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July 14, 2004


Jim Elbe

Boy, that's not how I read it. To me it says that the assessment was made before the forgeries were available. In other words, the forgeries weren't forged yet.

Cameron Burnett

I read it as Jim does -- the "multiple sources" in part b didn't include the forgeries, which weren't yet available, and those "multiple sources" led to the assessment.

Sadly, No!

Get your own (Butler report) here.


I Want To Believe!

But couldn/t the same thing be said about the CIA effort - they based early reports on summaries from a foreign service, and only later got the forged documents which (we think, don't we?) underlay the summaries.

So for the CIA the forgeries were "not available", but the CIA reporting was based (in good faith) on the forgeries.

Anyway, that my current view of what Butler is saying about the Brit effort as well.

And now I have the darn report, but where do I go for some free time?

Patrick R. Sullivan

Yeah, the bit about the forged documents merely means they were irrelevant since they didn't figure in the intelligence assessments.

Btw, it sounds like the forger knew about the attempts to acquire, and acted on that knowledge. Meaning that Prof. DeLong may be looking at himself in astonishment, in the house of mirrors, concluding that the forgeries are actually evidence in favor of Iraq's attempting to buy the uranium. But, I won't hold my breath.

However, there are numerous bombshells in the Butler report:

"Reporting since [February [2003]] suggests that senior Al Qaida associate Abu Musab alZarqawi has established sleeper cells in Baghdad,to be activated during a US occupation of the city. These cells apparently intend to attack US targets using car bombs and other weapons. (It is also possible that they have received CB materials from terrorists in the KAZ.) Al Qaida-associated terrorists continued to arrive in Baghdad in early March [2003]."

Well geeeeeeee! The question of ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda is now established beyond any doubt if the above is true.

And the following also affirms Bush was mostly correct in his assessment of the threat Saddam posed for us:

a. [Iraq]Had the strategic intention of resuming the pursuit of prohibited weapons programmes, including if possible its nuclear weapons programme, when United Nations inspection regimes were relaxed and sanctions were eroded or lifted.

b. In support of that goal, [Iraq]was carrying out illicit research and development, and procurement, activities, to seek to sustain its indigenous capabilities.

c. Was developing ballistic missiles with a range longer than permitted under relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions; but did not have significant - if any - stocks of chemical or biological weapons in a state fit for deployment, or developed plans for using them. (Paragraph 474).

Patrick R. Sullivan

It only gets better for the White Hats:

494. There was further and separate intelligence that in 1999 the Iraqi regime had also made
inquiries about the purchase of uranium ore in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In this
case, there was some evidence that by 2002 an agreement for a sale had been reached.

495. During 2002, the UK received further intelligence from additional sources which identified the purpose of the visit to Niger as having been to negotiate the purchase of uranium ore, though there was disagreement as to whether a sale had been agreed and uranium shipped.

Patrick R. Sullivan

Also, it doesn't look good for JFK II's recent claim that Bush had "abused" the intelligence, and misled the country, if the Butler report is correct:

499. We conclude that, on the basis of the intelligence assessments at the time, covering both Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the statements on Iraqi attempts to buy
uranium from Africa in the Government’s dossier, and by the Prime Minister in the House
of Commons, were well-founded.

By extension, we conclude also that the statement in President Bush’s State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that:

"The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

was well-founded.


501. We have been told that it was not until early 2003 that the British Government became
aware that the US (and other states) had received from a journalistic source a number of documents alleged to cover the Iraqi procurement of uranium from Niger. Those documents were passed to the IAEA, which in its update report to the United Nations Security Council in March 2003 determined that the papers were forgeries...

March 2003 being two months AFTER the State of the Union speech.


I don't imagine that Lord Butler would use "careful phrasing" to get Blair's back... I'm with the other commenters.


Tom, I disagree that this is bad news. I read it to say that "we had info that was not tainted by the forgeries."


I beg to differ with your interpretation, Tom. To me, the text of the relevant Butler Report section clearly states that the forgeries had not yet been created at the time of the British and American estimates.

Patrick Sullivan's quotes about the additional corroborated contacts and executed contracts further bolsters this interpretation.

Finally, look at the form of the Blair/Bush statement. It was not about Niger, nor was it about a specific documented and executed contract, but rather about a pattern of very dangerous activities "...sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" . Not a single one of the data points underlying that conclusion has been undermined by the Senate Report or by the Butler commission.

And the forgeries don't matter because they did not yet exist!

Cecil Turner

ISTM unlikely the forged documents were the basis for the British Intelligence dossier's conclusions. In the first place, the dossier was released in September, 2002, and AFAICT the forgeries were first seen in October. Secondly, British Intelligence was apparently already suspicious over al-Zahawie's 1999 African trade delegation--a British official quoted in the Telegraph: "Niger has two main exports - uranium and chickens. The Iraqi delegation did not go to Niger for chickens."

Finally, there are several direct official statements to the contrary (e.g., Blair, quoted in the AFP):

"'The intelligence on which we based this was not the so-called forged documents that have been put to the IAEA, and the IAEA have accepted that they got no such forged documents from British intelligence,' Blair said.

"'We had independent intelligence to the effect,' Blair added."

Brad DeLong

Let me pile on: I too read paragraph (d) to say that the British assessment made no use of the forged documents, because they had not seen them.

But by now we *have* custody of the guys who made the trip to Niger, don't we? And we have "interrogated" them, haven't we? And what have they said?


I wish I'd been blog-commenting furiously instead of just verbally commenting at the time a year ago, but for the thousandth time, Wilson's basic claim was never very interesting on its face, and the info about the forgeries playing no role in the Brit assessment was brought out shortly after Wilson's sophomoric op-ed.

1) There was no reason to believe on the basis of his op-ed that Wilson had anything like a full, much less conclusive, perspective on Niger

2) Niger was just one of several likely countries of interest WRT to the SOTU Sixteen Words

These things were obvious on the morning of July 6, 2003. If the standards for NYT op-eds were as high as my high school AP classes decades ago, the thing would've never made it past the editorial interns.

For the ten thousandth time, the only interesting aspect to this (non-gossip category, i.e. the Plame stuff, whether criminal or not) were the inexplicable and indefensible reactions of Tenet, Rice, and the press shop. This was a one-day non-story that should have easily been turned to stomp Wilson, the NYT, and the clueless opposition.


I think, responding to Ice here, that this is not exclusively a media problem. The Reps need to present their case - waiting for the NY Times to do it is waiting for Godot.

That applies today, as well - if Bush starts pointing to the Butler report, the press will have no choice but to report it.

Cecil Turner

I could float a couple of guesses on why the Administration would be reluctant to start a media war over the SOTU statement. The first is that the 16 words were in fact flawed. "The British Government has learned" implies that British Intelligence was correct, and that we could confirm it. But the CIA had earlier warned they found the allegations shaky, and we had no corroboration for the dossier's claims. It didn't belong in the SOTU, and the honest response was to admit it.
Another theory is that Wilson's editorial was viewed as part of a pattern of leaks in the NYTimes, connected to a disaffected group of CIA analysts (presumably including Ms Plame), who thought their WMD caveats hadn't been taken seriously enough. There'd be little Administration interest in continuing a leak war, especially since the large stockpiles envisioned before the war hadn't materialized. The allegations of "stovepiping" and mischaracterization of intelligence were the central issue, and playing that out in the media is a losing proposition. The Administration declassification of the NIE in the immediate aftermath--which points out the caveats were in the estimate, and that African uranium wasn't a central issue--tends to bolster this view.


Tom, I've coupled every denunciation of the (again, on its face) baseless Wilson assault with the assertion that administration handling thereof has been indefensible. I've been advocating what you mention -- forcing issues into coverage by high-level officials repeatedly bringing them up -- for a long time, on issues beyond the Wilson non-scandal, to folks who are well connected to the WH. For over a year, they've been disconsolately responding that the administration is just mysteriously reluctant to engage on many prominent matters, even when they're being lynched. Maybe the memoirs will explain it some day.

Cecil, I don't buy the wisdom of pre-emptive PR surrender. An administration in war-time can't just decide it's too much work to set the record straight, when they're right (and they were, and the bogus "stovepipe" and exaggeration issues were quite suitable for aggressive counter-attack).

The release of the NIE summary could have been part of an aggressive campaign to squash the merit-free criticisms. The response to Wilson should have been devastating, and it should have been pulled together by the afternoon. There was plenty either known or easily knowable at the time (incl. that SIS stood by the assessment and that CIA's doubts were based not on contrary info but lack of access to the underlying intel) to stand by the Sixteen Words and more importantly to point out that Wilson's criticisms reflected ignorance of the case. And there are no leaks that could rescue Wilson's position.

The administration will survive these mistakes, and we can hope that the credibility of the media will not, at least a mong a few intelligent and attentive people who have been wondering. But the importance of domestic support and understanding in a war do not suggest passivity in the face of easily debunked attacks as a strategy.

Patrick R. Sullivan

"But by now we *have* custody of the guys who made the trip to Niger, don't we? And we have 'interrogated' them, haven't we? And what have they said?"

Is this an argument for "torture"?

Cecil Turner


"Wilson's criticisms reflected ignorance of the case"

I don't think that's supportable. His criticisms appear disingenuous, but he's married to a world-class expert on the subject, and based on the fact she apparently suggested him for the mission in the first place, I'd guess they talk about it.

I also don't know about the cost-benefit tradeoffs between the PR effort and airing intelligence in the middle of a war. The point that seems to have been lost in this whole mess is that there are actual intelligence sources and methods being compromised . . . some of which are far more critical to national security than the identity of a covert agent who hasn't been active in the several years since her twins were born.

That said, I tend to agree it was a mistake. The "Bush lied" meme is now conventional wisdom, and vastly damaging to the war effort. And the Administration's apparent belief that the truth would out is looking like wishful thinking in the face of unremittingly hostile media coverage.

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