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Wednesday | June 25, 2003

Analyst pressured to distort WMD data

Expert Said to Tell Legislators He Was Pressed to Distort Some Evidence
By JAMES RISEN and DOUGLAS JEHL


WASHINGTON, June 24 A top State Department expert on chemical and biological weapons told Congressional committees in closed-door hearings last week that he had been pressed to tailor his analysis on Iraq and other matters to conform with the Bush administration's views, several Congressional officials said today

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By speaking out, they said, the senior intelligence expert, identified by several officials as Christian Westermann, became the first member of the intelligence community on active service to make this sort of admission to members of Congress

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In a second hearing last week with the Senate Intelligence Committee, he made it clear that he had felt pressure from John Bolton, the under secretary of state for arms control and international security, that originally dated to a clash the two had over Mr. Bolton's public assertions last year that Cuba had a biological weapons program. Mr. Westermann argued those assertions were not supported by sufficient intelligence.


Is this the tipping point? The central allegations made public concern Cuba, but he has not testified about Iraq in detail to the committee. One can bet his story is going to sound very familiar.

This could be the beginning of trouble for Bush in a way which even our respectful press will latch on to. Here comes another whistleblower, always a media favorite, this time, with names and places of someone who wanted him to alter intelligence for political purposes.

Part of the problem in calling the President a liar is that you need proof. Not just vague suggestions that he may not have been completely honest. Nor do detailed recitations of contradictory statements.Telling someone to lie in such an obvious way is a story.

People forget that despite clear links to the White House, the GOP quashed the Watergate story, threatened Katharine Graham and harassed Woodward and Bernstein. That got them over the hump, but the next year resulted in a series of explosions Nixon could not contain, and then it took 18 months to force him from office.

It wasn't until August, 1974, George Bush and Bob Dole told Nixon that his White House pass was revoked and he had to go. Too many people expect Bush to crumple up, admit he lied and run away. That's not how this works.
Reporters have to tell a simple story, which is the people around Bush will not only lie to remake the world, that they are crazy dangerous, like Mick Foley in a cage match against Triple H. That these folks are bug-eyed crazy and they're getting your kids killed. People tired of Nixon when he acted as if he was above the law and fired Archibald Cox and then Elliot Richardson followed him out the door. That was the tipping point which said Nixon was mad dog crazy and needed to be booted out of the door.

Bush IS in trouble. All this blather about him raising money and Howard Dean being McGovern and the rest of the Dems unable to challenge him is nonsense you would do well to tune out. An Army officer summed it up: Iraq is everything for Bush. And true to his pattern of mismanagement and failure, Iraq is coming up snake eyes. To understand Bush, you need to understand he's a gambler. Oil men usually are. But he's been spared the lessons of failure by rich patrons.

Now, Iraq is turning out like every other Bush venture he's tried to manage, abject failure. This time, there are no patrons to protect him and the people around him see the world through such blinkers they pose a clear and present danger to his presidency.

The American public may not ever figure out the exact lies about WMD, but everyone has had a boss and they usually dislike lying for them. A simple story everyone can figure out. Add on the dead GI's and other consequences, and this could be the kind of trouble all of Karl Rove's wizardry would find impossible to squelch.

Steve Gilliard

Posted June 25, 2003 01:49 AM | Comments (113)





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