Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Larisa Alexandrovna and Jason Leopold
National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley was the senior administration official who told Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward that Valerie Plame Wilson was a CIA officer, attorneys close to the investigation and intelligence officials tell RAW STORY.
Testifying under oath Monday to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, Woodward recounted a casual conversation he had with Hadley, these sources say. Hadley did not return a call seeking comment.
Woodward said he was told that it was “no big deal” that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson was sent to Niger to investigate the veracity of the Bush Administration’s claims that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger. According to the attorneys, he said Hadley dismissed the trip by saying his wife, a CIA officer who worked on WMD issues, had recommended him.
At the time, Hadley was working under then National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.
“We think that Mr. Woodward was going to write a story about it, but discussed it with some other people within the Bush Administration and was told that it wasn’t anything big,” one attorney told RAW STORY.
Woodward did not return a call for this article. He did not identify his source in an article in today’s Washington Post, instead dubbing him a “senior administration official.” The veteran Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter made his name investigating the Watergate burglary which eventually led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
Woodward got access to classified information
In his most recent book, Bush at War, Woodward says he was given access to classified minutes of National Security Council meetings. Both Rice and Hadley were major players in these meetings.
President Bush sat for lengthy interviews for his book, often speaking about classified information, Woodward later said. The Post editor added that he was surprised by Bush’s frankness.
"Certainly Richard Nixon would not have allowed reporters to question him like that,” he said. “Bush's father wouldn't allow it. Clinton wouldn't allow it.”
Hadley served as Deputy National Security Advisor during the first term of the Bush presidency under then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. Former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who is now under indictment in Fitzgerald’s case for obstruction of justice and perjury, along with Rice and Hadley, were members of the National Security Council and of the White House Iraq Group, which was tasked with selling the war in Iraq to the public.
In March 2003, the White House Iraq Group began doing a work-up on Joseph Wilson. Hadley was present at some of these meetings.
Hadley has previously drawn fire for a meeting in September 2002 with the head of Italian intelligence Nicollo Pollari, who was implicated in pushing bogus claims that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger. Hadley denies they discussed uranium.
“Nobody participating in that meeting or asked about that meeting has any recollection of a discussion of natural uranium, or any recollection of any documents being passed,” he told reporters earlier this month.
Pollari had been trying to provide the CIA with evidence that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program, citing the now debunked documents. The CIA had previously rebuffed his claims, asserting they were unfounded.
Prior to the Iraq Niger claims, a strange meeting in late 2001 whose purpose is unknown links a former Iran Contra figure and Iranian arms dealer with Michael Ledeen, then an alleged consultant to the Under-Secretary of Defense, Douglas Feith. Feith informs Hadley (Hadley later claims that Ghorbanifar was not involved).
CIA director George Tenet later intervenes, and Hadley asks Ledeen to end the meetings. The agency believed Ghorbanifar was a serial liar and barred its officers from engaging him; the meetings continue regardless.
Timeline of events
On Jan. 28, 2003, Bush claimed that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium from Africa in his State of the Union address. It is the very claim that Hadley had seen from Pollari and the very claim that the CIA rejected.
Two days later, the Washington Post reports that Hadley is acting as liaison between the White House and the Senate Intelligence Committee in helping to “sift through intelligence with the help of the CIA, and trying to determine what can be released without damaging the agency’s ability to gather similar information.”
In March 2003, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) discredits these documents as forgeries. It is also in March that the US begins combat operations in Iraq.
According to sources, Woodward’s meeting with Hadley occurs in mid-June of 2003, around the same time that Libby begins to meet with New York Times’ Judith Miller, who has since left the paper.
In early July, Wilson writes his New York Times op-ed, entitled “What I did not find in Niger.” The White House responds on two fronts, according to an article published at the time in the Washington Post.
“Behind the scenes, the White House responded with twin attacks: one on Wilson and the other on the CIA, which it wanted to take the blame for allowing the 16 words [on uranium] to have remained in Bush's speech. As part of this effort, then-national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley spoke with Tenet during the week about clearing up CIA responsibility for the 16 words, even though both knew the agency did not believe Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger, according to a person familiar with the conversation.
A former senior CIA official said yesterday that Tenet's statement was drafted within the agency and was shown only to Hadley on July 10 to get White House input. Only a few minor changes were accepted before it was released on July 11, this former official said. He took issue with a New York Times report last week that said Rove and Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, had a role in Tenet's statement.”
Several days later, columnist Robert Novak outs Valerie Plame as a CIA operative.
On July 22, Hadley takes full responsibility for the Niger claims in the President’s State of the Union, even though Tenet had already done so on July 11.
The same day, Pat Roberts (R-KS), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, calls Hadley to testify in closed door hearings.
“The chairman of a key congressional committee says he will look closely at new evidence that aides in the White House mishandled communications from the CIA casting doubts on information used by President George Bush to support his case for military action in Iraq,” Voice of America reported.
Roberts has yet to complete the second stage of his investigation into prewar intelligence.
Clarification: Due to an editing error, the first edition of this article was unclear about whether Woodward was told Plame was covert. Woodward was only told she was a CIA analyst.