President Bush, Vice President Cheney, then Secretary of State Colin Powell, and other Bush Administration officials based many of their pre-Iraq War claims of ties between Iraq and al Qaeda on the testimony of a detainee who was known to be a fabricator.

Douglas Jehl writes in this Sunday’s New York Times,

A top member of Al Qaeda in American custody was identified as a likely fabricator months before the Bush administration began to use his statements as the foundation for its claims that Iraq trained Al Qaeda members to use biological and chemical weapons, according to newly declassified portions of a Defense Intelligence Agency document.

The newly declassified portions of the document were given to Jehl by Senator Carl Levin, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee. It appears this revelation had something to do with Senator Reid’s parliamentary move that closed the Senate last week. Levin and Senator John D. Rockefeller, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, made a request to declassify the two paragraphs on October 18. In its response, the CIA said it found “no reason for it to remain classified.”

The story in brief: Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi was captured in Pakistan at the end of 2001. In February 2002, the Defense Intelligence Agency reported in the two paragraphs that Libi’s statements were highly improbable. The report said he was “‘intentionally misleading the debriefers’ in making claims about Iraqi support for Al Qaeda’s work with illicit weapons,” writes Jehl.

Yet administration officials merrily went ahead and repeated Libi’s stories in their speeches.

Among the first and most prominent assertions was one by Mr. Bush, who said in a major speech in Cincinnati in October 2002 that “we’ve learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and gases.’’ …

… Mr. Powell relied heavily on accounts provided by Mr. Libi for his speech to the United Nations Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003, saying that he was tracing “the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these weapons to Al Qaeda.’’

For more examples of Bush Administration statements based on Libi’s fabrications, see Think Progress.

At the time Powell made his speech, Jehl says, an unclassified statement by the CIA said Libi’s stories were credible. “But Mr. Levin said he had learned that a classified C.I.A. assessment at the time stated ‘the source was not in a position to know if any training had taken place.,’ Jehl writes.

One might conclude that someone in the CIA was being helpful to the White House cause and making sure that statements supporting the war made the rounds, while those not supporting the war were hidden out of sight.

And the DIA report would have circulated widely in government, Jehl says, and would have been available to the CIA, the White House, the Pentagon, and other agencies. However, neither the Senate Intelligence Committee report nor the September 11 Commission report, both issued in 2004, made any reference to the 2002 DIA report. “It remains unclear whether the D.I.A. document was provided to the Senate panel,” Jehl writes.

Libi recanted his stories in January 2004, which prompted the CIA to recall all intelligence reports based on his testimony. This fact was recorded in a footnote to the September 11 Commission report, but the original DIA report report is MIA from the 9/11 report.

Jehl continues,

The document provides the earliest and strongest indication of doubts voiced by American intelligence agencies about Mr. Libi’s credibility. Without mentioning him by name, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Colin L. Powell, then secretary of state, and other administration officials repeatedly cited Mr. Libi’s information as “credible’’ evidence that Iraq was training Al-Qaeda members in the use of explosives and illicit weapons.

Senator Levin seems a tad miffed.

Mr. Levin said the new evidence of early doubts about Mr. Libi’s statements dramatized what he called the Bush administration’s misuse of prewar intelligence to try to justify the war in Iraq. That is an issue that Mr. Levin and other Senate Democrats have been seeking to emphasize, in part by calling attention to the fact that the Republican-led Senate intelligence committee has yet to deliver a promised report, first sought more than two years ago, on the use of prewar intelligence. …

… In an interview on Friday, Mr. Levin also called attention to a portion of the D.I.A. report that expressed skepticism about the idea of close collaboration between Iraq and Al Qaeda, an idea that was never substantiated by American intelligence but was a pillar of the administration’s prewar claims.

“Saddam’s regime is intensely secular and is wary of Islamic revolutionary movements,’’ the D.I.A. report said in one of two declassified paragraphs. “Moreover, Baghdad is unlikely to provide assistance to a group it cannot control.’’

Libi, who apparently has been in custody at Guantanamo since 2003, was of course not the only intelligence source later uncovered as a fibber. For example, an Iraqi exile code named “Curveball” was the primary source for the ephemeral mobile biological weapons labs. And there is Ahmed Chalabi, beloved of neocons, who has been accused of feeding the Pentagon all manner of misinformation.

So far, the White House has refused to comment, while Republicans are sticking to this weeks’ talking point that they weren’t the only ones to make mistakes in prewar assessments.

Jehl concludes,

The Senate intelligence committee is scheduled to meet beginning next week to review draft reports prepared as part of a long-postponed “Phase II’’ of the panel’s review of prewar intelligence on Iraq. At separate briefings for reporters on Friday, Republicans staff members said the writing had long been under way, while Senate Democrats on the committee claimed credit for reinvigorating the process, by forcing the closed session. They said that already nearly complete is a look at whether prewar intelligence accurately predicted the potential for an anti-American insurgency.

Other areas of focus include the role played by the Iraqi National Congress, that of the Pentagon in shaping intelligence assessments, and an examination of whether public statements about Iraq by members of the Bush and Clinton administrations, as well as members of Congress, were substantiated by intelligence available at the time.

Steve Soto of The Left Coaster writes

When Harry Reid shut down the Senate earlier this week due to Pat Roberts and Bill Frist’s stonewalling of a Phase Two investigation over how the Bush Administration used intelligence in making its case for war, many of us wondered why now? What took you guys so long to use a procedural lever that you’ve had available to you all along that could have been employed before the election to raise the issue of Bush’s lies into a campaign issue? Was it a sudden re-growth of guts and balls that did this, or did the Democrats now come into possession of new information that was withheld from them before the election that gave them the club to force this issue out into the open now? We now know the answer, and it is the latter.

Moreover, Steve says, it puts Junior in a shitload of trouble.

… we now know that the Bush Administration also knew as far back as January 2003 that the Niger uranium claim was based on forgeries. We know that the Bush Administration was also told that the aluminum tubes story was bogus before the invasion as well. We now know that the claim that Saddam was assisting Al Qaeda was also a lie, and that the Administration knew this from Rummy himself as far back as February 2002. And we know that the IAEA was still on the ground in Iraq and had not confirmed any of Bush’s claims that Saddam had definitively stockpiled WMDs in violation of the two UN resolutions that Bush based his war upon.

And why exactly is this so important? Because take a look at the certification that Bush sent to Congress to start the war, which was required in the October 2002 war resolution, and then see that as we suspected over two and a half years ago, Bush has a big problem now …

This latest revelation means that at the time Bush justified the commencement of war against Iraq consistent with what was required under Public Law 107-243, he certified things not in evidence, and made claims to Congress (Saddam’s active operation of a WMD program and Saddam’s assistance to Al Qaeda) that he, Cheney, and Rummy already knew were false.

If Bush isn’t called to account for this, then there is no democracy in America any more.

[Cross-posted to The American Street.]

9 thoughts on “Smokin’

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  2. If the Senate Intelligence Commitee issues a report that supports all of the information thus far uncovered through various scources, then Bush’s ass could very well be gone. The report could provide the opportunity for any smart thinking congressmen to get washed from the stains of Iraq. Do you defend a loser or save your own political ass? Personally,Bush is a big spender and I’d let him pick-up the tab.Maybe he’ll wear his flight suit to his impeachment hearings..ya think?

  3. If Bush isn’t called to account for this, then there is no democracy in America any more.

    I’d agree with that, but I believe it’s already gone…

  4. I don’t know about the rest of ‘yall,but I have a knack for spotting liars Between the body language and the facial expressions of both Bush and Powell during their pre war prouncements, I was sure they were lyin’ out their asses, and my FOX TV Touretts was apparent to my neighbors.I was particularly saddened by Powells’ conversion to the darkside.
    Former UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter, and foreign correspondent Eric Margolis, both having spent much time in Iraq, both being more “expert” than the TV bobbleheads trotted out nightly to scare the masses stupid, revealed the administration was lying. Following Desert Storm, Iraq was undoubtedly the most scrutinized country on the planet and was bombed almost daily by the British and Americans,none of what Bush and Powell was saying made sense. To reinforce the fear factor, “experts” such as Laurie Mylroie ( who I thougt was either retarded or just plain nuts) , Clifford May, William Krystol, and Richard “Prince of Darkness” Perle, were constantly making the infotainment shows touting the global danger posed by Iraq who had no airforce, navy, or viable defence.The “Reverend” Jerry Falwell was also highly visible at that time to get the “Godly” people on board the warship.
    Jerry is anxiously awaiting the end times and a new Hummer.All classic Straussian moves regarding controlling the masses and seizing power
    I admit, I don’t know which way this will go. When dealing with the insane, one cannot expect the same results as interacting with the rational. I’m thinkin’ Bush’s Argentine adventure has pushed him one step closer to the abyss.

  5. My Dear Maha…

    Democracy in this country died a long, long time ago…

    Harry Truman signed it’s Death Warrant, also known as the National Security Act of 1947…Thereby creating the Department of Defense and the CIA…

    (Not to mention the U.S. Air farce)…

    As a Great American once said: “You could look it up”…


  6. Do you have another link to the certification that Bush sent to Congress for the war? The one in your post doesn’t work and I think that is a document we could all benefit from reading or rereading.

  7. From day one when President Bush Jr. started the programme for regime change in Iraq it was a grand act of jugglery of facts,well-constructed propoganda against the former confident of the elder Pappa Bush, Saddam. The senior made use of Saddam to effect the downfall of the Muslim clerics, the Ayatollahs of Iran, Both the policies of befrinding Saddam to fight Iran and the attack on Iraq by the junior are tuned to seize oil and expand the frontiers of the US newcons’ empire.The 49 percent of those who voted popularly in the US elections have proved right and they are the real patriots,who love America more than those who backed the offspring of the Bush clan.

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