Bush knew Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction

Bush knew Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction
Salon exclusive: Two former CIA officers say the president squelched topsecret
intelligence, and a briefing by
George Tenet, months before invading Iraq.
By Sidney Blumenthal
Sep. 06, 2007 |

On Sept. 18, 2002, CIA director George Tenet briefed President Bush in the Oval Office on topsecret
intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, according to two former
senior CIA officers. Bush dismissed as worthless this information from the Iraqi foreign minister, a member of
Saddam’s inner circle, although it turned out to be accurate in every detail. Tenet never brought it up again.
Nor was the intelligence included in the National Intelligence Estimate of October 2002, which stated
categorically that Iraq possessed WMD. No one in Congress was aware of the secret intelligence that Saddam
had no WMD as the House of Representatives and the Senate voted, a week after the submission of the NIE, on the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq. The information, moreover, was not circulated within the
CIA among those agents involved in operations to prove whether Saddam had WMD.

On April 23, 2006, CBS’s “60 Minutes” interviewed Tyler Drumheller, the former CIA chief of clandestine
operations for Europe, who disclosed that the agency had received documentary intelligence from Naji Sabri,
Saddam’s foreign minister, that Saddam did not have WMD. “We continued to validate him the whole way
through,” said Drumheller. “The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming, and they were looking for
intelligence to fit into the policy, to justify the policy.”
Now two former senior CIA officers have confirmed Drumheller’s account to me and provided the background to
the story of how the information that might have stopped the invasion of Iraq was twisted in order to justify it.
They described what Tenet said to Bush about the lack of WMD, and how Bush responded, and noted that Tenet
never shared Sabri’s intelligence with then Secretary of State Colin Powell. According to the former officers, the
intelligence was also never shared with the senior military planning the invasion, which required U.S. soldiers to
receive medical shots against the ill effects of WMD and to wear protective uniforms in the desert.
Instead, said the former officials, the information was distorted in a report written to fit the preconception that
Saddam did have WMD programs. That false and restructured report was passed to Richard Dearlove, chief of
the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), who briefed Prime Minister Tony Blair on it as validation of the
cause for war.
Secretary of State Powell, in preparation for his presentation of evidence of Saddam’s WMD to the United
Nations Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003, spent days at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., and had Tenet sit
directly behind him as a sign of credibility. But Tenet, according to the sources, never told Powell about existing
intelligence that there were no WMD, and Powell’s speech was later revealed to be a series of falsehoods.
Both the French intelligence service and the CIA paid Sabri hundreds of thousands of dollars (at least $200,000
in the case of the CIA) to give them documents on Saddam’s WMD programs. “The information detailed that
Saddam may have wished to have a program, that his engineers had told him they could build a nuclear weapon
within two years if they had fissible material, which they didn’t, and that they had no chemical or biological
weapons,” one of the former CIA officers told me.
On the eve of Sabri’s appearance at the United Nations in September 2002 to present Saddam’s case, the officer
in charge of this operation met in New York with a “cutout” who had debriefed Sabri for the CIA. Then the
officer flew to Washington, where he met with CIA deputy director John McLaughlin, who was “excited” about
the report. Nonetheless, McLaughlin expressed his reservations. He said that Sabri’s information was at odds
with “our best source.” That source was codenamed
“Curveball,” later exposed as a fabricator, con man and
former Iraqi taxi driver posing as a chemical engineer.
The next day, Sept. 18, Tenet briefed Bush on Sabri. “Tenet told me he briefed the president personally,” said
one of the former CIA officers. According to Tenet, Bush’s response was to call the information “the same old
thing.” Bush insisted it was simply what Saddam wanted him to think. “The president had no interest in the
intelligence,” said the CIA officer. The other officer said, “Bush didn’t give a fuck about the intelligence. He had
his mind made up.”
But the CIA officers working on the Sabri case kept collecting information. “We checked on everything he told
us.” French intelligence eavesdropped on his telephone conversations and shared them with the CIA. These taps
“validated” Sabri’s claims, according to one of the CIA officers. The officers brought this material to the attention
of the newly formed Iraqi Operations Group within the CIA. But those in charge of the IOG were on a mission to
prove that Saddam did have WMD and would not give credit to anything that came from the French. “They kept
saying the French were trying to undermine the war,” said one of the CIA officers.
The officers continued to insist on the significance of Sabri’s information, but one of Tenet’s deputies told them,
“You haven’t figured this out yet. This isn’t about intelligence. It’s about regime change.”
The CIA officers on the case awaited the report they had submitted on Sabri to be circulated back to them, but
they never received it. They learned later that a new report had been written. “It was written by someone in the
agency, but unclear who or where, it was so tightly controlled. They knew what would please the White House.
They knew what the king wanted,” one of the officers told me.
That report contained a false preamble stating that Saddam was “aggressively and covertly developing” nuclear
weapons and that he already possessed chemical and biological weapons. “Totally out of whack,” said one of the
CIA officers. “The first [para]graph of an intelligence report is the most important and most read and colors the
rest of the report.” He pointed out that the case officer who wrote the initial report had not written the preamble
and the new memo. “That’s not what the original memo said.”
The report with the misleading introduction was given to Dearlove of MI6, who briefed the prime minister.
“They were given a scaleddown
version of the report,” said one of the CIA officers. “It was a summary given for
liaison, with the sourcing taken out. They showed the British the statement Saddam was pursuing an aggressive
program, and rewrote the report to attempt to support that statement. It was insidious. Blair bought it.” “Blair was
duped,” said the other CIA officer. “He was shown the altered report.”
The information provided by Sabri was considered so sensitive that it was never shown to those who assembled
the NIE on Iraqi WMD. Later revealed to be utterly wrong, the NIE read: “We judge that Iraq has continued its
weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs in defiance of UN resolutions and restrictions. Baghdad has
chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions; if left unchecked, it
probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade.”
In the congressional debate over the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, even those voting against it
gave credence to the notion that Saddam possessed WMD. Even a leading opponent such as Sen. Bob Graham,
then the Democratic chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who had instigated the production of the
NIE, declared in his floor speech on Oct. 12, 2002, “Saddam Hussein’s regime has chemical and biological
weapons and is trying to get nuclear capacity.” Not a single senator contested otherwise. None of them had an
inkling of the Sabri intelligence.
The CIA officers assigned to Sabri still argued within the agency that his information must be taken seriously,
but instead the administration preferred to rely on Curveball. Drumheller learned from the German intelligence
service that held Curveball that it considered him and his claims about WMD to be highly unreliable. But the
CIA’s Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control Center (WINPAC) insisted that Curveball was
credible because what he said was supposedly congruent with available public information.
For two months, Drumheller fought against the use of Curveball, raising the red flag that he was likely a fraud, as
he turned out to be. “Oh, my! I hope that’s not true,” said Deputy Director McLaughlin, according to
Drumheller’s book “On the Brink,” published in 2006. When Curveball’s information was put into Bush’s Jan. 28,
2003, State of the Union address, McLaughlin and Tenet allowed it to pass into the speech. “From three Iraqi
defectors,” Bush declared, “we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs …
Saddam Hussein has not disclosed these facilities. He’s given no evidence that he has destroyed them.” In fact,
there was only one Iraqi source Curveball
and
there were no labs.
When the mobile weapons labs were inserted into the draft of Powell’s United Nations speech, Drumheller
strongly objected again and believed that the error had been removed. He was shocked watching Powell’s speech.
“We have firsthand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails,” Powell announced.
Without the reference to the mobile weapons labs, there was no image of a threat.
Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell’s chief of staff, and Powell himself later lamented that they had not been
warned about Curveball. And McLaughlin told the Washington Post in 2006, “If someone had made these doubts
clear to me, I would not have permitted the reporting to be used in Secretary Powell’s speech.” But, in fact,
Drumheller’s caution was ignored.
As war appeared imminent, the CIA officers on the Sabri case tried to arrange his defection in order to
demonstrate that he stood by his information. But he would not leave without bringing out his entire family. “He
dithered,” said one former CIA officer. And the war came before his escape could be handled.
Tellingly, Sabri’s picture was never put on the deck of playing cards of former Saddam officials to be hunted
down, a tacit acknowledgment of his covert relationship with the CIA. Today, Sabri lives in Qatar.
In 2005, the SilbermanRobb
commission investigating intelligence in the Iraq war failed to interview the case
officer directly involved with Sabri; instead its report blamed the entire WMD fiasco on “groupthink” at the CIA.
“They didn’t want to trace this back to the White House,” said the officer.
On Feb. 5, 2004, Tenet delivered a speech at Georgetown University that alluded to Sabri and defended his
position on the existence of WMD, which, even then, he contended would still be found. “Several sensitive
reports crossed my desk from two sources characterized by our foreign partners as established and reliable,” he
said. “The first from a source who had direct access to Saddam and his inner circle” Naji
Sabri ”
said Iraq
was not in the possession of a nuclear weapon. However, Iraq was aggressively and covertly developing such a
weapon.”
Then Tenet claimed with assurance, “The same source said that Iraq was stockpiling chemical weapons.” He
explained that this intelligence had been central to his belief in the reason for war. “As this information and other
sensitive information came across my desk, it solidified and reinforced the judgments that we had reached in my
own view of the danger posed by Saddam Hussein and I conveyed this view to our nation’s leaders.” (Tenet
doesn’t mention Sabri in his recently published memoir, “At the Center of the Storm.”)
But where were the WMD? “Now, I’m sure you’re all asking, ‘Why haven’t we found the weapons?’ I’ve told you
the search must continue and it will be difficult.”
On Sept. 8, 2006, three Republican senators on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Orrin
Hatch,
Saxby Chambliss and Pat Roberts signed
a letter attempting to counter Drumheller’s revelation about Sabri on
“60 Minutes”: “All of the information about this case so far indicates that the information from this source was
that Iraq did have WMD programs.” The Republicans also quoted Tenet, who had testified before the committee
in July 2006 that Drumheller had “mischaracterized” the intelligence. Still, Drumheller stuck to his guns, telling
Reuters, “We have differing interpretations, and I think mine’s right.”
One of the former senior CIA officers told me that despite the certitude of the three Republican senators, the
Senate committee never had the original memo on Sabri. “The committee never got that report,” he said. “The
material was hidden or lost, and because it was a restricted case, a lot of it was done in hard copy. The whole
thing was fogged up, like Curveball.”
While one Iraqi source told the CIA that there were no WMD, information that was true but distorted to prove
the opposite, another Iraqi source was a fabricator whose lies were eagerly embraced. “The real tragedy is that
they had a good source that they misused,” said one of the former CIA officers. “The fact is there was nothing
there, no threat. But Bush wanted to hear what he wanted to hear.”
By
Sidney Blumenthal

Yellowcake Dossier Not The Work of the CIA

Yellowcake Dossier Not The Work of the CIA
October 26, 2005
by Carlo Bonnini e Giuseppe D’Avanzo of La Repubblica
[translated at the request of Antiwar.com by Azzurra Crispino]
Anything found in [ ] are translator’s notes and not originally in the article.

For Nicolò Pollari, director of SISMI [sic Military Intelligence Agency of Italy] the rules of his job are non-negotiable. He tells La Repubblica: “I am the director of intelligence, and the only person I have spoken to in Washington on an institutional level, post September 11th, has been the director of the CIA, George Tenet. Obviously, I speak only to him.” But is it really true that our undercover agents have worked exclusively with the CIA? Or, were they co-opted by the clandestine parallel intelligence efforts headed by Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz over the “White House Iraq Group,” the Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon, the National Security advisor’s office, who all were set out to find the necessary proof to bring about ‘regime change’ in Bagdad?

On the eve of the invasion of Iraq, Pollari, the director of SISMI meets in Washington with the staff of Condoleeza Rice, then White House National Security Advisor. This is done under the supervision of Gianni Castellaneta, currently the Italian ambassador to the US and then diplomatic advisor for Palazzo Chigi [Silvio Berlusconi’s official residence as Prime Minister of Italy]. La Repubblica is able to document the simultaneous travel of the Italian government and intelligence. At least one of the “unofficial” meetings Pollari holds is, as secret agents say, the the creation of a love triangle between policy, intelligence, and information.

A quick summary: the Military Intelligence of Italy under Pollari wants to confirm the Iraqi purchase of unprocessed uranium used to make a nuclear bomb. The game plan is clear. Antonio Nucera, assistant chief of the Center for Military Intelligence in Rome, gives the “authentic papers” regarding an attempted acquisition of uranium in Niger (old Italian “intelligence” from the 80s). These are then bundled with other false papers hatched together from official stationery and seals, recovered during a faked burglary of the Niger embassy. These papers are shown by Pollari’s people to CIA agents stationed in Rome. Meanwhile, a “deliveryman” for the Military Intelligence Agency, none other than Rocco Martino, delivers them to MI6 in London, run by Sir Richard Dearlove.

This is what gets the ball rolling. This will all be useful in understanding the second chapter of the great Italian deception — framing the proof used to justify military intervention in Iraq. Greg Thielmann, former director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research for the State Department, finds “the Italian report on uranium” on his desk. He claims not to recall the exact date, but it is roughly fall of 2001. The exact date may be important. We know three events coincide on the date October 15th, 2001. Nicolò Pollari, nominated on September 27th, becomes the head of SISMI, after having been the number two man at CESIS (the center coordinating intelligence for Palazzo Chigi). Silvio Berlusconi finally meets with George W. Bush at the White House and the first CIA report on the Italian evidence all occur on the same date: October 15th, 2001. One might call this nothing more than coincidence, except that it appears the Italians are desperately trying to get into the action. Berlusconi had difficulty, following an attack of “misunderstanding among civilizations,” getting a meeting with a White House far more preoccupied with meeting with moderate Arab regimes. Pollari is anxious to be on board with the Premier and the new direction. Col. Alberto Manenti, Pollari’s former boss and the newly appointed head of WMD unit at SISMI, also wants to be in tune with the new director. While Bush is showing Berlusconi the Rose Garden, writes Russ Hoyle, the CIA is taking action on the news Italian intelligence has just handed them on a silver platter: “negotiations between Niamey [the capital of Niger] and Bagdad regarding the acquisition of uranium began in the beginning of 1999. culminating in the authorization of the sale by the Nigerien government in 2000.” No additional documentation is cited able to show that the shipment of uranium actually took place. CIA analysts consider this first report “very limited” and “lacking in necessary details.” Analysts in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research of the State Department rate the information “highly suspect.”

Pollari’s first contact with the American intelligence community is not particularly gratifying, but nevertheless useful. The director of SISMI is not a fool, he is quick to reconstruct where the main players fall in the sordid conflict underway in the Administration between those advocating prudence and a pragmatic outlook (State Department and the CIA) versus those who are merely looking for an opportunity to justify a pre-planned war. Gianni Castellaneta advises Pollari to “look in other directions,” while Minister of Defense Antonio Martino invites him to meet “an old friend of Italy.”

This old American friend is Michael A. Ledeen, an old fox of US parallel intelligence who was declared “undesirable” by Italy in the 1980s. Ledeen is in Rome on behalf of the Office of Special Plans, created by the Pentagon by Paul Wolfowitz to gather intelligence that supports military intervention in Iraq. A source from Forte Braschi [SISMI’s headquarters in Rome] tells La Repubblica: “Jeff Castelli, head of the CIA station in Rome, gives a cold reception to Pollari’s uranium story and lets the matter drop. Pollari understands this is merely a prelude to something else and talks to Michael Ledeen….” Some unknown reason moves Michael Ledeen back to Washington, D.C. But, at the beginning of 2002, Paul Wolfowitz convices Dick Cheney to explore in depth the Italian story on the uranium. The Vice President, states the Senate Selected Committee on Intelligence, asks the CIA one more time to know more about a possible acquisition of uranium from Niger. In that meeting, Dick Cheney explicitly states this shred of intelligence was gathered by “a foreign service.”

The Pentagon parallel intelligence then spreads this “new information,” according to which “there exists an agreement between Niger and Iraq for the sale of 500 tons of uranium a year.” The technical analysts smile at this declaration: 500 tons of uranium is an astronomical quantity, and the news is clearly devoid of any accountability. All independent reports, requested following the “Italian document” warn that the two mines in Niger, Arlit and Akouta, are not capable of extracting more than 300 tons a year. But the climate is what it is. George Tenet, hobbled by the holes in intelligence surrounding 9/11, puts on a good face and turns a deaf ear when the State Department (as told to La Repubblica by Greg Thielmann) states in opposition that “the information gathered in Italy is inconsistent; the Niger-uranium story is fake; and that a bunch of things told to us were lies.”

The source in Forte Braschi continues, “Pollari is extremely shrewd. He understands that in order to push the uranium story he cannot rely on the CIA alone. He has to work, as he was advised by Palazzo Chigi and the Defense Department, with the Pentagon and the National Security Advisor, Rice.” This claim could be nothing more than a malicious rumor (as is often the case in the world of spies) but confirmation of “alternate channels” Pollari creates with Washington are within grasp in an image and a meeting.

The image: Pollari is in Washington. He meets George Tenet, as often happens, in a reserved room of a hotel near Langley. Someone who assisted with the meeting tells La Repubblica: “Pollari must not trust his English very much, because he utilizes an interpreter when speaking to the director of the CIA. George, to get the ball rolling, reveals some information on Al Qaeda and Italy that the Agency has gathered amongst the Guantanamo prisoners. Tenet expects at least a smile, if not a thank you. Instead, he gets a face of stone. At first, this upsets him, but then he lets it go. But what strikes everyone most about Pollari is the way he keeps his central boss in Washington completely marginalized from everything.” This estrangement is interesting. In 2002 the head of the SISMI station in Washington is Admiral Giuseppe Grignolo, who has important experience in the proliferation of WMDs, an excellent relationship with the CIA and is very respected by CIA number two Jim Pravitt. The source from Forte Braschi recalls, “in reality, we wanted to keep the CIA out of our work and Pollari didn’t trust Grignolo because he’s too closely connected to Langley. So, he keeps all his moves quiet, leading [Grignolo] down the wrong path, like say having him focus unnecessarily on the criminal record of the new hires to the service who have perhaps spent a few years in the States… his more important meetings happen elsewhere. With Condi Rice, through Gianni Castellaneta and for the Office of Special Plans of Wolfowitz and Dough Feith, through Leeden. Castellaneta is the one who schedules the meeting in the office of the National Security Advisor.” When? What do they discuss? “What do you think they discussed in the summer of 2002? Weapons of mass destruction.” The date of the meeting? “That I’m keeping to myself… besides, all it takes is checking with the CAI [Commitato Aeronautico Italiano, the Italian version of the FAA] logs on planes scheduled to fly Ciampino-Washington.” [Ciampino is the Italian military airport.]

Getting the flightplans in Rome is difficult, but there’s better luck in Washington. An administration official tells La Repubblica, “I can confirm that on Sept. 9th, 2002, General Nicolò Pollari met with Stephen Hadley, at the time Deputy National Security Advisor under Condoleeza Rice. And just like October 15th 2001, September 9th 2002 is a date of coincidences. The issue of Panorama that will hit the stands with the date September 12/19 is going to press. This seems to be the customary in the “yellowcake affair.” Recall that “the deliveryman” for SISMI, Rocco Martino, contacts in October a journalist from the weekly magazine, at the time edited by Carlo Rossella, to sell them the document of this crooked affair. No one seems to remember that, in that September 12/19 2002 issue, coinciding with the secret meeting between Pollari and Hadley, Panorama finds a colossal scoop. The title of the article, “The War? It’s Already Begun,” tells the story of “a load of half a ton of uranium.” Further in the article, “the men of Mukhabarat, the Iraqi Secret Service, acquired it [the uranium] through a Jordan intermediary company in far-off Nigeria, where some merchants were selling it as contraband after having stolen it from a nuclear deposit in one of the republics of the former USSR. Five hundred kilos of uranium landed in Amman [the capital of Jordan]. From there, after seven hours by land, they reached their destination: a plant 20 km north of Bagdad, called Al Radhidiyah, well-known for its production and treatment of fission materials.” Later in the article, “… the alert pertains to Germany, where in previous years Iraq has tried to buy technology and industrial components from the “Leycochem” organization… including the coveted aluminum tubes for the gas centrifuges.”

It is important to note that all the ingredients for the recipe for war are present in this Panorama article, even if in an inexact context (Nigeria is not Niger, a grave lapse) and in some parts far-out (contraband from the former USSR to Africa in a truck): the five hundred tons of uranium that, from Africa, reach Baghdad; aluminum tubes for nuclear centrifuges. A reasonable observation can be made that the schema at work here in Italy seems to overlap completely with the ones sustained in the US CIA/New York Times scandal. Government asks for something; intelligence gives it; the media circulates it; and government confirms it. It’s a disinformation technique as old as the Cold War. Exaggerate the danger from the enemy, thereby terrorizing and convincing public opinion. In our own home, an even worse detail: the Prime Minister owns the magazine spreading this poisonous news. The same PM, who heads intelligence and wants to seem and be George W. Bush’s biggest ally, who is in turn anxious to go to war.

The groundwork now laid out, Pollari can now concentrate on a different but essential aspect of his gameplan, the promotion of SISMI and himself. He cashes in on the dividends from the last year’s obfuscated work, blinding parliament with news cautiously manipulated; revelations that would finally require a believable and documented reconstruction are instead met with a wall of secrecy from the state (that would be opposed by Gianni Letta on July 16th, 2003).

After his secret meeting with Hadley, Pollari has two audiences with the parliamentary committee overseeing secret services. In the first, the director of SISMI states, “we do not have documented proof, but we do have news that a central-African nation has sold pure uranium to Baghdad.” Thirty days later, Pollari states, “we have documented proof of an Iraqi acquisition of pure uranium in a central-African nation. We also know of an Iraqi attempt to purchase centrifuges, to be used to enrich uranium, from companies in Germany and possibly in Italy as well.” Leaving Parliament, Pollari still has the problem of how to get the fake document to Washington without his metaphorical finger prints on them. The “deliveryman” for SISMI, Rocco Martino, who has already gone knocking on MI6’s door, contacts Panorama’s Elisabetta Burba attempting to sell her the dossier. Is it the smokeseller’s own idea, was it suggested to him by Antonio Nucera, or from someone else? Burba, justly, goes to double check the information in Niger. There she invents a cover-up of dinosaurs, from the Tyrannosaurus Nigeriensis to the Velociraptor Abakensis.

In the meantime, she also speaks to some credible sources. Elisabette does her duty with tenacity and rigor, and comes to the conclusion that the story just does not jive, and doesn’t publish a single line of it. But in reality, everything has already happened, because the director of the weekly, Carlo Rossella, enthusiastic to have perhaps found “the smoking gun” (as he tells his staff), has already sent the documents to the American embassy, “as the best source of verification.” Does Pollari then warn the Prime Minister’s weekly that in regards to the uranium scoop, the whole thing is a fraud? It would appear not. Thus, Jeff Castelli and the CIA find they once again have to deal with this half-baked story, which they have been trying to avoid for a year. These documents are so obviously fake that they can only be hidden, if they do not want to be mortified when meeting with Dick Cheney. The arrival of the documents in Washington is hushed. On October 16th, 2002, the documents are given out to the various intelligence agencies by members of the State Department during one of their regular meetings, where four CIA members are also present. None of them recall if they have them or ever did. Mysteriously, in Langley the “Italian documents” are “lost” for three months in the counter-proliferation center’s vaults. First strike for the Italian documents. The uranium hoax will redouble with the addition of the tall-tale of the aluminum tubes. But that’s another story.

Legislators file suit against Bush over ending ABM treaty

June 12, 2002, 1:17AM
By JIM ABRAMS
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Thirty-one House members filed suit against President Bush on Tuesday in an effort to block the president from withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

The United States officially leaves the treaty Thursday, six months after Bush announced his intention to do so. The Pentagon plans an earth-breaking ceremony Saturday at Fort Greely, Alaska, to begin construction on the first portion of a new missile interceptor system.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, the lead plaintiff, said Bush does not have authority to unilaterally withdraw from a treaty and should first seek the consent of Congress. “The Constitution of the United States is being demolished and we need to challenge that in court,” he said.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, also names Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell as defendants. The plaintiffs are all Democrats, except for one independent who usually votes with Democrats.

It states that while the Constitution is silent on the role of Congress in treaty terminations, treaties have the status of “supreme law of the land” equivalent to federal laws and that laws can be repealed only by an act of Congress.

“I am troubled that many in Congress appear willing to cede our constitutional responsibility on this matter to the executive branch,” said Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis. He tried unsuccessfully Monday to bring a resolution to the Senate floor stating the president cannot withdraw from the treaty without Senate approval.

Kucinich last week tried to get the House to vote on a similar resolution, but House Republicans unanimously rejected a motion to bring the issue to a vote. Republicans generally support withdrawal from the treaty, which prohibited the United States and Soviet Union from building missile defenses and has been an impediment to Bush’s plans for a missile defense system.

“This is so far out of touch,” said Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., a proponent of a missile defense system. “The end of the ABM treaty marks a significant milestone” enabling the Pentagon to adjust to post-Cold War changes and emerging threats, he said.

The lead lawyer for House lawmakers, Peter Weiss, said they are asking the court for expedited treatment of the suit. But he said that even if the court does not act by the withdrawal date, a later decision agreeing that Bush must first get congressional consent could be retroactive.

In House debate last week, Republicans argued that past presidents have terminated dozens of treaties without consulting Congress. Kucinich pointed to an 1835 House vote blocking President Jackson from pulling out of a treaty with France.

In 1979 the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., sued President Carter over his decision to terminate a mutual defense treaty with Taiwan when he established diplomatic relations with the Beijing government. The Supreme Court, without ruling on the constitutional issue, vacated or threw out an appeals court ruling in favor of Carter and ordered it sent back for reconsideration.