CIA Chief Cops to Uranium Error - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

CIA Chief Cops to Uranium Error

July 11, 2003 - Posted at: 6:00 p.m. CDT

WASHINGTON - CIA Director George Tenet acknowledged Friday his agency wrongly allowed President Bush to tell the American people that Iraq was seeking nuclear material from Africa when analysts had doubts about the quality of the intelligence. 

"These 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the president," Tenet said in a statement released after Bush and his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, blamed the miscue on the CIA and members of Congress called for someone to be held accountable.

"This was a mistake," the director's statement said.

Tenet said the responsibility for vetting the allegations included in Bush's State of the Union address about Iraqi efforts to get uranium from Africa beloing to the CIA and ultimately with himself.

"Let me be clear about several things right up front," he said. "First, CIA approved the president's State of the Union address before it was delivered. Second, I am responsible for the approval process in my agency. And third, the president had every reason to believe that the text presented to him was sound."

Tenet said CIA officials reviewed portions of the draft speech and raised some concerns with national security aides at the White House that prompted changes in language concerning allegations that Iraq sought to buy uranium from the African nation of Niger. But he said the CIA officials failed to stop the remark from being uttered despite the doubts about its validity.

"Officials who were reviewing the draft remarks on uranium raised several concerns about the fragmentary nature of the intelligence with National Security Council colleagues," Tenet said. "Some of the language was changed. From what we know now, agency officials in the end concurred that the text in the speech was factually correct that the British government report said that Iraq sought uranium from Africa."

"This should not have been the test for clearing a presidential address," the statement continued. "This did not rise to the level of certainty which should be required for presidential speeches, and CIA should have ensured that it was removed."

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