Rice Watch Day 3

Via Josh Marshall, this from Rice’s top aide Stephen Hadley in a Tuesday, July 22, 2003 White House Q&A:

Question: But as of memo number two, certainly Dr. Rice was aware of the concerns, the CIA —

Hadley: What we know is, again, a copy of the memo comes to the Situation Room, it’s sent to Dr. Rice, it’s sent — and that’s it. You know, I can’t tell you she read it. I can’t even tell you she received it. But in some sense, it doesn’t matter. Memo sent, we’re on notice.

“Memo number two” refers to the second of two memos that the CIA sent to the NSC; each explained that the CIA (and the State Department) didn’t find the Niger allegations credible. This is Dr. Rice back on June 8th, 2003, on Meet the Press:

We did not know at the time–no one knew at the time, in our circles- -maybe someone knew down in the bowels of the Agency, but no one in our circles knew that there were doubts and suspicions that this might be a forgery.

In last Saturday’s Washington Post, the two Danas (Milbank and Priest) reported that

President Bush and his national security adviser [Condoleezza Rice] did not entirely read the most authoritative prewar assessment of U.S. intelligence on Iraq, including a State Department claim that an allegation Bush would later use in his State of the Union address was “highly dubious,” White House officials said yesterday…

…the document also included a pointed dissent by the State Department, which said the evidence did not “add up to a compelling case” that Iraq was making a comprehensive effort to get nuclear weapons.

…[A senior administration official said,] “They did not read footnotes in a 90-page document,” said the official, referring to the “Annex” that contained the State Department’s dissent.

I’m not quite sure what an annex is, but I’m assuming this means either that the National Intelligence Estimate had endnotes in an “annex”, rather than footnotes. Alternatively, the objections from State (and also the Dept. of Energy) were in an appendix, which does after all start and end with the same letters as “annex”. Now, I can readily accept President Bush taking a briefing on the report rather than reading the entire document–that’s what high level staff are for. But to say that Rice did not read it? Either it’s the height of dereliction of responsibilities, or an outright lie. And neither scenario makes Rice look good. (See also this post).


P.S. Marshall also links me to this great Slate piece by Tim Noah, which has another quote from Hadley: “Condi wants it clearly understood that she feels a personal responsibility for not recognizing the potential problem presented by those 16 words.” Be sure to read all the way to the end.

UPDATE: Skimming Suburban Guerrilla, I found an interesting Clinton quote from his recent appearance with Bob Dole on Larry King:

Well, here’s what happens: every day the president gets a daily brief from the CIA. And then, if it’s some important issue — and believe me, you know, anything having to do with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons became much more important to everybody in the White House after September the 11 — then they probably told the president, certainly Condoleezza Rice.

On balance, Clinton was on Bush’s side on this issue, saying,

But this State of the Union deal, they decided to use the British intelligence. The president said it was British intelligence. Then they said on balance they shouldn’t have done it. You know, everybody makes mistakes when they are president.

But the first quote really takes away from the plausibility of Rice’s “bowels” statement (see above).