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New account suggests dissident faction inside CIA


New account suggests dissident faction inside CIA
Sun Oct 16, 5:07 AM ET

WASHINGTON, (AFP) - A new account of the CIA leak scandal rocking the White House suggests top presidential aides were seriously concerned about what could be seen as a dissident faction inside the US spy agency that appeared to work even behind the back of the CIA director to debunk the notion Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

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Charges that the regime of Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons and was angling to revive its nuclear program served as the prime rationale for the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

None of these arms have been found in the country in the wake of the Iraq war.

The first-hand account, delivered Sunday by Judith Miller, a New York Times reporter at the center of the leak story, cast a new light on the byzantine world of Washington politics rife with political intrigue, backstabbing and career-ruining retribution for expressing an opposing view.

Miller spent 58 days in jail earlier this year for refusing to talk to a special prosecutor about her three 2003 interviews with Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the chief of staff for Vice President Richard Cheney, whose name is often mentioned in connection with the illegal leaking to the media of the name of Central Intelligence Agency operative Valerie Plame.

Her name was first disclosed in July 2003 by conservative columnist Robert Novak following her husband Joseph Wilson's mission to Niger the previous year, during which the former US ambassador to that Central African nation tried to verify reports that Iraq was secretly trying to purchase uranium ore there.

After failing to find any evidence of that, Wilson wrote a newspaper article, in which he accused the Bush administration of "exaggerating the Iraqi threat" in order to justify the war and in essence undercut an assertion made by President George W. Bush in his 2003 State of the Union address that "Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

Miller said the article "appeared to have agitated Mr. Libby," who referred to Wilson as a "clandestine guy."

He added that the CIA "took it upon itself to try and figure out more" about the uranium allegations without informing either the White House or its own director, the journalist recalled.

"He asserted that George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, had never even heard of Mr. Wilson," Miller wrote. "Veep didn't know of Joe Wilson," she quoted Libby as saying.

Veep is White House jargon for the vice president.

All in all, Libby was concerned the CIA was engaged in "perverted war" over the war in Iraq and resorted to "selective leaking" of information in order to drive its point home, according to the report.

"He told me that the agency was engaged in a "hedging strategy" to protect itself in case no weapons were found in Iraq," Miller pointed out.

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