The Boss Went Too Far

Even the Assministration’s most loyal staffers felt uncomfortable with Chimpy’s wanton declassifacation of the Iraq NIE for political purposes.

President George W. Bush’s 2003 decision to declassify an intelligence report to rebut an Iraq war critic stirred unease even in the White House, an administration official said on Thursday in the perjury trial of a vice presidential aide.

White House communications official Cathie Martin said she was “not comfortable” in July of that year when her boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, told her to use the information to counter charges that the administration had manipulated intelligence to build a case for invading Iraq.

“I wasn’t sure if I could use that point because it was related to the NIE,” Martin said, referring to a classified National Intelligence Estimate report that said     Saddam Hussein had sought to buy uranium from Niger.

Martin was not aware that Bush had already declassified the report by that time.

Bush drew criticism last spring when he admitted he declassified the report and authorized White House officials to leak it to reporters to counter criticism from former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who said the administration ignored his findings that no uranium sale had taken place.

Martin said she was “still not comfortable about the NIE” even as Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, began sharing the information with reporters.

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