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WASHINGTON — An objection raised about a uranium
charge in a secret high-level report on Iraq’s alleged
weapons of mass destruction was more than a
“footnote,” as described by the White House, officials
say.

In a National Intelligence Estimate published last
October, the intelligence arm of the State Department
called “highly dubious” allegations that Iraq was
shopping for uranium in Africa. The dissenting view
was presented in the main body of the report, not
buried in a footnote, sources say.

President Bush repeated the apparently unfounded
uranium allegations in his State of the Union speech
in January.

The doubts lodged by State’s Bureau of Intelligence
and Research, known as INR, have since been validated.
It turns out the intelligence was based at least in
part on forged documents.

The White House now concedes it was a mistake to
include the charge in the president’s speech, though
it argues it also relied on other intelligence from
undisclosed foreign sources.

Democrats argue the administration engaged in a
pattern of “hyping” evidence to support starting a war
in Iraq. They cite examples of intelligence used in
other prewar speeches that also have proved
half-baked.

But National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said
the president’s use of the uranium allegation was
ultimately cleared by the CIA after some changes in
wording. And she described State’s objection to the
allegation as only a “footnote” in the back of the
90-page report.

CIA Director George Tenet did not call it a footnote,
however, in a carefully worded statement he released
Friday as the scandal heated up.

“We stand fully behind DCI’s [director of central
intelligence] statement,” CIA spokeswoman Michele Neff
told WorldNetDaily. “If he doesn’t refer to it as a
footnote, then it’s not a footnote.”

State declined comment. “We don’t have anything beyond
what’s already been said by White House officials,”
said State spokeswoman Nancy Beck.

According to Tenet, INR’s objection in the
still-classified report states: “Finally, the claims
of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are, in
INR’s assessment, highly dubious.”

A former intelligence official who helped prepare
numerous NIE reports last decade says the statement
does not resemble a footnote.

“That sounds like it was in the body of the report,”
said FBI counterintelligence veteran I.C. Smith, who
sat on the National Foreign Intelligence Board, or
NFIB.

“Footnotes are short and concise,” he said. “If it
were a footnote, it would have said something like,
‘State does not concur with this finding.’”

Smith points out that though dissension is not rare at
NFIB meetings, held at CIA headquarters, it’s unusual
for that dissension to get in NIE reports, which
usually reflect the consensus of the intelligence
community. The meetings are also attended by the heads
of the Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security
Agency and National Reconnaissance Office.

“The fact that the objection got in there is rare,”
Smith said. “State must have had a real strong reason.
And they would have had to all vote to put it in
there.”

The multi-agency National Intelligence Council, which
is located at Langley, writes the reports, which are
typically sent by courier to the West Wing.

The White House reportedly faults the CIA for
including the sketchy uranium intelligence in the Iraq
weapons dossier at all, even as it stands by it.

Tenet argues it never made it in the “Key Judgments”
section of the NEI report, and appeared only in the
“Discussion” section that follows.

It’s not clear what part, if any, Rice read. She
maintains that both she and Bush were “unaware” of
concerns raised by the CIA when it vetted the uranium
line in the State of the Union drafts sent to Langley.

However, Tenet says some of his analysts “raised
several concerns about the fragmentary nature of the
intelligence” with Rice’s office, warning her staff
against using it in the speech. What’s more, Tenet
just three months earlier reportedly called Rice’s
deputy to yank the line from the president’s speech in
Cincinnati.

It’s still unclear why the unfounded charge was
included in the more key State of the Union speech.

The Republican leadership in Congress refuses to hold
public hearings on the matter.

Related offer:

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Pentagon miscounted MPs, translators needed for occupation

Marine general slams ‘Chicken Little’ news

Marine general admits Iraq intelligence flawed

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Shortage of Arabic translators called ‘desperate’

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