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Today's Democratic 2006 Campaign "Stunt" in the Senate was Kicked-off by a Misleading National Journal Article

2:45 PM, Nov 1, 2005 • By DANIEL MCKIVERGAN
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From the Worldwide Standard, October 28, 2005:

Does the National Journal's "Exclusive" Piece on Pre-War Intelligence Distort the Public Record ?

Yesterday, the National Journal publicized an "online exclusive" on the Bush administration's pre-war intelligence claims. Last night, Chris Matthews cited the Murray Waas piece and today its contents are pinging around the blogosphere. But the piece has one passage, in particular, that doesn't quite square with the public record.

For instance, Waas, a frequent contributor to the American Prospect, writes:

…whether dissenting views from the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research [INR], the Department of Energy, and other agencies that often disagreed with the CIA on the question of Iraq's programs to develop weapons of mass destruction…

His phrase "programs to develop weapons of mass destruction" leaves the clear impression that INR dissented not only on the nuclear issue but also on chemical and biological weapons. But here's what Secretary Powell's chief of staff said just the other day:

…I can't tell you why the French, the Germans, the Brits and us thought that most of the material, if not all of it, that we presented at the U.N. on 5 February 2003 was the truth. I can't. I've wrestled with it. I don't know - and people say, well, INR dissented. That's a bunch of bull. INR dissented that the nuclear program was up and running. That's all INR dissented on. They were right there with the chems and the bios….

So, according to Lawrence Wilkerson, most, if not all, of the content in Secretary Powell's address -- a speech that deputy CIA director John McLaughlin told Congress was reviewed to take "out material…that we and the secretary's staff judged to have been unreliable" -- to the UN was believed to be "the truth" by British, German and French intelligence. And INR, Wilkerson states, was "right there with the chems and the bios."

Wilkerson's comment on INR reflect what was released publicly in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE).

In that document, for example, INR concluded that "Iraq's efforts to acquire aluminum tubes is central to the argument that Baghdad is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program, but INR is not persuaded that the tubes in question are intended for use as centrifuge rotors." INR cited the Department of Energy's judgment that the tubes were "poorly suited for use in gas centrifuges to be used for uranium enrichment" and other factors to conclude that "the tubes are not intended for use in Iraq's nuclear weapon program."

But the Department of Energy, which presumably only had a role in the nuclear assessment, apparently did not dissent from the Estimate's broader judgment on Iraq's nuclear program. The "Key Judgments" section of the NIE stated that

DOE agrees that reconstitution of the nuclear program is underway but assesses that the tubes probably are not part of the program.

INR also stated in its "Alternative View" that "the activities we have detected do not, however, add up to a compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing what INR would consider to be an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons." But INR still concluded "that Saddam continues to want nuclear weapons and that available evidence indicates that Baghdad is pursuing at least a limited effort to maintain and acquire nuclear weapons-related capabilities."

But what did U.S. intelligence tell the Clinton administration on the reconstitution issue?

Well, Kenneth Pollack, former National Security Council official in the Clinton administration, commented in the January/February 2004 issue of The Atlantic Monthly on what U.S. intelligence believed regarding Iraq's nuclear program:

The U.S. Intelligence Community's belief toward the end of the Clinton Administration [was] that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program and was close to acquiring nuclear weapons....

And, he also wrote:

In the late spring of 2002 I participated in a Washington meeting about Iraqi WMD. Those present included nearly twenty former inspectors from the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), the force established in 1991 to oversee the elimination of WMD in Iraq. One of the senior people put a question to the group: Did anyone in the room doubt that Iraq was currently operating a secret centrifuge plant? No one did. Three people added that they believed Iraq was also operating a secret calutron plant (a facility for separating uranium isotopes).