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CBS uses the “F” word!

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Whoa! Check out this CBS News headline: “Bush Knew Iraq Info Was False.”

What’s surprising here is not that Bush knew (duh), but that a mainstream news outlet is willing to so flatly state the truth. As Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee has said, “Even the very best newspapers have never learned how to handle public figures who lie with a straight face. No editor would dare print this version of Nixon’s first comments on Watergate for instance: ‘The Watergate break-in involved matters of national security, President Nixon told a national TV audience last night, and for that reason he would be unable to comment on the bizarre burglary. That is a lie.'”

But CBS’s headline is pretty straightforward: Bush Knew Iraq Info Was False.

Senior administration officials tell CBS News the President’s mistaken claim that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa was included in his State of the Union address — despite objections from the CIA.

Before the speech was delivered, the portions dealing with Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were checked with the CIA for accuracy, reports CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin.

CIA officials warned members of the President’s National Security Council staff the intelligence was not good enough to make the flat statement Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa.

The White House officials responded that a paper issued by the British government contained the unequivocal assertion: “Iraq has … sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” As long as the statement was attributed to British Intelligence, the White House officials argued, it would be factually accurate. The CIA officials dropped their objections and that’s how it was delivered.

“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” Mr. Bush said.

The statement was technically correct, since it accurately reflected the British paper. But the bottom line is the White House knowingly included in a presidential address information its own CIA had explicitly warned might not be true.

Today at a press conference during the President’s trip to Africa, Secretary of State Colin Powell portrayed it as an honest mistake.

“There was no effort or attempt on the part of the president or anyone else in the administration to mislead or to deceive the American people,” said Powell.

But eight days after the State of the Union, when Powell addressed the U.N., he deliberately left out any reference to Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa.

“I didn’t use the uranium at that point because I didn’t think that was sufficiently strong as evidence to present before the world,” Powell said.

That is exactly what CIA officials told the White House before the State of the Union. The top CIA official, Director George Tenet, was not involved in those discussions and apparently never warned the President he was on thin ice.

Secretary Powell said today he read the State of the Union speech before it was delivered and understood it had been seen and cleared by the intelligence community. But intelligence officials say the director of the CIA never saw the final draft.

Could the “L” word be next?

UPDATE: “F” word disappears–just like the WMD

As noted in the comments below, CBS has already changed the headline. Phillip Winn points out in his comment that Eugene Volokh blogs about the change, wondering whether either headline is accurate.

But some of the confusion may stem from the difference between the Web version of the CBS story and the broadcast itself. Here is the transcript of the broadcast:

The White House now admits the accusation was based on what was later found to be false intelligence. What you didn’t hear and what CBS news has learned tonight was that the White House was warned in advance the intelligence was unreliable, but still chose to use it in the PresidentÍs State of the Union address. Our national security correspondent David Martin is breaking this story tonight and joins us now live from the Pentagon with the exclusive details. David,

John, senior administration officials tell CBS News the president’s false claim that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa was included in his State of the Union address despite objections raised by the CIA. Before the speech was delivered the portions dealing with Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction were checked with the CIA for accuracy. CIA officials warned members of the President’s national security staff the intelligence was not good enough to make the flat statement Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa. The White House officials responded that a paper issued by the British government contained the unequivocal assertion “Iraq has sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” As long as the statement was attributed to British intelligence, the White House officials argued, it would be factually accurate. The CIA officials dropped their objections and that’s how it was delivered.

President Bush (01/28/03): “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

The statement was technically correct since it accurately reflected the British paper. But the bottom line is the White House knowingly included in a Presidential address information its own CIA had warned might not be true.

Today at a press conference during the Presidents trip to Africa, Secretary of State Powell portrayed it as an honest mistake.

Colin Powell (7/10/03): “There was no effort or attempt on the part of the President or anyone else in the administration to mislead or to deceive the American people.”

But eight days after the State of the Union when Powell addressed the UN, he deliberately left out any reference to Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa.

Colin Powell (7/10/03): “I didn’t use the uranium at that point because I didn’t think that was sufficiently strong as evidence to present before the world.”

That is exactly what CIA officials told the White House before the State of the Union. The top CIA official, Director George Tenet was not involved in those discussions and apparently never warned the President he was on thin ice.

Secretary Powell said today he read the State of the Union speech before it was delivered and understood it had been seen and cleared by the intelligence community, but intelligence officials say the director of the CIA never saw the final draft.

(Transcript via the Blog for America.)

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About Brian Flemming

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Brian, Brian, Brian, you’re just SO determined to GET Dubya. It looks like with this one particular claim, the POTUS was using something pretty iffy that he probably shouldn’t have. However, it is not reasonable to say that he was “LYING.”

    Now, some further inquiry into this seems warranted. Congressional Democrats should insist on hearings about WMDs, including this claim. Exactly what basis the president had for including this claim among others should be examined, and broke off up in him during the re-election campaign next year if he doesn’t have a reasonable explanation.

    That’s a long way, however, from eagerly insisting that news reporters get up on tv and call the president a liar in an ambiguous situation.

    Unlike Nixon or the last president, this one has no history of just flatly making stuff up. He deserves the benefit of the doubt.

  • http://www.shortstrangetrip.org Joe

    Wow, looks like Christmas in July at the Flemming household. But will the sheeple buy it?

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Yeah, Joe, I bet Brian blew a load all over the frickin’ ceiling when he heard there was an identifiable falsehood in the SOTU.

  • http://www.shortstrangetrip.org Joe

    Ooops! They changed their headline already. Ergo, Brian lied!

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    Eugene Volokh notes that the headline says (said) one thing, while the story says another. Perhaps the headline writer was having a bad day, and forgot that there is no liberal media, because other CBS headlines have problems reflecting the content of the story as well.

  • NC

    Everyone just relax. Kucinich is going to make things allllll better.

  • http://www.slumdance.com/blogs/brian_flemming/ Brian Flemming

    From the broadcast transcript:

    John, senior administration officials tell CBS News the president’s false claim that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa was included in his State of the Union address despite objections raised by the CIA. Before the speech was delivered the portions dealing with Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction were checked with the CIA for accuracy. CIA officials warned members of the President’s national security staff the intelligence was not good enough to make the flat statement Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa. The White House officials responded that a paper issued by the British government contained the unequivocal assertion “Iraq has sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” As long as the statement was attributed to British intelligence, the White House officials argued, it would be factually accurate. The CIA officials dropped their objections and that’s how it was delivered.

    If all of the above is accurate, could that behavior by the White House be termed “honest”?

  • http://www.shortstrangetrip.org Joe

    Sure! It’s as honest as a statement attributed to CBS news. Oh delicious irony!

  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    It strikes me as somewhat absurb that the shenanigans which produced the government are coming to light.

    What I find funny is the reluctance of the USAian public to accept their government lies to them constantly.

    The government of Iraq never posed a threat to anybody except its own citizens, and that threat was supported by the US government over two decades.

    The USA is slipping into a delusional state. And that’s frightening. Because they are the only ones with weapons of mass destruction. The Anthrax mailer is from the US, the 30,000 nuclear warheads are from the US, the chemical weapons are from the US, the landmines are from the US.

    Why don’t you cut the rest of the world some slack and let us get on with trying to survive?

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    I think many of us are objecting not to the idea that people in power lie – that’s essentially a given over time – but to the specific accusations without factual basis that are aimed at Bush and nobody else. Though it is no defense if it turns out that Bush was aware that anything he said was false (still unproven though less hysterical-sounding than it was at first), you point out yourself that Bush acted on 20 years of policy by the US government that said Iraq was a threat. Those statements came from the UN, they cam from Clinton, Bush Sr, and on and on and on. But everybody but Bush is given a pass, while Bush is attacked. Why? When you can answer that, you might understand why some people who don’t even like Bush much (like me) come to his defense on some issues.

    By the way, you say Iraq “never” posed a threat, forgetting that Iraq invaded Kuwait 12 years ago and fired scud missles at Israel at the same time.

    India has nukes, Pakistan has nukes, Russia and various ‘stans have all kinds of weapons involving biological, chemical, and nuclear components, and on and on. The USA is most definitely not the only possessor of WMDs around, just the biggest and scariest.

    I hate lies, and I don’t think that being in an important position excuses lying. In fact, I think it makes it even more important. But I hate it when ideologically-driven inuendo masquerades as a quest for truth, too.

  • http://www.slumdance.com/blogs/brian_flemming/ Brian Flemming

    Phillip,

    But I hate it when ideologically-driven inuendo masquerades as a quest for truth, too.

    Yeah, that bugs me, too.

    Btw, any response to Comment 7?

    If all of the above is accurate, could that behavior by the White House be termed “honest”?

  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    Well, perhaps I overstated, the USA isn’t the only ones with WMD, but they are acting like they are.

    The situation reminds me of the character Gene Hackman played in “Unforgiven”, a sherrif who tries to preserve a decent face, but does horrible things to meet those ends.

    So why isn’t the USA barging into the Pakistan – India conficlt? Pakistan poses a much greater threat than Iran, they are armed, they have a theocratic revolution brewing, they have a poor, illerate population, they are ruled by a military dictator which has no regard for human rights, and a grudge against its neighbors, also armed (China and India).

    Is it as simple as Pakistani sweatshops making sneakers? And Indians running call centres?

    So what’s the next soverieign nation to be invaded because it’s convenient and will garner domestic vote rigging?

    I would note you still have a secret war going on in Columbia. And shennigans in other parts of South America. Plus what about your imperial concerns in Puerto Rico?

  • http://www.slumdance.com/blogs/brian_flemming/ Brian Flemming

    Jim,

    You’re right. It is absurd that this media story is happening right now. There is precious little new information here. That one of these possibilities had to be the case…

    1) President Bush lied.
    2) President Bush did not know the Niger documents were forgeries, even though this fact was well known to the intelligence community.

    …has been clear since about January 2003. Not to mention in in late April.

    And both possibilities SHOULD have concerned every American, and the media SHOULD have been all over it from the start. Logically, those two choices listed above are the only two choices. What kind of person could ignore this quandary? As you put it, only a delusional country.

    If you look at what has happened between January and now….well, an intelligent Martian would wonder just what facts were suddenly “discovered” to make it okay to report this story in the media.

    It is very, very funny. It’s freakin’ July!

    “Oh my God, the President lied in January!”

    Duh. That was the most likely conclusion back then. Of course, back then the media had a war to promote.

  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    You know what really pisses me off about all this kerfuffle?

    That the rest of the world outside the USA has to bear the consequences that most USAians are too fucking lazy to get off their fat asses to make sure their government is responsible and accountable.

    We, the rest of the world, have to live with the consequences of your bad decisions.

    It’s like blaming people who’ve been run over by drunk drivers, it was their own damn fault, ifn’ they’d not been in that crosswalk, they’d be fine.

    You know what, come 2004, if you don’t get a better gummitt, we just might come after you and give you a spanking.

  • http://www.slumdance.com/blogs/brian_flemming/ Brian Flemming

    You and what army, Canuck?

    Oh, I know–an army of just-married Tinkerbells stoned out of their minds and wielding maple leafs. Yeah, that really frickin’ scares me.

  • http://www.slumdance.com/blogs/brian_flemming/ Brian Flemming

    I said “leafs” on purpose because I was playing a character who is dumb.

  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    I said “leafs” on purpose because I was playing a character who is dumb.

    Go! Leafs Go!
    Go! Leafs Go!
    Go! Leafs Go!

    erm, where was I?