Former White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales misled Congress when he claimed the CIA in 2002 approved information that ended up in the 2003 State of the Union speech about Iraq's alleged effort to buy uranium for its nuclear weapons program, a House Democrat said Thursday.
In a memo to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which he chairs, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., also expressed skepticism about assertions by then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice that she was unaware of the CIA's doubts about the claim before President George W. Bush's speech.
The committee's Republicans do not endorse Waxman's report, said Frederick Hill, press secretary for Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the committee's top Republican.
Iraq's alleged attempt to buy uranium was one of the justifications for the Bush administration's decision to go to war. The claim has since been repudiated.
Waxman said his investigation showed the CIA had warned at least four National Security Council officials not to allow Bush, in three speeches in 2002, to cite questionable intelligence that Iraq had attempted to obtain uranium. The sentences were stripped out of those speeches but made it into the State of the Union address.
In a 2004 letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Gonzales said the CIA had orally approved the inclusion of the claim in two 2002 speeches, although it did not appear in the final drafts. Gonzales later become attorney general.
Former CIA Director George Tenet wrote at length in his memoir about three memos the CIA had sent to the White House explaining why it doubted the claim and believed it should not be included in the speeches.
In July 2003, Rice acknowledged that the claim should not have made it into the speech based on what she had learned in the months since the State of the Union.
Waxman said Gonzales, and Rice to a lesser degree, misled the public and Congress.
Rice "asserted publicly she knew nothing about any doubts the CIA had raised about this claim prior too the 2003 State of the Union address," according to the memo. Gonzales "asserted to the Senate — on her behalf — that the CIA approved the use of this claim in several presidential speeches."
The Waxman memo said the evidence raises "serious questions about the veracity of the assertions that Mr. Gonzales made to Congress on behalf of Dr. Rice about a key part of the President's case for going to war in Iraq."
The Democrat's report is based largely on the testimony of a former CIA official and Obama transition adviser, Jami Miscik, who was deputy director of intelligence at the CIA. Miscik told the committee that in 2002 she spoke personally with Rice to dissuade her from allowing the claim to be in a speech.
Miscik was interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee for its separate 2004 report on prewar intelligence and gave a different account, a Senate official said. That report blamed poor CIA management for the information's use in the State of the Union, saying there was no reliable process for approving the use of intelligence in presidential speeches.
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