60 Minutes / CBS – 2006-04-23 09:22:24
“The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy.”
— Tyler Drumheller
NEW YORK (April 21, 2006) — A CIA official who had a top role during the run-up to the Iraqi war charges the White House with ignoring intelligence that said there were no weapons of mass destruction or an active nuclear program in Iraq.
The former highest ranking CIA officer in Europe, Tyler Drumheller, also says that while the intelligence community did give the White House some bad intelligence, it also gave the White House good intelligence — which the administration chose to ignore.
Drumheller talks to 60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley in his first television interview this Sunday, April 23 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Drumheller, who retired last year, says the White House ignored crucial information from a high and credible source. The source was Iraq’s foreign minister, Naji Sabri, with whom U.S. spies had made a deal.
When CIA Director George Tenet delivered this news to the president, the vice president and other high ranking officials, they were excited — but not for long.
“[The source] told us that there were no active weapons of mass destruction programs,” says Drumheller. “The [White House] group that was dealing with preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they were no longer interested. And we said ‘Well, what about the intel?’ And they said ‘Well, this isn’t about intel anymore. This is about regime change.’ ”
They didn’t want any additional data from Sabri because, says Drumheller: “The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy.”
The White House declined to respond to this charge, but Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has stated that Sabri was just one source and therefore not reliable.
Drumheller says the administration routinely relied on single sources — when those single sources confirmed what the White House wanted to hear.
“They certainly took information that came from single sources on the yellowcake story and on several other stories with no corroboration at all,” he says. The “yellowcake story” refers to a report the CIA received in late 2001 alleging that Iraq had purchased 500 tons of uranium from Africa, presumably to build a nuclear bomb.
Many in the CIA doubted the uranium report from the beginning, and continued to doubt it, even as White House speechwriters tried to include the report in the president’s speeches.
In a major speech the president was scheduled to give in Cincinnati, the leadership of the CIA intervened directly to remove the uranium report from the speech. But that didn’t stop it from making it into the president’s State of the Union address a short time later.
“As a British report,” says Drumheller. A senior CIA official signed off on the speech only because the uranium reference was attributed to the British.
“It just sticks in my craw every time I hear them say it’s an intelligence failure. … This was a policy failure. … I think, over time, people will look back on this and see this is going to be one of the great, I think, policy mistakes of all time,” Drumheller tells Bradley.
Produced by David Gelber / Joel Bach
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