- the judgment of the intelligence community as a whole as well as the very strong view of the director of central intelligence -- was that these tube were most likely for use in nuclear weapons," she said.

"As I understand it people, are still debating this. I'm sure they will continue to debate it," Rice told ABC television.

"I stand by to this day the correctness of this decision to take seriously an intelligence assessment that Saddam Hussein would likely have a nuclear weapon by the end of the decade if you didn't do something."

Before the war, Rice and other senior officials -- including Vice President Dick Cheney -- gave no indication of any doubts or debates about the purpose of the tubes.

Rice told CNN in September 2002 the tubes were "only really suited for nuclear weapons programs."

"The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons, but we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," she said at the time.

In May 2002, Cheney told a group of Wyoming Republicans the United States had "irrefutable evidence" of Iraq's nuclear ambition -- thousands of tubes made of high-strength aluminum, tubes that President George W. Bush's administration said were destined for clandestine Iraqi uranium centrifuges.

The New York Times reported Sunday that senior scientists considered the theory implausible, and the Energy Department said before the war that they were unlikely to be of much practical use in a centrifuge.

The Energy Department also said that Iraq had for years used high-strength aluminum tubes in devices to launch slim rockets.

But before Rice made those remarks, she was aware that the government's top nuclear experts had concluded that the tubes were most likely not for nuclear weapons at all, the report said.

The newspaper reported that the Bush administration was made aware as early as 2001 that the aluminum tubes were probably for intended for small artillery rockets.

Back in 1996, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency had even examined some of these tubes, also made of 7075-T6 aluminum, at the Nasser metal fabrication plant in Baghdad, where the Iraqis acknowledged making rockets, the report said.

This finding was published May 9, 2001, in the Daily Intelligence Highlight, a secret Energy Department newsletter, according to The Times.

White House communications director Dan Bartlett told CBS television that the Bush administration's claims about Saddam's nuclear drive were based on more than the aluminum tubes.

"He kept his scientists in place. His ambitions were known and found through intelligence. It was a complete picture to say, 'This is what Saddam Hussein was going after. This is what he was wanting to do'," he said.

But Democratic Senator Bob Graham shot back that the White House knew the claims about the tubes were false, "and yet they continued for month after month to use that as a key element in their arguement that we faced an imminent threat from Saddam Hussein."

"It is an outrage of tremendous proportions, and is not only a statement of the intelligence of this administration, but the fundamental character of this administration that they would so mislead the citizens of the United States and the world," he told reporters.

Kerry campaign spokesman Joe Lockhart said the tubes report raised questions about "what the president knew, what he withheld from the American public, if anything. These are questions he should answer now."

"Condoleezza Rice raised the specter of a mushroom cloud. That is sobering to all Americans. Vice President Cheney said this was a fact. He didn't say there was debate. He said this was a fact," he told CBS television.


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