David Horowitz falsely asserted that the Senate Intelligence Committee has "exonerated" President Bush for saying, in his 2003 State of the Union address, that "[t]he British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
In his December 13 column at the conservative news website NewsMax, right-wing writer and political activist David Horowitz falsely claimed that a bipartisan Senate committee "exonerated" President Bush for stating, during his January 2003 State of the Union address, that "[t]he British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." In fact, the quote Horowitz cited as evidence for his claim comes not from the Senate Intelligence Committee but from a British government inquiry; additionally, the Senate Intelligence Committee did document doubts about the claim voiced at the time by some U.S. intelligence officials.
From Horowitz's December 13 NewsMax column (originally posted December 9 at his FrontPageMag.com weblog), in which he criticizes "the Democrats' assault on his [Bush's] credibility -- and thus on the security of the nation":
A year later, when major damage to the commander in chief's credibility had already been done, a bi-partisan Senate committee investigating intelligence failures leading up to the war exonerated him: 'We conclude also that the Statement in President Bush's State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" was well-founded." '
But the quote Horowitz cited as evidence for his claim that Bush's statement was "well-founded" comes not from the Senate Intelligence Committee "Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq" but, rather, from a British inquiry ordered by the British House of Commons into prewar assessments of Iraq's nuclear weapons program, also known as the Butler report. According to the report:
We conclude that, on the basis of the intelligence assessments at the time, covering both Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the statements on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa in the Government's dossier, and by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, were well-founded. By extension, we conclude also that the statement in President Bush's State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that:
The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
A footnote on the FrontPageMag.com version of Horowitz's column stated that the quote that "exonerated" Bush came from a July 15, 2004, Wall Street Journal editorial, adding that "[t]he quote is from the 511 page report of the Senate Intelligence Committee." But the editorial correctly noted that the quote Horowitz cited came from the Butler report, not the Senate Intelligence Committee report.
Moreover, the Butler report did not elaborate on how it reached this conclusion beyond citing "the intelligence assessments at the time." In relying on the Butler report's conclusion that Bush's claim was "well-founded," Horowitz ignored evidence in the Senate Intelligence Committee report that, at the time, some U.S. intelligence officials questioned the claim. Former Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet said in July 2003 that "[t]hese 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the President."
The Senate report noted that an intelligence official testified to the Senate Intelligence committee on October 2, 2002, that "the one thing where I think they [British intelligence] stretched a little bit beyond where we would stretch is on the points about Iraq seeking uranium from various African locations. We've looked at those reports and we don't think they are very credible. It doesn't diminish our conviction that he's going for nuclear weapons, but I think they reached a little bit on that point."
The Senate committee also concluded: "The language in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate [NIE] that 'Iraq also began vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake' overstated what the Intelligence Community knew about Iraq's possible procurement attempts." The committee added that while the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence Research (INR)'s conclusion that "claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are highly dubious" also appeared in the NIE, it "was included in a text box, separated by about 60 pages from the discussion of the uranium issue."