Kristol falsely claimed Bush "declassified most" of the NIE

››› ››› JOE BROWN

On Fox News Sunday, William Kristol falsely claimed that President Bush "declassified most" of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that he reportedly authorized then-vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby to leak to reporters. In fact, Libby leaked a very small, cherry-picked series of excerpts from the 90-page NIE, reportedly following Bush's authorization.

On the April 23 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, Weekly Standard editor William Kristol falsely claimed that President Bush "declassified most" of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that he reportedly authorized then-vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby to leak to reporters.

In fact, court papers filed by special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald in his prosecution of Libby state that Libby testified that Cheney told him Bush had authorized the disclosure of select portions of the NIE. According to the papers, Libby testified that he disclosed a very small, cherry-picked series of excerpts from the 90-page NIE in an effort to discredit claims made by former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, a critic of the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq. While it remains a matter of debate whether Bush's reported authorization constituted a "declassification" of those portions of the NIE, neither that disclosure -- nor the subsequent, official declassification of additional portions of the NIE -- resulted in the declassification of "most" of the document. Kristol made the false claim to support his contention that there is "no comparison at all" between Bush's reported authorization of Libby to leak portions of the NIE and former CIA officer Mary McCarthy's alleged leaking of classified information to The Washington Post.

Fitzgerald's court filings indicate that Libby in fact leaked only selected portions of the NIE during his July 2003 conversations with reporters. Fitzgerald wrote that Libby said he told then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller that the NIE held that Iraq was "vigorously trying to procure" uranium from Niger -- a claim intended to rebut a July 6, 2003, New York Times op-ed by Wilson. But Libby did not include another portion of the NIE that contradicted this rationale: the assertion by the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) that the claim that Iraq was "vigorously trying to procure" uranium in Africa was "highly dubious."

Although Fitzgerald also noted that during the same July 2003 campaign to discredit Wilson, Libby also discussed the "key judgments" of the NIE with Miller and then-Time magazine White House correspondent Matthew Cooper, this did not constitute disclosure of "most" of the document either. On July 18, 2003, the Bush administration declassified and released additional portions of the NIE, which included the "key judgments" and the INR's claim that reports of an Iraq-Niger uranium deal were "highly dubious." But as the Associated Press noted on July 21, 2003, the original, classified NIE was a 90-page document. The version released by the White House in July 2003 -- which included the key judgments -- was a mere eight pages long.

Moreover, neither of two other publicly released versions of the NIE contained "most" of the original document's contents. As George Washington University's National Security Archive noted, the CIA released a 28-page unclassified presentation on Iraq's purported weapons of mass destruction programs -- containing portions of the NIE -- in October 2002. On July 1, 2004, the CIA also declassified a heavily redacted version of the NIE in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the National Security Archive. But in a July 9, 2004, response, the National Security Archive noted that the document "consist[ed] almost entirely of whited-out pages. Only 14 of the 93 pages provided actually contained text, and all of the text except for the two title pages and the two pages listing National Intelligence Council members had previously been released [by the Bush administration] in July 2003."

From the April 23 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: Bill, let me ask you about this, because some -- after this dismissal, some former CIA officials were drawing a parallel between what Mary McCarthy allegedly did in leaking this story about the overseas prisons and what President Bush did in authorizing disclosure of the National Intelligence Estimate.

And you heard Congresswoman [Jane] Harman [D-CA] today say, yeah, she thinks that there's a big comparison. What do you make of that?

KRISTOL: I think any administration, any CIA director, would have fired someone who was discovered to have leaked something this major, this sensitive, and this classified. There's no comparison at all.

Obviously, the president declassified most of the National Intelligence Estimates, as the media wanted him to, as he was entitled to, which was a retrospective look at Saddam's weapons programs or lack thereof.

This was leaking contemporaneous information about an ongoing secret program in the United States government. There's no parallel at all. There's no parallel at all with what Scooter Libby's alleged to have done, incidentally, which was all about past stuff about what the CIA said two years before about Saddam Hussein, and this leak.

So for me, it's -- obviously, she should just be fired. They'll have to decide whether there's a criminal offense here. But I think the president right now should say -- I mean, what it shows is how -- what a nucleus of people there were in the CIA and elsewhere in the U.S. government who are hostile to Bush, [2004 presidential candidate Sen. John F.] Kerry [D-MA] contributors, as this woman Mary McCarthy was, and a Democratic National Committee contributor in 2004, close friend of Rand Beers, who left the NSC [National Security Council] to work for Kerry, and [former White House counterterrorism czar] Richard Clarke, who wrote that book during the campaigns that denounced Bush.

There were a bunch of people in the CIA who were out to get the Bush administration, and a lot of the leaks over the last two or three years come from that group of people, I suspect, directly or indirectly, and the Bush administration's had a tough time dealing with that.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Intelligence, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel, FOX Broadcasting Company
Person
William Kristol
Show/Publication
FOX News Sunday
Stories/Interests
Prewar Intelligence/WMD
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