WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 - A high-level intelligence assessment by the Bush administration concluded in early 2002 that the sale of uranium from Niger to Iraq was "unlikely" because of a host of economic, diplomatic and logistical obstacles, according to a secret memo that was recently declassified by the State Department.
Among other problems that made such a sale improbable, the assessment by the State Department's intelligence analysts concluded, was that it would have required Niger to send "25 hard-to-conceal 10-ton tractor-trailers" filled with uranium across 1,000 miles and at least one international border.
Yeah, that would probably be a dead giveaway. Even the CIA couldn’t miss a thing like that.
The analysts' doubts were registered nearly a year before President Bush, in what became known as the infamous "16 words" in his 2003 State of the Union address, said that Saddam Hussein had sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
Hmm. Who was the State Department's guy in charge of arms control at the time? Hey, it was John Bolton, wasn't it? You wonder how Bolton could have gone a whole year without telling anyone at the White House about those analysts' doubts. Maybe it slipped his mind. Or maybe those analysts never told him about it.
And I think most of us still remember about this:
In early 2002, the Central Intelligence Agency sent the former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV to Niger to investigate possible attempts to sell uranium to Iraq. The next year, after Mr. Wilson became a vocal critic of the Bush administration's Iraqi intelligence, the identity of his wife, Valerie Wilson, a C.I.A. officer who suggested him for the Niger trip, was made public. The investigation into the leak led to criminal charges in October against Mr. Libby, who is accused of misleading investigators and a grand jury.
According to Lichtblau, General Carlton W. Fulford Jr., a four-star, also went to Niger to investigate the uranium purchase claims. He too had doubts that a sale was likely to occur. But, Lichtblau says, the State Department memo contained the most comprehensive argument that the uranium sale intelligence was false.
Who read it?
The memo, dated March 4, 2002, was distributed at senior levels by the office of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and by the Defense Intelligence Agency.
A Bush administration official, who requested anonymity because the issue involved partly classified documents, would not say whether President Bush had seen the State Department's memo before his State of the Union address on Jan. 28, 2003.
It seems as though everybody knew the uranium sale intelligence was bogus except Mr. Bush.
How could that have happened?