Salon.com has quite a shocker today: according to this exclusive interview with two former CIA officers, President Bush knew Saddam had no WMD’s months before the invasion. Not only did he know, but he squelched the information, called the “Sabri intelligence,” dismissed it as irrelevant, and didn’t share it with Colin Powell, Congress, or even Britain’s MI6.
Sabri was Saddam’s foreign minister, also working as a CIA informant:
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 code-named “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.”
We’ve known for a long time that intelligence showing Saddam lacked WMD was shoved aside, ignored, and suppressed, while fake intel showing the opposite was “stovepiped” straight to the top. We know they were aware that the whole “yellow cake from Niger” story was a fairy tale. We’ve suspected that President Bush knew he was selling the country a bill of goods when he made his case for war, but now President Bush himself has been said to have personally ignored intelligence showing Iraq lacked WMDs. Not his aides, or the CIA, or someone who wrote a report, or an advisor, but the President himself.
Even worse, the intel was twisted and changed to make the case for war:
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 scaled-down 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.”
Of course, we all know what happened. Warnings from German authorities that “Curveball” was an unreliable source were ignored; French intelligence supporting the Sabri intel was suppressed and ignored. George Bush and Dick Cheney had their hearts set on war. Commander Guy wanted to be a “war president,” even if it meant the wrong war for the wrong reasons.
But the question remains: why hasn’t this come out before? Well, here’s one thought:
In 2005, the Silberman-Robb 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.
The only question I have is, will this be enough to impeach the President? Or is impeachment just for blow jobs?