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Sunday, February 22, 2004

(Foot)Note: Honorary Degree for Rice

I checked out the biography of Dr. Condoleezza Rice on the White House website and learned that she's received a number of honorary degrees:
She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has been awarded honorary doctorates from Morehouse College in 1991, the University of Alabama in 1994, the University of Notre Dame in 1995 and the Mississippi College School of Law in 2003.
Why I am noting this?

Well, on September 13, 2002, the University of Louisville's Board of Trustees agreed to confer an honorary degree on Dr. Rice.

This March 8, Dr. Rice will be speaking in Louisville and will apparently receive this honor, in "Public Service."

As I've repeatedly noted, Dr. Rice often spoke about the "mushroom cloud" fear to justify attacking Iraq. And as regular readers know, that was a red herring.

Last summer, when the false Niger documents became public knowledge, Rice tried to argue that dissent within the intelligence community had been buried in (unread) footnotes.
All that I can tell you is that if there were doubts about the underlying intelligence in the NIE, those doubts were not communicated to the President. The only thing that was there in the NIE was a kind of a standard INR footnote, which is kind of 59 pages away from the bulk of the NIE. That's the only thing that's there. And you have footnotes all the time in CIA -- I mean, in NIEs. So if there was a concern about the underlying intelligence there, the President was unaware of that concern and as was I.
That's pretty clear.

Apparently, however, this claim was not true:
In a National Intelligence Estimate published last October, the intelligence arm of the State Department called "highly dubious" allegations that Iraq was shopping for uranium in Africa. The dissenting view was presented in the main body of the report, not buried in a footnote, sources say.

...doubts lodged by State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, known as INR, have since been validated. It turns out the intelligence was based at least in part on forged documents.

The White House now concedes it was a mistake to include the charge in the president's speech, though it argues it also relied on other intelligence from undisclosed foreign sources.

But National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said the president's use of the uranium allegation was ultimately cleared by the CIA after some changes in wording. And she described State's objection to the allegation as only a "footnote" in the back of the 90-page report.

CIA Director George Tenet did not call it a footnote, however, in a carefully worded statement he released Friday as the scandal heated up.

"We stand fully behind DCI's [director of central intelligence] statement," CIA spokeswoman Michele Neff told WorldNetDaily. "If he doesn't refer to it as a footnote, then it's not a footnote."

It's not clear what part, if any, Rice read. She maintains that both she and Bush were "unaware" of concerns raised by the CIA when it vetted the uranium line in the State of the Union drafts sent to Langley.

However, Tenet says some of his analysts "raised several concerns about the fragmentary nature of the intelligence" with Rice's office, warning her staff against using it in the speech. What's more, Tenet just three months earlier reportedly called Rice's deputy to yank the line from the president's speech in Cincinnati.
Personally, I read both text and footnotes.

As it turns out though, State's views were in an Annex to the NIE:
INR's Alternative View: Iraq's Attempts to Acquire Aluminum Tubes

Some of the specialized but dual-use items being sought are, by all indications, bound for Iraq's missile program. Other cases are ambiguous, such as that of a planned magnet-production line whose suitability for centrifuge operations remains unknown. Some efforts involve non-controlled industrial material and equipment -- including a variety of machine tools -- and are troubling because they would help establish the infrastructure for a renewed nuclear program. But such efforts (which began well before the inspectors departed) are not clearly linked to a nuclear end-use. Finally, the claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are, in INR's assessment, highly dubious.
And yes, I'd probably read that too on something so important.

Update: I didn't thoroughly discuss all the back-and-forth that occurred last summer. Calpundit notes an additional admission by Rice's Deputy (Stephen Hadley) that the Niger line should not have been in the 2003 State of the Union address.

Paul Kerr of the Arms Control Association has the chronology on the Niger story through the beginning of the war in March 2003. The BBC has a timeline that has detail through mid-July.

British officials have long maintained that they had independent (but foreign) sources confirming that Iraq sought uranium in Africa. IAEA officials have requested documentation, but I haven't found any evidence on-line that this has been released.

Update II: A friend sent me a link to a Washington Post story from last summer that has a lot of good detail.

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