Senior intelligence officials say it was a top aide of President Bush’s who urged the inclusion of a false line in his State of the Union address that alleged that Iraq was attempting to buy uranium from Africa.
The man Robert Joseph serves as the director for nonproliferation at the National Security Council. He had previously served in the Bush and Reagan White Houses and has been identified as a close ally to neoconservative hawks including Richard Perle and Elliott Abrams
CIA expert Alan Foley says he had warned Joseph and the White House before the State of the Union that the CIA was not certain about the credibility of the evidence connecting Iraq to Niger and recommended that it be removed from the speech.
The White House has attempted to place the blame for the misuse of the Iraq intelligence on the CIA. Last week CIA Director George Tenet took responsibility for the inclusion of the uranium deal in the State of the Union address. This despite the fact that three months earlier Tenet personally called on the President to remove any references to the uranium transaction from another speech.
But after Tenet and other CIA officials testified on Wednesday in a series of closed door intelligence hearings on Capitol Hill the White House has been put back in the hot seat.
Senator Richard Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois said yesterday, “The president has within his ranks on staff some person who was willing to spin and hype and exaggerate and cut corners on the most important speech the president delivers in any given year.”
Senator Bob Graham, a Democrat from Florida said the impeachment of President Bush may be in order if he led the country to war under false pretenses.
Graham, who is running for president said, “If the standard of impeachment is the one the House Republicans used against Bill Clinton, this clearly comes within that standard.”
The intelligence scandal escalated on the same day that British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in Washington to address a special joint meeting of Congress. Both Blair and Bush defended their choice to invade Iraq. Blair said that the invasion was justified even if no weapons of mass destruction are ever found in Iraq.
As a sign that the White House sees itself on the defensive, Vice President Cheney yesterday announced that his former top PR consultant Mary Matalin has returned to the White House to help shape the administration’s communications strategy.
The Senate yesterday voted 95 to zero to approve a nearly $370 billion military spending bill. But the defense bill did not reflect any of the costs of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, accused the administration or trying to mislead Americans about the cost of war by not including “one thin dime in the budget” for Iraq and Afghanistan.
Meanwhile Sen. Durbin of Illinois submitted an amendment that would have withheld $50 million in intelligence funding unless Bush provides a report on how the White House used intelligence in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq. But the measure was defeated 62 to 34
The top news this morning in London is not Prime Minister Tony Blair’s appearance before Congress last night but the discovery of the body near the city of Farringdon believe to be a top British defense official.
Police found the body as they were searching for top British weapons expert David Kelly who had been missing since yesterday. Kelly has been identified as the high ranking British official who told the BBC that Blair had “sexed up” the Iraq intelligence dossier.
International criticism is mounting over a military coup in the oil-rich West African island nation of Sao Tome. Neighboring African countries, the United States and the United Nations have all condemned the day-old coup. Diplomats from the U.S. and Portugal, the country’s former colonial ruler, are overseeing talks between the leaders of the coup and the deposed government.
Human rights group Amnesty International is condemning the U.S. for continuing to execute people who committed crimes when they were children. Amnesty reports that over the past decade 20 people have been executed around the world for crimes committed as children. 13 of those 20 executions occurred in the United States.
Other countries that execute juvenile offenders include the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan and Yemen.
Meanwhile in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Department of Justice is coming under fire for forcing the island’s first death penalty trial in more than 75 years. The U.S. territory outlawed capital punishment in 1929. But in a recent murder case, federal prosecutors from the Justice Department opted to ignore the local law and the Puerto Rican constitution and invoke the 1994 Federal Death Penalty Act.