Terror suspects spill more ‘high value’ intelligence

July 24, 2003, 10:54PM
Terror suspects spill more ‘high value’ intelligence
Detainees are offered rewards in exchange for information

Associated Press GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — Terrorist suspects have become more compliant and are offering many more important intelligence tips, said the U.S. Army general who commands the prison where preparations are under way for military tribunals.

Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller said that three-fourths of the 660 or so detainees have confessed to some involvement in terrorism. Many have turned on former friends and colleagues, he added.

Miller said detainees are giving up information in “incentive-based interrogations.” Rewards include more recreation time, extra food rations to keep in their cells, or a move to the prison’s medium-security facility.

“We have a large number of detainees who have been very cooperative describing their actions, either terrorist actions or in support of terrorism — more than 75 percent” of them, Miller said in an interview Wednesday.

Some tips have led to more arrests, others revealed terrorist recruiting techniques, he said.

“In February we were able to get 35 `high value’ — the highest value — intelligence (pieces). … In June we had more than 225,” Miller said.

The prisoners’ statements, which Miller said have been verbal, could be used as evidence before the secret tribunals, unlike in the United States.

The prison’s location at this U.S. naval base at the eastern end of Cuba puts the detainees out of the jurisdiction of U.S. courts and constitutional protections, a situation that has been criticized by human rights groups as a violation of the detainees’ rights.

The prisoners are all suspected of ties to the al-Qaida terrorist network or Afghanistan’s ousted Taliban regime.

How Bush Misleads Himself

Sunday, Jul. 20, 2003

George W. Bush ducked the first question he was asked during a joint press conference with Tony Blair after the British Prime Minister’s brilliant speech to Congress last Thursday. The question had two parts. Did he take responsibility for the false claim in his State of the Union message that Iraq had recently sought to buy uranium in Africa? And why were the allies having so much trouble finding other countries to help us in Iraq? The President — who seemed a mite tetchy, as he often does when things aren’t going well — glowered: “I take the responsibility for making the decision…to put together a coalition to remove Saddam Hussein, because the intelligence…made a clear and compelling case [that Saddam] was a threat to security and peace.”

Right, but that wasn’t the question, and one wonders why Bush didn’t simply say, “Yep. My fault. Some hard-working guy at the National Security Council got a little overenthusiastic and stuck in that sentence. I didn’t take it out. Won’t do that again.” End of story. Instead, we have the two-week spectacle of Bushies on the run and the President undermining his reputation as a straight shooter by forcing his CIA director, George Tenet, to take the fall. Clint Eastwood would never do that.

Why has the uranium story puffed up so huge? It wouldn’t have been a very big deal without the deepening crisis in Iraq. But it also has ballast because it clarifies an aspect of George W. Bush’s essential character — specifically, the problem he has with telling the truth. I am not saying Bush is a liar. Lying is witting: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” This is weirder than that. The President seems to believe that wishing will make it so — and he is so stupendously incurious that he rarely makes an effort to find the truth of the matter. He misleads not only the nation but himself. Every worst-case Saddam scenario just had to be true, as did every best-case post-Saddam scenario. Bush’s talent for self-deception extends to domestic and economic policy. He probably believes that he’s a compassionate conservative, even though he has allowed every antipoverty program he favors to be eviscerated by Congress. This week’s outrage is the crippling of AmeriCorps, which he had pledged to increase in size. He probably believes that his tax cuts for the wealthy will help reduce the mammoth $455 billion budget deficit (which doesn’t include the cost of Iraq), even though Ronald Reagan found that the exact opposite was true and had to raise taxes twice to repair the damage done by his 1981 cuts. And Bush probably believed, as the sign said, that the “mission” had been “accomplished” in Iraq when he landed on the aircraft carrier costumed as a flyboy. He may even have believed that he was a flyboy.

But the country can no longer afford the President’s self-delusions. He is entering the most crucial six months of his presidency. As a team of experts hired by the Pentagon reported last week: “The window for cooperation may close rapidly if they [the Iraqis] do not see progress.” Which brings us back to the second part of the question the President didn’t answer last week: Why is no one helping us in Iraq? A simple answer: Why on earth should they? The situation is a mess, in large part because of American arrogance. We insisted on doing the reconstruction on our own (only 13,000 of the 148,000 troops on the ground are British). It seems plain now that going it alone isn’t working. Even Donald Rumsfeld came very close to admitting that on Meet the Press a few weeks ago. Asked if we should turn Iraq over to the United Nations, he said, “At some point, I think that–” and then he caught himself and said, “They’re already playing an important role.”

In fact, the current military situation is extremely dangerous, not just to the troops on the ground but to our national security in general. We are pinned down in Iraq and will be for years. We don’t have the forces to meet another challenge — in North Korea, or Afghanistan, or anyplace else. We don’t even have the forces necessary to relieve our tired troops in Iraq. Last week India made clear — as France and Germany have — that it won’t help us without the U.N.’s imprimatur. And now there is serious talk within the White House about going back to the U.N. and asking for help.

Help will not come easily. “You can’t have burden sharing without power sharing,” a diplomat told me. The U.N. was humiliated, and its weapons inspectors denigrated, by the Bush Administration before the war. Some public groveling from the President may now be in order. Indeed, Bush also owes the American people a speech explaining just how difficult the situation is, how long it’s likely to remain that way and how much it will cost. Last week he took “responsibility” for the war. Now he must take responsibility for the peace.

From the Jul. 28, 2003 issue of TIME magazine

Graham: Politics keep terror report secret

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Key portions of a joint congressional investigative report on the September 11 terrorist attacks that will be released this week will be kept classified by the Bush administration for political, not security, reasons, Sen. Bob Graham said Sunday.

“The classification had more to do with [any given] agency wishing to avoid embarrassment by the disclosure of their actions or inactions rather than the protection of some national security interest,” Graham said on CBS’s “Face The Nation.”

The Florida Democrat said key sections of the 800-page report of the joint investigation by the House and Senate intelligence committees that are being kept under wraps deal with the role of foreign governments in the events leading up to September 11.

Graham, who is running for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, was one of the leaders of the joint investigation into intelligence and security failures leading to the September 11, 2001 attacks. who was chairman of Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last year,

He said the part of the report that deals with the activities of foreign governments “is the most classified section.” Because of that, Graham said he could not identify the countries.

“I do not want to take a detour to the federal penitentiary in my campaign for president,” said Graham, who was chairman of Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last year.

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers who carried out the September 11 attacks were Saudi nationals, some of whom are believed by U.S. authorities to have received assistance from Saudi Arabia-based charities while they were living in the United States.

While not identifying the country or countries identified in the report, Graham said, “I will say that the foreign government went well beyond facilitating charitable giving to terrorists.

“There was also direct governmental involvement with some of the terrorists. And an unanswered question is, Was the same assistance provided to the other 19 terrorists?”

Graham said “it’s always been curious to me how 19 people — many of whom had very little previous affinity with the United States, several of whom did not speak English — could come into the United States, hide themselves for periods of 18 months or longer, plan, practice and then executive a very complicated terrorist attack without being disclosed.”

Saudi officials have repeatedly denied they knowingly helped the September 11 terrorists and insist they have assisted U.S. efforts to fight terrorism, both before and after the attacks.

The Bush administration has also said Saudi Arabia has been an ally in the war against terrorism.

Graham, who has been a critic of President Bush’s Iraq policy, also said the congressional investigation turned up “no connection” between Saddam Hussein and September 11 and “very limited evidence” of a relationship between his regime and al Qaeda, either before or after the attacks.

“In fact, there was an enmity between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein based on their quite different views of the future of the Islamic world,” Graham said.

Journalist says she gave uranium papers to U.S.

July 19, 2003, 10:12AM
Associated Press

ROME — A journalist for an Italian news magazine has come forward, saying it was she who turned over to U.S. diplomats some documents purportedly showing that Iraq wanted to buy uranium from Niger. The documents turned out to be forgeries.

In an interview published today, Corriere della Sera, a leading Italian daily, quoted Elisabetta Burba as saying her source “in the past proved to be reliable.” The journalist, who writes for the weekly Panorama, refused to reveal her source.

“I realized that this could be a worldwide scoop, but that’s exactly why I was very worried,” Burba was quoted as saying. “If it turned out to be a hoax, and I published it, I would have ended my career.”

The documents, later declared by experts to be forgeries, served as part of the basis for President Bush’s assertion in his State of Union address in January that Saddam Hussein was trying to get hold of material that could be used for nuclear weapons.

Bush attributed the information to the British government. Both the Bush administration and that of British Prime Minister Tony Blair have been under growing fire for using flawed intelligence to justify going to war against Iraq.

It has been previously reported that the U.S. Embassy in Rome received the documents from a journalist. The documents were shown to CIA personnel in Rome and sent to State Department headquarters in Washington.

Corriere della Sera quoted the journalist as saying she went to Niger to try to check out the authenticity of the documents. Burba told the paper she was suspicious because the documents spoke of such a large amount of uranium — 500 tons — and were short on details on how the uranium would be transported and arrangements for final delivery.

After her return from Africa, she said she told Panorama’s top editor “the story seemed fake to me.” After discussions at the magazine, one of the publications in Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s media empire, Burba took the documents to the U.S. Embassy.

“I went by myself and give them the dossier. No one said anything more to me and in any case the decision not to publish it was already taken — with no further way to check out the reliability of those papers, we chose not to risk. I informed my source that I wasn’t going to write anything and for me that affair was forgotten,” Burba was quoted as saying.

There was no answer at Burba’s home today. Offices of Panorama were closed for the weekend.


White House admits uranium claim was wrong

July 8, 2003, 1:00PM
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Amid questions about prewar intelligence, the White House is acknowledging that President Bush was incorrect when he said in his State of the Union address that Iraq recently had sought significant quantities of uranium in Africa.

The White House acknowledgment comes as a British parliamentary commission questions the reliability of British intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the war in Iraq.

Democrats in Congress also have questioned how the Bush administration used U.S. intelligence on Iraq’s weapons programs.

Bush said in his address to Congress in January that the British government had learned that Saddam recently sought significant quantities of uranium in Africa.

The president’s statement in the State of the Union was incorrect because it was based on forged documents from the African nation of Niger, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Monday.

“The president’s statement was based on the predicate of the yellow cake” uranium “from Niger,” Fleischer told reporters. “So given the fact that the report on the yellow cake did not turn out to be accurate, that is reflective of the president’s broader statement.”

A British parliamentary committee concluded that Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government mishandled intelligence material on Iraqi weapons.

John Stanley, a Conservative member of the committee, said so far no evidence has been found in Iraq to substantiate four key claims, including that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa as part of an effort to restart a nuclear weapons program.

Claims about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction were a primary justification for the war, but U.S. forces have yet to find any such weapons. The House and Senate intelligence panels are looking into prewar intelligence on Iraq and how it was used by the Bush administration.

Fleischer’s remarks follow assertions by an envoy sent by the CIA to Africa to investigate allegations about Iraq’s nuclear weapons program. The envoy, Joseph Wilson, said Sunday the Bush administration manipulated his findings, possibly to strengthen the rationale for war.

Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador to the West African nation of Gabon, was dispatched in February 2002 to explore whether Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger.

Writing in a New York Times op-ed piece, Wilson said it did not take him long “to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place.”

In an interview on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press,” Wilson insisted his doubts about the purported Iraq-Niger connection reached the highest levels of government, including Vice President Dick Cheney’s office.

In fact, he said, Cheney’s office inquired about the purported Niger-Iraq link.

“The question was asked of the CIA by the office of the vice president. The office of the vice president, I am absolutely convinced, received a very specific response to the question it asked, and that response was based upon my trip out there,” Wilson said.

Yet nearly a year after he had returned and briefed CIA officials, the assertion that Saddam was trying to obtain uranium from Africa was included in Bush’s State of the Union address.

The International Atomic Energy Agency told the United Nations in March that the information about uranium was based on forged documents.

After Bush repeated the British claim in his State of the Union address, the purported letters between Iraq and Niger were turned over to the United Nations, which found them to be forged.


What I Didn’t Find in Africa

Published on Sunday, July 6, 2003 by the New York Times

What I Didn’t Find in Africa
by Joseph C. Wilson 4th
Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq?
Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.
For 23 years, from 1976 to 1998, I was a career foreign service officer and ambassador. In 1990, as chargé d’affaires in Baghdad, I was the last American diplomat to meet with Saddam Hussein. (I was also a forceful advocate for his removal from Kuwait.) After Iraq, I was President George H. W. Bush’s ambassador to Gabon and São Tomé and Príncipe; under President Bill Clinton, I helped direct Africa policy for the National Security Council.
It was my experience in Africa that led me to play a small role in the effort to verify information about Africa’s suspected link to Iraq’s nonconventional weapons programs. Those news stories about that unnamed former envoy who went to Niger? That’s me.
In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney’s office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake — a form of lightly processed ore — by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990’s. The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president’s office.
After consulting with the State Department’s African Affairs Bureau (and through it with Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, the United States ambassador to Niger), I agreed to make the trip. The mission I undertook was discreet but by no means secret. While the C.I.A. paid my expenses (my time was offered pro bono), I made it abundantly clear to everyone I met that I was acting on behalf of the United States government.
In late February 2002, I arrived in Niger’s capital, Niamey, where I had been a diplomat in the mid-70’s and visited as a National Security Council official in the late 90’s. The city was much as I remembered it. Seasonal winds had clogged the air with dust and sand. Through the haze, I could see camel caravans crossing the Niger River (over the John F. Kennedy bridge), the setting sun behind them. Most people had wrapped scarves around their faces to protect against the grit, leaving only their eyes visible.
The next morning, I met with Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick at the embassy. For reasons that are understandable, the embassy staff has always kept a close eye on Niger’s uranium business. I was not surprised, then, when the ambassador told me that she knew about the allegations of uranium sales to Iraq — and that she felt she had already debunked them in her reports to Washington. Nevertheless, she and I agreed that my time would be best spent interviewing people who had been in government when the deal supposedly took place, which was before her arrival.
I spent the next eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people: current government officials, former government officials, people associated with the country’s uranium business. It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place.
Given the structure of the consortiums that operated the mines, it would be exceedingly difficult for Niger to transfer uranium to Iraq. Niger’s uranium business consists of two mines, Somair and Cominak, which are run by French, Spanish, Japanese, German and Nigerian interests. If the government wanted to remove uranium from a mine, it would have to notify the consortium, which in turn is strictly monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Moreover, because the two mines are closely regulated, quasi-governmental entities, selling uranium would require the approval of the minister of mines, the prime minister and probably the president. In short, there’s simply too much oversight over too small an industry for a sale to have transpired.
(As for the actual memorandum, I never saw it. But news accounts have pointed out that the documents had glaring errors — they were signed, for example, by officials who were no longer in government — and were probably forged. And then there’s the fact that Niger formally denied the charges.)
Before I left Niger, I briefed the ambassador on my findings, which were consistent with her own. I also shared my conclusions with members of her staff. In early March, I arrived in Washington and promptly provided a detailed briefing to the C.I.A. I later shared my conclusions with the State Department African Affairs Bureau. There was nothing secret or earth-shattering in my report, just as there was nothing secret about my trip.
Though I did not file a written report, there should be at least four documents in United States government archives confirming my mission. The documents should include the ambassador’s report of my debriefing in Niamey, a separate report written by the embassy staff, a C.I.A. report summing up my trip, and a specific answer from the agency to the office of the vice president (this may have been delivered orally). While I have not seen any of these reports, I have spent enough time in government to know that this is standard operating procedure.
I thought the Niger matter was settled and went back to my life. (I did take part in the Iraq debate, arguing that a strict containment regime backed by the threat of force was preferable to an invasion.) In September 2002, however, Niger re-emerged. The British government published a “white paper” asserting that Saddam Hussein and his unconventional arms posed an immediate danger. As evidence, the report cited Iraq’s attempts to purchase uranium from an African country.
Then, in January, President Bush, citing the British dossier, repeated the charges about Iraqi efforts to buy uranium from Africa.
The next day, I reminded a friend at the State Department of my trip and suggested that if the president had been referring to Niger, then his conclusion was not borne out by the facts as I understood them. He replied that perhaps the president was speaking about one of the other three African countries that produce uranium: Gabon, South Africa or Namibia. At the time, I accepted the explanation. I didn’t know that in December, a month before the president’s address, the State Department had published a fact sheet that mentioned the Niger case.
Those are the facts surrounding my efforts. The vice president’s office asked a serious question. I was asked to help formulate the answer. I did so, and I have every confidence that the answer I provided was circulated to the appropriate officials within our government.
The question now is how that answer was or was not used by our political leadership. If my information was deemed inaccurate, I understand (though I would be very interested to know why). If, however, the information was ignored because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses. (It’s worth remembering that in his March “Meet the Press” appearance, Mr. Cheney said that Saddam Hussein was “trying once again to produce nuclear weapons.”) At a minimum, Congress, which authorized the use of military force at the president’s behest, should want to know if the assertions about Iraq were warranted.
I was convinced before the war that the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein required a vigorous and sustained international response to disarm him. Iraq possessed and had used chemical weapons; it had an active biological weapons program and quite possibly a nuclear research program — all of which were in violation of United Nations resolutions. Having encountered Mr. Hussein and his thugs in the run-up to the Persian Gulf war of 1991, I was only too aware of the dangers he posed.
But were these dangers the same ones the administration told us about? We have to find out. America’s foreign policy depends on the sanctity of its information. For this reason, questioning the selective use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq is neither idle sniping nor “revisionist history,” as Mr. Bush has suggested. The act of war is the last option of a democracy, taken when there is a grave threat to our national security. More than 200 American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq already. We have a duty to ensure that their sacrifice came for the right reasons.
Joseph C. Wilson 4th, United States ambassador to Gabon from 1992 to 1995, is an international business consultant.
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company


Envoy: Iraq uranium findings ignored

July 6, 2003, 11:51AM
Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Joseph C. Wilson, the retired United States ambassador whose CIA-directed mission to Niger in early 2002 helped debunk claims that Iraq had tried to obtain uranium there for nuclear weapons, has said for the first time publicly that U.S. and British officials ignored his findings and exaggerated the public case for invading Iraq.

Wilson said the false allegations that Iraq was trying to buy uranium oxide from Niger about three years ago were used by President Bush as a central piece of evidence to support their assertions that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program.

The Niger story — one piece of the administration’s larger argument that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction posed an imminent threat — was not debunked until shortly before the war began, when the United Nations’ chief nuclear inspector told the Security Council the documents were forgeries.

The White House has acknowledged that some documents were bogus, but a spokesman has said there was “a larger body of evidence suggesting Iraq attempted to purchase uranium in Africa,” indicating it might have involved a country other than Niger.

For the past year, Wilson has spoken out against the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq but until he was interviewed by the Washington Post and wrote an op-ed article published in Sunday’s New York Times, he had never disclosed his key role in the Niger controversy.

He said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was not an immediate threat before the war.


General admits ‘we’re still at war’

July 3, 2003, 10:59PM
General admits ‘we’re still at war’
As violence rises, U.S. increases bounty on Saddam to $25 million

New York Times

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Two months after President Bush declared the end of major combat, the commander of allied forces in Iraq acknowledged on Thursday that “we’re still at war” and the United States announced a reward of up to $25 million for the capture of Saddam Hussein or confirmation of his death.

The statement from the Army commander, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, came on a day in which 10 American soldiers were wounded in three separate attacks.

With the violence seemingly escalating daily, the offer of a bounty for Saddam seemed to reflect the renewed urgency allied officials and military commanders attach to finding the deposed leader and his two sons, whose specter they believe is fueling the growing resistance to the American occupation.

“Until we know for sure, their names will continue to cast a shadow of fear over this country,” L. Paul Bremer, the American civilian administrator of Iraq, said in his weekly address to the Iraqi people.

In Washington on Thursday, a group of senators just back from a three-day visit to Iraq were even more emphatic about the need to capture or kill Saddam.

“There’s a pervasive climate of fear that is impeding the recovery, particularly in central and southern Iraq,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. “There is a fear that he will return, that he will come back.”

The $25-million reward for Saddam is the same amount offered for Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaida. Bremer said up to $15 million apiece would be offered for similar information on Saddam’s sons, Uday and Qusay.

Bremer said in an interview on Sunday that the “general assessment” of people he talked to was that Saddam was still in Iraq. Referring to the recent capture of Saddam’s presidential secretary, Bremer said, “The noose is going to get tighter and tighter.”

While Bremer maintained that the threats and violence against American soldiers and civilians, as well as the Iraqis working with them, would not deter reconstruction, Sanchez made clear at a news conference on Thursday that rebuilding the country and fighting the enemy would have to take place side by side.

While saying the daily attacks on American forces did not appear to be centrally or even regionally coordinated, the commander acknowledged that there had been an “increase in sophistication of the explosive devices.” He said 25 soldiers had been killed in action and 177 wounded since May 1, when Bush declared the official cessation of major hostilities.

The multiple attacks on Thursday came a day after Bush essentially dared militants to attack American soldiers, saying, “Bring `em on.” The American-led alliance, he said, has adequate force to deal with the security situation.

Thursday’s attacks seemed to defy that assertion. They also suggested that sapping the resistance might not be as simple as capturing or killing Saddam. The attacks occurred in diverse locations: a Sunni area west of Baghdad that staunchly supported the former government, a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad that did not, and the center of the city.

In the Baghdad neighborhood of Kadhimiya on Thursday, a gunman opened fire on a group of soldiers from the 1st Armored Division on foot patrol at 2:30 a.m., wounding one of them. The soldiers returned fire, killing the gunman and wounding a 6-year-old boy with him, according to an American military spokesman.

In the city of Ramadi, about 65 miles west of Baghdad, six soldiers were wounded when their two-vehicle convoy drove over an improvised explosive device at 6:30 a.m. The city’s Sunni Muslim residents were among the core of Saddam’s base of support, serving as army officers and officials in his government.

In Baghdad, just before 10 a.m. Thursday, a man on foot fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a three-vehicle military convoy moving down Haifa Street, a busy thoroughfare. One Humvee was struck, wounding three soldiers, witnesses and a military spokesman said.