Home > State Department Memo: "16 Words" Were False

State Department Memo: "16 Words" Were False

by Open-Publishing - Tuesday 16 May 2006

Edito Wars and conflicts Energy Secret Services USA UK Jason Leopold Africa

By Jason Leopold

Sixteen days before President Bush’s January 28, 2003, State of the Union address in which he said that the US learned from British intelligence that Iraq had attempted to acquire uranium from Africa - an explosive claim that helped pave the way to war - the State Department told the CIA that the intelligence the uranium claims were based upon were forgeries, according to a newly declassified State Department memo.

The revelation of the warning from the closely guarded State Department memo is the first piece of hard evidence and the strongest to date that the Bush administration manipulated and ignored intelligence information in their zeal to win public support for invading Iraq.

The memo says: "On January 12, 2003," the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) "expressed concerns to the CIA that the documents pertaining to the Iraq-Niger deal were forgeries."

Moreover, the memo says that the State Department’s doubts about the veracity of the uranium claims may have been expressed to the intelligence community even earlier.

Those concerns, according to the memo, are the reason that former Secretary of State Colin Powell refused to cite the uranium claims when he appeared before the United Nations in February 5, 2003 - one week after Bush’s State of the Union address - to try to win support for a possible strike against Iraq.

"After considerable back and forth between the CIA, the (State) Department, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), and the British, Secretary Powell’s briefing to the U.N. Security Council did not mention attempted Iraqi procurement of uranium due to CIA concerns raised during the coordination regarding the veracity of the information on the alleged Iraq-Niger agreement," the memo further states.

Iraq’s interest in the yellowcake caught the attention of Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Association. ElBaradei read a copy of the National Intelligence Estimate and personally contacted the State Department and the National Security Council in hopes of obtaining evidence so his agency could look into it.

ElBaradei sent a letter to the White House and the National Security Council (NSC) in December 2002, warning senior officials he thought the documents were forgeries and should not be cited by the administration as evidence that Iraq was actively trying to obtain WMDs.

ElBaradei said he never received a written response to his letter, despite repeated follow-up calls he made to the White House, the NSC and the State Department.

Vice President Dick Cheney, who made the rounds on the cable news shows that month, tried to discredit ElBaradei’s conclusion that the documents were forged.

"I think Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong," Cheney said. "[The IAEA] has consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing. I don’t have any reason to believe they’re any more valid this time than they’ve been in the past."

As it turns out, ElBaradei was correct, the declassified State Department memo now shows.

Monday’s declassified State Department memo was obtained over the weekend by the New York Sun under a Freedom of Information Act request the newspaper filed last July. The Sun’s story Monday morning, however, did not say anything about the State Department’s warnings more than a week before Bush’s State of the Union address about the bogus Niger documents.

The memo, dated June 10, 2003, was drafted by Carl Ford Jr., the former head of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, in response to questions posed in June 2003 by I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, about a February 2002 fact-finding trip to Niger that former ambassador Joseph Wilson undertook to investigate the uranium claims on behalf of the CIA.

The memo had originally been drafted in June in response to Libby’s questions about Wilson. But after Wilson wrote an op-ed in the New York Times July 6, 2003, in which he disclosed that he had personally investigated the Niger uranium claims and found that they were false, Powell requested further information from his aides. Ford went back and retrieved the June memo, re-dated it July 7, 2003, and sent it to Powell’s deputy, Richard Armitage.

The Sun reported that the memo contained no direct reference to Plame Wilson’s CIA status being marked as "secret" despite the fact that the word "secret" is clearly marked on every page of the INR memo.

The memo does not say that the State Department alerted the White House on January 12, 2003, about the bogus uranium claims.

But the memo’s author, Carl Ford, said in a previous interview that he has no doubt the State Department’s reservations about the Niger intelligence made their way to President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

One high-ranking State Department official said that when the department’s analysts briefed Colin Powell about the Niger forgeries, Powell met with former Director of the CIA George Tenet and shared that information with him.

Tenet then told Vice President Dick Cheney and then-National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice and her former deputy, Stephen Hadley, that the uranium claims were "dubious," according to current and former State Department and CIA officials who have direct knowledge of what Tenet discussed with the White House at the time.

The White House has long maintained that they were never briefed about the State Department’s or the CIA’s concerns related to the Niger uranium claims.

"I refuse to believe that the findings of a four-star general and an envoy the CIA sent to Niger to personally investigate the accuracy of the intelligence, as well as our own research at the State Department, never got into the hands of President Bush or Vice President Cheney. I don’t buy it," said a high-ranking State Department official. "Saying that Iraq sought uranium from Niger was all it took, as far as I’m concerned, to convince the House to support the war. The American people too. I believe removing Saddam Hussein was right and just. But the intelligence that was used to state the case wasn’t."

A spokeswoman for Tenet said Monday that the former head of the CIA wouldn’t comment on the newly declassified document but promised that Tenet would tell the "full story" about how the infamous 16 words wound up in Bush’s State of the Union address, in Tenet’s book, "At the Center of the Storm," expected to be published in late October.

Many career State Department officials interviewed Monday said they were upset that the so-called "16 words" made their way into the State of the Union address and they are pleased that the INR memo has been declassified, thereby proving that their colleagues sounded early warnings about the dubious Niger intelligence.

A State Department official who has direct knowledge of the now declassified INR memo said when the request came from Cheney’s office for a report on Wilson’s Niger trip it was an opportunity to put in writing a document that would remind the White House that it had been warned about the Niger claims early on.

Many other State Department officials believed that the existence of a memo that would, in essence, disagree with the White House’s own assessment on Niger would eventually hurt the administration.

"This was the very first time there was written evidence - not notes, but a request for a report - from the State Department that documented why the Niger intel was bullshit," said one retired State Department official.

"It was the only thing in writing, and it had a certain value because it didn’t come from the IAEA. It came from State. It scared the heck out of a lot of people because it proved that this guy Wilson’s story was credible. I don’t think anybody wanted the media to know that the State Department disagreed with the intelligence used by the White House. That’s why Wilson had to be shut down."

Forum posts

  • This story goes one step further in proving that the Executive Branch of the White House illegally orchestrated the Iraq war. Non-existent yellowcake uranium and weapons of mass destruction were just pretexts for a pre-existing plan that goes much further than Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Condi Rice. Very few websites will expose the larger criminal network that set up this plan. www.iamthewitness.com , www.hugequestions.com , and www.globalresearch.ca are among the very few that do. Highly recommended for those who want to go beyond vague non-descript groups like the "globalists," the "illuminati," or ridiculous theories like pointing to the Vatican.

  • Even without all these papers. The attack on Iraq is and was a war crime in the same category as Nazi Germany did to his neighbours. Innocent civilians die in Iraq - and the majority of Americans still think how wonderful it is.

  • 16 words or 16,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
    we don’t care , we have duty to save our only friends and democratic nation in the middle east Israel, the rest is none sense, why this big fuss?

    • Does defending your friends legitimize DU poisoned Iraqui children and their civilian parents coming down with multiple forms of cancer in droves? Does defending your friends legitimize your soldiers returning home permanently disabled or developing cancer and having children being born with birth defects because their DNA has been contaminated by the same DU that’s being used in American artillery? I believe US soldiers are patriots, fighting for noble reasons, but perhaps they are being used as fodder, and perhaps the administration behind them and its so-called friends don’t really give a damn about them. Maybe if you read the article "Depleted Uranium: Far Worse than 9-11," you’ll see things differently: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=20060503&articleId=2374

    • because some people ,want the truth you idiot, americans are good at two things, lying and swearing. if you are such a bad ass why dont you enlist ,you coward, shove that word freedom up your ......

  • Hey, Leopold? What happened to Rove’s indictment?

    • No hurry....let him twist in the wind some more..... and then.....

    • allah will judge this piece of human waste. along with the other asses of evil.tell condy rice to see a dentist or put a brown bag over her head,

  • Please watch this video u will become to know what USA Army doing in Iraq, leading the world in killing childrens and Women:
    Confessions Of An Iraqi War Veteran

    Jessie Macbeth - Former Army Ranger and Iraq War Veteran, Tell it like it is
    "She was begging me, begging me to save her and to save her kids, but, I didn’t you know. I wanted to be , ah, I killed them. You know?

    This 20 minute video will change your life.. A PepperSpray Production


    "What we are doing over there is wrong"

    I beg you as media and the rest to expose this video to max if we realy want to have peace in this wolrd , other wise we will be part of crime, please please please watch and disterbute

    A great supper power, After watching it u will never wounder why Iranian call the USA as SATAN.

  • Please watch this video u will become to know what USA Army doing in Iraq, leading the world in killing childrens and Women:
    Confessions Of An Iraqi War Veteran

    Jessie Macbeth - Former Army Ranger and Iraq War Veteran, Tell it like it is
    "She was begging me, begging me to save her and to save her kids, but, I didn’t you know. I wanted to be , ah, I killed them. You know?

    This 20 minute video will change your life.. A PepperSpray Production


    "What we are doing over there is wrong"

    I beg you as media and the rest to expose this video to max if we realy want to have peace in this wolrd , other wise we will be part of crime, please please please watch and disterbute

    A great supper power, After watching it u will never wounder why Iranian call the USA as SATAN.
    the army of child cliller, this is the real hollcaust, with prove, mossad leading and teaching the American

  • Curing the Dreadful Addiction to "Victory"

    One hoped by now that this incisive reporting, along with many other qualified commentators’ work, would have raised the general consciousness to a point similar in nature to Americans’ views during latterday Vietnam. But it hasn’t. Yes, more people disapprove of Bush’s handling of the war, but the sentiment hasn’t coalesced into a potent demand for an exit strategy. And so, like a deluded gambler at the craps table, deep in debt to loan sharks, America keeps playing, hoping for a winning roll. And having insisted to all who could listen that it was dedicated to victory, it finds itself unwilling to cut its losses before the situation turns into irreversible calamity, if it hasn’t already. It’s quite sad, really, this dedication to "winning."

    It echoes Nixon’s shallow chant for an honorable end to the war. No doubt, after it’s apparent to even the most dedicated true believing Neocon that Iraq has become a hopeless cause, at least for the foreseeable future, the rhetoric for victory will evolve into a call for an honorable settlement. With Vietnam, one could still pretend there was honor involved, but since the Administration’s charade has become transparent by now to friends and foes alike, the word honor will ring hollow. Who knows? It may lose its place in the dictionary.

    One of the most fascinating lessons during this misadventure has been to witness the legion of supporters, including much of the press, and hawkish folks like Christopher Hitchens and Andrew Sullivan, who still cling to their hopeless ideal of transforming a country and then a region largely but, granted, not unanimously dedicated to anti-secular, anti-materialist, anti-modernity, anti-Western values into a thriving democracy. If only the dice could come up 7. C’mon baby, letem roll.

    Sullivan and others say, if only it had been done right, e.g., using more troops, we wouldn’t be in this mess. So they claim incompetence. In fact, if there’s a single cause for why this tragedy failed it’s the misperception on the part of the intellectuals planning it that to halt terrorism, democracy had to be spread like a panacea. But it wasn’t possible to spread democracy in Iraq with 300,000 troops or $300 trillion in grants. And Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations thesis was right under their nose when, nonetheless, they insisted that Arabia would now be prepared for democratic rule. This is intellectual omission of the highest rank. One of the best oddsmakers in the business proved the venture was prohibitive, but the Neocons didn’t back down, and wouldn’t admit their plan had already failed on paper before it ever got to the battlefield. For they had, like the deluded gambler, already won in their minds.

    Forget the intelligence being right or wrong about WMDs, or terrorists cells in or out of prewar Iraq. The main intelligence failure was in not understanding human nature, and more particularly in not understanding democracy and its limited appeal in a world that still needs further evolution before embracing the spirit of freedom necessary to incubate homegrown democratic concepts. Democracy isn’t like butter; it can’t be spread. It’s like yeast; it takes time to grow.

    Cheney recently chastised Russia for human rights’ abuses so someone at the White House must realize democracy doesn’t suddenly grow like a Chia pet. If Russia, which was groomed by European values for centuries, is having great difficulty in running a true democracy why would Iraq be able to do it overnight?

    Let’s say, for a moment, that Arabia had developed a true democracy in about 1600, and aimed to impose it on the feudal West. Would the West, seized by a sudden vision of greatness, have summarily retired its prevailing values and leapt into a new age of Freedom? Never. Why would the Iraqis, behaviorally conditioned by otherworldly values and totalitarian politics, make that leap at this time? Because they were being pressured to do so by a gang of white collar bullies in the White House - many of the same people who humiliated them in 1991, penalized them with life-threatening sanctions, and dominated their air space for over 10 years? Many of them would sooner rot in squalor than lay down in defeat and accept an alien set of values. That’s not exclusively a mindset of Iraqis or Muslims or Arabia; it’s the way humans have behaved since crawling out of a cave.

    If the bullies in Washington, and those crap shooters still hoping for victory, would recognize the true nature of democracy, they’d see it was a grand experiment, open to all sorts of ventures, many of them bound for failure. To those who still believe in the prospects of victory, realize there’s victory in admitting the failure of your ideals. Do us all a favor - indeed do humanity a favor and the halls of history a favor - explain to us diplomatically how you meant well in your endeavors, and even insist that aiming to spread democracy is an honorable ideal, and then admit your loss so we can pick up the pieces and move ahead. And if you need a little inspiration mull over Emerson’s brilliant aphorism: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

  • It is very sad indeed if any one thinks America is a democratic state, so it could export the democracy to the ME?
    This is the great problems of America, America is any thing except Democracy, say it a voteaucracy, Mediacracy (run and controlled by media) say its Nazicarcy, or policestatocarcy, but pleace don’t mention democracy with America. It is unforetunate the American Nice people lost their compas, do they know where is Iraq, or Israel?
    And why they support a terrorist state like Israel?
    Any one tell me what is diff between American killing policy and that of Israel?
    May the experience, u guess who is learing from whom, for me I can’t see the diff. The only sad thing is the American and the world paying the price of very few Neonazi occupying the W house.