- June 8: Two of the highest-ranking al-Qaeda leaders in captivity have told the CIA that their organization had no ties with the Hussein regime in Iraq. The two leaders are Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Abu Zubadayeh. Zubadayeh, who made his statements in 2002, said that the idea of forging closer ties with Hussein had been discussed among the al-Qaeda leadership, but Osama bin Laden vetoed the idea because he didn't want to be beholden to Hussein. Mohammed, who has twice been reported dead in captivity by American intelligence, was captured in March 2003 in Pakistan, and has confirmed Zubadayeh's statements in separate interrogations. Some intelligence officials point to the Zubadayeh statements as proof that the Bush administration "cherrypicked" intelligence reports that pointed to the conclusions they wanted, and discarded reports such as Zubadayeh's that pointed in other directions. (Working for Change, New York Times/Common Dreams/)
Rice admits WMD intelligence forged
- June 8: Condoleezza Rice admits that Bush used at least one forged document during his State of the Union speech to "prove" that Iraq has WMDs. She claims that no one at the highest levels of the administration was aware that the documents had been forged, though UN inspectors who examined the documents were quickly able to determine their invalidity. Rice is referring to the fraudulent Iraq-Niger documents that "proved" Iraq had attempted to buy mass quantities of uranium from Niger. She tries, with some success granted her by softball questioning from NBC's Tim Russert, to weasel out of taking responsibility for the administration, blaming British intelligence for the claim and saying, "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 suspicious that this might be a forgery. Of course, it was information that was mistaken. But the -- it was a relatively small part of the case about nuclear weapons and nuclear reconstruction. It is also the case that the broad picture about Iraq's programs was a picture that went very far back in time." Of course, Rice is lying to Russert.
- Former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who voyaged to Niger in early 2002 to find out more about the Niger charges and returned believing the entire story to be a farrago of lies and misinformation, is appalled at Rice's performance. It is inconceivable to Wilson that no one at higher levels were aware of the falsity of the uranium claims. Wilson calls a senior administration official to complain and is given what is apparently a haughty brush-off, being told not to expect any correction to Bush's sensational claims made during his January State of the Union address (see related items). Wilson, exasperated by the structure of lies surrounding the entire Niger debacle, decides to make the truth known himself. He calls the editor of the op-ed page of the New York Times, David Shipley, and is told that he can have 1,500 words. But Wilson doesn't begin writing right away. (Working for Change, Frank Rich [PDF file], Michael Isikoff and David Corn)
- June 8: Two British soldiers in Iraq commit suicide after falling ill from what is believed to be an illness similar to Gulf War syndrome. The illnesses are blamed on multiple vaccinations against anthrax, smallpox, and other diseases and biological warfare threats. Over 200 British soldiers who served in the 1991 Persian Gulf War have committed suicide after falling ill with the syndrome. Experts attribute the illness to the "cocktail of jabs and tablets given to troops, and the use of depleted uranium in allied weapons." (Sunday Mirror)
- June 8: GOP Senator Larry Craig is blocking 850 Air Force promotions, including pilots who flew in the Iraqi war, in an attempt to get 4 C-130 cargo planes assigned to the Idaho Air National Guard. Congressional opponents have described Craig's actions as "blackmail" and an unwarranted punishment against innocent Air Force members. (New York Times/Free Republic)
- June 9: A cache of missiles is found in the remains of several Iraqi military complexes, including a large number of American-made missiles that were sold to Saddam Hussein by the US before the Persian Gulf War. (MSNBC)
- June 9: Before the war, Lord Goldsmith said that despite the absence of a second United Nations resolution, an attack was covered by existing international law. His reasoning was based on the existence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq which were a clear threat to the UK. The issue plunges into renewed controversy amid claims that Iraq's WMD threat had been "sexed up" by the Blair administration, with undue prominence given to a dubious claim an attack could be launched in 45 minutes. Peace activist group CND promises to file a legal claim against the British government if the administration refuses to call for a judicial inquiry on its own. (Guardian)
- June 9: Parliament intends to force the Blair administration to reveal why they suppressed the March 2002 report from British intelligence that found Saddam Hussein to be no more of a threat then than he was after the Persian Gulf War. Biair's communications and strategy chief Alastair Campbell has already apologized for the so-called "dodgy dossier," an intelligence dossier full of pumped-up information that was used to "prove" the existence of Iraqi WMDs. An example of "pumped-up information" is the claim that UN inspectors' Iraqi escorts were "trained to start long arguments" with other Iraqi officials while evidence was being hidden, and inspectors' journeys were monitored and notified ahead to remove surprise. Chlef UN inspector Hans Blix said in February that the UN had conducted more than 400 inspections, all without notice, covering more than 300 sites: "We note that access to sites has so far been without problems. In no case have we seen convincing evidence that the Iraqi side knew that the inspectors were coming." (Daily News/Independent Online, Independent)
- June 9: A short article in Newsweek alleges that weapons of mass destruction of a sort have been found in Iraq: short- and medium-range conventional missiles sold to Saddam Hussein during the Reagan-Bush administrations. Aside from this single mention, no major media outlet runs this story. (Democratic Talk Radio)
- June 10: "Operation Peninsula Strike," a "massive U.S. campaign to crush resistance by supporters of the ousted Saddam Hussein," begins in response to heavy Iraqi resistance, most of it in the area northwest of Baghdad. US military officials believe that
most of the resistance comes from volunteer Arab fighters who came from outside of Iraq to support Hussein against the Americans. Complaints of harsh US reactions came from many Iraqi civilians. One father claimed his 6-year old son was handcuffed, and a former general in Hussein's army said that American soldiers beat his brother and then killed him. He also claimed that troops took away medicine for his family and "smashed it under their feet." Another man said that 31 males of his family, aged 13 to 70, were detained for no reason, and that American soldiers destroyed all of their belongings during a search of their residence. US troops were described as "unapologetic," and state that they will treat all Iraqis as potential hostiles. (Fox News)
- June 10: Plans to build a trial court and an execution chamber in Guantanamo Bay's Camp Delta are revealed by the BBC. The news indicates that military tribunals may begin taking place at the detention camp soon. The detainees held at Camp Delta on the isolated US base include about 680 people captured during the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, launched by the US after the 9/11 attacks. All have been classified as "enemy combatants" and as such are not entitled to legal representation or a civil trial. None have yet been charged though cases are being prepared against 10 or more detainees. After the detention center opened in January 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called its inmates "among the most dangerous, best trained, vicious killers on the face of the Earth." But many are now thought to be low-level fighters or completely innocent. Human rights groups have criticized both the makeshift conditions at the prison camp and the lack of rights afforded to the detainees. (BBC)
- June 10: US Representative Henry Waxman writes a letter to security chief Condoleezza Rice. He starts off by saying, "since March 17, 2003, I have been trying without success to get a direct answer to one simple question: Why did President Bush cite forged evidence about Iraq's nuclear capabilities in his State of the Union address? Although you addressed the issue on Sunday on both Meet the Press and This Week with George Stephanopoulos, your comments did nothing to clarify the issue. In fact, your responses contradicted other known facts and raised a host of new questions." As with Waxman's other letters, Rice will simply ignore this request for an explanation. (Henry Waxman[PDF file], Frank Rich [PDF file])
- June 10: The State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) drafts a three-page memo for Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman, who asked for a summary of INR's opposition to the White House's allegations of Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Niger. In the document, CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson, the wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson, is mentioned and identified as a covert CIA agent. (Frank Rich [PDF file])
Blix reveals he was target of "smear campaign" by Bush officials
- June 11: UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix lashes out at the Bush administration, saying, "I have my detractors in Washington. There are bastards who spread things around, of course, who planted nasty things in the media." He charges that US officials pressured his teams to use more "damning" language in their reports, that he was the target of a smear campaign orchestrated by officials in the Pentagon, and that the Bush administration views the UN as an "alien power...there are people in this administration who say they don't care if the UN sinks under the East River, and other crude things." Blix, a former chief of the IAEA and who plans to retire at the end of the month, was excoriated by the US as being the "worst possible choice for the job" as soon as he was named to the post by the UN. The Iraqi press labeled him as "a homosexual who went to Washington every two weeks to pick up [his] instructions." He called for teams of international inspectors to be allowed into Iraq to continue the search for weapons of mass destruction. (Guardian)
GOP fights investigation into Iraqi intelligence lapses
- June 11: Senators John Warner and Pat Roberts and Congressman Porter Goss, all Republicans, announce that they intend to limit review of pre-war intelligence on Saddam Hussein's weapons program to intelligence documents from the administration and closed hearings. Roberts, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called Democratic appeals to probe the administration's handling of the weapons of mass destruction question, "simply politics for political gain" and avers, "I will not allow the committee to be politicized or to be used as an unwitting tool for any political strategist." Democratic senators called earlier meetings "insufficient ," mostly because they were held in secret and were deliberately held to very limited scopes; they call the current plans for a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation "entirely inadequate." Secret investigative results are disquieting, showing massive and systemic failures of intelligence. One major problem that is discovered is that UN and IAEA intelligence reports on Iraq were far more accurate than the information provided by the CIA. "Some of the old-timers in the community are appalled by how bad the analysis was," says an intelligence official. "If you look at them side by side, CIA versus United Nations, the UN agencies come out ahead across the board." (AP/Daily Iowan, Washington Post/Daily Iowan, Seymour Hersh)
- June 11: GOP congressional leaders balk at Democratic calls for an investigation into the intelligence lapses surrounding the invasion of Iraq, and claim that "routine oversight" is enough to answer any questions. They also claim that an investigation would impede the functioning of the intelligence community. GOP Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says that criticism has already hurt US intelligence agencies and could cause them "to go back to the days of risk aversion, the primary cause of 9-11." Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller decrys the idea of closed hearings proposed earlier in the day by three Republican lawmakers. (AP/Mercury News, Houston Chronicle, Jay Rockefeller)
- June 12: Robert Wright, who previously criticized the FBI for its "incompetence" before the 9/11 attacks, is under investigation for alleged insubordination. He recently appeared on ABC News and held a press conference in Washington, in which he criticized the bureau's efforts to combat terrorism. (ABC News)
- June 12: The US wins another year-long exemption from any culpability under the aegis of the International Criminal Court, which means none of its citizens can be prosecuted for war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide as a result of actions taken during the "war on terrorism" or the invasion of Iraq. Three countries, France, Germany, and Syria, abstained from voting, and almost all the participating countries -- even Britain -- oppose the US's desire for permanent exemption from the court's jurisdiction. (SFGate)
- June 12: Donald Rumsfeld states, confusingly, "The intelligence community in the United States and around the world currently assesses that Iran does not have nuclear weapons. ...The assessment is that they do have a very active program and are likely to have nuclear weapons in a relatively short period of time." Iran denies it has any such program. (Reuters/Financial Times)
- June 12: For years, senior Iraqi scientists who have escaped the country have disputed that Iraq has a nuclear weapons program, saying that the embryonic program Iraq did have was obliterated during the Persian Gulf War in 1991, according to claims made by weapons expert David Albright. A smaller number of Iraqi scientists who supply the Pentagon with information have claimed that Iraq's nuclear weapons program continued, but none of these Iraqis have any direct knowledge of any current banned nuclear programs. They appear to all carry political baggage and biases about going to war or overthrowing Saddam Hussein, and these biases seem to drive their judgments about nuclear issues, rendering their statements about current Iraqi nuclear activities suspect." (Institute for Science and International Security, Dissident Voice)
- June 12: As Walter Pincus's Washington Post article of today that discusses the specious claims about Iraq's supposed attempt to purchase uranium from Niger (covered at some length in the June 5 item above) is published, Cheney himself is engaged in research on the uranium deal allegations, on the fact-finding trip to Niger by former ambassador Joseph Wilson, and about Wilson's wife, covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, who has erroneously been identified as the person responsible for sending Wilson to Niger. Cheney has already learned of Plame's identity as a CIA agent from CIA director George Tenet; Libby has already learned Plame's identity from the State Department's Marc Grossman (see above items). Today, Cheney discusses Plame's identity with Libby. Both Libby and Cheney are aware that Plame works in the Counterproliferation Division, one of the most covert offices within the agency, and should have inferred that Plame may well be a covert agent.
- Both Libby and Cheney feel, in the words of reporters Michael Isikoff and David Corn, "under siege" on the Iraq-Niger affair. Wilson is making himself available on an off-the-record basis to journalists around Washington, blasting the Iraq-Niger claims and shredding the credibility of the White House. And both Libby and Cheney are sure that high-level CIA officials are trying to pin the blame for embellishing Iraq's WMD evidence on Bush and Cheney instead of upon themselves. One sentence in Pincus's story particularly rankles Cheney and Libby: according to an unnamed senior CIA analyst, "Information not consistent with the administration agenda was discarded and information that was [consistent] was not seriously scrutinized." Instead of falling on their collective swords, the CIA is actually trying to pin responsibility where it belongs, and Cheney and Libby are having none of that. Two days later, on June 14, Libby meets with his CIA debriefer and expresses his anger at the fact that CIA officials are making comments to reporters that are critical of Cheney's office. During the discussion, Libby mentions the Niger trip, Wilson, and, by name, Valerie Plame Wilson. (Michael Isikoff and David Corn, Frank Rich [PDF file])
- June 13: Over 80 soldiers, and dozens of civilians, are killed in Rawah, Iraq, thirty miles from the Syrian border, by an American air strike against a suspected terrorist camp outside of town. Resident Hassan Ibrahim muses as he wanders through a graveyard filled with new graves, "This town was safe before the Americans come here and made a lot of blood. Is this the democracy they were talking about?" Farmer Marwan Alrawi says, "If I get a chance, I would shoot an American, because they are now my enemies. Before this, 1 of 10,000 Rawah citizens would fight the Americans. Now, more than half would." Lieutenant General David McKiernan, the top allied commander in Iraq, declines to say much about the Rawah raid, including the identity of the suspected terrorists. "I will simply tell you that it was a camp area that was confirmed with bad guys and specifically who the bad guys are will be determined as we exploit the site," he says. US officials later claim that most of the 80 dead are foreign Muslims who came to Iraq after the invasion to fight the Americans; the dead includes Saudis, Yemenis, Afghanis, Syrians, and Sudanese. (Knight Ridder, Michael Scheuer)
- June 13: A US special operations unit known as "Task Force 20," drawn from the Army's Delta Force, has "found no working nonconventional munitions, long-range missiles or missile parts, bulk stores of chemical or biological warfare agents or enrichment technology for the core of a nuclear weapon," even though they have been searching Iraq since before the war began in February. (Agence France-Press/SpaceWar)
- June 13: The AP reports, "Halliburton's contract to restart Iraq's oil production has doubled in cost over the past month, and the no-bid work may last longer than expected" The Army, who said that once Halliburton's no-bid contract expires in August 2003, a new contract would be awarded through competitive bidding, now has retracted that commitment, leaving Halliburton free to conduct business under the original contract indefinitely. (AP/Tampa Tribune)
- June 13: Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, working on his book Plan of Attack, has a confidential interview with Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state. Woodward is reluctant to write about the information he gleans, and later does so without identifying Armitage. Armitage and his boss Colin Powell are the closest things to "peaceniks" in the Bush administration, both having privately come out in nuanced and wobbly opposition to the invasion of Iraq, even though Powell had allowed himself to become the administration's most trusted mouthpiece for justifying the war. Armitage is close to Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis Libby; when Armitage had run into trouble in being nominated Secretary of the Army in 1989, partly due to his involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, Libby, hired by Armitage to represent him, had defended Armitage. (Armitage withdrew his name from consideration for the post.) Armitage is no dove; in the Clinton years, he had enthusiastically sided with the neoconservatives of the Project for the New American Century, and in 1998 had signed the letter written by Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz demanding that Clinton overthrow Saddam Hussein. But Armitage had learned to distrust and dislike his former neoconservative allies during the Bush years, viewing them as armchair warriors who are all too willing to shed blood, as long as it is someone else's. Powell's chief of staff Larry Wilkerson recalls Armitage saying to him, "Larry, these guys never heard a bullet go by their ears in anger. These guys never heard a bullet! None of them ever served. They're a bunch of jerks." Armitage became known for his derisive comments about the Bush administration's contingent of chickenhawks -- including Bush himself.
- Armitage frankly acknowledges his own tendency for spreading gossip through the ranks of Washington insiders. He is in possession of the INR memo identifying Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA agent, and that erroneously claims that Plame orchestrated her husband Joseph Wilson's trip to Niger to investigate the claim that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Niger, a claim that Wilson helped debunk. Woodward's Post colleague Walter Pincus had just published a series of stories about an unnamed ambassador's trip to Niger, and Woodward is aware that the ambassador is Wilson. According to Woodward, Armitage tells him that "everybody knows" Wilson is the ambassador in question. Armitage also tells Woodward that Wilson's wife is a CIA agent. Armitage drops this piece of information on Woodward in what he later recalls as a "casual and offhand" manner; Woodward recalls, "It was gossip."
- Woodward and Armitage may have both perceived Armitage's revelation of Plame's identity as nothing more than chitchat. According to reporters Michael Isikoff and David Corn, Armitage had no intention of revealing Plame's name to Woodward as part of the White House's effort to discredit and smear Wilson. According to Isikoff and Corn, Armitage either reveals Plame's name to Woodward as part of his attempt to distance the State Department from the Niger imbroglio, or as merely a matter of passing along "hot gossip." (See later items for a different take on Armitage's motives in revealing Plame's identity, which revolves around Armitage's close relationship with White House political guru Karl Rove.) Woodward mentions Wilson only in passing in Plan of Attack, never writes about it in the Post, and never reveals Plame's identity. But Armitage will also reveal Plame's identity to another reporter, one without Woodward's restraint -- Robert Novak. (Bob Woodward/Michael Isikoff and David Corn
- June 13: New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof writes what, in hindsight, is an explosive column questioning previous reports that the CIA did not follow up on "a retired US ambassador's" investigation into the claims that Iraq tried to purchase uranium from Niger, referring to the as-yet-publicly unnamed Joseph Wilson. Kristof writes that "while Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet may not have told Mr. Bush that the Niger documents were forged, lower CIA officials did tell both the vice president's office and National Security Council staff members. Moreover, I hear from another source that the CIA's operations side and its counterterrorism center undertood their own investigation of the documents [alleging the Iraqi attempt to purchase Nigeran uranium], poking around in Italy and Africa, and also concluded that they were false -- a judgment filtered to the top of the CIA." Kristof's column helps start the process of damage control over the Iraq-Niger allegations that will culminate in the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, and gives the lie to Condoleezza Rice's later claim that "no one in our circles" know about the forgeries. (Frank Rich [PDF file], Frank Rich p.97)