February 14, 2008 – Last month, the Center for Public Integrity and the Fund for Independence in Journalism released a study finding that the Bush administration made “at least 935 false statements” preceding the invasion of Iraq. Condoleezza Rice, who served as National Security Adviser at the time, made 56 false statements.
During a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing yesterday, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) pressed Rice to explain the inconsistencies, asking “isn’t it true that you had intelligence that cast doubt on your repeated claims?”
“No, it’s not true,” replied Rice tersely.
Wexler then pointed out that Rice was lying when she said it was “not true” and that there had been “intelligence that cast doubt” on the administration’s pre-war claims:
WEXLER: I simply asked if you had intelligence that was contrary to the intelligence that you reported repeatedly to the American people…
RICE: Congressman, I would…
WEXLER: … that Iraq did have weapons of mass destruction.
RICE: Congressman, I would suggest that you go back and read the key judgments of 2002. I think that will answer your question.
WEXLER: Yes. And the answer to the question, Madam Secretary, is that, in fact, there were contrary reports. You chose to weigh the reports.
In 2001, Rice argued, “We are able to keep arms from [Saddam]. His military forces have not been rebuilt.” In the lead-up to war, she began making the opposite case. In her response yesterday, Rice conceded that there was “disagreement” in the intelligence community about “whether or not” Iraq “had reconstituted their nuclear weapons program.” But in 2002, Rice emphatically stated there was no doubt about the intelligence:
RICE: We do know that he is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon. We do know that there have been shipments going into Iran, for instance — into Iraq, for instance, of aluminum tubes that really are only suited to — high-quality aluminum tools that are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs.
In fact, the potential use of the aluminum tubes was one of the main points of disagreement within the intelligence community. According to the New York Times, “almost a year before” Rice made her statement on the tubes, her “staff had been told that the government’s foremost nuclear experts seriously doubted that the tubes were for nuclear weapons.” “Ms. Rice knew about the debate,” the paper reported.
Matt Corley is a Research Associate for The Progress Report and ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress.