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CIA Blamed for False Information in Bush State of the Union Address - 2003-07-11


U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice is blaming the CIA for not correcting claims that President Bush made about Iraq's pursuit of nuclear weapons, that turned out to be based on forged documents.

Making his case against Saddam Hussein in his January State of the Union address, President Bush said the then-Iraqi leader had tried to buy uranium here in Africa.

Documents concerning the alleged attempt to buy uranium from Niger were turned-over to the United Nations which concluded that they were forgeries.

Briefing reporters on Air Force One on the way to Uganda, National Security Advisor Rice said CIA Director George Tenet reviewed all of the information in the president's State of the Union.

If he had said to remove that claim from the speech, Ms. Rice says "it would have been gone." If anyone at the CIA had doubts about the truth of that claim, she says "those doubts were not communicated to the president."

Instead, Ms. Rice says there were detailed discussions with the CIA about Iraq's alleged attempt to buy uranium. She says some specific information about amounts and place were removed, and with those changes, the speech was cleared.

Ms. Rice says the White House "absolutely" has confidence in Director Tenet and she is not really blaming anyone.

Mr. Bush was asked about the issue following his meeting with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and again defended his decision to invade Iraq.

"I gave a speech to the nation that was cleared by the intelligence services, and it was a speech that detailed to the American people the dangers posed by the Saddam Hussein regime, and my government took the appropriate response to those dangers, and as a result the world is going to be more secure and more peaceful," the president said.

Ms. Rice says President Bush did not knowingly say anything in that speech that the White House knew to be false.

Yet just a week later, Secretary of State Colin Powell chose not to use that claim in his speech to the United Nations because he decided it was not appropriate after reviewing what he calls "every single thing" the administration knew about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

The immediacy of the threat from those weapons was the president's biggest justification for toppling Saddam Hussein. More than two months after the fall of Baghdad, none of those weapons has yet been found.

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