Decision made to invade Iraq
- February: Unofficially, the decision to invade Iraq is already in place, though White House officials will continue to deny it for over a year longer. A former National Security Council stafff member says, "I arrived at the White House in early 2002, and began attending NSC meetings with the president. Whenever the president would talk about Iraq, it was always something we knew we wanted to happen." As of February 2002, he says, "the decision to go to war was taken." And former Democratic senator Bob Graham later writes that he is told by a senior official in the US Central Command, behind closed doors, that "[W]e have stopped fighting the war on terror in Afghanistan. We are moving military and intelligence personnel and resources out of Afghanistan to get ready for a future war in Iraq." Once the decision is made, Bush will divert critical military and intelligence resources from the war on terrorism, and the efforts to locate Osama bin Laden and counter al-Qaeda, into the invasion plans. Linguists and special operatives are reassigned without notice, and numerous anti-terror intelligence programs are gutted.
- In April 2002, CIA case officers all over Europe are ordered to attend a special conference in Rome, during which time officials from the CIA's Iraq Operations Group stun the assemblage by casually informing them that the administration had always planned to invade Iraq, and the 9/11 attacks merely delayed the invasion. "They said this was on Bush's agenda when he got elected, and that 9/11 only delayed it," recalls one CIA officer who attended the conference. "They implied that 9/11 was a distraction from Iraq. And they said Bush was committed to a change of leadership in Iraq, and that it would start with kinetic energy -- meaning bombs. Meaning war."
Other CIA officials are insulted by the bellicose, rudimentary briefings and presentations they receive from the IOG, both in Rome and at later dates. The briefings consist mostly of publicly available information about Saddam Hussein's crimes against his people, and long harangues about how Hussein is evil and must be overthrown. (The editor of this site can't help but think of Orwell's "two-minute hate.") Veteran CIA officers compare the Rome conference, and others that follow, to pep rallies to whip up hatred of Hussein and support for the invasion among the skeptical CIA officials.
- The CIA is tasked with disseminating propaganda to Eurpoean news media outlets to garner support for the war. Though the CIA is legally prohibited from operating any sort of propaganda operation within the US itself, the Internet and the international nature of the news media ensures that some of these propaganda stories will find their way into the US media as well. However thorough the CIA may have been in its propaganda efforts, the near-unified opposition to the war throughout Europe demonstrates that the campaign was wholly ineffective -- in Europe.
- The amount of cooperation for the war effort from European allies is minimal, and in some instances, the White House intervened personally. In one instance, Dutch intelligence refuses to allow the CIA to attempt to recruit an Iraqi intelligence agent operating out of Holland; Dick Cheney calls the prime minister of Holland to ask him to intervene personally to allow the operation. The Dutch prime minister refuses, but Cheney's involvement shows just how serious the administration is in mounting an aggressive effort to whip up support among the US's European allies.
- In a November 2002 meeting in London with CIA station chiefs from the Middle East, IOG officials hammer away at the station chiefs, who almost to a man are reluctant to support such an ill-conceived operation. The message is simple: support the war and keep your jobs. A former IOG official later says that the message is clear. "We kept saying that the president has decided that we are going to war, and if you don't like it, quit."
- Of the many ideas for CIA operations of sabotage and disruption inside Iraq before the invasion, one in particular horrifies the Middle East CIA veterans. "We made sure that everyone understood, we would be conducting sabotage activities," recalls the former IOG official. "Most agency officers had never been involved in any direct action, simple, subtle or direct sabotage activities, or a successful covert action program." The chief of the IOG says that one operation will target the multiple avenues of ingress that bring in cash, sensitive regime goods, and items of interest to Saddam Hussein and his family. "We were never under the illusion that Saddam would feel pain by what we did. The object of the effort was part of a multifaceted effort to cause dissension, distrust, and exacerbate the paranoia within the regime's inner circle." Well and good, but then someone floated the idea to deliberately sink the Gulf ferry that funnels goods and passengers from Dubai and other nations into the southern port city of Umm Qasr. The idea of sinking a passenger-laden ferry in order to sow dissension and discord in Hussein's inner circle is quickly dismissed, but, as one CIA officer present at the briefing later recalls, it was an example of some of the "radical and cockamamie ideas about how things could go." One station chief says, over drinks with other chiefs after the conference, that sinking the ferry would never happen on his watch. "What it told me," says another station chief at the conference, "was that they didn't have any serious plans for covert action and they were just grasping at crazy ideas. I think they had nothing else, they had no real intelligence to offer, and they were desperate to be in the game with the military."
- Other ideas are, if less bloodthirsty, equally ludicrous. One is to equp low-level Iraqi agents with spring-loaded darts to shatter the windshields of cars owned by regime members -- vandalism masquerading as sabotage. The darts were manufactured and delivered, but never used. Other ideas were implemented, including the derailment of a train days before the March 2003 invasion.
- Bush administration officials and advisors argue about the impact of Israel's opposition to Iraq on the decision to go to war with Iraq and the reaction throughout the Middle East. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage observes, "If Saddam goes against Israel big time and they [the Israelis] come on our side big time, we've got the whole Arab-speaking world against us, instead of just Muslim terrorists." Defense's Richard Perle argues that Hussein will only attack Israel if he feels he has no other options, for fear of Israel's devastating retaliation. Perle argues that "[t]he moment Saddam is challenged effectively, he's history." But many believe that few in the Bush administration are bothering to think at all in the long term about the upcoming invasion. Former NSC Middle East expert Geoffrey Kemp says, "The central American premise is that you deal with Iraq and everything else falls into place: 'Syria comes to terms. The Saudis will conform. Iran will be surrounded by American forces and the mullahs will have to make concessions to the moderates. There will be a settlement between Israel and Palestine. The end of Saddam will lead to an economic renaissance in Iraq.' I'd say fantastic -- if it happens." About Iraq itself, Kemp says, "Iraq is a proud country that has been humiliated, and it's madness to think that those people, while hating Saddam, are in love with the United States. Laten nationalism will emerge, and there will be those who want to hold on to whatever weapons they've held back. The danger is that these capabilities could pop up somewhere else -- in control of some small army group with its own agenda." (Seymour Hersh, James Risen, Mother Jones)
- February: The UN agrees to modify the blanket sanctions imposed on Iraq in favor of less harmful "targeted" sanctions, a move opposed by the US. (CCR)
- February: A CIA report circulates through the administration debunking the idea of a valid Iraqi connection to terrorism: it states that the CIA can find "no evidence that Iraq has engaged in terrorist operations against the United States in nearly a decade, and the agency is also convinced that President Saddam Hussein has not provided chemical or biological weapons to Al Qaeda or related terrorist groups." Richard Perle attacks the report in the press, dismissing it as not "worth the paper it's printed on." (The New Republic, Sydney Morning Herald)
- February: Exxon asks the White House to remove Robert Watson, the head of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to remove him "at the request of the US." Watson, a well-respected leader of the 2000-member organization of scientists, is a vocal critic of the link between fossil fuels and rising global temperatures. The White House promptly announces that it will refuse to renominate Watson, who has headed the UNIPCC for six years. Watson is gone by May 2002. (AP/Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
- February: Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer attempts to blame the recent spate of violence in the Middle East on Bill Clinton's energetic efforts to promote a peace agreement between the warring countries there: "You can make the case that in an attempt to shoot the moon and get nothing, more violence resulted." When asked for clarification by puzzled reporters, Fleischer adds, "That as a result of an attempt to push the parties beyond where they were willing to go, that it led to expectations that were raised to such a high level that it turned into violence." Fleischer will eventually apologize for his remarks, but the day after the press conference, Bush will show his support for Fleischer by having Fleischer walk across the South Lawn with him in full view of the cameras. (Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
- February: Former FEMA deputy director John Brinkerhoff defends the Pentagon's desire to deploy troops on American streets, arguing that the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 has been misinterpreted. (Buzzflash)
"You speak privately to your colleagues...but what do they say? They say, 'It's not so bad' or 'You're seeing things' or 'You're an alarmist.' And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can't prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don't know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end?" an anoymous German during World War II, cited by Milton Mayer in his book They Thought They Were Free, quoted in Buzzflash
- Early February: The CIA receives fresh reports from SISMI, the Italian intelligence agency, about the purported deal for Niger to sell 500 tons of yellowcake uranium to Iraq. (See the item for October 15, 2001 for further information about the uranium deal and the forging of the documents "proving" the deal, and other items throughout this site.) SISMI sends a "verbatim" text of the supposed Iraq-Niger agreement with the report. Unlike the October report, this one alarms CIA analysts; the allegations and evidence are more specific, and the idea that Iraq would buy 500 tons of uranium -- one-sixth of Niger's annual output -- is quite disturbing. (Former CIA counterterrorism expert Philip Giraldi calls the SISMI information "embellishments" on their original misinformation.) Even though the State Department's INR continues to insist that it can't believe Niger would be able to flaunt the controls of the French consortium that tightly manages Niger's uranium output for such an enormous sale to a rogue nation, and even though no one at the CIA asks the Italians to see an actual copy of the Iraq-Niger contract, the assurances of the CIA's operations directorate that the allegations come from "a very credible source" are enough for the DIA to produce a report on February 12 with the blunt title, "Niamey [the capital of Niger] signed an agreement to sell 500 tons of uranium a year to Baghdad." The DIA report says, in part, "Iraq is probably searching abroad for natural uranium to assist in its nuclear weapons program."
- The DIA report lands on Dick Cheney's desk. Cheney, ever alert for information about Iraq's nuclear weapons program, quickly directs the CIA to follow up. The CIA's WINPAC, the agency's organization focusing on unconventional weapons, reports that the memo lacks "crucial details" and the US embassy in Niger had obtained information discrediting the report. But WINPAC informed the CIA's Counterproliferation Division that Cheney is keenly interested in the report. A CPD official later recalls, "A call from the vice president's office makes you feel important. The young staffer who took this call was practically shaking with excitement."
- The CPD wants to know how best to unearth the truth behind the shaky allegations. The operations chief of the CPD's Joint Iraq Task Force (JITF) is Valerie Plame Wilson, whose husband, Joseph Wilson, is a former US ambassador and an expert on African uranium. The CPD decides to ask Wilson for his assistance.
- Joseph Wilson, a brash, plain-spoken man from an old California family of well-established Republicans (his uncle is former GOP governor Pete Wilson), who worked with both Republicans and Democrats during his government career, and who contributed money to the 2000 election campaign of George W. Bush, was sent to Niger as a rookie foreign service official with the State Department in the late 1970s. He later served in Baghdad. He won notice during the run-up to the 1991 Gulf War when, as the charge d'affaires at the US embassy, he defied Saddam Hussein's attempt to register Americans serving at the US embassy in Baghdad, and appeared at an off-the-record press conference wearing a hangman's noose, telling reporters that if Hussein "wants to execute me for keeping Americans from being taken hostage, I will bring my own f*cking rope." On the eve of the 1991 Gulf War, Wilson risked his life to protect 800 Americans from Hussein's forces. Wilson's tenure in Baghdad won him praise from then-president George H.W. Bush, and conservative columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak said Wilson's defiance of Hussein "showed the stuff of heroism." Wilson's service in Africa is of the most interest to the CIA. Wilson is a former ambassador to Gabon, another uranium-producing African nation; he served in Niger when the US was tracking Niger's uranium production, and when he was chief of the Africa desk in the NSC in 1997 and 1998, he kept track of Africa's uranium trade, and maintained close contacts with officials of Niger's government. Currently an international financier, Wilson probably knows as much about the Niger government and African uranium as anyone in Washington. The CIA will ask Wilson to journey to Niger to find out what he can about the Iraq-Niger uranium deal.
- Later, a debate over just how Wilson was chosen to go to Niger to investigate the Iraq-Niger uranium agreement will be sparked by White House officials eager to discredit Wilson, his findings, and his credibility (see items below). A Senate Intelligence Committee report will overstate the case, saying that Wilson's wife, the covert CIA agent in charge of the JITF, recommended her husband in a memo, noting his "good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the Minister of Mines;" Wilson himself will say that his wife merely served as "the conduit" for a message from another JITF member asking Wilson to meet with CIA officials. Plame will tell colleagues that she had sent an e-mail -- not a memo -- to the CPD deputy chief explaining Wilson's qualifications only after a CPD officer had asked her if her husband might be willing to go to Niger. (The CIA has no officers in Niger of its own.) And Wilson has experience in this area as well. In 1999, Wilson, while on a business trip to Niger, had been asked by the CPD to ask his contacts there about their contacts with rogue Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan. Wilson agreed to do so, but came back with no fresh information. "My supervisor said, 'Why don't we set up a meeting and have Joe come in?'" Plame recalls. "My job was to go home and say, 'Honey, will you come into the office next week?'" "[My wife] was in no way political any more than I was before all this took place," Wilson later explains. "In the meeting where the decision was taken to send me to Iraq, there was nobody there that I knew or could identify then or now."
- NSC deputy Stephen Hadley hears concerns from both State and the CIA about the likely involvement of Michael Ledeen, a radical neoconservative who has worked as an undercover agent for SISMI, has close ties to Israel's Mossad, and has close financial connections to the rightist Italian terrorist group P2, which is responsible for the deaths of 80 people in the bombing of a train station in Bologna. CIA director George Tenet asks Hadley to shut down the unauthorized back channels between the US and Italian governments. Hadley has Douglas Feith, who employs Ledeen as a consultant, deliver the message, and informs Mel Sembler, the US ambassador to Italy and a close friend of Ledeen's, that Ledeen's back channels are now closed. Authors James Moore and Wayne Slater doubt that Tenet and Hadley are operating out of any ethical or other concerns; it is more likely, they write, that "Ledeen might have already served his purpose for the administration by using his SISMI contacts to move the fake intelligence into the US system, and his further engagement might have risked exposing the scheme, as would his personal obsession with widening the war to Iran." (Michael Isikoff and David Corn, James Moore and Wayne Slater, Wikipedia, Frank Rich p.98)
- Early February: Washington Post reporter Doug Struck is physically prevented from attempting to complete a report on civilian casualties in the Afghanistan fighting. Struck is told by the local commanding officer that if he persists, he will be shot by American troops. Struck writes of the incident in early February 2002, and the Pentagon scrambles to assert that Struck was merely being held back for his own safety. Struck calls the military's story "an amazing lie," adding that "it shows the extremes the military is going to keep this war secret, to keep reporters from finding out what's going on." (Eric Alterman)
- February 2: Bush says of the burgeoning Enron scandal, "Employees who have worked hard and saved all their lives should not have to risk losing everything if their company fails." Yet that is exactly what happened to thousands of Enron employees, who lost stocks, pensions, and salaries while Enron executives stole billions from the foundering company. (Paul Waldman)
- February 6: The Central Intelligence Agency says it possess no evidence that Iraq has engaged in terrorist operations against the United States in nearly a decade, and the agency is also convinced that Saddam Hussein has not provided chemical or biological weapons to al-Qaeda or related terrorist groups. (New York Times/Center for American Progress)
"American and allied forces will be welcomed in Baghdad as liberators. Indeed, reconstructing Iraq may prove to be a less difficult task than the challenge of building a viable state in Afghanistan" -- neoconservative William Kristol, quoted in Slate, February 7, 2002
Defense Department says Bush has constitutional right to authorize torture
- February 7: A secret memorandum issued by President Bush provides a legal loophole to allow the torture of prisoners held in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay detention facilities. The statement, written by White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and signed by Bush, reads in part, "I...determine that none of the provisions of Geneva apply to our conflict with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan or elsewhere throughout the world." Bush also asserts that, as commander-in-chief, he has "the authority under the Constitution to suspend Geneva as between the US and Afghanistan, but I decline to exercise that authority at this time." In essence, Bush says he retains the sole discretion of who will and will not be given the rights due them under the Geneva Conventions, and in what manner. (Seymour Hersh)
- February 7: Rush Limbaugh uses Bush's "axis of evil" metaphor to demonize the Democrats' own "evil axis." The connotations between Democrats and countries like Iran, Iraq, and North Korea are very clear. Limbaugh went on to say that "Daschle's allies in this situation include the barbarians who run North Korea, the Islamic extremists who run Iran and the mass murderer Saddam Hussein who controls Iraq. That's the company Tom Daschle has joined. ...Now he's decided to roll the dice and align himself with Iran, North Korea and Hussein. In essence, Daschle has chosen to align himself with the axis of evil." Convicted felon Oliver North chimes in with his own criticisms: "Tom Daschle has now joined Ted Turner and the Ayatollah Khomeini and Saddam Hussein and Vladimir Putin, who are people who don't like the term 'axis of evil'." North goes on to claim that Daschle is "setting the groundworks for our adversaries to take on American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines." The level of irrational hysteria, manifesting in the baseless and offensive innuendoes of treasonous behavior on the part of those Democrats who speak out, is worth noting. (Spinsanity, Spinsanity)
- February 8: The Bush administration lets it be known through Secretary of State Colin Powell that it intends to pursue a policy of "regime change" in Iraq whether or not Saddam Hussein re-admits weapons inspectors. Powell says, "Even if Baghdad readmits United Nations arms inspectors, the United States will still pursue a 'regime change' policy, with or without the support of its allies." (Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney Morning Herald/Buzzflash)
- February 9: Pakistani leader General Pervez Musharraf and Afghan leader Hamid Karzai announce their agreement to "cooperate in all spheres of activity," including the proposed Central Asian pipeline. Pakistan will give $10 million to Afghanistan to help pay Afghan government workers. (Irish Times/From the Wilderness)
- February 11: Attorney General John Ashcroft orders the FBI to issue a general terror alert, with FBI officials warning US officials to be on the lookout for a dozen Yemeni and/or Saudi men who have imminent plans to attack targets in either the US or Yemen. Ashcroft calls on "all Americans to be on the highest state of alert." No evidence of any such planned attack is ever made public. (Mother Jones)
- February 11: Appearing on a Fox News broadcast, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld tells Fox's Tony Snow, "Iraq is probably not a nuclear threat at the present time." This directly contradicts the rhetoric from Bush, Cheney, and other senior White House and Pentagon officials. (Mother Jones)
- February 12: As covered elsewhere in this site,
the Defense Intelligence Agency completes a report that claims Niger signed an agreement to sell Iraq 500 tons of "yellowcake" uranium a year, and concludes that "Iraq probably is searching abroad for natural uranium to assist in its nuclear weapons program." The report does not bother to assess the credibility of the intelligence used to develop the report; the State Department has already received information that concludes Niger has not signed any such agreement, a conclusion confirmed by a high-level intelligence assessment on March 4. (Frank Rich [PDF file])
- February 12: Donald Rumsfeld answers a question about US knowledge of terrorism thusly: "As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say we know there are things we do not know. But there are also some unknown unknowns, the things we don't know we don't know." (Trueopolis)
- February 13: The Knight Ridder newspaper conglomerate reports, "President Bush has decided to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein." Apparently the Knight Ridder reporter had caught a hint of the paramilitary and sabotage operation code-named Anabasis. (See other items on this page and in the 2001 page for more information about Anabasis.) (Knight Ridder/Michael Isikoff and David Corn)
- February 14: The Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv notes: "If one looks at the map of the big American bases created [in the Afghan war], one is struck by the fact that they are completely identical to the route of the projected oil pipeline to the Indian Ocean." The paper also states, "Osama bin Laden did not comprehend that his actions serve American interests.... If I were a believer in conspiracy theory, I would think that bin Laden is an American agent. Not being one I can only wonder at the coincidence." (CCR)
- February 14: After weathering over a year of criticism concerning his failure to address the critical issue of global warming, Bush decides to handle the issue with a PR blitz. He appears at the headquarters of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration (NOAA) on a podium in front of a blue backdrop with the phrases "Cleaner Air" and "Brighter Future" emblazoned therein. (The idea is that, no matter from what angle a photo is taken, Bush cannot be photographed without those phrases appearing in the shot.) Bush's proposal, much of which becomes known as the "Clear Skies Initiative," is a sophisticated amalgam of sound bites and catch phrases, but the upshot is that his new proposals would actually allow emissions to increase. He continues to insist that "scientific uncertainties" remain about global warming, but he is now ready to begin addressing the "human factors" affecting "climate change." (On the insistence of Karl Rove, Frank Luntz, and other PR flacks, he continues to refuse to use the phrase "global warming.") He says that the US will reduce its emissions "relative to the size of our economy." That means that if the American economy continues to grow, so can its emissions, as long as emission increases do not exceed economic growth.
- While the signatory nations of the Kyoto protocols are working towards real reduction of emissions to pre-1990 levels, Bush is proposing that US emissions continue to increase above 2000 levels. And, he says, the goals will be met by "voluntary" standards for US industry, mainly small tax credits for corporations willing to spend the money necessary to bring down their emissions. He even proposes that corporations can buy and sell "pollution credits," enabling severe offenders to spend a relatively small amount of money buying credits from companies that produce little or no emissions and continue to pump toxins into the atmosphere unchecked. His speech implies that the world has plenty of time to address the problem, when just the opposite is true. In June 2002, the EPA will quietly submit a climate report to the United Nations; the report warns that in the coming years, the US will experience drastic and potentially devastating climate changes due to global warming, including heat waves, severe loss of wetlands and coastland, pest outbreaks, a spike in air pollution, water shortages, and other potentially calamitous effects. Bush's response to the report? "I read the report put out by the bureaucracy." He reiterates his opposition to the Kyoto protocols. (Days later, Ari Fleischer admits that Bush never read the report.) Shortly after, British prime minister Tony Blair excoriates the Bush administration for refusing to take the issue of global warming seriously, and ties the issue to Bush's favorite topic, national (and global) security: "There will be no genuine security," he says, "if the planet is ravaged." He pledges to oversee a 60% cut in British emissions, going farther than the Kyoto protocols.
- The Bush response? In 2003, his administration will revise and rewrite another EPA report to eliminate and dilute key sections on global warming. EPA officials will choose to delete the entire section regarding global warming rather than accept the White House's revisions. (It is worth noting that just days before the NOAA speech, Bush aides John Bridgeland and Gary Edson produced a plan that would address most of the Kyoto Protocols' goals to reduce greenhouse emissions, without the international supervision or foreign payouts that the administration found objectionable. The program is pushed onto Bush's desk before most other officials even saw it, but Bush threw it away. The speech they wrote for Bush was canned. Instead, a new "policy" was hastily cobbled together and presented at NOAA, made up mostly of empty promises for new studies and calls for voluntary industry standards.) (David Corn, Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
- February 14: After weathering over a year of criticism concerning his failure to address the critical issue of global warming, Bush decides to handle the issue with a PR blitz. He appears at the headquarters of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration (NOAA) on a podium in front of a blue backdrop with the phrases "Cleaner Air" and "Brighter Future" emblazoned therein. (The idea is that, no matter from what angle a photo is taken, Bush cannot be photographed without those phrases appearing in the shot.) Bush's proposal, much of which becomes known as the "Clear Skies Initiative," is a sophisticated amalgam of sound bites and catch phrases, but the upshot is that his new proposals would actually allow emissions to increase; in reality, the CSI would dramatically weaken the provisions of the Clean Air Act. ("Clear Skies," notes a spokesman for Friends of the Earth, "trades real health protections now for hypothetical gains later" by, in Mark Crispin Miller's words, "setting standards lower than those mandated by existing law; by letting industry delay pollution reductions by up to a decade longer than the Clean Air Act permits; and by ignoring the effect of carbon dioxide emissions. Thus 'clean' means 'dirty,' whether it refers to sky or air.") Bush continues to insist that "scientific uncertainties" remain about global warming, but he is now ready to begin addressing the "human factors" affecting "climate change." (On the insistence of Karl Rove, Frank Luntz, and other PR flacks, he continues to refuse to use the phrase "global warming." His proposals on dealing with global warming are tied up in a bundle called the "Global Climate Change Initiative.") He says that the US will reduce its emissions "relative to the size of our economy." That means that if the American economy continues to grow, so can its emissions, as long as emission increases do not exceed economic growth.
- While the signatory nations of the Kyoto protocols are working towards real reduction of emissions to pre-1990 levels, Bush is proposing that US emissions continue to increase above 2000 levels. And, he says, the goals will be met by "voluntary" standards for US industry, mainly small tax credits for corporations willing to spend the money necessary to bring down their emissions. He even proposes that corporations can buy and sell "pollution credits," enabling severe offenders to spend a relatively small amount of money buying credits from companies that produce little or no emissions and continue to pump toxins into the atmosphere unchecked. His speech implies that the world has plenty of time to address the problem, when just the opposite is true. In June 2002, the EPA will quietly submit a climate report to the United Nations; the report warns that in the coming years, the US will experience drastic and potentially devastating climate changes due to global warming, including heat waves, severe loss of wetlands and coastland, pest outbreaks, a spike in air pollution, water shortages, and other potentially calamitous effects. Bush's response to the report? "I read the report put out by the bureaucracy." He reiterates his opposition to the Kyoto protocols. (Days later, Ari Fleischer admits that Bush never read the report.) Shortly after, British prime minister Tony Blair excoriates the Bush administration for refusing to take the issue of global warming seriously, and ties the issue to Bush's favorite topic, national (and global) security: "There will be no genuine security," he says, "if the planet is ravaged." He pledges to oversee a 60% cut in British emissions, going farther than the Kyoto protocols. The Bush response? In 2003, his administration will revise and rewrite another EPA report to eliminate and dilute key sections on global warming. EPA officials will choose to delete the entire section regarding global warming rather than accept the White House's revisions. (It is worth noting that just days before the NOAA speech, Bush aides John Bridgeland and Gary Edson produced a plan that would address most of the Kyoto Protocols' goals to reduce greenhouse emissions, without the international supervision or foreign payouts that the administration found objectionable. The program is pushed onto Bush's desk before most other officials even saw it, but Bush threw it away. The speech they wrote for Bush was canned. Instead, a new "policy" was hastily cobbled together and presented at NOAA, made up mostly of empty promises for new studies and calls for voluntary industry standards.) (David Corn, Eric Alterman and Mark Green, Mark Crispin Miller)
- February 14: In an example of Bush's use of the 9/11 attacks to justify his own political agenda, this time on the need for agricultural subsidies that favor agricultural corporations and large corporate farm owners, he says, "It's in our national security interests that we be able to feed ourselves." (Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
- February 15: Bush's White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, who will be named Attorney General after the November 2004 elections, has a long and checkered history as an absolute Bush loyalist.
His 1996 success in getting Bush excused from jury duty in order to keep secret a 1976 drunk-driving arrest is well known. Bush rewarded Gonzales by appointing him Texas secretary of state, then taking Gonzales to Washington with him. But what is not so well known is Gonzales's connections to Enron.
- Gonzales was once a partner in the powerful Houston law firm of Vinson & Elkins. While a partner at that firm, Gonzales and other firm lawyers warned Enron officials of a top-secret government probe into that company's illegal business dealings. Enron had quietly asked Vinson & Elkins to conduct the probe in mid-August of 2001 after a company official, Sherron Watkins, warned former Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay that the deals could constitute fraudulent behavior. Watkins told Congress yesterday that she was "highly alarmed" at what she learned, and said Lay promised to look into the matter. An oral report on Vinson & Elkins' findings was made to Lay on September 21, and a written report was submitted to Enron on October 15. It concluded that while Enron's activities did not warrant further investigation, "there is a serious risk of adverse publicity and litigation." Enron is Vinson & Elkins's biggest client. Joseph Dilg, Vinson & Elkins's managing partner, rose through the ranks specializing in work for the energy trader. Enron's own general counsel, James Derrick, is a former Vinson & Elkins partner. Not surprisingly, many Vinson & Elkins partners, as well as those who have departed the firm, are Enron shareholders. For congressional investigators now poring over Enron's affairs, the tight relationship between the company and its lawyers is a source of concern. The question they're asking is whether Vinson & Elkins tried to look after its own by passing word to former partners -- especially those in high places - - about potential trouble brewing at Enron's headquarters.
- It seems likely that Gonzales was one of those, which means that the White House had direct knowledge of Enron's financial difficulties weeks before the news wiped out billions of dollars in shareholder value. Gonzales has ducked away from any inquiries into his connections with Enron, saying through a White House spokesperson that he "can't recall having had any conversations with anyone at Vinson & Elkins about Enron since last summer." And a Vinson & Elkins spokesman says the firm has had no contact with Gonzales regarding Enron.
- That assertion is doubtful at best. Craig McDonald, the director of Texans for Public Justice, which has kept a close eye on Gonzales for years, says said he wouldn't be at all surprised if Vinson & Elkins had shared its findings with the White House counsel. "It's definitely plausible," McDonald says. "Gonzales is part of the V&E network. These guys protect each other." Gonzales worked with the law firm from 1982 through 1992, when he became Bush's general counsel. The law firm and Enron were Gonzales' main financial backers when he ran in 2000 to hold his seat on the Texas Supreme Court. Vinson & Elkins contributed $29,450 and Enron added another $6,500. McDonald says of the law firm, "They give more political money than anyone else, and this helps them with access to government officials. That's what they're all about."
- Gonzales is now the White House's point man in the efforts to keep information about Dick Cheney's energy task force, and Enron's deep involvement in Bush/Cheney energy policy, from public view. Congress's General Accounting Office is suing for access to the potentially sensational documents. Gonzales also helped draft Bush's plan for secret military tribunals to try foreigners suspected of terrorism -- an idea that ran into a firestorm of criticism from civil libertarians. (San Francisco Chronicle)
- February 16: As part of an aggressive prewar covert action program codenamed Anabasis (after an ancient text about a botched invasion of Babylon), Bush authorizes the CIA to blow up targets in Iraq and engage in "direct action" (an agency euphemism for assassination) to weaken Saddam's regime and to prepare for his ouster by the US military. For Anabasis, the agency smuggles Iraqi exiles to a top-secret site in the Nevada desert and trains them in sabotage and explosives. The Iraqi force, known as the Scorpions, is being trained to seize an isolated Iraqi military post in order to create a provocation that could trigger a war with Iraq. Apparently, the Scorpions are never unleashed to any significant degree. For more about the Scorpions, see the Invasion of Iraq section in the They Said It page of this site. Few in Congress are briefed on the operation outside of the two ranking members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Republican Porter Goss and Democrat Bob Graham.
- DB/Anabasis (DB is the CIA's cryptonym for Iraq) was commissioned by CIA director George Tenet. Tenet, knowing that Iraq was next on Bush's list, handed the task of developing Anabasis to two seasoned veterans of the Iraq Operations Group within the agency's covert Directorate of Operations (DO). One of the two is a Cuban-American whose name is Luis -- last name unknown to or undisclosed by the two reporters, David Corn and Michael Isikoff, who unearthed the story of Anabasis for their 2006 book Hubris. Luis's partner in Anabasis is John Maguire, a former SWAT team member of the Baltimore police force. Both are veterans of the CIA's covert wars of the 1980s, when CIA director William Casey, operating under orders from Ronald Reagan, mounted secret paramilitary operations around the globe. Maguire had run guns to the Nicaraguan Contras, and participating in the highly illegal mining of the Managua harbor. Maguire is also a veteran of a disastrous 1995 coup attempt in Iraq, for which he largely blames on the unreliability of Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi, who was slated by the CIA to take over from Saddam Hussein once the dictator was overthrown. After the debacle, and still reeling from the investigations into the Iran-Contra operations, the CIA backs away from most of its paramilitary operations, and Maguire left DO to teach at the agency's training facility, the Farm, in rural Virginia. He returned to active duty on September 12, 2001.
- In early 2002, Maguire and Luis gave DO chief James Pavitt an audacious plan that, by Pavitt's order, "scares me." Anabasis certainly fits the bill. The plan calls for the installation of a small army of paramilitary CIA officers on the ground inside Iraq to conduct elaborate operations of sabotage, disinformation, and assassination of key regime officials. Anabasis also called for the staging of a phony incident that could be used to start a war: A small group of Iraqi exiles would helicopter into Iraq to seize an isolated military base near the Saudi border, then declare that a coup against Hussein was underway. If Hussein responded by flying troops south into the no-fly zones, those aircraft could be shot down under UN authority, and the clash could be used to trigger a full-scale invasion by American forces. "We were doing things in this program that we hadn't done since Casey," Maguire later recalls. More simply, "We wanted that f*cker [Hussein] dead. We were willing to do anything to get Saddam."
- The cost of Anabasis -- $400 million -- didn't raise eyebrows, but the bloodthirsty lethality of the plan gave Pavitt pause. Maguire and Luis had carefully avoided using the term "assassination" (using the euphemism "direct action operations" instead), but the CIA has a long and problematic history with assassination plots, a history that makes Anabasis's plans to assassinate possibly dozens of Hussein regime leaders even more troublesome. Worse, it is certain that in these assassination and sabotage attempts, innocent Iraqis will die. "You're going to kill people if you do this," says Tyler Drumheller, chief of the DO's European Division.
- But US intelligence agencies, with the encouragement of the White House and fiercely conservative Justice Department lawyers, are, in the words of Isikoff and Corn, "pushing the envelope." The CIA is snatching citizens off the streets of Gambia, Bosnia, and Sweden, among other nations, and "rendering" them to foreign countries that will torture them for the US, or to secret prisons in foreign countries where CIA interrogators routinely use "waterboarding" and other torture techniques to get terror suspects to talk. Soon after the 9/11 attacks, the then-director of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, Cofer Black, proclaimed, "The gloves are off." While that line received wide publicity, Black also said, according to Drumheller, "Someday we can all expect to be prosecuted for what we're going to do."
- In April, Maguire and a team of CIA officers cross into Iraq, driving into the Kurdish-controlled north to meet with two rival Kurdish leaders, Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani and brief them on Anabasis. The Kurds are skeptical, having seen the effects of half-cocked CIA schemes before. Anabasis would require the Kurdish forces of the pesh merga to take serious risks to recruit CIA sources. Barzani and Talabani are skeptical that Anabasis has the backing of Bush. Maguire tells them the same thing he will say time and again about the operation: "We're really serious. This is not going to be some half-baked effort." The plan ultimately rests on the credibility of Bush, and Maguire tells the Kurds, "This president is a man of his word. When we're finished, Saddam is not going to be there. When we're finished, we're going to be in Baghdad."
- Maguire's initial foray into Hussein-controlled territory is encouraging, with Maguire meeting with disorganized and disgruntled Iraqi soldiers. "Are you the Americans?" one Iraqi messenger asks Maguire and his CIA colleague. "We don't want to fight." Maguire returns to Washington eager to tell Cheney that the Kurds are on board and the Iraqis have no stomach for fighting any American incursion. Cheney, known for asking tough, specific questions, is in turn encouraged by Maguire's report, but he is less happy with the answers he asks of other analysts about Hussein's fighting forces, troop emplacements, and other specific questions regarding the strategies of defeating the Iraqis. Isikoff and Corn note that this early -- April 2002 -- Cheney is already well past the point of deciding whether or not to invade Iraq, and well into discussions of how to strategize an invasion and overthrow. It is clear that operations like Anabasis, no matter how much discord and chaos they might sow, will not be enough to destabilize the Hussein regime. Terminating the Hussein regime will require the participation of the US military. Isikoff and Corn write, "Anabasis, from its inception, was a precursor and a complement to war -- not a substitute." There is even a timetable: "Be ready to turn this thing on by January 2003," Maguire and Luis are told by senior CIA officials. "Be ready to go in a year."
- Maguire and Luis are infuriated by Bush's September 12 speech to the United Nations. It sounds to them like Bush is going to rely on diplomacy instead of covert action to handle the Iraq situation. The two have repeatedly promised Kurdish leaders Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani that a war is coming. Bases have been set up in Kurdish-controlled territory. Planning for anti-Hussein operations is underway. Talabani and Barzani are leery of US promises, having already seen the devastation wreaked among the Kurds when, in 1991, the US encouraged the Shi'ites to rebel against Hussein, only to abandon the Shi'ites and leave them open to Hussein's brutal retaliation. The same thing had happened in the 1970s when the US, working with the Shah of Iran, encouraged the Kurds to rise up against Hussein, only to abandon the Kurds when Hussein and the shah cut a deal. Now Maguire thought angrily, "G*ddamnit, here we go again." Soon his phone was ringing. Talabani and Barzani were on the line, and were furious. Maguire and Luis both tried to reassure the Kurdish leaders that this time they were sincere, that Bush was just blowing smoke, that war was on the horizon. (Michael Isikoff and David Corn, James Risen, Booman Tribune)
- February 17: Democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich writes and delivers an eloquent "Prayer for America" to the House of Representatives. The speech wins acclaim from both left and right, and propels Kucinich to a political stature heretofore unknown to him. Kucinich will ride the message in the "Prayer" into an unsuccessful bid for the presidency. In part, the speech reads:
- "Let us pray that our nation will remember that the unfolding of the promise of democracy in our nation paralleled the striving for civil rights. That is why we must challenge the rationale of the Patriot Act. We must ask why should America put aside guarantees of constitutional justice? How can we justify in effect canceling the First Amendment and the right of free speech, the right to peaceably assemble? How can we justify in effect canceling the Fourth Amendment, probable cause, the prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure? How can we justify in effect canceling the Fifth Amendment, nullifying due process, and allowing for indefinite incarceration without a trial? How can we justify in effect canceling the Sixth Amendment, the right to prompt and public trial? How can we justify in effect canceling the Eighth Amendment which protects against cruel and unusual punishment? We cannot justify widespread wiretaps and internet surveillance without judicial supervision, let alone with it. We cannot justify secret searches without a warrant. We cannot justify giving the Attorney General the ability to designate domestic terror groups. We cannot justify giving the FBI total access to any type of data which may exist in any system anywhere such as medical records and financial records. We cannot justify giving the CIA the ability to target people in this country for intelligence surveillance. We cannot justify a government which takes from the people our right to privacy and then assumes for its own operations a right to total secrecy.
- "...Let us pray that our nation's leaders will not be overcome with fear. Because today there is great fear in our great Capitol. And this must be understood before we can ask about the shortcomings of Congress in the current environment. The great fear began when we had to evacuate the Capitol on September 11. It continued when we had to leave the Capitol again when a bomb scare occurred as members were pressing the CIA during a secret briefing. It continued when we abandoned Washington when anthrax, possibly from a government lab, arrived in the mail. It continued when the Attorney General declared a nationwide terror alert and then the Administration brought the destructive Patriot Bill to the floor of the House. It continued in the release of the bin Laden tapes at the same time the President was announcing the withdrawal from the ABM treaty. It remains present in the cordoning off of the Capitol. It is present in the camouflaged armed national guardsmen who greet members of Congress each day we enter the Capitol campus. It is present in the labyrinth of concrete barriers through which we must pass each time we go to vote. The trappings of a state of siege trap us in a state of fear, ill-equipped to deal with the Patriot Games, the Mind Games, the War Games of an unelected President and his undetected Vice President. Let us pray that our country will stop this war. 'To provide for the common defense' is one of the formational principles of America. Our Congress gave the President the ability to respond to the tragedy of September 11. We licensed a response to those who helped bring the terror of September 11th. But we the people and our elected representatives must reserve the right to measure the response, to proportion the response, to challenge the response, and to correct the response. Because we did not authorize the invasion of Iraq. We did not authorize the invasion of Iran. We did not authorize the invasion of North Korea. We did not authorize the bombing of civilians in Afghanistan. We did not authorize permanent detainees in Guantanamo Bay. We did not authorize the withdrawal from the Geneva Convention. We did not authorize military tribunals suspending due process and habeas corpus. We did not authorize assassination squads. We did not authorize the resurrection of COINTELPRO. We did not authorize the repeal of the Bill of Rights. We did not authorize the revocation of the Constitution. We did not authorize national identity cards. We did not authorize the eye of Big Brother to peer from cameras throughout our cities. We did not authorize an eye for an eye. Nor did we ask that the blood of innocent people, who perished on September 11, be avenged with the blood of innocent villagers in Afghanistan. We did not authorize the administration to wage war anytime, anywhere,anyhow it pleases. We did not authorize war without end. We did not authorize a permanent war economy. Yet we are upon the threshold of a permanent war economy. The President has requested a $45.6 billion increase in military spending. All defense-related programs will cost close to $400 billion.
- "...This has nothing to do with fighting terror. This has everything to do with fueling a military industrial machine with the treasure of our nation, risking the future of our nation, risking democracy itself with the militarization of thought which follows the militarization of the budget. Let us pray for our children. Our children deserve a world without end. Not a war without end. Our children deserve a world free of the terror of hunger, free of the terror of poor health care, free of the terror of homelessness, free of the terror of ignorance, free of the terror of hopelessness, free of the terror of policies which are committed to a world view which is not appropriate for the survival of a free people, not appropriate for the survival of democratic values, not appropriate for the survival of our nation, and not appropriate for the survival of the world. Let us pray that we have the courage and the will as a people and as a nation to shore ourselves up, to reclaim from the ruins of September 11th our democratic traditions. Let us declare our love for democracy. Let us declare our intent for peace. Let us work to make nonviolence an organizing principle in our own society. Let us recommit ourselves to the slow and painstaking work of statecraft, which sees peace, not war as being inevitable. Let us work for a world where someday war becomes archaic. That is the America which has the ability to rally the support of the world. That is the America which stands not in pursuit of an axis of evil, but which is itself at the axis of hope and faith and peace and freedom. America, America. God shed grace on thee. Crown thy good, America. Not with weapons of mass destruction. Not with invocations of an axis of evil. Not through breaking international treaties. Not through establishing America as king of a unipolar world. Crown thy good America. America, America. Let us pray for our country. Let us love our country. Let us defend our country not only from the threats without but from the threats within." (Dennis Kucinich)
Joseph Wilson debunks story of Nigerian uranium to Iraq
- February 19: Joseph Wilson, the former US ambassador to Gabon and an expert on African uranium, meets with CIA officials regarding their proposal that he go to Niger and find out what he can about the reported deal for Niger to sell 500 tons of uranium to Iraq (see the early February item above, and the October 15, 2001 item for more information). His wife, covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, currently the head of the Joint Iraq Task Force and in charge of the CIA's efforts to find Iraq's WMDs, helped set up the meeting at the behest of her supervisor in the Counterproliferation Division. Plame did not attend the meeting herself. Later, during the controversy over Wilson's findings and his harsh denunciations of the Bush administration's attempts to deceive the American people about the Iraq-Niger connnection, the White House will attempt to allege that Plame had her husband chosen to go to Niger on the CIA's behalf. This is false. A memo by INR African analyst Douglas Rohn saying that Plame "apparently convened" the meeting is later acknowledged by Rohn to have been misleading; he has never met Plame and has no first-hand knowledge of the chain of events.
- For himself, Rohn is quite dismissive of the entire Iraq-Niger uranium tale, which turns out to be specious and based on forged documents, writing that a 500-ton uranium deal meant that "twice a year 25 semi tractor trailer leads of yellowcake [uranium] would have to be driven down roads where one seldom sees even a bush taxi. In other words, it would be very hard to hide such a shipment." And the conditions of such a trip, in temperatures up to 130 degrees over poor roads and drifting sands makes the likelihood of such deliveries improbable. Add the fact that the US ambassador to Niger, Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, a "confidante" of Niger's president, and the unlikelihood of the French consortium that manages Niger's uranium either being part of such a scheme or being hoodwinked into allowing it to happen, and Rohn doesn't believe Wilson's trip to Niger is even necessary. The tale is too unbelievable. But Dick Cheney's office is hot for confirmation; confirmation of such an attempt to buy uranium by Iraq would be proof of Iraq's nuclear weapons ambitions.
- During the meeting, he is told that Cheney's office is very interested in Italian intelligence reports that such uranium buys had been attempted, though as Wilson later says, he was never sure if anyone in the CIA or elsewhere had actually seen any documentation proving such attempts. He is skeptical of the allegations of the Iraqi uranium buy, but, noting that the CPD is under pressure from Cheney to produce, agrees to make the trip. He will make the journey without pay, though the CIA will cover his expenses; he receives operational security clearance and is not asked to sign a confidentiality agreement. One CIA official later recalls that the entire trip seems "pathetic" -- the CIA, having no assets in Niger, has to turn to a retired diplomat who will end up talking to the same sort of people the US ambassador has already talked to. "What's this going to get us?" the official recalls thinking.
- In late February, Wilson flies to Niamey, the capital of Niger. He spends eight days in Niger, meeting with Owens-Kirkpatrick and a number of Niger's former government officials and his own contacts (Owens-Kirkpatrick forbids him to speak with any current government officials), and learns what he already suspects: that any such documentation about the sale of Nigeran uranium would have required the signatures of the prime minister, the foreign minister, and the minister of mines, and none of these officials had signed any such documents. He also learns that the French consortium that operates Niger's uranium mines kept the uranium production strictly regulated and would know about any such huge deal with Iraq. He also learns that even if such an agreement between Iraq and Niger had been made, that Niger had no uranium to sell -- that all of it has been pre-sold to Japan and European consortium partners, and the uranium never appears on the open market.
- Meanwhile, Rohn and the INR release a report titled "Niger: Sale of Uranium to Iraq is Unlikely," which spells out the INR's doubts about the uranium deal and adds that Niger, heavily dependent on foreign aid, wouldn't risk its relationship with Washington by permitting such a transaction. Making even $100 million from such a deal with Iraq would jeopardize its far larger funding from the US government and the donor community. The INR writes that the original intelligence documenting the deal is of "questionable credibility." The INR sends the report to the White House, to various embassies around the world, and to the State Department, where it lands on the desk of Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. But Cheney is waiting for Wilson's debriefing.
- The debriefing takes place on March 5, at Wilson's home, after he returns from Niger. Plame keeps herself out of the meeting. Wilson reports to his CIA debriefers that "the information was unequivocally wrong and the documents had been forged." The US ambassador to Niger had already come to the same conclusion. The debriefers write a report, which is rewritten by a colleague and is disseminated throughout the intelligence community. The report includes Wilson's report on a meeting between Wilson and former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki, who recalled speaking with a Nigerien businessman in 1999 who wanted Mayaki to discuss expanding trade relations with an Iraqi delegation. Mayaki remembered meeting briefly with one of the Iraqis, but insisted that he never mentioned anything about uranium and, mindful of the UN sanctions against Iraq, avoided talking about anything substantive.
- CIA analysts are unsurprised by Wilson's negative findings, but view them as possible confirmation of the Iraq-Niger deal: the Nigeriens would hardly be likely to admit making such a deal, and the analysts focus on the minor detail of the Mayaki meeting with the Iraqi delegate. The CIA doesn't brief Cheney on Wilson's trip. For his part, Wilson assumes that Cheney will be given his report. It was Cheney who wanted confirmation of the Iraq-Niger deal. But around this time, Cheney goes to the Middle East to line up regional support for the US invasion of Iraq. As far as Wilson knows, Cheney has lost interest in the deal. Wilson hears nothing from the CIA for a year and a half.
- In October, the CIA concludes that the claims are "highly dubious." The CIA informs the White House, sending memos to deputy security advisor Stephen Hadley and to Bush's chief speechwriter, Michael Gerson. The French intelligence service, DGSE, who has already concluded the documents are bogus, sends a team to Niger after receiving a request from the CIA to investigate the possibility of a deal between Iraq and Niger; the team reports conclusively that the allegations are groundless. "Our answer was that the information was not reliable at all and probably based on faked intelligence," recalls deputy DGSE director Alain Chouet. DGSE considers the case closed. So does CIA station chief Bill Murray, who has been sending report after report from his Paris office to Langley dismissing the entire idea. Finally, he writes one frustrated cable asking, "Do you want me to send a weekly report that the Eiffel Tower is still standing as well?" And General Carlton Fulford, the deputy commander of US CENTCOM, meets shortly thereafter with the president of Niger to discuss the security of that country's uranium, and says he is "convinced it is not an issue." Fulford passes his findings along to General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. CIA director George Tenet will ask Hadley to make sure that any references to the Niger uranium procurement are removed from Bush's October 7 speech in Cincinnati.
- None of this apparently carries any water with senior White House officials determined to use the false information to help construct a case against Hussein: Bush, Cheney, and other administration officials will continue to cite the information as "proof" that Iraq is developing nuclear weapons, even after US intelligence and the IAEA continue to discredit the information, most memorably in Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address. Wilson, who becomes a target for a White House smear campaign which will include his wife, an undercover CIA agent outed at the behest of senior White House officials, will later state, "They knew the Niger story was a flat-out lie. They were unpersuasive about aluminum tubes and added this to make their case more persuasive." (These pages contain far more information about the notorious aluminum tubes, supposedly to be used in making nuclear missiles, and far more about the Wilsons.)
- Given the Bush administration's frenzied attempts to wriggle out from under the accusations of lying about Iraq's attempt to secure uranium, authors Eric Alterman and Mark Green later observe, "[P]leading ignorance in a case like this is tantamount to pleading incompetence. The Bush administration apparently boasts an NSC advisor [Rice] who doesn't read her National Intelligence Estimates, a director of Central Intelligence [Tenet] who doesn't read the president's State of the Union address, a secretary of state [Powell] who ignores his own intelligence bureau, and a president, vice president, and secretary of defense who claim to read almost nothing at all. ...[O]ne has to wonder about the credibility of anything these officials say." (The New Republic, Truthout, DNC, David Corn, Peter Singer, Michael Isikoff and David Corn, Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
- February 20: The Pentagon announces the existence of the new Office of Strategic Influence, which opened under wraps just after 9/11. The role of this office is to plant false stories in the foreign press, send phony pro-American e-mails from disguised addresses, disrupt anti-American press coverage through cyber attacks, and other covert activities to manipulate public opinion. The new office proves so controversial that it is declared closed six days later. It is later reported that the "temporary" Office of Global Communications will be made permanent (it is unknown when this office began its work). This office seems to serve the same function as the earlier Office of Strategic Influence, minus the covert manipulation. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld later states that after the office was closed, "I went down that next day and said fine, if you want to savage this thing, fine, I'll give you the corpse. There's the name. You can have the name, but I'm gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done and I have." (CCR, Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
- February 23: John Fund, the editorial page writer for the Wall Street Journal and paid political commentator for MSNBC who has made a reputation for his moral outrage against the Clintons (and is the source for the false 1997 story printed by Matt Drudge that alleged Clinton staffer Sidney Blumenthal abused his wife), is arrested by the NYPD for beating up his girlfriend, Morgan Pillsbury. The police find Fund hiding in the nether regions of the conservative Manhattan Institute. Fund is embarrassed, at least for a time, when the truth of his own bizarre sexual past comes to light: not only has Fund been the much younger Pillsbury's lover, and gotten her an abortion after getting her pregnant (Fund is, of course, an outspoken opponent of abortion), but has, years before, been the lover of Pillsbury's mother. Fund, a "happily married man," has had an inordinate number of lovers between mother and daughter as well. Fund will be fired from both the Journal and MSNBC, but will land a job as political commentator at, of all places, the Christian Broadcasting Network. Fund will begin appearing in recent years as a regular guest of CNN's Paula Zahn. (Mark Crispin Miller)
- February 25: The Bush administration has expressed anger over the Office of Special Influence (OSI)'s apparent intent to release false news stories to foreign and domestic news agencies. Senior administration officials are angry that the OSI's mandate costs the administration credibility with foreign governments and other persons and organizations. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is considering terminating the program after hearing that Bush is against keeping the program afloat.
(Washington Post/Freedom of Information Center, New York Times/Freedom of Information Center)
"We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed, too. Otherwise, they will turn out to be outright traitors." -- Ann Coulter, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, 02-26-02, quoted by Brandi Mills
"Y'know, I was campaigning in Chicago and somebody asked me, is there anytime the budget might have to go into deficit? I said only if we were at war or had a national emergency or were in recession. (LAUGHTER) Little did I realize we'd get the trifecta. (LAUGHTER) But we're fine." -- Official White House web site transcript of George W. Bush in North Carolina, 2/27/02
- February 27 - March 2: After Muslims burn cars of a passenger train in Godhra, India, killing 58 Hindu passengers, Hindu mobs in Ahmedabad riot, killing more than two thousand, mostly Muslim, Indian citizens. Reports claim the Indian government "turned a blind eye" to the rioting. Satellite television images of the rioting are used to demonstrate to Muslims around the world that, once again, Western governments have no interest in intervening to stop the murder of innocent Muslims. (Michael Scheuer)
- February 28: Democratic Senator Tom Daschle speaks out in defense of fellow Senator Robert Byrd's criticisms of the administration's Iraqi policy. "I don't think the success has been overstated," Daschle says, "but the continued success I think is still somewhat in doubt. Whether we continue to succeed depends on whether we get the right answers to the questions Senator Byrd was posing yesterday. ...I will say that at this point, given the information we've been provided, I don't think it would do anybody any good to second-guess what has been done to date. I think it has been successful. I've said that on many, many occasions. But I think the jury's still out about future success, as I've said." He also suggests that the US needs to find Osama bin Laden. Mullah Omar, and other terrorist leaders for the war on terrorism to be considered a success.
- Republican and conservative criticism of Daschle's quite mild, quite legitimate criticisms is extreme. Senator Trent Lott fires back, "How dare Senator Daschle criticize President Bush while we are fighting our war on terrorism, especially when we have troops in the field? He should not be trying to divide our country while we are united." Senator Bill Frist calls Daschle's remarks "thoughtless and ill-timed," and Representative Tom Davis says that Daschle's "divisive comments have the effect of giving aid and comfort to our enemies by allowing them to exploit divisions in our country." (Note that the legal definition of treason is giving "aid and comfort" to the enemy.) Conservative pundit Rich Galen, a former Gingrich press secretary, accuses Daschle, Byrd, and Senator Fritz Hollings of "declar[ing] war on ...Bush's handling of the war against terrorists." Fellow conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan suggests that Daschle's comments mark the start of a campaign "to undermine the war in order to gain some political traction against the president." Daschle quickly backs off, insisting that he meant no criticism of the administration's policies. Spinsanity writer Brendan Nyhan observes, "...instead of even addressing Daschle's comments, his critics question their very legitimacy, suggesting that any criticism of the direction of the war is out of bounds and divisive as long as the war is ongoing. Since the conflict is open-ended and likely to expand, this logic would shut down debate indefinitely." Secretary of State Colin Powell defended Daschle's right to speak out, calling the comments the actions of a " loyal opposition," (Salon, Spinsanity, Paul Waldman)