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December 05, 2007

Dear U.S. Government: Please Get Your Preposterous Stories Straight

George Bush, yesterday:

DAVID GREGORY: When it came to Iran, you said in October, on October 17th, you warned about the prospect of World War III, when months before you made that statement, this intelligence about them suspending their weapons program back in '03 had already come to light to this administration. So can't you be accused of hyping this threat? And don't you worry that that undermines U.S. credibility?

THE PRESIDENT: ...I was made aware of the NIE last week. In August, I think it was Mike McConnell came in and said, we have some new information. He didn't tell me what the information was; he did tell me it was going to take a while to wasn't until last week that I was briefed on the NIE that is now public.

National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley claimed much the same thing on Monday:

[W]hen the President was told that we had some additional information, he was basically told: stand down; needs to be evaluated; we'll come to you and tell you what we think it means. So this was basically -- as we said, this is information that came in the last few months, and the intelligence community spent a lot time to get on top of it.

As implausible as this seems, the Los Angeles Times reports that, according to "U.S. intelligence officials," Bush was telling the truth:

The new intelligence was considered compelling enough to call it to Bush's attention in August. In a news conference at the White House on Tuesday, Bush said that the nation's intelligence director, J. Michael McConnell, "came in and said, 'We have some new information.' "

Bush said that McConnell did not provide details...The decision to hold those details back has come under question...But U.S. intelligence officials said they felt compelled to employ that level of caution in part because of the searing experience surrounding the war in Iraq.

"Back in 2002, one of the knocks on the process at the time was that information was not vetted by analysts and was being rushed into the Oval Office," said the senior U.S. intelligence official...This time, even as they vetted the new intelligence and launched into major revisions of the estimate on Iran's nuclear program, intelligence officials said, they deliberately shielded analysts from administration officials and policymakers.

Yet this claim they were just working away without giving the Bush administration any hint of what they were up to is directly contradicted by a Washington Post story yesterday:

Senior officials said the latest conclusions grew out of a stream of information, beginning with a set of Iranian drawings obtained in 2004 and ending with the intercepted calls between Iranian military commanders, that steadily chipped away at the earlier assessment.

In one intercept, a senior Iranian military official was specifically overheard complaining that the nuclear program had been shuttered years earlier, according to a source familiar with the intelligence. The intercept was one of more than 1,000 pieces of information cited in footnotes to the 150-page classified version of the document, an official said.

Several of those involved in preparing the new assessment said that when intelligence officials began briefing senior members of the Bush administration on the intercepts, beginning in July, the policymakers expressed skepticism. Several of the president's top advisers suggested the intercepts were part of a clever Iranian deception campaign, the officials said.

So..."senior members of the Bush administration" including the "president's top advisers" were briefed "beginning in July" on the nitty-gritty of the new information, yet the Bush administration had no idea what was going on until last week.

Usually I'd say this indicates the government is lying, but the Bush administration has demonstrated with their long record of integrity and frankness that they deserve every benefit of the doubt.

Posted at December 5, 2007 06:06 PM

"part of a clever Iranian deception campaign..."

Part and parcel of that old Persian sense of humor. Like when Ahmadinejad pulls our leg on that Holocaust stuff. If only our best and brightest made an attemp to understand foreign cultures, including how they like to kid around.
Remember Saddam? Big, really big practical joker.

Posted by: donescobar at December 5, 2007 06:33 PM

At least the Persians aren't pathological liars like we learned the Arabs are.

Posted by: StO at December 5, 2007 06:36 PM

or that "we" ourselves have proven on countless occasions to have been and shall likely continue to be, when it suits "our" purposes...

Posted by: konopelli/wgg at December 5, 2007 06:43 PM

AT the very least this is incompetence and neglect yet more than likely outright lying and fraud. Either way this puts US 4 to 5 years behind in OUR President's KNOWLEDGE of the Iranian situation. Looks terrible when one conciders that nearly the entire world has been saying the same thing ALL THESE YEARS. SLOW LEARNER doesn't quite cut it in the OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENCY. PAST TIME TO IMPEACH. (1-202-225-0100, make that call)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 5, 2007 06:44 PM

What makes it even worse, we're such bad, really bad liars. Maybe if we learned to lie in French, we'd gain a touch of credibility. Sounds so much better, what with English being the language of shopkeepers. (Except for the very good poets.)
German: languageof obedience, order
French: of diplomacy, ie lying
Italian: love, passion
Spanish: when you speak to God

(Attributed to a Spanish king, long ago)

Posted by: donescobar at December 5, 2007 07:15 PM

Those sneaky Iranians won't fool us...we'll do it ourselves!

Posted by: lutton at December 5, 2007 08:27 PM

I'd guess that Cheney was the "senior member" involved in that last quote -- and wonder if he made the decision then and there to keep Bush out of the loop as long as possible just so Bush could soldier on with the WW3 case he was trying to sell. (And I'd be only slightly more surprised if Bush agreed to that; he sees his job description as 'propaganda catapulter.')

Bush may not have had the imagination to realize how stupid he'd look once/if this came out -- especially once he started answering extra questions. Cheney must've been going nuts watching it: "say exec. privilege, you fool!"

Posted by: Thomas Nephew at December 5, 2007 08:53 PM

everybody but george knew. he's the black box president! so handy to have around when the lawyers come knocking.

Posted by: hapa at December 5, 2007 08:57 PM

It could be worse: Bush could be intentionally ignoring intelligence to justify a military attack, taking liberties with the Constitution, overstepping the bounds of executive privilege AND prevaricating about a White House intern performing fellatio on him. Then we would really have a case for impeachment. I am not sure who said it first, but I reminded of the aphorism that the result of democracy is that the voters get the government they deserve.

Posted by: Steve at December 6, 2007 10:10 AM

I wonder which desperate right wing nutjob pundit will be the first to wonder out loud if Bush's supposed ignorance of this info is proof that the intelligence community is just out to get him, and thus they deliberately kept it from him as they plotted. I'm guessing Dennis Miller, or maybe Fred Barnes.

Posted by: Whistler Blue at December 6, 2007 12:39 PM

Check out Olberman's special comment at Crooks and Liars - Keith illustrates the subtle changes in language in W's speeches on the Iranian threat. Bush was well aware since at least August. Pathetic.

Posted by: gumby at December 7, 2007 11:16 AM