Bush's CIA Critic Claim Exposed as Untrue
By Ronald Kessler
WASHINGTON — In a "60 Minutes" interview on April 23, Tyler Drumheller, a former chief of the CIA's Europe division, made a sensational charge.
He claimed that President Bush and his White House ignored intelligence before the invasion of Iraq indicating that Saddam Hussein had no had weapons of mass destruction.
On the CBS-TV show, and in subsequent media interviews that appeared throughout the world, Drumheller said that the White House was excited about the fact that the CIA was getting information straight from Naji Sabri, the then Iraqi foreign minister. But when the White House found out this source was reliably saying that Saddam had no WMD, Bush and his White House weren't interested.
"He [Sabri] told us that they had no active weapons of mass destruction program," Drumheller told correspondent Ed Bradley in a segment called "A Spy Speaks Out."
"So in the fall of 2002, before going to war, we had it on good authority from a source within Saddam's inner circle that he didn't have an active program for weapons of mass destruction?" Bradley asked.
"Yes," Drumheller said, proclaiming himself outraged.
According to Drumheller, Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice brushed aside the CIA report on what Sabri had to say because "the policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming, and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy, to justify the policy."
Drumheller saw "how the Bush administration time and time again welcomed intelligence that fit the president's determination to go to war and turned a blind eye to intelligence that did not," Ed Bradley said in the introduction to the "60 Minutes" piece.
Now it appears Drumheller's claim was untrue, according to the findings of a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence investigation. Rather than undercutting the Bush administration's rationale for invading Iraq, Sabri's account shows how well-founded the intelligence on Saddam's weapons program appeared to be.
Ironically, just as Drumheller claimed that Bush ignored the truth about Iraq, the media have ignored the documentation in the Senate report demolishing Drumheller's claim.
An addenda to the Senate report on postwar findings about Iraq's WMD program says all the operational documents relating to Sabri indicate he told the CIA just the opposite of what Drumheller claimed. The Senate report refers to Sabri as a source with direct access to Saddam Hussein and his inner circle but does not name him.
"Both the operations cable and the intelligence report prepared for high-level policy-makers [based on interrogation of the source] said that while Saddam Hussein did not have a nuclear weapon, ‘he was aggressively and covertly developing such a weapon,'" the Senate report said.
The documents said "Iraq was producing and stockpiling chemical weapons," according to the addendum, signed by Sens. Pat Roberts, R–Kan., Orrin G. Hatch, R–Utah, and Saxby Chambliss, R–Ga. Iraq's weapon of last resort was mobile launched chemical weapons, which would be fired at enemy forces and Israel, the CIA documents said.
Moreover, there is "not a single document relating to this case which indicates that the source said Iraq had no WMD programs," the addenda said. "On the contrary, all of the information about this case so far indicates that the information from this source was that Iraq did have WMD programs."
What the source said was consistent with the CIA's October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, the report said. The report added: "The committee is still exploring why the former chief/EUR's public remarks differ so markedly from the documentation."
At least 134 stories and TV shows have referred to Drumheller's claims and his criticism of the CIA and Bush administration in general. One of the stories ran as the second lead of the June 25, 2006 Washington Post.
"Warnings on WMD ‘Fabricator' Were Ignored, Ex-CIA Aide Says," the headline over the Post story said. According to the story, Drumheller was dumbfounded when he saw a classified version of the speech Secretary of State Colin Powell was about to give to the United Nations citing Iraq's biological weapons factories on wheels.
Drumheller claimed he had warned George Tenet, the director of Central Intelligence, in a phone call, and John McLaughlin, the deputy director, in a personal meeting that the source for that claim, code-named "Curveball," was a fabricator.
Not until the 32nd paragraph of the Post story did the reader learn that both Tenet and McLaughlin said they had no recollection of warnings Drumheller allegedly gave them. Both men said they would have taken immediate action if he had.
While two former CIA officials said they recalled Drumheller telling them at the time about warnings he allegedly gave McLaughlin, no meeting with Drumheller appeared on McLaughlin's official calendar, according to the report of the Commission on Intelligence Capabilities of the U.S. Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, known as the Silverman-Robb commission.
Carroll & Graf is publishing Drumheller's book, "On the Brink: How the White House Has Compromised American Intelligence," written with Elaine Monaghan, on Sept. 28, according to the Amazon listing. The publisher's Web site lists the publication date as this winter.
Neither Drumheller nor a Carroll & Graf spokesperson responded to messages seeking comment.
So far, no media outlet has run the Senate committee's addendum demolishing Drumheller's claim that Bush and his White House did not want to hear the truth about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.