Friday, September 15, 2006

Spin, Scandal and the Selling

* isikoff and corn were on demnow for the whole show. Amy asks good questions (the ext doesn't capture her tone).
"AMY GOODMAN: We are talking with two investigative reporters who have just come out with a book called Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal and the Selling of the Iraq War: Michael Isikoff, investigative correspondent for Newsweek, as well as David Corn, who is the Washington editor of The Nation magazine. They have broken a number of stories within this book: one, Richard Armitage, the source of the leak, the outing of Valerie Plame, and what Valerie Plame was doing at the time of her outing, that she was looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. David, you said that this, of course, derailed the whole thing. It's always been talked about as going after her husband for revealing in the New York Times that he had gone to Niger and, in fact, that Saddam Hussein was not getting weapons of mass destruction. But it could have been just an outright attack on her. She's the chief of a division that says no WMD.

DAVID CORN: Well, she was operations chief. I don't think it was. I don't think they actually knew what she was doing. Armitage and others were reading off a State Department memo, which we describe in the book had been written in sort of an inaccurate fashion, that described her as working in WMDs, not WMDs in Iraq. And she was one of thousands of mid-level CIA officers. It just so happened that Iraq was her beat. I think this was more an example of the White House acting as if they were in a political campaign, when you just throw anything you can at the other side, you know: “What's up with this trip with Joe Wilson? It must have been a boondoggle. It was a junket. Let's try that as a talking point. Throw it out his wife sent him,” which meant that he wasn't sent on the basis of merit. So that's my -- I don't think they investigated fully. I don't think they were targeting her, per se. But I think it was just, you know, politics overall."

this is also interesting:
DAVID CORN: In 2003, which was to look for the WMDs. They didn't start really until a few months after the invasion. And David Kay, before the war, firmly believed that there were WMDs. He was an NBC News consultant, had testified before Congress and had said so many a time. So he took the job, saying, “Now I’m going to get to find everything.” And he went there. After six, seven weeks, he started coming to the conclusion that there were no WMDs to be found. He thought, perhaps optimistically, that there would be what he called a production surge capability, meaning that at the snap of a finger, Saddam Hussein could order up his scientists to cook up some chemical and biological weapons very quickly, and that would be, you know, not -- that would be close to what the administration had said, maybe enough of a threat to have been worried about. So that’s what he was aiming to find evidence of six weeks into the job.

At that point, he comes back to Washington, briefs members of the Congress, and he's brought to the Oval Office. In the office is the President, the Vice President, the National Security Advisor, Condi Rice. Paul Wolfowitz is there. Scooter Libby’s there. And I think Rumsfeld might have been there, as well. And Kay says --you know, he's not a guy who sugarcoats things -- he said, “I’ve got to tell you this. We're not going to find stockpiles of WMDs, maybe a production surge capability, but nothing like you said would be there.” And he kind of waits for the President to respond. And he's flabbergasted, because the President poses no questions to him, not “Are you sure? Have you looked here? Have you done this?” You know, “What might happen there? Where were they? What happened?” Nothing. And then he looks around the rest of the room, and everybody, perhaps being deferential to the President -- you know, Cheney and Rumsfeld, who are known to be quite harsh when it comes to interrogation skills, you know -- don't say anything, as well. So David Kay walks out of the office. And as he tells us -- it’s quoted in the book -- he says he had never met a more un-inquisitive fellow at such a senior level of government. And he is shocked by this.

DAVID CORN: Ahmed Chalabi, in his Iraqi National Congress, was for years close to officials in Iran. That made sense to a certain degree. Iran wanted Saddam gone. INC and Chalabi wanted Saddam gone. Chalabi had a home in Iran. The INC had an office in Tehran. But the CIA, starting in the mid-’90s, had a concern. It’s not just that they were close and shared a strategic interest. They worried that Iranian intelligence was working through the INC, and there was one INC official in particular, a man named Aras Habib, who they intercepted communications about and came to believe that he was working quite actively with Iranian intelligence. And they were very suspicious about this.

It turns out, a few years later, in late ’90s, early 2000s, as we're getting closer to the war, one of the primary projects of the INC was what was called the Information Collection Program, the ICP. They took money from the State Department first, and then from the Pentagon, tens of millions of dollars, to get the defectors that Mike talked about and bring them to governments around the world, but to media, as well, and to pass these stories on that really would raise the drumbeat and give people a reason to believe that we should go to war in Iraq. Well, the person in charge of that probe and the person in charge was the same Aras Habib. So someone who some CIA officials suspected of being perhaps an Iranian asset was involved with giving information to the New York Times and Washington Post and NewsHour and other organizations that would make the case for war.

And when John Maguire and others told us about their suspicions, I mean, I was just kind of stunned. How could this be? So here is the CIA suspecting the guy running this program of being an Iranian agent. And I said, “Well, what did you do about this? You know, certainly this must have been a big deal.” And they kind of shrugged their shoulders, and they said, “Well, we couldn't do anything about this. And I said, “Well, why not?” And we quote one in the book saying, “You can't fight City Hall,” meaning that because the White House and the office of the Vice President and the Pentagon were so invested in the INC and Ahmed Chalabi that these concerns or fears of the CIA, they felt they couldn't even express within the administration. So this raises, I think, the scary possibility -- and it’s something that was not looked into in the Senate Intelligence report that came out few days ago, that it's very good in parts on blowing apart the credibility of the INC, but they didn’t look into this one.

had enough?

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