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White House Declines to Dispute the Downing Street Memo
By weldon berger at DailyKos
Fri Jun 3rd, 2005 at 22:05:23 CST
Many, many people seem to be under the impression that the White House has not commented upon the Downing Street Memo.
That's wrong: They have. My White House writer, Eric Brewer, posed a question about it to Scott McClellan at the May 23 White House briefing, and McClellan very carefully avoided disputing that Straw and Dearlove said what the minutes describe them as saying or that what they said was true.
Here's Eric's question and McClellan's response:
Eric Brewer: Scott, last week you said that claims in the leaked Downing Street memo that intelligence was being fixed to support the Iraq War as early as July 2002 are "flat-out wrong." According to the memo, which was dated July 23, 2002, and whose authenticity has not been disputed by the British Government, both Foreign Minister Jack Straw and British Intelligence Chief Sir Richard Dearlove said that the President had already made up his mind to invade Iraq. Dearlove added that "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." Do you think these two very senior officials of our closest ally were "flat-out wrong"� And if so, how could they have been so misinformed after their conversations with George Tenet and Condoleezza Rice?
Scott McClellan: Let me correct you on the -- let me correct you on the characterization of the quote you attributed to me. I'm referring to some of the allegations that were made referring to a report. In terms of the intelligence, the -- if anyone wants to know how the intelligence was used by the administration, all they have to do is go back and look at all the public comments over the course of the lead-up to the war in Iraq, and that's all very public information. Everybody who was there could see how we used that intelligence.
And in terms of the intelligence, it was wrong, and we are taking steps to correct that and make sure that in the future we have the best possible intelligence, because it's critical in this post-September 11th age, that the executive branch has the best intelligence possible.
You'll note that not only does he not deny the intelligence was jiggered, but that he doesn't even take a stab at denying the authenticity of the minutes or the accuracy of the comments from Straw and Dearlove.
To review: McClellan was offered the opportunity to disavow the memo on May 23, and he didn't. Blair has not disputed it either. When Straw and Rice were asked about it on May 17, neither of them disputed it. No one in either the Britsh or the US administrations has said that the minutes are not an accurate summation of the meeting or that Straw and Dearlove were wrong.
If you're on speaking terms with one of the House representatives pursuing the matter, please bring this to their attention. It is absolutely essential that the press and anyone interested in furthering an investigation understand that all of the principals involved in the memo have now had the opportunity to disavow it, and none of them have.
I will try to get Eric into the press availability with Bush and Blair next week, although even if he gets in the odds that he'll be called on are slim. But he has already gotten the administration on the record refusing to disavow the memo and retracting what appeared to be a previous disavowal, and that fact at least has to be made known to people concerned about raising the profile of this issue. Please help us get it out.