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September, 2003

Michael Lewis

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Michael Lewis

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Bulletproof Coverup?

At a recent press conference broadcast by Minnesota Public Radio, the following exchange occurred:

Lytle: You said about a year ago that there was bulletproof evidence that Saddam -- of links between Saddam Hussein and the September 11th attacks. When will the American public see that sort of evidence?
Rumsfeld: I did not say that.
Lytle: Okay. (Scattered laughter.) September --
Rumsfeld: And whoever said I said it is wrong. (Scattered laughter.) And if they're here and want to show me the citation, I'd be glad to see it.
Lytle: Moving on, your -- (Laughter.) -- your comments recently about President Bush's critics have been seen as chilling debate. Can't dissent and debate be patriotic?

Upon hearing the foregoing exchange, I immediately summoned up the forces of the Internet and Google-searched a likely collection of keywords. The first hit was the following:

which included Rumsfeld describing the evidence regarding links between Iraq and al Qaeda as "bulletproof."

Another hit in the same search was the following:

Rumsfeld: There's one other thing I forgot to do, and that is to go to New York Times editorial comment, which said something about me using the word "bulletproof." And it's true, I did. What happened was, as I recall, I think I was here on probably the 26th of September, I think I was told, and in a press briefing I was asked about the linkage between al Qaeda and Iraq. And I took a piece of paper -- this one, as fate would have it -- which I had gotten from the Central Intelligence Agency -- and asked them -- which I'd asked them for -- and I believe I said that, that a number of us had said, "Give us the definitive word." And so I read off of it and said it was from the intelligence agency, I believe. Then I was down the next day, I think, in Atlanta, and I was asked about this subject, and I said that the agency had come back to me with five or six sentences that were bulletproof. And it was the -- when I said the -- something was bulletproof, I was referring to the five or six sentences that I had read here off of a piece of paper which I'd received from the agency.

What we've done in the department has been to be very careful about, oh, having John McLaughlin, for example, or George Tenet do the briefing in Warsaw or do the briefings when people come into the building so that everyone is aware what the agreed community position is on intelligence. And I think it was The New York Times had an editorial that was querying about the word "bulletproof," and that's the -- that is what it had reference to.

So he admits using the word, great. But there's more. At we find this scintillating exchange:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you about links to Al Qaeda. Do you still believe the intelligence that showed Iraq's links to Al Qaeda is bulletproof?
RUMSFELD: I think that the information we had, over a period of time, that I cited, that the intelligence community gave to me, and I read as opposed to ad-libbing, was correct. It was carefully stated. One argument was that Iraq was secular and Al Qaeda was religiously motivated and therefore they wouldn't link. I mean, the facts are we've seen accommodations take place in the world where people who don't agree end up cooperating because they have a common enemy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But several Al Qaeda operatives who were in custody have said that Osama bin Laden rejected any alliance with Saddam Hussein.
RUMSFELD: And there is intelligence information that suggested there were interactions between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and those are the ones that I cited that the intelligence community provided to me to be cited publicly.
STEPHANOPOULOS: There are two former intelligence officials quoted in the Associated Press today saying there was no significant pattern of cooperation that were working in the intelligence community at the time of this administration, and a U.N. committee has also said they have found no evidence. Do you dismiss their doubts?
RUMSFELD: I don't dismiss them. How did you phrase that they said there was no what? No significant --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- there was no significant pattern of cooperation.
RUMSFELD: Well, that may be, but there were pieces of indications of cooperation. I don't know what significant pattern -- I'm not going to say that they are incorrect nor can anyone say what I said is incorrect, which was provided by the Central Intelligence Agency.
Note that Rumsfeld wasn't objecting to the word "bulletproof" by George Stephanopoulos. But go back to the transcript on September 26, 2002 (now after Rumsfeld claimed to have never said it and you find the following:
Q: Mr. Secretary, on that topic, a related question is how they move around their chemical and biological weapons. And I wonder, given all this evidence that you've talked about today and the connection with al Qaeda and so on, and their ability to hide these things, is the time past when inspections by the U.N. would be of any use?
Rumsfeld: I guess that's a judgment that the folks negotiating up in New York will have to come to a conclusion on.
Yes? Well, but -- two questions. (Inaudible.)
Q: Going back to Tom's question on preemption, this building is now in the process of working a national military strategy. And I'm wondering how that concept fits in --

Inaudible? Just like Rosemary Woods and Nixon's seventeen minutes of audiotape. But what was left in plain sight was even more damning. In the same September 26, 2002 transcript, Rumsfeld says:

We know they have weapons of mass destruction. We know they have active programs. There isn't any debate about it. So -- so the idea that if you had an appropriate inspection regime, that they'd come back and say you were wrong is -- is so far beyond anyone's imagination that it's not something I think about. If you have an appropriate inspection regime, they're going to find weapons of mass destruction, or else they're going to get thrown out, or else they're going to be denied access and they're going to leave themselves, because they're there.

Remember those words when David Kay's Iraq Survey Group tries to flood the zone with paper about "weapons programs." Show me the WMDs or acknowledge that you didn't "know" anything at all.


Michael Lewis
D-Zine Editor/Ward 3 DFL Chair
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