Perpetuation of a Hoax

How did they do it? How exactly did Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Hadley and other senior officials get the intelligence agencies to twist the evidence to fit their war plans?

Larry Wilkerson knows. And now he’s talking. Testifying before The Senate Democratic Policy Committee, on June 26, the former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell said of his participation in Powell’s infamous speech to the United Nations in February 2003 “I’m not proud of having participated in what I consider to be a perpetration of a hoax.”

Wilkerson told how then-Deputy National Security Advisor Steven Hadley tried to shape the presentation to support the bogus claim that Saddam Hussein was involved in the September 11 attacks.

In the rehearsal and discussion sessions at Langley, the give and take was mostly the Secretary of State trying to eliminate unsubstantiated and/or unhelpful material and others from the White House trying to keep that material in, or add more. One such incident occurred several times and the final time it occurred provided an example of the Secretary’s growing frustration. Repeatedly, the OVP or NCS staff personnel tried to insert into the presentation the alleged meeting in Prague between al-Qaeda operative and 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and Iraqi intelligence personnel. Repeatedly, Secretary Powell eliminated it based on the DCI’s refusal to corroborate it. Finally, at one of the last Langley rehearsals, Secretary Powell was stopped in mid-presentation by deputy national security advisor Steve Hadley and asked what had happened to the paragraph describing the meeting in Prague. Secretary Powell fixed Hadley with a firm stare and said with some pique, “We took it out, Steve — and it’s staying out.”

Ron Suskind’s new book, The One Percent Doctrine, details the same process played out repeatedly. Now, if Wilkerson is talking, if key sources are talking to Suskind, what is preventing the Senate Intelligence Committee from concluding their long-promised Phased Two report on the role of the administration in shaping the pre-war intelligence? Can’t find the right witnesses? Maybe they should ask Suskind. Here’s one example, from pages 189-191, where he provides the details the Senate seems unable to find.

Cheney’s office claimed to have sources. And Rumsfeld’s too. They kept throwing them at [Deputy Director for Intelligence Jami Miscik] and CIA. The same information, five different ways. They’d omit that a key piece that had been discounted, that the source had recanted. Sorry, our mistake. Then it would reappear, again, in a memo the next week. The CIA held firm: the meeting in Prague between Atta and the Iraqi agent didn’t occur.

Miscik was no fool. She understood what was going on. It wasn’t about what was true, or verifiable. It was about a defensible position, or at least one that would hold up until the troops were marching through Baghdad, welcomed as liberators.

A few days before, when she had sent the final draft [of a report about connections between Saddam and al-qaeda] over to Libby and Hadley, she told them, emphatically, This is it. There would be no more drafts, no more meetings where her analysts sat across from Hadley, or Feith, or the guys in Feith’s office, while the opposing team tied to slip something by them. The report was not what they wanted. She knew that. No evidence meant no evidence.

“I’m not going back there, again, George,” Miscik said. “If I have to go back to hear their crap and rewrite this [expletive] report…I’m resigning, right now.”

She fought back tears of rage.

Tenet picked up the phone to call Hadley.

“She is not coming over,” he shouted into the phone. “We are not rewriting this [expletive] report one more time. It is [expletive] over. Do you hear me! And don’t you ever [expletive] treat my people this way again. Ever!”

They did not re-write the report.

Powell and Tenet held out on Atta, at least according to these somewhat self-serving accounts, but they gave in on just about everything else. They buckled to the pressure.

If the Senate’s Phase Two investigation into the fraudulent pre-war intelligence, supposedly nearing completion, does not focus on these events and the dozens like them, you will know that the Committee itself is still participating in the perpetuation of a hoax.

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