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Hinchey Leads Broad Congressional Coalition
Hinchey Leads Broad Congressional Coalition
Calling For Expansion Of Plame Name Leak Investigation
Forty-One Members Of Congress Ask Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald To Examine
Bush Administration's False Uranium Claims That Led To
Disclosure Of CIA Operative's Identity To Determine If Additional Federal Laws Were Broken
Washington, DC -- Troubled by what they see as violations of federal law that prohibit making false and fraudulent statements to Congress, Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and 40 of his House colleagues today sent a letter to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald asking that he expand his investigation of who in the Bush Administration revealed to the news media that Valerie Plame, the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson, was a covert agent for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Hinchey and his colleagues urged Fitzgerald, who was designated as special prosecutor for the case, to examine the causes behind the exposure of Plame's identity -- specifically, the Bush Administration's false and fraudulent claims in January 2003 that Iraq had sought uranium for a nuclear weapon, which the Administration used as one of the key grounds to justify the invasion of Iraq.
"In order to fully investigate the disclosure of an undercover CIA agent's identity, it is clear that you should fully investigate the reasons for that disclosure," Hinchey and his colleagues wrote to Fitzgerald. "As we outline below, we believe that members of the Administration may have violated laws governing communications with Congress with respect to assertions about Iraq's nuclear capabilities. Ambassador Wilson's efforts to publicly contradict these assertions seem to be the reason for the uncovering of Mrs. Wilson's identity. It is very likely that you would encounter these assertions during the course of your investigation, and thus their legality should be the subject of your investigation."
Between January 20 and January 29, 2003, the Administration made a series of claims - which are now known to be false - that Iraq had sought uranium for nuclear weapons from Niger. These claims were at the very core of the president's final justification for war, and apparently were made despite broad internal disagreement over their veracity. Joseph Wilson then exposed the Administration's lies in his New York Times opinion piece on July 6, 2003. The desire to discredit Ambassador Wilson is the nearly-universally accepted motive behind the leaking of his wife's identity.
It is fully possible that the Bush Administration's claims of an Iraq-Niger connection were illegal - especially given the venues at which the claims were delivered (including President Bush's 2003 State of the Union Address before Congress). That fact, when combined with the link between the Administration's behavior and the subsequent exposure of Mrs. Wilson, is sufficient justification for Mr. Fitzgerald to expand his efforts.
"The...matters [in our letter] are clearly related to your current investigation," Hinchey and his colleagues wrote to Fitzgerald. "Ambassador Wilson's op-ed article focused on the uranium claim made in the 2003 State of the Union Address and he concluded that 'intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.' You are investigating whether any laws were violated when Administration officials - in order to discredit Wilson's claim and/or to retaliate against him - leaked to the press the fact that his wife was a CIA agent. As set forth in this letter, Wilson's original charge that the Administration "twisted" the evidence concerns matters that are just as criminal as the Administration's attempts to discredit Wilson and his charge by revealing the identity of Mrs. Wilson as a CIA operative."
Hinchey said, "Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation holds grave implications for the safety of our C.I.A. operatives, the freedom of our press, and the accountability of our current executive branch leadership. The laws that high-level members of the Bush Administration may very well have violated are of a very serious nature on their own. However, when you take into account that these laws may have been broken in order to commence a major war, it becomes clear that action must be taken to punish those who misled the Congress and the American people. We have American men and women dying in Iraq on a daily basis because people in this Administration fabricated or manipulated intelligence on uranium that was used as a key reason for justifying the war. This is wholly unacceptable and I believe that Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald has the authority and the responsibility to investigate these possible criminal violations."
The 40 other House members who signed Hinchey's letter to Fitzgerald are: Congressmen Neil Abercrombie (HI-01), Tammy Baldwin (WI-02), Xavier Becerra (CA-31), Wm. Lacy Clay (MO-01), John Conyers, Jr. (MI-14), Sam Farr (CA-17), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-07), Luis V. Gutierrez (IL-04), Michael M. Honda (CA-15), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (IL-02), Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Carolyn C. Kilpatrick (MI-13), Dennis J. Kucinich (OH-10), Barbara Lee (CA-09), Jim McDermott (WA-07)
James P. McGovern (MA-03), Cynthia McKinney (GA-04), Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-14), Doris Matsui (CA-05), George Miller (CA-07), James P. Moran (VA-08), Jerrold Nadler (NY-08), Richard E. Neal (MA-02), Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), Donald M. Payne (NJ-10), Charles B. Rangel (NY-15), Martin Olav Sabo (MN-05), Bernard Sanders (VT-AL), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), José E. Serrano (NY-16), Louise Slaughter (NY-28), Hilda L. Solis (CA-32), Fortney Pete Stark (CA-13), Edolphus Towns (NY-10)
Maxine Waters (CA-35), Lynn Woolsey (CA-06), David Wu (OR-01), and Albert R. Wynn (MD-04) (plus one unrecognizable signature).
The full text of the letter to Fitzgerald (minus footnotes), which includes details on the laws that Bush Administration officials possibly violated, follows:
September 15, 2005
United States Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530
Re: Request To Expand Investigation
Dear United States Attorney Fitzgerald:
We hereby request that you expand your investigation regarding who in the Bush Administration revealed to the press that Valerie Wilson, the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson, was an undercover agent for the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.). We believe that expansion should include investigating the Administration's false and fraudulent claims in January 2003 that Iraq had sought uranium for a nuclear weapon, which the Administration offered as one of the key grounds to justify the war against Iraq.
President Bush made two uranium claims, one in his State of the Union Address to Congress and another in a report that he submitted to Congress concerning Iraq, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made three other uranium claims. We request that you investigate whether such claims violated two criminal statutes, 18 U.S.C., Sec. 1001 and 18 U.S.C., Sec. 371, that prohibit making false and fraudulent statements to Congress and obstructing the functions of Congress.
You have broad discretion to conduct this investigation. The issues we raise are directly related to your current investigation and clearly fall under your authority. The desire to discredit the information provided by Ambassador Wilson regarding the lack of evidence to support the Administration's contention that Iraq sought uranium from Niger is the nearly-universally accepted motive behind the leak of Mrs. Wilson's identity. In order to fully investigate the disclosure of an undercover CIA agent's identity, it is clear that you should fully investigate the reasons for that disclosure.
As we outline below, we believe that members of the Administration may have violated laws governing communications with Congress with respect to assertions about Iraq's nuclear capabilities. Ambassador Wilson's efforts to publicly contradict these assertions seem to be the reason for the uncovering of Mrs. Wilson's identity. It is very likely that you would encounter these assertions during the course of your investigation, and thus their legality should be the subject of your investigation.
The Administration's Claims About Iraq Seeking Uranium Were False And Fraudulent
The uranium claims of the Administration in January 2003 that Iraq had sought uranium for a nuclear weapon were shown to be false because, after intensive post war investigations, the Iraq Survey Group found no evidence that Iraq had sought the uranium. In the months prior to the war, weapons inspectors of the United Nations (U.N.) conducted extensive inspections in Iraq and found no evidence that Iraq had revived its nuclear weapons program. The Administration has never produced any legitimate actual evidence that Iraq had sought the uranium.
The uranium claims were also fraudulent because although some in the American intelligence community (including the C.I.A.) may have agreed at the time with the British opinion that Iraq had sought uranium, numerous people within the Administration did not tell the whole truth consisting of the contrary views held by the best informed U.S. intelligence officials. C.I.A. Director George Tenet told the White House in October 2002 that C.I.A. analysts believed the reporting on the uranium claim was "weak" and thus the Director told the White House that it should not make the claim. Later that same day, the C.I.A.'s Associate Deputy Director for Intelligence sent a fax to the White House stating that the "evidence [on the uranium claim] is weak." The National Security Council (N.S.C.) believed in January 2003 that the nuclear case against Iraq was weak. Secretary of State Powell was told during meetings at the C.I.A. to vet his U.N. speech of February 5, 2003 that there were doubts about the uranium claim and he therefore kept it out of his speech for that reason. The U.S. government told the U.N. on February 4, 2003 that it could not confirm the uranium reports.
Furthermore, the original draft of the State of the Union Address stated that "we know that [Hussein] has recently sought to buy uranium in Africa," but after the White House consulted with the C.I.A., the White House changed the speech to refer to the British view rather than the American view. The final draft stated that the "British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." The parties involved stated that they had no discussions about the credibility of the reporting and the reason for the switch was to identify the source for the uranium claim.
However, in response to the uproar over the op-ed article by Ambassador Wilson, C.I.A. Director Tenet issued a statement in which he admitted that C.I.A. officials who reviewed the draft of the State of the Union Address containing the remarks on the Niger-Iraqi uranium deal "raised several concerns about the fragmentary nature of the intelligence with [White House] National Security Council colleagues" and "[s]ome of the language was changed." Tenet stated that "[f]rom what we know now, Agency officials in the end concurred that the text in the speech was factually correct - i.e. that the British government report said that Iraq sought uranium from Africa."
What this tells us is that although Administration officials, informed by the highest ranking members of our own intelligence operation, knew that the claim of Niger uranium going to Iraq was "weak" and could not be confirmed, they were still determined to use it in the president's address to Congress and fell back on the dubious language of the British report. The Administration clearly sought to cover up their own officials' doubts about Iraq's nuclear capabilities and hide those doubts from the Congress and the U.S. public.
A motive for making such false and fraudulent uranium claims would have been to thwart Congressional and U.N. efforts to delay the start of the war. Pending at the time that the Administration made its uranium claims in January 2003 was a Congressional resolution, H.Con.Res.2, submitted by five members of Congress on January 7, 2003, which expressed the sense of Congress that it should repeal its earlier war resolution to allow more time for U.N. weapons inspectors to finish their work. On January 24, 2003, a few days prior to the State of the Union Address, 130 members of Congress wrote to the president encouraging him to consider any request by the U.N. for additional time for weapons inspections. On February 5, 2003, 30 members of Congress submitted another resolution, H.J.Res.20, to actually repeal the war resolution.
Had it not been for the uranium claims in the State of the Union Address, which sought to squelch congressional concern over the impetus for the pending war, the number of sponsors for H.J. Res. 20 would have been far greater. The influence of the uranium claims can be seen in the fact that 130 members of Congress signed the letter before the State of the Union Address, but only 30 sponsored H.J. Res. 20, which was introduced after the speech. The Administration's uranium claims thwarted the congressional efforts to delay the start of the war since the Administration used the claims to allege that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program -- despite the failure of the U.N. inspectors to find such a program -- and thus falsely assert that Iraq posed an immediate threat that needed to be nullified without further delay.
Concerning the importance of the uranium claims, the report Iraq On The Record, produced by the Minority Staff of the House Committee on Government Reform, states: "Another significant component of the Administration's nuclear claims was the assertion that Iraq had sought to import uranium from Africa. As one of few new pieces of intelligence, this claim was repeated multiple times by Administration officials as proof that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program." A nuclear-armed Iraq was a key reason, if not the most important reason, used by the Administration to justify the need for a preemptive war against Iraq. Rather than allow the U.N. inspectors to finish their inspections, the results of which might have fueled further congressional efforts and resolutions to stop the war, the Administration commenced the war in March 2003.
The Administration's False And Fraudulent Uranium Claims Arguably Violated Criminal Laws Concerning Communications With Congress
The criminal statute, 18 U.S.C., Sec. 1001, prohibits knowingly and willfully making false and fraudulent statements to Congress in documents required by law. The two uranium claims in the State of the Union Address and the report to Congress concerning Iraq were false and fraudulent, and are in documents that the White House submitted to Congress. See House Document 108-1 and House Document 108-23. The law required the president to give such reports. Article II, Section 3 of the constitution requires presidents to give State of the Union Addresses. Section 4 of Public Law 107-243, which is the Congressional resolution authorizing the war against Iraq, requires the president to give reports to Congress relevant to the war resolution and the president submitted said report on Iraq pursuant to that law. Thus 18 U.S.C., Sec. 1001 was evidently violated.
The criminal statute, 18 U.S.C., Sec. 371, prohibits conspiring to defraud the United States and is applicable since the Supreme Court in the case of Hammerschmidt v. United States, 265 U.S. 182, 188 (1924) held that to "conspire to defraud the United States means primarily to cheat the government out of property or money, but it also means to interfere with or obstruct one of its lawful governmental functions by deceit, craft or trickery, or at least by means that are dishonest." Senior Administration officials arguably violated Section 371 because their uranium claims had the effect of obstructing or interfering with the function of Congress to reconsider its war resolution and to allow further time for U.N. weapons inspections. If the whole truth had been told, Congress may well have withdrawn the war resolution or delayed the start of the war to allow further U.N. weapons inspections, which would have shown what we now know; that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and had not sought the uranium. However, it should be noted that Section 371 does not require proof that the conspiracy was successful.
Additionally, the Downing Street memos should be part of the investigation as to whether one of the several ways in which the Administration deliberately "fixed" the facts and intelligence on uranium included its switch of the language in the State of the Union Address to justify the war. These documents provide valuable insight into the mindset of the Administration the summer preceding the Iraq invasion.
The above matters are clearly related to your current investigation. Ambassador Wilson's op-ed article focused on the uranium claim made in the 2003 State of the Union Address and he concluded that "intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat." You are investigating whether any laws were violated when Administration officials - in order to discredit Wilson's claim and/or to retaliate against him - leaked to the press the fact that his wife was a CIA agent. As set forth in this letter, Wilson's original charge that the Administration "twisted" the evidence concerns matters that are just as criminal as the Administration's attempts to discredit Wilson and his charge by revealing the identity of Mrs. Wilson as a CIA operative.
Justice Department officials in Washington certainly have the same type of conflict of interest in this matter as they did in the CIA leak case, which resulted in current your assignment. (See 28 CFR, Sec. 45.2(a) prohibiting Department employees from matters in which they have a conflict of interest).
Thank you for your attention to this request. We look forward to your response.
Maurice Hinchey (and his 40 colleagues mentioned in the release)