Despite Lack of Proof & Contrary Evidence, Nets Insist “Bush Knew” WMD Not Found
Cameron relayed on Special Report with Brit Hume: “Defense Intelligence Agency command issued a joint report with the CIA that said they were weapons labs. The six-page document titled 'Iraqi Mobile Biological Warfare Agent Production Plants' concluded that there could be no other purpose for the trailers beyond biological weapons....Waving that report, the White House spokesman said it was the basis of the President's remarks.” Raddatz acknowledged in her Wednesday World News Tonight story that “the White House said today the President, at the time, believed his statement to be true," but skipped the powerful evidence of how the White House had received an official intelligence report backing up the WMD discovery. Anchor Elizabeth Vargas set up the Raddatz piece: “Tonight, questions about claims the President and members of his administration made in 2003. They said two trailers in Iraq were mobile weapons labs, proof Saddam Hussein had been developing weapons of mass destruction. The problem was, a Pentagon team had already determined the trailers had nothing to do with WMD.” (More and transcripts follow)
(Beyond the specifics of what report was filed on what day, this seems to me to be a thin basis for a front page story worthy of broadcast network attention -- especially when there's no proof the field report ever made it to Bush's attention, and certainly not within 48 hours. Obviously, all of the administration's claims about WMD in Iraq fell apart during the summer and fall of 2003, so it isn't as if some comment by Bush in late May of 2003 still stands.)
Raddatz, who conceded it was “unclear” who ever saw the secret report, thus undermining the premise of her story, ignored the CIA/DIA report which did not match her agenda despite how even before McClellan held it up at his daily press briefing the original Washington Post story had included references to it, though buried off page one. “Lacking Biolabs, Trailers Carried Case for War: Administration Pushed Notion of Banned Iraqi Weapons Despite Evidence to Contrary,” read the headline over the front page April 12 article by Joby Warrick, who was a guest later in the day on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann. He led:
“On May 29, 2003, 50 days after the fall of Baghdad, President Bush proclaimed a fresh victory for his administration in Iraq: Two small trailers captured by U.S. and Kurdish troops had turned out to be long-sought mobile 'biological laboratories.' He declared, 'We have found the weapons of mass destruction.'Warrick's 13th paragraph:
"The claim, repeated by top administration officials for months afterward, was hailed at the time as a vindication of the decision to go to war. But even as Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true.
"A secret fact-finding mission to Iraq -- not made public until now -- had already concluded that the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons. Leaders of the Pentagon-sponsored mission transmitted their unanimous findings to Washington in a field report on May 27, 2003, two days before the president's statement.”
“The technical team's findings had no apparent impact on the intelligence agencies' public statements on the trailers. A day after the team's report was transmitted to Washington -- May 28, 2003 -- the CIA publicly released its first formal assessment of the trailers, reflecting the views of its Washington analysts. That white paper, which also bore the DIA seal, contended that U.S. officials were 'confident' that the trailers were used for "mobile biological weapons production."And his 32nd paragraph:
"In Washington, a CIA analyst had written a draft white paper on the trailers, an official assessment that would also reflect the views of the DIA. The white paper described the trailers as 'the strongest evidence to date that Iraq was hiding a biological warfare program.' It also explicitly rejected an explanation by Iraqi officials, described in a New York Times article a few days earlier, that the trailers might be mobile units for producing hydrogen."
How the story unfolded during the day Wednesday, April 12, with closed-captioning correction/transcribing provided by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
-- ABC's Good Morning America. After Martha Raddatz checked in from Washington, DC with a report on Iran, co-host Charlie Gibson raised the Warrick article:
"There's a story in the Washington Post this morning that's interesting. The President gave a speech, I think it was around Memorial Day 2003, in which he said, we've actually found some weapons of mass destruction. They found a couple of trailers that he said actually were the mobile biological laboratories that he said showed that they were indeed developing WMD and the Washington Post has a story today that says the President knew at the time that was not true. What's going on?"
Martha Raddatz: "Really quite an extraordinary story, Charlie. Apparently secret teams had already been into Iraq and determined, according to the Washington Post, that these were not mobile biological labs. Two days later the President goes out and says this is proof that there is WMD in Iraq. And the administration pretty much stuck to that story for many, many months after that."
Gibson: "So, another embarrassment for the White House?"
Raddatz: "It certainly is, Charlie. I would say it is."
-- FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume. Hume introduced Cameron's piece:
"The White House struck back sharply today in response to reports in two major media outlets that suggested President Bush knowingly misrepresented the discovery of weapons of mass destruction, or at least the means of producing them, in Iraq. Fox News chief White House correspondent Carl Cameron reports."
Carl Cameron: "At issue, two trailers found in Iraq in 2003 that the President said were mobile biological weapons labs. Today the White House blasted the Washington Post and ABC News for suggesting that the administration knew they were not weapons labs but said so anyway."
Scott McClellan: "That is absolutely false, and it is irresponsible."
Cameron: "This is what the President said in an interview with Polish television on May 29, 2003."
George W. Bush clip #1: "We found the weapons of mass destruction, you know, we found biological laboratories."
Bush clip #2: "For those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong. We found them."
Cameron: "Two days before those remarks, a team of Defense Intelligence agents in Iraq filed a secret three-page field report to the Pentagon indicating the trailers were not for biological weapons. But the next day Defense Intelligence Agency command issued a joint report with the CIA that said they were weapons labs. The six-page document titled 'Iraqi Mobile Biological Warfare Agent Production Plants' concluded that there could be no other purpose for the trailers beyond biological weapons. Quote, 'We have investigated what other industrial processes may require such equipment -- a fermentor, refrigeration, and a gas capture system -- and agree with experts that bioweapons agent production is the only consistent, logical purpose for these vehicles.' Waving that report, the White House spokesman said it was the basis of the President's remarks, and it was not until several months later that a consensus to the contrary emerged. ABC News suggested this morning that the President knew the trailers were not labs when he said they were."
Charles Gibson, ABC News, on Good Morning America: "So another embarrassment for the White House?"
Martha Raddatz, ABC News: "It certainly is, Charlie. I would say it is."
Cameron: "McClellan complained."
McClellan: "-they express their apologies to the White House. I hope they would go and publicly apologize on the air about the statements that were made."
Cameron: "It was the second time in as many weeks that some media and Bush critics accused the President of deliberately distorting intelligence on Iraq, but based their charges on inaccurate or incomplete information. Just yesterday, the special prosecutor in the CIA leaks case, Patrick Fitzgerald, had to correct an embarrassing mistake in his own court filing. The error led some reporters to wrongly accuse the President of directing former vice presidential chief-of-staff Scooter Libby to provide false information about Iraq's nuclear ambitions to New York Times reporter Judy Miller and to attribute it to the CIA's National Intelligence Estimate, or NIE. Fitzgerald first wrote, quote, 'Defendant,' meaning Libby, 'understood that he was to tell Miller, among other things, that a key judgment of the NIE, held that Iraq was "vigorously trying to procure" uranium.' The intelligence report did allege Iraq was aggressively seeking nuclear materials, but it was not among the so-called key judgments which carry significant weight and require broad agreement. Fitzgerald's misquote prompted some media, including the New York Times, to suggest the President had directed aides to misrepresent and exaggerate the NIE in order to justify the invasion of Iraq. Fitzgerald's corrected version reads, 'Defendant understood that he was to tell Miller, among other things, some of the key judgments of that NIE, and that the NIE stated that Iraq was "vigorously trying to procure" uranium.' That seemingly small change amounts to a whopping, 'Oops, never mind.'
“And it's the second time that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has had problems with his facts in the leaks case. He has said that Scooter Libby was the first government official to disclose the identity of CIA official Valerie Plame to the media, specifically the New York Times. But since Fitzgerald said that, the Washington Post's Bob Woodward has come forward and said he was the first reporter to learn that information. He hasn't said who his source was, but he has said it was not Libby."
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Anchor Elizabeth Vargas:
"Now, to the new controversy over the White House and the case for war in Iraq. Tonight, questions about claims the President and members of his administration made in 2003. They said two trailers in Iraq were mobile weapons labs, proof Saddam Hussein had been developing weapons of mass destruction. The problem was, a Pentagon team had already determined the trailers had nothing to do with WMD. Here's ABC's chief White House correspondent, Martha Raddatz."
Martha Raddatz: "The administration first talked about mobile biological labs in February of 2003 at the United Nations when Colin Powell made the case for war."
Colin Powell, former Secretary of State, at the UN: "We have first-hand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails."
Raddatz: "In mid-April and early May, trailers resembling the images that Secretary Powell presented were found in northern Iraq. The Pentagon said they appeared to be biological labs."
Stephen Cambone, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, May 7, 2003: "The experts have been through it, and they have not found another plausible use for it."
Raddatz: "On May 25th, according to the Washington Post, the Defense Intelligence Agency sent a nine-member team of scientists and engineers to Iraq to determine whether the trailers were, in fact, biological labs. The Post says two days later, the team transmitted a report to Washington saying the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons, calling them 'the biggest sand toilets in the world.' Two days after the report was sent to Washington:"
George W. Bush in May 29, 2003 television interview: "We found the weapons of mass destruction, you know, we found biological laboratories."
Raddatz: "The White House said today the President, at the time, believed his statement to be true."
Scott McClellan on Wednesday: "The President was saying what the intelligence community assessed to be right based on their intelligence-gathering."
Raddatz: "David Albright was a former weapons inspector."
David Albright, former Iraq weapons inspector: "I think there was a scramble in May and June of 2003 to find whatever evidence could be found to support the administration's claim about WMD, and the intelligence community's claim about WMD."
Raddatz: "In fact, the administration continued to repeat the claims about the trailers. This is Vice President Cheney four months after the report to the contrary."
Dick Cheney on Meet the Press, September 14, 2003: "They are in our possession today, mobile biological facilities that can be used to produce Anthrax or smallpox."
Raddatz: "In fact, it wasn't until a month after that that a weapons inspector sent by the administration raised public doubts about the trailers. Elizabeth?"
Vargas: "Martha, the White House says it did not know about this report saying these trailers weren't mobile weapons labs. Who did read that report? And why didn't they correct the President or the members of his administration?"
Raddatz: "Well, that is unclear, Elizabeth. And we were unable to get those answers from the White House or anyone else. The White House says they're checking into that. They're not certain whether or not the President saw it. They really just couldn't provide those answers. It would go to the Defense Intelligence Agency, and likely the CIA. But they weren't answering questions, either."
-- CNN's The Situation Room, 7pm EDT hour. Following a Suzanne Malveaux story on the Washington Post article, fill-in anchor Heidi Collins at least allowed:
“A quick fact check now on this story: We asked our nation security correspondent David Ensor about the time frame for intelligence information to make it from the field to the White House. He says in almost case, raw data would not arrive on the President's desk within a day or two.”Nonetheless, Jack Cafferty presumed the relevance and accuracy of the story and based his 7pm EDT hour “Cafferty File” on it:
“Heidi, I want to go back to that story Suzanne Malveaux was talking about a couple of minutes ago. As if this administration isn't in enough trouble, along comes this report in Washington Post this morning that President Bush was declaring to the world, quote, 'we have found the weapons of mass destruction,' unquote 50 days after the fall of Baghdad in 2003. But that statement was false and some U.S. intelligence officials knew it was false. A secret fact-finding mission to Iraq had discovered that those much-publicized trailers, touted as biological weapons labs, were nothing of the sort. ABC News has even reported that President Bush knew what he was saying about those trailers was false. Well, needless to say the White House not very happy about any of this. They poo-poohed the Post story and they want ABC News to apologize. What the White House did not do, is answer this question: Did President Bush know what he was saying about the weapons of mass destruction was false. No answer. Here's our question, though: 'Who's to blame for the President's credibility problem, is it the White House or the media?' E-mail us at CaffteryFile@CNN.com.”
-- MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann. His Nixon-reminding tease:
"Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? No hits, it's just the misses that keep on coming. The mobile weapons labs we, quote, 'found,' unquote, in Iraq, the ones the administration kept applauding itself for for months after Baghdad fell. Not only weren't they mobile weapons labs, but the President knew they weren't mobile weapons labs from the very start. How Nixonian is this? We will ask John Dean."Olbermann set up his interviews with Warrick and Dean:
"Good evening from New York. It is one thing to be the emperor in the story of 'The Emperor's New Clothes' before you go to war. It is quite another to be such after war has begun and as the facts scream at you, 'The Emperor Has no Clothes,' to insist that this scream confirms that you are wearing the finest material in the world. Our fifth story on the Countdown, new reports of honesty-challenged conduct at the White House, not with pre-war intel about WMD in Iraq, but with mid-war intel about WMD in Iraq. The purported mobile weapons labs, the ones that Colin Powell cited at the U.N., one of the most vivid arguments supporting U.S. military intervention in Iraq, finally located by allied forces just weeks after Baghdad fell, cited then as proof that there was too WMD in that country. But the Washington Post reports a Pentagon fact-finding mission in the weeks after the invasion had already concluded that these trailers had absolutely nothing to do with biological weapons. They were instead part of Iraq's vast stealth program to produce weather balloons. The three-page Pentagon field survey had made it back to Washington on May 27, 2003, yet President Bush was hailing the capture of those trailers just two days later and again just six days after that."