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In a letter dated October 7, 2002, CIA Director George Tenet told the US Senate that Iraq was "drawing a line short" of conducting terrorist attacks with either conventional or chemical/biological weapons against the United States." The CIA took the position that the probability was low that Iraq would either initiate an attack with weapons of mass destruction or give them to terrorists.
On the very same day, October 7, President Bush went before the cameras and turned the content of Tenet's letter on its head. Bush claimed, "Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists."
McGovern: "The ethic at CIA reflects the inscription on the entrance wall, which says, 'You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.' And we -- that is, CIA analysts -- took that very seriously. And so, if we do not see evidence of a tie between al-Qaeda and Iraq, for example, we will not write that."
The Alleged Threat From Saddam's Weapons of Mass Destruction
As we have indicated, the CIA Director told Bush and his national security advisers that the probability that Saddam will launch such an attack -- in the foreseeable future -- would be low." But simultaneously President Bush claimed in public the exact opposite. He told the American people, "The risk is simply too great that he will use them."
Robert Baer, a former CIA case officer who spent years working on covert operations in Iraq, is astonished.
Baer: "There is no imminent threat from Iraq, all right! If he does have missiles, which he probably does, they are buried in the ground, and it is going to take months to dig them up. We've seen no evidence of VX gas, or Bubonic plague, or anthrax, or any of this stuff."
McGovern: "The logical conclusion is that the information has been doctored, that the information has been cooked to the recipe of policy and this -- for an intelligence outfit -- is anathema, beyond the pale. This is something that renders it superfluous to even have an intelligence agency."
Saddam and Nuclear Weapons
According to President Bush, the "Iraqi dictator" will be able to produce his own nuclear weapons in the very near future.
George Bush: "We could wait and hope that Saddam does not give weapons to terrorists, or develop a nuclear weapon to blackmail the world. But I'm convinced that is a hope against all evidence."
McGovern: "President Bush has said the Iraqis could produce a nuclear weapon perhaps in another year. Now the formal intelligence estimate on that is that they could not possibly do that until the end of the decade. One wonders where the president gets his information. I really don't fault him as much for being dishonest as for being naive to think that he can go to Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and expect to get a straight answer on such things."
Former CIA Officer David MacMichael: "I think the administration is indeed pressuring the intelligence system, whether it be the CIA, FBI, or anyone else, to come up with the strongest possible evidence to indicate there is a genuine and immediate threat of attack by chemical, biological, or other weapons of mass destruction by terrorist groups -- and in particular those associated with al-Qaeda, and to link Iraq to that."
Bush and Rumsfeld have been putting the pressure on the CIA for months. Still, CIA analysts would not let themselves be pressured into twisting the intelligence to support the "line" dictated from above. And so, the Defense Secretary in the meantime has created his own secret intelligence group as a rival to the CIA.
Baer: "The CIA said, 'Listen; we don't have enough information to indict Saddam on terrorism charges.' And Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, said, 'That's not good enough. Give us the raw databases and we'll make our own decisions.' And they rounded up these people who are non-professionals -- a couple of ex-lawyers, consultants, who all rallied around and said, 'Well, let's take this, let's take that, let's take this and we can indict.'"
Rumsfeld's private intelligence group put its shoulder to the wheel and provided a doubting world with alleged evidence that Saddam is producing nuclear weapons. Armed with this "new evidence," UN inspectors in the last several weeks were sent off to confirm it. They could not.
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