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Secrets, Evasions and Classified Reports

The CIA leak case isn’t just about whether top officials will be indicted. A larger issue is what Judith Miller’s evidence says about White House manipulation of the media.
By Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball

Oct. 19, 2005 - The lengthy account by New York Times reporter Judy Miller about her grand jury testimony in the CIA leak case inadvertently provides a revealing window into how the Bush administration manipulated journalists about intelligence on Iraq’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.

Whatever the implications for special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s probe, Miller describes a conversation with Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis (Scooter) Libby, on July 8, 2003, where he appears to significantly misrepresent the contents of still-classified material from a crucial prewar intelligence-community document about Iraq.

With no weapons of mass destruction having been found in Iraq and new questions being raised about the case for war, Libby assured Miller that day that the still-classified document, a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), contained even stronger evidence that would support the White House’s conclusions about Iraq’s weapons programs, according to Miller’s account.

In fact, a declassified version of the NIE was publicly released just 10 days later, and it showed almost precisely the opposite. The NIE, it turned out, contained caveats and qualifiers that had never been publicly acknowledged by the administration prior to the invasion of Iraq. It also included key dissents by State Department intelligence analysts, Energy Department scientists and Air Force technical experts about some important aspects of the administration’s case.

The assertion that still-secret material would bolster the administration’s claims about Iraqi WMD was “certainly not accurate, it was not true,


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