The war they believe in

The only war the Democrats really have their heart in is the war to undermine the Bush administration. Any incidental damage done to the national interest in furtherance of that war appears in their eyes to be for the greater good.

The Democrats’ war continues in the latest installment of Murray Waas’s iteration of the Democrats’ “Bush lied” theme in National Journal: “Key intelligence briefing kept from Hill panel.” Summarizing the article, Katherine Birrow wrote us on behalf of National Journal yesterday:

Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda, according to government records and current and former officials with firsthand knowledge of the matter.

The administration has refused to provide the Sept. 21 President’s Daily Brief, even on a classified basis, and won’t say anything more about it other than to acknowledge that it exists.

Waas also cites a related “highly classified CIA assessment.” I wonder how Waas has become so familiar with the contents of such restricted, highly classified documents, and feels so free to disclose them. Where is his concern over national security? Or that of his sources? Isn’t some kind of investigation in order?

Waas doesn’t say whether the documents were leaked to him or whether he is relying on a description of the documents provided to him by a reliable source such as Senator Carl Levin or another Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committtee. Waas’s article asserts that the administration has denied committtee members access to the PDB and the CIA assessment. Did the CIA leak them?

Waas reports that the Senate Intelligence Committee is seeking to gather the PDB, the CIA assessment and similar material for its Phase II report on prewar intelligence. Our friend Steve Hayes of the Weekly Standard comments in a message to us:

If the PDB in issue reads as Waas’s article suggests, then it’s an embarrassment. There is no way that the intelligence community could provide a serious answer about potential Iraqi involvement in ten days. What’s more, in Senate testimony some two years later George Tenet said he was still open to Iraqi involvement.

And to dismiss reports of “contacts” seems awfully premature. We now know — thanks to Woodward’s book — that we had exactly four HUMINT sources in Iraq before the war. And we also know — thanks to the Senate Intelligence Committee report — that the intelligence community had shown virtually no interest in investigating Iraqi support for terrorism throughout the 1990s. That we learned as much as we did, for example with respect to Iraqi meetings with bin Laden, seems to have come almost by accident.

Interested readers may want to follow up with Steve’s book The Connection: How al Qaeda’s Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America.

Everything you need to know about Murray Waas can be deduced from his truly obtuse summary of the Wilson/Plame affair:

Ironically, the Plame affair’s origins had its roots in Cheney and Libby’s interest in reports that Saddam Hussein had tried to purchase uranium yellowcake from Niger to build a nuclear weapon. After reading a Pentagon report on the matter in early February 2002, Cheney asked the CIA officer who provided him with a national security briefing each morning if he could find out about it.

Without Cheney’s knowledge, his query led to the CIA-sanctioned trip to Niger by former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, Plame’s husband, to investigate the allegations. Wilson reported back to the CIA that the allegations were most likely not true.

Despite that conclusion, President Bush, in his State of the Union address in 2003, included the Niger allegation in making the case to go to war with Iraq. In July 2003, after the war had begun, Wilson publicly charged that the Bush administration had “twisted” the intelligence information to make the case to go to war.

Waas doesn’t earn much credit for his journalistic bona fides with such a partial account. His adoption of Joe Wilson’s version of “the 16 words” story is belied by the Senate Intelligence Committee’s own report of last year. Maybe it’s the unclassified nature of the report that throws Waas off the scent.

Waas’s long article ends with a quote that was new to me — Vice President Cheney’s handwritten comment on a Pentagon memorandum summarizing evidence of the Iraq-al Qaeda connection: “This is very good indeed…Encouraging…Not like the crap we are all so used to getting out of CIA.” You can hear the voice of experience speaking.

UPDATE: Readers Malcolm Jones and John Steele add a more basic point. Jones writes:

How is a non-link to 9/11 significant? The President never made such a link claim!!!

I suspect the Daily Brief was a snap-shot/preliminary assessment of
possible/known ties between Al Qaeda and Hussein. Even if a non-link verdict exists; it doesn’t undermine the case for war.

John Steele writes:

I guess I missed something. So the left is now claiming that contemporary intel documents say there was no proof of a link between Saddam and the 9/11 attacks. So what, the President didn’t say there was. The elephantine efforts of the left have managed to prove that that there was no justification for what the President didn’t claim.

Wow, stop the presses.

See also Victor Davis Hanson’s NRO column: “The crying game.”

MORE: Let us not forget the Clinton-era indictments of OBL alleging that “al Qaeada reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the government of Iraq.” Did the PDB of September 21, 2003 overlook that?

At the Volokh Conspiracy, Professor Orin Kerr finds my comments here “very puzzling” and “completely absurd.”

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