Fox's Bush Rehab Tour: Rumsfeld Edition

Fox News has trumpeted former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's assertion that “our intelligence community and the entire community concluded that [Saddam Hussein] had” weapons of mass destruction prior to the Iraq war. In fact, numerous reports indicate that contradictory intelligence was either ignored or politicized by the Bush administration.

Hannity, Fox & Friends Allow Rumsfeld To Claim Bush Admin.'s WMD Statements Were Backed Up By Intelligence Community

Hannity Hosts Rumsfeld For Softball Interview. On the February 8 edition of Fox News' Hannity, Rumsfeld appeared to promote his new book. During the interview, host Sean Hannity asked: “How did we get it wrong on weapons of mass destruction? At one point, when it was clear we didn't have them, you had stated publicly that, yeah, but I know where they are. And you discussed this in the book that you had misspoke. But how did we get it so wrong, number one? Do you think he had them and shipped them out in the lead-up to the war?” Rumsfeld responded:

RUMSFELD: I don't know for sure. We know he had them. We know the United Nations inspectors knew that he had large quantities. And he could not -- would not or could not -- show that he had disposed of them. The assumption therefore was that they still existed.


RUMSFELD: Our intelligence community, the CIA and the entire community, concluded that he had them. So, too, did the intelligence communities of other nations. And it was a perfectly rational, reasonable judgment in my view. Now, as I explained in the book, the CIA had suspect sites where they believed they were located. There -- and that is what I meant when I said we know where those sites are. When I said I know where they are, instead of where those sites are, and that was too bad. There were people who speculated that they were moved to another country. There were speculated -- people who speculated he had actually destroyed some and maintained the people -- Charles Duelfer, the inspector who went in after the war, concluded that he had the capability of rapidly increasing his chemical and biological weapons. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/9/11]

Fox & Friends Supports Rumsfeld's Statement That “Nobody Lied” About Saddam's WMD Capabilities. On the February 9 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy introduced a video clip of Rumsfeld's Hannity interview by saying: “People have been really waiting for this book to see how he addresses the issue of weapons of mass destruction. How did they get it so wrong? And he said, you know, nobody lied. We simply got it wrong.” After playing the clip, Doocy and co-host Brian Kilmeade supported Rumsfeld's statement, saying:

DOOCY: And in the book, he writes that he never lied about weapons of mass destruction. But he did make a few misstatements like in the run-up to the invasion, he said that we know exactly where they are. They're around Tikrit and Baghdad and, of course, in retrospect it sounded good given all the intel that they had but ultimately proved wrong.

KILMEADE: Right, and I think the thing that backs up Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's -- for those who say he lied, all you have to do is say, in his book, he chronicles the fact that he wanted to take out the chemical -- what he thought were chemical plants in the north of Iraq before the war, because he was concerned about our guys in 100-degree weather wearing the chemical suits exposed. Do you try to do that before a war if you lied about weapons of mass destruction?

DOOCY: No kidding. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/9/11]

Doocy Hosts Bush's One-Time Ambassador To Iraq To Back Up Rumsfeld. Later on Fox & Friends, Doocy hosted Ryan Crocker, President Bush's ambassador to Iraq and current dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service, to react to Rumsfeld's interview. After Doocy claimed Rumsfeld had “bad intel” on Iraq's WMD program, Crocker responded:

CROCKER: That's inescapable. I was part of the process at the time as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State. I was working on Iraq. I was not part of the WMD team, but I certainly believed they were there based on the intel I was seeing. I think everyone in the administration did virtually without exception. And, you know, it's another lesson that as you look at these complex contingencies, you do get things wrong even when you're sure you're right. There is a lot of uncertainty in this.

DOOCY: Indeed. The key is complex, because there are a million moving parts to these things. [Fox & Friends, 2/9/11]

In Fact, Reports Show There Were “Substantial Disagreements” In “The Intelligence Community”

Senate Intelligence Committee Report: Administration Statements “Did Not Convey The Substantial Disagreements” In “The Intelligence Community.” In a 2008 report titled, “Whether Public Statements Regarding Iraq By U.S. Government Officials Were Substantiated By Intelligence Information,” the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded, regarding Iraq's nuclear weapons program:

Statements by the President, Vice President, Secretary of State and the National Security Advisor regarding a possible Iraqi nuclear weapons program were generally substantiated by intelligence community estimates, but did not convey the substantial disagreements that existed in the intelligence community.

Prior to the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, some intelligence agencies assessed that the Iraqi government was reconstituting a nuclear weapons program, while others disagreed or expressed doubts about the evidence. The Estimate itself expressed the majority view that the program was being reconstituted, but included clear dissenting views from the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, which argued that reconstitution was not underway, and the Department of Energy, which argued that aluminum tubes sought by Iraq were probably not intended for a nuclear program. [Senate Intelligence Committee, July 2008, emphasis in original]

Senate Intelligence Committee Found Several Other Areas Where The Bush Administration's Statements Were Not Supported By Intelligence. In a June 5, 2008, press release, the Senate Intelligence Committee found (emphasis in original) “several conclusions in which the Administration's public statements were NOT supported by the intelligence.” According to the committee:

  • Statements and implications by the President and Secretary of State suggesting that Iraq and al-Qa'ida had a partnership, or that Iraq had provided al-Qa'ida with weapons training, were not substantiated by the intelligence.
  • Statements by the President and the Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information.
  • Statements by President Bush and Vice President Cheney regarding the postwar situation in Iraq, in terms of the political, security, and economic, did not reflect the concerns and uncertainties expressed in the intelligence products.
  • Statements by the President and Vice President prior to the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iraq's chemical weapons production capability and activities did not reflect the intelligence community's uncertainties as to whether such production was ongoing.
  • The Secretary of Defense's statement that the Iraqi government operated underground WMD facilities that were not vulnerable to conventional airstrikes because they were underground and deeply buried was not substantiated by available intelligence information.
  • The Intelligence Community did not confirm that Muhammad Atta met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in 2001 as the Vice President repeatedly claimed. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 6/5/08]

Center For American Progress Documented Intelligence Input Ignored By Bush Administration. In a January 2004 report, the Center for American Progress issued a “chronology of how the Bush Administration repeatedly and deliberately refused to listen to intelligence agencies that said its case for war was weak.” According to the report, "[A] review of the facts shows the intelligence community repeatedly warned the Bush Administration about the weakness of its case, but was circumvented, overruled, and ignored." [Center for American Progress, 1/28/04]

Salon: “Bush Knew Saddam Had No Weapons Of Mass Destruction.” In a September 6, 2007, Salon article, columnist Sidney Blumenthal reported on information he had received from two former CIA agents. Blumenthal reported:

On April 23, 2006, CBS's “60 Minutes” interviewed Tyler Drumheller, the former CIA chief of clandestine operations for Europe, who disclosed that the agency had received documentary intelligence from Naji Sabri, Saddam's foreign minister, that Saddam did not have WMD. “We continued to validate him the whole way through,” said Drumheller. “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.”

Now two former senior CIA officers have confirmed Drumheller's account to me and provided the background to the story of how the information that might have stopped the invasion of Iraq was twisted in order to justify it. They described what Tenet said to Bush about the lack of WMD, and how Bush responded, and noted that Tenet never shared Sabri's intelligence with then Secretary of State Colin Powell. According to the former officers, the intelligence was also never shared with the senior military planning the invasion, which required U.S. soldiers to receive medical shots against the ill effects of WMD and to wear protective uniforms in the desert.

Instead, said the former officials, the information was distorted in a report written to fit the preconception that Saddam did have WMD programs. That false and restructured report was passed to Richard Dearlove, chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), who briefed Prime Minister Tony Blair on it as validation of the cause for war. [Salon, 9/6/07]