Wolfowitz Committee Instructed White House To Use Iraq/Uranium Reference


| July 2003

WASHINGTON, DC -- A Pentagon committee led by Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, advised President Bush to include a reference in his January State of the Union address about Iraq trying to purchase 500 tons of uranium from Niger to bolster the case for war in Iraq, despite the fact that the CIA warned Wolfowitz's committee that the information was unreliable, according to a CIA intelligence official and four members of the Senate's intelligence committee who have been investigating the issue.

The senators and the CIA official said they could be forced out of government and brought up on criminal charges for leaking the information to this reporter and as a result requested anonymity. They later questioned CIA Director George Tenet in a closed-door hearing to determine whether Wolfowitz and members of a committee he headed misled Bush and if the president knew about the erroneous information prior to his State of the Union address.

Spokespeople for Wolfowitz and Tenet vehemently denied the accusations. Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, would not return repeated calls for comment.

The revelations by the CIA official and the senators, if true, would prove that Tenet, who has said he erred by allowing the uranium reference to be included in the State of the Union address, took the blame for an intelligence failure for which he was not responsible. The lawmakers said it could also lead to a widespread probe of pre-war intelligence.



At issue is a secret committee set up in 2001 by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called the Office of Special Plans, which was headed by Wolfowitz, Abrum Shulsky, and Douglas Feith, under-secretary of defense for policy, to probe allegations of links between Iraq and the terrorist organization al-Qaeda and whether the country was stockpiling a cache of weapons of mass destruction. The Special Plans committee disbanded in March after the U.S. and Britain invaded Iraq.

The committee's job, according to published reports, was to gather intelligence information on the Iraqi threat that the CIA and FBI could not uncover and present it to the White House to build a case for war in Iraq. The committee relied heavily on information provided by Iraqi defector Ahmad Chalabi, who has provided the White House with reams of disputed intelligence on Saddam Hussein's weapons programs. Chalabi heads the Iraqi National Congress, a group of Iraqi exiles that has pushed for regime change in Iraq.



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