Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Shiite Hits the Fan

Last week, I was thrilled to see Harry Reid retrieve the Democrats' testicles from the blind trust they've been in since 9/11 and put them to good use in demanding answers about the case for the war in Iraq. But it was hard to tell if this was simply hard-nosed politics, or if Reid actually had the goods on the administration.

Well, according to this E&P piece, it looks like the Democrats may actually have the goods:
Ever since the Democrats briefly closed the U.S. Senate from view earlier this week, to protest alleged Republican foot-dragging in probing Bush administration pre-war manipulation of intelligence, the press has been asking: So what new evidence do the Democrats have in this matter?

Tomorrow, The New York Times starts to answer the question, with reporter Doug Jehl disclosing the contents of a newly declassified memo apparently passed to him by Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

It shows that an al-Qaeda official 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 this Defense Intelligence Agency document from February 2002.

It declared that it was probable that the prisoner, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, "was intentionally misleading the debriefers" in making claims about Iraqi support for al-Qaeda's work with illicit weapons, Jehl reports.

“The document provides the earliest and strongest indication of doubts voiced by American intelligence agencies about Mr. Libi's credibility,” Jehl writes. “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.

“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.’”
A White House spokeswoman said she had no immediate comment on the D.I.A. report.

“Mr. Libi was not alone among intelligence sources later determined to have been fabricating accounts,” Jehl continues. “Among others, an Iraqi exile whose code name was Curveball was the primary source for what proved to be false information about Iraq and mobile biological weapons labs. And American military officials cultivated ties with Ahmad Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress, an exile group, who has been accused of feeding the Pentagon misleading information in urging war.”

Libi is in custody, apparently at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where he was sent in 2003.

According to Jehl, Secretary of State Colin Powell relied heavily on Libi for his speech to the United Nations 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 years now, the Republican line has been that everyone thought Iraq had WMDs and therefore the administration was wholly justified in rushing to war. Leaving aside the important point that it's one thing to think they have them and another to use that hunch to launch a massive, expensive, interminable war, it now seems that the administration knew full well that its claims about Iraqi WMDs were, in the one-time words of Colin Powell, "bullshit." This new evidence demands a fuller probe into the run-up to the war, and we may finally get to know everything about Curveball, Chalabi, and others.

I do love that this evidence is coming out in the Times, the same paper that was used by Judy Miller as a pipeline for the Curveball and Chalabi bullshit in the first place. As Bart Simpson would say, the ironing is delicious.


elendil said...

Early versions of this story note that al-Libi may have lied because of the methods the interrogators were using on him. i.e. give someone enough pain, and they'll tell you anything you want to hear.

teh l4m3 said...

My best thought on this is that the real sticking point, the true deal-breaker, was that someone among the Dems found out not only that the administration knew the Niger documents were forged, but that in fact they were forged at the behest of someone in or connected with the White House.

S.W. Anderson said...

Democrats did a Riverdance routine on the Republicans' big nerve last week, which is encouraging.

I take as a yardstick of whether the Democrats are really onto something how loud, irate and indignant the garrulous Sen. Pat Roberts gets. They must be hitting paydirt because Roberts threw beauty of a tantrum right after the closed session.

Roberts claimed then and has repeated to anyone with a microphone ever since that what Reid wanted has already been scheduled for months, to take place this coming week.

That's not exactly true. What Reid demanded was completion of phase 2 of the investigation. What Roberts has had scheduled for months is that the committee would spend the coming week or two weeks setting the agenda and developing a schedule for the completion of phase II. In short, a roadmap does not a completed journey make.

Typical Republican flim-flam.

Thrillhous said...

Pat Roberts sounds like me trying to convince my parents I could finish my homework on the bus to school in the morning. Didn't work for me either.

As far as the lousy intel sources go, whatever happened to "Trust, but verify?" I guess the Gipper secretly hated America too.

btw, teh I4m3, that is the funniest profile pic I've ever seen. kudos.