Bush Caught on Tape Lying about 2003 SOTU ’16 Words’ – Media Yawns

Pres. Bush with then-U.N. chief Kofi Annan addressing reporters in the Oval Office on July 14, 2003.

Prevaricator-in-Chief: The media is ignoring the revelation yesterday that it was Vice Pres. Cheney who knowingly inserted a false statement about Iraq’s nuclear program into the 2003 State of the Union speech.

They are also apparently uninterested in reporting that both Pres. Bush and his spokesman Scott McClellan lied on the record in July 2003 about how the infamous 16-word statement — “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” — came to be included in the speech.

As everyone knows now the original leaker of the name of secret agent Valerie Plame was Richard Armitage, who in 2003 was deputy secretary of state serving under Sec. of State Colin Powell.

“When [the CIA] looked at the speech, it was cleared. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have put [the 16 words] in the speech. I’m not interested in talking about intelligence unless it’s cleared by the CIA. And as Director Tenet said, it was cleared by the CIA.
— Pres. George W. Bush, July 2003

Yesterday, in the perjury trial of Scooter Libby in the CIA leak scandal, the audiotape was played of Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s June 2003 interview with Armitage in which Armitage revealed Plame’s identity.

What has largely been overlooked — except, of course, by Keith Olbermann on MSNBC’s Countdown — is that the tape also revealed that around that same time Pres. Bush and his spokesman Scott McClellan both lied outright to the public about how a false statement about Iraq’s nuclear capabilities made it into Pres. Bush’s 2003 State of the Union speech.

Here’s what Armitage told Woodward about how the 16 word lie was inserted into the speech:

WOODWARD: What’s [George. H.W. Bush National Security Adviser Brent] Scowcroft up to?

ARMITAGE: [expletive deleted] Scowcroft is looking into the yellowcake thing.

W: Oh yeah?

A: As the PFIAB [President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board].

W: Yeah. What happened there?

A: They’re back together. [coughs] They knew with yellowcake, the CIA is not going to be hurt by this one …

W: I know, that’s …

A: … [Bush security officials Stephen] Hadley and Bob Joseph know. It’s documented. We’ve got our documents on it. We’re clean as a whistle. And George [Tenet, then-CIA Director] personally got it out of the Cincinnati speech of the president.

W: Oh, he did? …

W: It was taken out?

A: Taken out. George said you can’t do this.

W: How come it wasn’t taken out of the State of the Union then?

A: Because I think it was overruled by the [Vice Pres. Cheney] types down at the White House. [Then-National Security Adviser] Condi [Rice] doesn’t like being in the hot spot.

(Armitage’s mention of Valerie Wilson comes a minute or so later in the transcript.)

A month after the conversation between Woodward and Armitage, on July 14, 2003, Pres. Bush compounded the SOTU uranium lie in a brief Q&A with reporters:

Q Mr. President, back on the question of Iraq, and that specific [16 word] line that has been in question —

THE PRESIDENT: Can you cite the line? (Laughter.)

Q I could, if you gave me some time.

THE PRESIDENT: When I gave the speech, the line was relevant.

Q So even though there has been some question about the intelligence — the intelligence community knowing beforehand that perhaps it wasn’t, you still believe that when you gave it —

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the speech that I gave was cleared by the CIA. And, look, the thing that’s important to realize is that we’re constantly gathering data. Subsequent to the speech, the CIA had some doubts. But when I gave the — when they talked about the speech and when they looked at the speech, it was cleared. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have put it in the speech. I’m not interested in talking about intelligence unless it’s cleared by the CIA. And as Director Tenet said, it was cleared by the CIA.

We now know that the president was lying when he said the 16 word statement was cleared by the CIA. According to Armitage, CIA Director George Tenet had the reference removed from a speech the president gave in Cincinnati in October 2002, and tried to have it removed from the 2003 SOTU in January — but Vice Pres. Cheney over-ruled him and had the false statement reinserted into the text of the State of the Union speech.

The next day, July 15, 2003. which happened to be Scott McClellan’s first briefing as White House press secretary, McClellan lent the full force of his newly minted credibility to Bush’s false statement:

If the CIA had said take it out, we would have taken it out.
— Scott McClellan

Q Scott, on this Iraq-Niger situation, why is it that the President made the comment yesterday that doubts were only raised about the underlying intelligence behind that statement after the State of the Union address, when other administration officials and other evidence suggests that’s not true?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, when it came to our attention, when it came to the President’s attention was when the IAEA came out in March [2003] with the report showing that those documents relating to Niger were forged. And that was only one part of the overall piece of information that was cited.

[This is false, of course, the statement was removed from the president’s speech in Cincinatti the previous year. The text of the speech can be found on the White House website on a page ironically titled, “Iraq: Denial and Deception.” – Ed.]

Q But doubts were raised clear back to the previous —

MR. McCLELLAN: But go back to the NIE, and in the NIE it stated that Iraq was trying to seek uranium from Africa. And I think that we have addressed this issue. We have made it clear that that statement should not have been in the speech, and if the CIA had said, take it out, we would have taken it out.

But let’s put this in perspective. This issue here relates to the threat that Saddam Hussein and his regime posed to the region, to his people and to the world. And the statement in the State of the Union was one piece of one part of a much larger body of evidence that —

Q Right, but that’s not — the question I’m dealing with has to do with —

MR. McCLELLAN: — related to the regime’s weapons of mass destruction and the threat that the regime posed; not only that it had weapons, but it has past history.

Q I’ll ask a question about that in just a second. The point is, the President said doubts were only raised after the State of the Union address — and that’s not accurate. Why did he say that?

MR. McCLELLAN: And it was laid out previously. I think we’ve addressed this. We’ve addressed this over the last couple of days, about the timing of when we found out that those — that the documents were forged.

On July 11, 2003, a few days before these statements were made, then-CIA Director George Tenet had released a statement about how the 16 words made it into the State of the Union speech that we now must judge to be false too:

Portions of the State of the Union speech draft came to the CIA for comment shortly before the speech was given. Various parts were shared with cognizant elements of the Agency for review. Although the documents related to the alleged Niger-Iraqi uranium deal had not yet been determined to be forgeries, officials who were reviewing the draft remarks on uranium raised several concerns about the fragmentary nature of the intelligence with National Security Council colleagues. Some of the language was changed. From what we know now, Agency officials in the end concurred that the text in the speech was factually correct – i.e. that the British government report said that Iraq sought uranium from Africa. This should not have been the test for clearing a Presidential address. This did not rise to the level of certainty which should be required for Presidential speeches, and CIA should have ensured that it was removed.

Within months, Tenet resigned from his post and threatened to write a book about his tenure. Pres. Bush awarded him a Medal of Freedom and apparently somehow elicited a promise to put the book on hold.


The Case Against Cheney

Update: This new section is intended to clarify Cheney’s role in putting the Niger statement into the 2003 State of the Union speech.

While Armitage is a gossip and a loose cannon, his statement to Woodward that Tenet took the Niger statement out of the SOTU is probably not false. No one disputes the fact that Tenet took the Niger statement out of Bush’s Oct. 2002 speech in Cincinnati, which makes it extremely likely he took the same false information out of the SOTU less than three months later.

If Tenet took it out, somebody rescinded his order and put the statement back in. My source for Cheney being the “somebody” is MSNBC reporter David Shuster on Keith Olbermann’s “Countdown” show Monday night:


RICHARD ARMITAGE, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: And George personally got it out of the Cincinnati speech of the president.


ARMITAGE: Oh, yes.

WOODWARD: Oh, really? It was taken out (INAUDIBLE)?

ARMITAGE: Taken out. George said, You can‘t do this.

WOODWARD: How come it wasn‘t out of the State of the Union then?

ARMITAGE: Because I think it was overruled by the types down at the White House. Condi doesn‘t like being in the hot spot.


SHUSTER: The implication is that Condoleezza Rice, who was then the national security adviser at the time and responsible for voicing Tenet‘s concerns to the president, didn‘t like being in the hot spot, as Armitage said, of having to stand up to Vice President Cheney and others who were pushing the uranium claim in the State of the Union.

And again, Keith, the point is that there just shows the power of the vice president as far as overruling other administration officials regarding prewar intelligence, not only before the war, but after the war had begun.

There‘s already been testimony in this case about how Vice President Cheney decided himself to declassify some information to undercut Joe Wilson, and in the process of getting approval from President Bush and getting Scooter Libby to leak the information to Judy Miller, the secretary of state—I‘m sorry, the now—the former—the secretary of state, who was then the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, her deputy and even the CIA director were kept completely out of loop as far as this declassification was concerned.

But even without Shuster’s reporting, the case against Cheney is there. The pool of suspects who could reverse the CIA director and re-insert the Niger statement was small: Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld and Rice.

Rumsfeld and Cheney were a lock-step, like-minded two headed beast, so Rumsfeld’s possible involvement is irrelevant since the ultimate decision to over-rule Tenet would have been enacted by Cheney.

In his taped conversation with Woodward, Armitage explicitly excluded Rice and, by implication, his boss, Powell. (The State Dept. is “clean.”) That leaves Cheney and Bush.

I suppose it is possible Bush decided all by himself to put the statement back in, but even so, it appears to me that either Armitage lied to Woodward — or Bush and Scotty lied to the cameras.


It is disheartening to know that Pres. Bush and his gang will never be held accountable for lying to the American public about something as serious as going to war.

It is equally disheartening that the same traditional media who covered Pres. Clinton’s sex lie so hyper-intensively is completely ignoring another instance of Pres. Bush lying to the country about why he took the country to war with Iraq.


  • DumbBush
    February 17, 2007 - 7:49 pm | Permalink

    We all know Bush lied. How come the media doesn’t question him about his comments 3 weeks after 9/11 about seeing the first plane hit the WTC? He said he saw it on a TV in a classroom. The video of the first plane didn’t air till 9/12?????? Get to the root of 9/11 and all the rest is will follow.

  • DumbBush
    February 17, 2007 - 8:00 pm | Permalink
  • jim
    February 18, 2007 - 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Maybe you should check what CIA Director Tenet said in his statement at the time — virtually the exact same thing Bush and McClellan said, that the CIA should have stopped it from being included but they did not.

    You are an liar for spreading this false assertion.

  • Gorge Bush
    February 20, 2007 - 2:02 am | Permalink

    ALL of these so called “humans” are such extreme liars,and have no consciousness or morals/ethics ,it is so obvious to actual real thinking/feeling people.Karma never ever forgets,so I wish them good luck with being Super A-holes,they already have stamped tickets to their destination , a reality beyond their imaginations.

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