November 10, 2005
For Immediate Release: Contacts: Jeff Lieberson 202-225- 6335 - ( 202-225-0817 (cell))
Congressman Says American Public Deserves To Know How Infamous 16 Words About Iraq Seeking Uranium From Africa, Now Proven False, Made It Into Final Draft Of Speech; Measure Would Force Administration To Give Congress All Documents Related To 2003 State of the Union & October 2002 Speech That Didn't Include Such Claims Because CIA Said They Were Unsubstantiated
Washington, DC -- In an effort to find out how the now infamous 16 words about Iraq seeking uranium from Africa, which turned out to be false, made it into President Bush's 2003 State of the Union address, Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) today introduced a House resolution that would require the White House to present Congress with all drafts and documents related to the crafting of that speech. Hinchey's measure would also require the White House to deliver to Congress all drafts and related documents surrounding an October 2002 speech that the president made in which he discussed a possible mushroom cloud from an Iraqi nuclear weapon, but did not mention an effort by Iraq to obtain uranium from Africa after the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) said such claims were unproven. Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), Ranking Member on the House Committee on Government Reform, and Congressman John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member on the House Judiciary Committee, are original cosponsors of Hinchey's resolution.
"With the Administration's uranium claims at the heart of the ongoing CIA leak investigation, it's imperative that we find out exactly how a false claim about Iraq seeking uranium from Africa for nuclear weapons made its way into the final version of President Bush's 2003 State of the Union address," Hinchey said. "Of particular interest is how and why the uranium claim made it into the State of the Union Address, when just three months earlier the CIA removed a similar uranium reference because the intelligence supporting such a claim was 'weak.' The Congress and the American people deserve to see every draft, every e-mail, and every memo that details the evolution of both the State of the Union Address and the October 2002 speech that omitted the uranium reference. Since the White House refuses to be up front and honest about how the false uranium claim made it into President Bush's 2003 State of the Union address, it is up to the Congress to take every piece of information that went into the crafting of that speech and put together the puzzle to determine what went wrong."
In his 2003 State of the Union address President Bush said, "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." It has been reported that the original draft of the State of the Union address stated that, "we know that [Hussein] has recently sought to buy uranium in Africa," but after the White House consulted with the CIA, the speech was changed to refer to the British view rather than the American view.
In response to the uproar over an op-ed article disputing the uranium claims that was written by Ambassador Joseph Wilson, whose wife, Valerie Wilson, had her identity as an undercover CIA operative revealed to the press by members of the Bush Administration, then-CIA Director George Tenet issued a statement in which he took responsibility for the false uranium claim in the State of the Union address. Tenet did admit that CIA officials who reviewed the draft of the State of the Union Address containing the remarks on the supposed Niger-Iraqi uranium deal "raised several concerns about the fragmentary nature of the intelligence with [White House] National Security Council colleagues" and "[s]ome of the language was changed."
On October 7, 2002, prior to the 2003 State of the Union Address, President Bush delivered a speech in which he made reference to Iraq using nuclear weapons and urged action against Iraq, saying that the United States, "cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud," a reference to the potential for Iraq to use a nuclear weapon. The president stopped short of saying Iraq had recently sought uranium from Africa for a nuclear weapon. According to the Senate Intelligence report, the uranium references remained in the speech until at least its seventh draft when the National Security Council removed it at the CIA's behest.
"We need to find out why the CIA took out the uranium reference in President Bush's October 2002 speech, but apparently allowed that claim to remain in the State of the Union address just a few months later," Hinchey said. "In January 2003, United Nations weapons inspectors still had not found evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program and there was some talk in Congress about withdrawing the war resolution passed months earlier in order to give inspectors more time. It seems clear to me that the uranium claim was used to cement congressional approval for a war with Iraq by essentially scaring the American people into believing Iraq posed an imminent danger. We need to see all the drafts and documents related to the State of the Union address to get to the bottom of this once and for all."
The Hinchey measure to acquire the documents surrounding the State of the Union address and the October 2002 speech is considered a resolution of inquiry, which is a type of bill that seeks factual information from the executive branch. If the measure is adopted, the White House would have 14 days to present Congress with all of the requested documents.
Daniel J. Ahouse
Congressman Maurice Hinchey
291 Wall Street
Kingston, NY 12401