Rep. Waxman implores Condi Rice to return his letters and phone calls:
The Committee [on Oversight and Government Reform] has formally requested Secretary Rice to testify before the Oversight Committee on April 18th regarding the Administration’s claims that Iraq sought uranium from Niger, White House treatment of classified information, the appointment of Ambassador Jones as "special coordinator" for Iraq, and other subjects.
However, Ms. Rice has given Henry short shrift over the years:
Since 2003, I have written 16 letters to you, either in your capacity as National Security Advisor or Secretary of State. According to Committee records, you have satisfactorily responded to only five of those l6 letters. Those five were co-signed by Republicans. Under the Bush Adminishation, several agencies followed a policy of not responding to minority party requests. Although I do not agree with this policy, I presume that you were also following it when you decided not to respond to my requests for information.
I am now renewing my requests as the chairman of the chief oversight committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.
As to his proposed agenda - of some of our friends on the left can update us in on the fantasy surrounding Ambassador Jones, that would be lovely. I presume that at least part of Waxman's interest is reflected in this letter from Feb 2005 (or here).
Personally, I can't wait to learn what the "other subjects" might be (and how does Ms. Rice prepare testimony?)
I assume she will ignore this. Or maybe she will suggest that Roth wax the dean for a while.
WHERE IS THIS HEADED? Does Waxman actually have any legislative objective or is he simply pandering to the Nutroots? Ron Brownstein, Matt Cooper, and David Gregory kicked that around following Waxman's last hearing starring Valerie Plame:
BROWNSTEIN: No, I guess I was saying—I wasn‘t—I wasn‘t suggesting they were overdoing—they‘ve been poring over this obsessively, but they have a lot of different investigations now under way of the administration after six years in which there was, as I said, virtually no congressional oversight. And I think they have to be careful about picking their shots and focusing on the things that have the most direct impact on policies that affect the lives of the American people.
I guess I felt today I wasn‘t sure what they were doing here except feeding what has been a tremendous concern of Democrat activists. Last summer, there was an interesting moment at that Daily Kos annual convention. Joseph Wilson appeared on a panel with several bloggers and he said, You know, I‘m sitting here in a room with people who know more about this case than I do. There‘s no doubt that there‘s great interest among—about this among Democrats.
But what are they—what is the benefit to the country right now of focusing on this further? I‘m not sure they fully answered that today.
GREGORY: But as a—whatever the peril, as a political matter, is the president going to be pressured to account at some level for his very harsh statements about anybody who peddled classified information to discredit a war critic?
COOPER: You know, I think it‘s—it puts a little more heat on him. And look, it‘s not all, you know, ancient history today. Look, I mean, one, you‘ve got an issue with Valerie Plame trying to write her book and the CIA saying she can‘t, that she might disclose that she was classified, which seems sort of absurd at this point.
And second, you know, I think he‘s still going to have to answer questions about Rove at some point and why—you know, what happened with Rove. So I don‘t know. I think it—you know, I think it does accrue to the Democrats‘ benefit. I don‘t think it was just a pander to the far left and—but we‘ll see how it plays out.
I'm sure Matt Cooper could be even more partisan and ill-informed, but this was an impressive effort. Just for starters, the notion that the only secret Ms. Plame might have to reveal is her formerly classified status is absurd - the CIA might have perfectly legitimate objections to her disclosing where and with whom she worked ten years ago.
MORE: The SSCI has extensive coverage of the Niger-uranium story. As to Waxman's request for info on "the Administration’s claims that Iraq sought uranium from Niger", that can't be a reference to the President's 16 Words from the State of the Union, since that referred to Africa.
The State Department did put out a fact sheet naming Niger as a potential source for Iraqi uranium, but that was during Colin Powell's tenure.
Well, I need to scroll through the report.
STILL MORE: Maybe it depends on the meaning of "claims" - Waxman could ask about this (p. 59 of the .pdf. emphasis added):
(U) In a written response to questions from Committee staff, the White House said that on September 11, 2002, National Security Council (NSC) staff contacted the CIA to clear language for possible use in a statement for use by the President. The language cleared by the CIA said, "Iraq has made several attempts to buy high strength aluminum tubes used in centrifuges to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. And we also know this: within the past few years, Iraq has resumed efforts to obtain large quantities of a type of uranium oxide known as yellowcake, which is an essential ingredient of this process. The regime was caught trying to purchase 500 metric tons of this material. It takes about 10 tons to produce enough enriched uranium for a single nuclear weapon." The text was identical to the text proposed by the White House except that the
CIA had suggested adding "up to" before 500 metric tons. The President never used the approved language publicly.
Or maybe this, also under the purview of Ms. Rice in her NSC days:
(U) In a response to questions from Committee staff, the White House said that on September 24, 2002, NSC staff contacted the CIA to clear another statement for use by the President. The statement said, "we also have intelligence that Iraq has sought large amounts of uranium and uranium oxide, known as yellowcake, from Africa. Yellowcake is an essential ingredient of the process to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons." The CIA cleared the language,
but suggested that "of the process" be changed to "in the process." The President did not use the cleared language publicly.
Here is a CIA - NSC dispute that Waxman will no doubt want to probe vigorously:
(U) Some time in September a member of the NSC staff discussed the Niger uranium issue with a CIA analyst. The CIA analyst told Committee staff that during coordination of a speech (he was not sure which one) with an NSC staff member, the CIA analyst suggested that the reference to Iraqi attempts to acquire uranium from Africa be removed. The CIA analyst said the NSC staff member said that would leave the British "flapping in the wind."
In a written response to a question about this matter from the Committee, the NSC staff member said that the CIA analyst did not suggest that he remove text regarding Iraqi attempts to acquire uranium from Africa. The NSC staff member said the analyst suggested that Saddam's meeting with his "nuclear mujahedin" was more compelling evidence of Iraq's effort to resurrect the Iraqi nuclear program than attempts to acquire yellowcake, but said the analyst never suggested that the yellowcake text be removed. He said he had no recollection of telling a CIA analyst that replacing the uranium reference would leave the British "flapping in the wind" and said such a statement would have been illogical since the President never presented in any one speech every detail of intelligence gathered on Iraq either by the U.S. or by the U.K.
Since the NIE that came out a month later in October included the phrase "Iraq also began vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake", one might wonder about how much conviction the CIA analyst really displayed in September. On the other hand, there is this CIA testimony to ponder:
(U) On October 2, 2002, the Deputy DCI testified before the SSCI. Senator Jon Kyl asked the Deputy DCI whether he had read the British white paper and whether he disagreed with anything in the report. The Deputy DCI testified that "the one thing where I think they stretched a little bit beyond where we would stretch is on the points about Iraq seeking uranium from various African locations. We've looked at those reports and we don't think they are very
credible. It doesn't diminish our conviction that he's going for nuclear weapons, but I think they reached a little bit on that one point. Otherwise I think it's very solid."
Troubling. But by December the CIA had waffled again:
(U) On December 17, 2002, WINPAC analysts produced a paper, U.S. Analysis of Iraq's Declaration, 7 December 2002. The paper reviewed Iraq's "Currently Accurate, Full and Complete Disclosure" to the UN of its WMD programs and made only two points regarding the nuclear program - one noted Iraq's failure to explain its procurement of aluminum tubes the IC assessed could be used in a nuclear program, and the other noted that the declaration "does not acknowledge efforts to procure uranium from Niger, one of the points addressed in the U.K. Dossier."
And the State Department managed to put out a Fact Sheet in Dec 2002 to which their own INR people objected, which initially said this:
The fact sheet said Iraq's declaration, "ignores efforts to procure uranium from Niger."
Well, that should help Waxman get started.