Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 11, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

TENET TAKES THE FALL....CIA Director George Tenet has officially taken the fall for Uranium-Gate:

"These 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the president," Tenet said in a statement released after Bush and his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, blamed the miscue on the CIA and members of Congress called for someone to be held accountable.

...."Officials who were reviewing the draft remarks on uranium raised several concerns about the fragmentary nature of the intelligence with National Security Council colleagues," Tenet said. "Some of the language was changed. From what we know now, agency officials in the end concurred that the text in the speech was factually correct that the British government report said that Iraq sought uranium from Africa."

"This should not have been the test for clearing a presidential address," the statement continued. "This did not rise to the level of certainty which should be required for presidential speeches, and CIA should have ensured that it was removed."

That's probably the end of the controversy, and if they'd fessed up earlier this whole thing never would have gone anywhere in the first place.

Now, it's still the case that the administration's arguments for war were exaggerated, and it's equally the case that the CIA is the last agency that should take the blame for this, but none of that matters. Others in the administration possibly including Bush probably knew that the uranium charges were bogus, but with Tenet taking the bullet there will never be a smoking gun to prove it, and that's what it takes. Anything less will inevitably be written off as just the usual partisan bickering.

Unless something big turns up, this controversy will now die and Bush is off the hook.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall thinks there's more:

But all of this begs the obvious and singularly important question: the charge is that CIA didn't push hard enough to keep bogus information out of the president's speech. Who was pushing on the other side? Who was pushing to keep the bogus information in? And why?

Well, we already know who, and we know why. And while that kind of stuff is interesting to news junkies, it's pretty meaningless to the general public. I just don't think there's enough oxygen left to keep this going.

UPDATE 2: I guess I'd better clear up my meaning here. I'm not suggesting that (a) I'm never going to write about this story again or (b) that the general topic of missing WMD and how Bush led us into war is a dead letter. I'm just predicting that Tenet's confession will take the air out of the sails of this particular story and it will die. I hope I'm wrong, but my rational side tells me that it has only a few news cycles left.

Kevin Drum 6:38 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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