A detailed review of questionable evidence and faulty intelligence used the plan, market, and defend the U.S. invasion of Iraq
David Corn, Washington editor of "The Nation" and a Fox News Channel contributor. He’s the author of the bestselling "The Lies of George W. Bush," the novel "Deep Background," and the biography "Blond Ghost."
Michael Isikoff, investigative correspondent for "Newsweek," a frequent guest on MSNBC and other cable news networks, and the author of the bestselling "Uncovering Clinton."
Diane Rehm: ...How did you two guys team up?
David Corn: Well, we share an agent, Gail Ross, who had a lot to do with this project. Last fall, when it looked like there were going to be indictments in the leak case [Valerie Plame Wilson], we both started getting offers from publishers about doing books on the case because we'd reported on it previously. Gail was getting offers from different places and thought that instead of competing against each other -- we've been friends for years -- it might be worthwhile to join forced. As we did that, we ended up putting together a project that really wasn't about the leak case per se. It ended up being a narrative -- an insight, a behind the scenes narrative -- about everything that went into the selling of the war. All the intelligence battles Because it seemed that the leak case evolved out of that. At least that's my recollection.
Michael Isikoff: That's essentially the case.
DR: There are questions about the two of you with what are perceived as perhaps ideological differences...
MI: I've never thought of myself as ideological one way or the other. Certain a lot of the reporting I did during the Clinton years was embraced by some people and criticized by others. But that's been the case throughout my reporting career. In this case, although David writes for the Nation, which is obviously a liberal publication ... this book is reporter-driven. It's what I do. It's what I've always done. It's not an ideological polemic in any way, shape, or form.
DR: However, it is quite critical of the Administration. Would you agree?
MI: Sure! And we've unearthed a lot of new details about how the Administration came to embrace the idea of invading Iraq. And then sold it to the Congress and to the public. I think it makes the case in a rather compelling way that faulty... false... fraudulent intelligence -- intelligence that should have been known to have been false had people looked and listened -- was aggressively marketed.
DR: ...I want to ask you both first about yesterday's speech that the President made. The Washington Post called it "the White House's third effort in the past year to reshape the Iraq debate with new rhetoric." Do you see that as accurate?
DC: I think what they're trying to emphasize, obviously, is the "war on terrorism" rather than the war in Iraq. You don't have to be a rocket scientist or a pollster to know that the American public is truly soured on the war in Iraq. I've said on this show previously that I think largely that's because it was mis-sold and the President and his advisors and other backers of the war made it seem as though the war was going to be much different than what actually occurred. So now the emphasis, as we enter into the Congressional [elections] season is obviously on the "war on terror." Mike's done a lot of reporting on that. In that area, too, our book points out that there are credibility issues at stake. In fact, we tell the story that Mike first wrote about in Newsweek, about a captured Al Qaeda commander named Sheikh al Libi who gave bad intelligence under torture and it was used in Powell's speech at the UN to make the case that there was a sinister nexus between Al Qaeda and Iraq. It was wrong. Mike can go into great detail about that!
MI: Sure. In fact, it's rather conspicuous that when the President mention the high value of Al Qaeda detainees who had been transferred to Guantanamo yesterday, one who was not mentioned -- and is sort of erased now from Administration vocaulary -- is Ibn Sheikh al Libi who was the first big Al Qaeda commander captured during the war in Afghanistan, during the invasion. It was his intelligence that was prominently cited -- first actually by President Bush in his Cincinnati speech on the eve of the Congressional vote on Iraq and then later, even more conspicuously, by Secretary Powell in a speech at the United Nations. Powell talked about "now we know because a high-value Al Qaeda detainee has told us his story." Well, that story and that Al Qaeda commander, Ibn Sheikh al Libi, was transferred to Egyptian custody, taken from the FBI over vigorous FBI protests by the CIA. There was a huge fight over this Al Qaeda commander. He was aggressively interrogated...
DR: When you say "aggressively," you report that there was actually a mock burial.
MI: That one FBI official was told that was one of the techniques used on al Libi.
DR: What is a mock burial?
MI: You put somebody in a hole in the ground and you fill it up with dirt, making the detainee believe he's being buried alive.
DR: And that detainee then said what?
MI: That detainee then told a story about how Al Qaeda had dispatched two operatives to Iraq for training in chemical and biological weapons. That particular piece of intelligence... there's a whole riff in Secretary Powell's speech where he goes on and talks about this. This was provided by the CIA based on the reports of al Libi. Well, after the war, after this intelligence was used to prove the case of the sinister nexus...
DC: ... This was the core evidence that the Secretary of State presented at the UN, to show that Al Qaeda and Iraq were in cahoots. This was it! Then afterwards...
MI: ...Then afterwards, after the invasion, Ibn Sheikh al Libi recants the whole story. He's transferred back into -- he was in Egyptian custody -- he's transferred back to CIA custody. The CIA withdraws all of its reporting.
DC: "Forget about it, never mind! We don't stand by it anymore!"
DC: And the thing was, when he was first told by the FBI and interrogated quite vigorously, he never talked about this. It was only when he was transferred to Egypt where they use interrogation methods beyond American control... perhaps... that he came up with this story.
DR: Did you talk directly with Secretary of State Colin Powell?
MI: Secretary Powell is quoted in the book. In fact, it's his first public comments about that UN speech.
DR: Did he make these comments to you directly?
MI: Yes, he did.
DR: And what did he say?
MI: He expressed quite a good deal of frustration about the attention that his UN speech has gotten. First of all, he made the point that "I was Secretary of State. I was not Director of Central Intelligence. I said what they told me was true. I questioned them. I questioned George Tenet vigorously about the intelligence that I was citing in that speech" He was particularly upset with the story about "Curveball" which is another fiasco in the run-up to the war. "Curveball," of course, was the Iraqi exile who tells German intelligence that there is a fleet of mobile biological weapons labs. Secretary Powell in his speech held up drawings -- elaborate drawings -- of what these mobile weapons labs looked like. Based on the story of "Curveball" -- "Curveball was a detainee whom the US intelligence had never questioned, had never been allowed to vet his story.
DC: It's even worse, because there are people within the CIA up to the night before the speech who are raising questions about "Curveball" and his information. They said, "This isn't checking out. We have to do something about this." They were constantly pushed aside by others in the CIA who wanted to use this information.
MI: In my talk with Secretary Powell, he was particularly adamant about the "Curveball" case. "I asked them. They assured me" ( "They" being George Tenet and senior CIA people.). "This was a corroborated story. There were multiple sources for it. I had no idea it all led back to one guy." This guy being "Curveball." Of course all the reporting on "Curveball" was withdrawn and retracted after...
DR: First email is for you, David Corn. Lee writes from Bloomington, Indiana, who wants to ask David about this morning's editorial by David Broder in today's Washington Post, who says, "Karl Rove should be issued an apology for the scurrilous claims that he outed Valerie Plame. I believe your book doesn't say that. Am I correct?"
DC: There's no apology -- that's for sure! Let me first take issue with David Broder for not having mentioned our book! In the past two weeks, we've had two major news hits from the book. One was that Richard Armitage was the first source for Bob Novak in the column that outed Valerie Plame. It's on public record that Karl Rove confirmed that information for Bob Novak. And the other big news hit we had -- which came out a few days earlier -- was that Valerie Plame Wilson was no paper pusher at the CIA. She actually was Chief of Operations for the Joint Task for on Iraq. It's part of the Counter-proliferation Division which is part of the super-secret Operations Directorate. So she was actually in charge of overseeing and running operations for two years prior to the invasion that were designed to find evidence of Iraq's WMD's. She was actually a public servant who was paid to try to find the evidence to back up the justification for the war that the President and Vice-President and others were presented. So there is a pretty big touch of irony here. But on the Karl Rove thing, our book gets into this. There's a point that David Broder and many others seem to miss. Which is while he was only -- one can say only -- a confirming source for Bob Novak, before the Novak-leak column came out Karl himself had indeed leaked the same information to Matt Cooper of Time magazine. Mike Isikoff here revealed the email of July 2005 that proved the point beyond the shadow of a doubt. Our book gets into the fact that while Armitage -- yes -- talked to Novak about what Valerie Wilson did at the CIA, in the White House Karl Rove and Scooter Libby were quite, quite energetic (to be polite about it) in their efforts to discredit Joe Wilson. That included leaking information of the same nature. And that's a point that David Broder completely elided in the column today.
MI: Couple of quick points I want to make on that. First of all, conservatives have taken a lot of shots at my partner here -- David -- because he was the first to suggest that there might have been a violation of law here. You were asking about us teaming up. It is ironic and interesting that we were the first to disclose, in this book, that it was Armitage who was the original source. Which has been something embraced by conservatives as somehow undercutting the Patrick Fitzgerald investigation. So I think that's first and foremost...
DR: [interrupting]... somehow exonerating the White House saying that Richard Armitage had very little political interest in disclosing Valerie Plame's name.
MI: That's true. And Armitage was, with Powell, part of the small, moderate cell within the Administration which had expressed misgivings about the march to war, that was trying to get them to slow down and use the diplomatic angle... The point I was trying to make that it ought to be clear that this is a reporter-driven book, reporting all the facts, regardless of how they help or undermine certain partisans. But the other point to make is, as David says, Patrick Fitzgerald investigated both Armitage and Karl Rove. He essentially came to the conclusion that Armitage disclosed, on his own, the conversation with Novak and was not engaged in any deliberate attempt to conceal. He did not reach that conclusion for quite some time about Karl Rove. Five Grand Jury appearances. Karl Rove did not initially disclose his conversation with Matt Cooper to the Grand Jury. So he had reason to suspect that Karl Rove was not forthcoming.
DC: And the same thing with Scooter Libby as well.
MI: And of course he indicted Scooter Libby.
DR: I want to go back to the central accusations, the central revelations in your book. You say it was clear to top intelligence officials that Iraq was next on President Bush's agenda after the US military had defeated the Taliban. What's the evidence?
DC: There are several different pieces here. Our book exposes new details about a covert operation plan that the President signed in 2002 but it had already been written up in the fall of 2001 after the Afghanistan invasion was mainly over, after the Taliban had been routed. This was a plan that was to include assassinations, blowing things up, developing sources and paramilitary units..
DR: How do you know this?
MI: We spoke to one of the two guys who drew up the plan. And we name him in the book. His name is John [?] And we quote him extensively in the book on this.
DR: Who is he?
DC: He was Deputy Chief of the Iraq Operations group within the Operations Directorate of the CIA. Part of this has been written about previously in Bob Woodward's last book, Plan of Attack. We have new details about this plan. There was a secret training site in the Nevada desert. They set up and smuggled in Iraqis to train them for this. They had an idea for creating a provocation and sending the men to an airbase on the border of Jordan and Iraq where they would take over an airbase, declare a free Iraq. Saddam Hussein would have to send in military units to put them down, violate the no-fly-zone. That would give the US and England a chance to start a war. And so we go into this. But to your point, to the larger point here, is that John [?] tells us this was not a substitute for military action, this was a complement. This was to set up the right circumstances for an invasion. So more than a year -- early on -- they were doing this plan that was a prelude to war long before they told Congress they were even considering this.
DR: What about the aluminum tubes, Michael? We heard that they were supposed to have signified something very, very serious.
MI: This was probably the most critical piece of evidence that the Administration used to support that gripping metaphor that was used first by Condi Rice on the Sunday talk shows and then by President Bush in his Cincinnati speech on the eve of the Congressional vote. "We can't afford to wait for a smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud." That, to White House officials, said it all. It was crafted by Michael Gerson, the chief speechwriter. It was roadtested by WHIG, the White House Iraq Group.
DR: It was a campaign.
MI: Right. And I've had several White House people say to me, "That sentence said it all. That metaphor said it all in the post-9/11 era." And the image of the mushroom cloud was based on and first pushed vigorously by Vice President Cheney. That Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program and was close to -- was on its way to getting a nuclear bomb. The intelligence supporting that conclusion -- the primary piece of intelligence -- was these aluminum tubes that Iraq was seeking to purchase on the open market. A shipment of the tubes was seized in Jordan under an operation headed by Valerie Plame Wilson. She oversaw the operation that intercepted these tubes that were then shipped back to the CIA. A CIA analyst came to the conclusion that these tubes could only be used for a nuclear centrifuge to enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb. That piece of intelligence was shared by the White House, embraced by the White House, and then jumped on by Vice President Cheney and the Administration to argue the nuclear weapons case. Well, it turns out that there was vigorous dispute within the intelligence community about the conclusion about the aluminum tubes. The Energy Department scientists who were experts in nuclear centrifuges to the man...
DC:.. the biggest and most prominent experts in the US government...
MI: ... said, This is not the case, these tubes aren't suited for nuclear centrifuges. We believe they're for conventional rockets. There were multiple Energy Department reports written to this effect. The State Department intelligence bureau came to the same conclusion. Those dissents were recorded in the classified National Intelligence Estimate that was released to Congress on the eve of war but it was not made public. And in fact the White Paper -- the public version of the NIE -- contained no reference to those dissents.
DC: We talked to some of these scientists after the fact and they saw this piece of evidence being used to support a war and they all said they were afraid to speak publicly or to get into the debate. Because they feared they would lose their top-secret classifications. So the people who knew the most were cut out of the debate internally eventually. And then when they saw it going public with Cheney citing the tubes and the White House doing the same -- and all these documents -- they sat on their hands.
DR: Is there any credible evidence that there were WMD's in Iraq -- either in the making or at the ready?
MI: Charles Duelfer, who replaced David Kay as head of the Iraq Survey Group looking for WMD's after the war, after Kay came out and said they hadn't found anything, Duelfer (who was a little more hawkish) and George Tenet went out to Iraq and told the team David Kay left behind, "We think there are still weapons and you still can find them." Nine months later Duelfer put in his report which said there were no significant WMD programs since 1991.
DR: Sunday, on "Meet the Press," Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, in his debate with Bob Casey who is his Democratic opponent, said, "There were WMD's" He repeated that again and again.
DC: He should read the Duelfer Report. I don't know what else to say to someone like that.
MI: I think what Senator Santorum is referring to is that some leftover shells from before the Persian Gulf War had been discovered. This has been cited as somehow vindicating the case. In fact, those were old artillery shells. They were no longer usable. There were no active weapons programs. That's the firm conclusion of US intelligence after the war.
DR: Randall is calling from Memphis, TN:
Randall: I'm beside myself with rage. I think I speak for many when I say that. I saw Rick Santorum. He said there were 500 shells. Last time it was 200. What's it going to be next time, 700? 800? It was going to be a short war, remember that? George Bush said the other day, "We don't torture." Remember that?
MI: One of the issues we explored sensibly in the book was post-war planning and what was anticipated about what would happen after the invasion... what did US intelligence and US military planners expect? It is quite clear -- we talked to the chief military planner about what was called the advance-war-post-invasion plan. He made it quite clear that in the reports he was writing there was extensive planning for and expectation of sectarian strife, of looting, of the prospects for an insurgency and the need for enough troops to take care of all that and to handle the security situation. The Administration was extremely reluctant -- and in fact refused -- to commit the troop strength that was being recommended by General Shinseki and others. Because it would complicate the selling of the war to the Congress and the public if people understood the full magnitude of the job that we were undertaking.
DR: Here's an email from Mario who says: What was the role or involvement of the Israeli intelligence service in selling the Iraq war? David Corn?
DC: We don't really find a lot of evidence of Mossad being involved there. But one key piece of evidence that we did find was that there were people within the CIA -- CIA officers -- who suspected that Iranian intelligence was trying to influence the US government and public opinion here through the Iraqi National Congress, a group of exiles run by Ahmed Chalabi who very publicly wanted an invasion of Iraq. There was a fellow who worked for them, in charge of their information and collection program -- they were supposed to get defectors to talk to the US government and the media telling all these horrible stories of Saddam's connections to Al Qaeda and his WMD programs -- and the person running that was actually suspected within the CIA of being connected to Iranian intelligence. I remember asking one of these guys, Well this is kind of hard to imagine! So what did you do when you had these suspicions that the INC might have been in the position to be used by Iranian intelligence? And he said, Well, not much. You can't fight City Hall! Meaning that because the INC as so supported by the White House and the Pentagon, no one would care to listen to their suspicions.
DR: Here's a call from Goldsboro, North Carolina. Good morning, Chris.
Chris: I just wanted to take a minute -- I'm not sure there's many people in the country that believe we went to war in Iraq anymore because the weapons of mass destruction proved to be true. I think there are just so many other reasons that haven't come out in the media very well about the atrocities that went on in Iraq apart from these WMD's. And to go to war because of that -- I mean, I guess the thing that moved me most Saddam's sons putting the people into human-sized shredding machines. The horrible things that went on there. And why the media continues to pound this issue of going to war for faulty information when really I think it's pretty well accepted that's true versus now that we're there why can't we talk about the positives that are coming out, the things that are going well...
MI: The critical point to me -- certainly I agree with the caller entirely about the brutality and thuggery of Saddam's regime and I don't think there's any debate or dispute about that -- is that the Administration realized quite early it could not sell a war to the American public based on that. There are a lot of brutal, thuggish dictators around the world. And a lot of regimes whom we've been allied with and are allied with in the "war on terror" whose human rights records are pretty atrocious. But in order to persuade the country and the Congress to take the enormously consequential step of launching an invasion against a country that after all, at the end, hadn't attacked us, it seized on a promoted the WMD's argument. I think the long term point is the undermining of American credibility around the world because of that is probably, unfortunately, one of the major legacies...
DR: But our caller said, Aren't we doing good now?
DC: That's something we often debate on this show every week! The last couple of months we've seen civilian casualties running several thousand a month. No one would say everything as fine in the prewar days of Saddam's Iraq. But the chaos and mayhem that's undeniably there doesn't look like progress to a lot of people. His point, too, about the reasons for the war: our book opens with a scene in which George Bush is talking to two of his aides in May, 2002 -- almost a year before the war. He asks, "What happened in the newsroom today, in the press briefing today?" And Ari Fleisher says, "Well, Helen Thomas was giving me a hard time about Iraq and what seems to be a move towards war." According to an eye witness, the President then becomes real steely and he starts using very harsh language that I can't use on the air here without you getting fined! He says, "You just tell her I'm going to kick his bleep-bleep derriere across the Mideast." And he goes on in a long tirade. Now, to get to Mike's point. There are a lot of thuggish dictators around the world, but there seemed to be something particular about Saddam Hussein that got under Bush's skin...
DR: That gets to the basic question that many people want answered. Why did the Administration want so badly to go into Iraq?
MI: Well, this is going to be something debated and dissected by historians for years to come. But I certainly think the scene that David just described and we have other scenes in the book in which the President talks about Saddam. The personal antipathy that the President had towards Saddam Hussein, the way he viewed it in very stark personal terms, has to be considered a major element in the case.
DR: We don't go to war because of personal antipathy!
MI: Yes. And we do describe the fundraiser that the President goes to in Texas in September of 2002 when he talks about "this is man who tried to kill my dad at one time." You have figure... Well, and one of the interesting things about that -- that relates to the 1993 alleged assassination plot against the former President Bush. That was a trip that Laura Bush was on as well as other members of the Bush family. I think the President may well...
DC: There were lots of forces. People have talked about this... the neo-conservatives and policy advocates who've been talking about war with Iraq for years -- for policy reasons, whether it's a grand geo-strategic vision... whether because it was useful to Israel... whatever the reasons are... we get into that. But we also talk about how there was a small group of neo-conservatives who were really enamored with the theories of one obscure academic, a woman named Laurie Mylroie who once was (I don't think people know this) an apologist for Saddam. She tried to broker behind the scenes a deal between Saddam and Israel in the late '80's. Then after the invasion of Kuwait, she turned on him with a passion of one who feels betrayed and then came up with a theory -- swinging so far in the other direction -- that Saddam Hussein was behind virtually every act of terrorism, particularly anti-American terrorism, in the world. These were theories that the CIA and the FBI did explore, found they had no backing to them, but yet people like Paul Wolfowitz, Jim Woolsey, Richard Perle, and others endorsed. And once they came into the Bush administration, they tried to find evidence. We have Paul Wolfowitz ordering the head of the DIA -- the Defense Intelligence Agency -- to check into this.
DR: How do you know that?
MI: We talked to the Chief of the DIA who was instructed by Wolfowitz to look into this theory.
DR: Okay! We have a call from Scott in Dallas.
Scott: I'm really disturbed because I listened to Colin Powell's testimony and I listened to the rebuttal afterwards. They point out all these things that... the aluminum tubes [theory?]... had the Energy Department's approval. The yellowcake document was an obvious forgery. Yet nobody picked it up. The Democrats never reiterated [repudiated?] those claims. They were devastating charges. And I never heard the media once pick it up. Y'all need to write an addendum or look into that because it's devastating and it's driven me nuts!
MI: We have chapters on the yellowcake uranium story. In fact, it's a central part of the book. And how that forgery came about.
DR: Are you saying that our caller is absolutely wrong?
MI: I think he had some things confused there about the aluminum tubes, but on the yellowcake uranium... one of the things that we unearthed was that there were people who spotted the forgery within the US government pretty early on. There was a rather telltale clue that a companion document that came with the Niger papers -- that was the basis for the famous 16 words -- which talked about... that Iran and Iraq had formed a global alliance of rogue states with drug traffickers and... terrorists... There was a State Department analysts who gets this, who looks at the Niger papers and companion document and says, "This is obviously a hoax! The idea of a rogue alliance between Iran and Iraq is preposterous..."
DC:... Like something out of Austin Powers. And he wrote emails saying, "This is almost certainly a hoax. These have to be a forgery. How can these be considered credible!" Those emails were sent throughout the US intelligence community before President Bush uses the famous 16 words based on these documents.
DR: Akron, Ohio -- Mark...
Mark: I have a question and a general comment... It's never really been said but I've always felt that part of the reason we went to war with Iraq was to establish a land base in that theater. Prior to the second Bush administration, with the Clinton administration he always tested the no-fly zones and there was a lot of pushback from our allies in the area on having troops on their soil. I believe we really wanted to create a landbase -- a Guantanamo base, if you will -- in that area to address terrorism and no one's really come out and said that. I was wondering if you'd ever come across any evidence for that.
DC: Not so much within the Administration. There have been conservative commentators cheering on the war who talked about the need for America to "come ashore" in the Mideast. Put a boot print on that region. So the polemicists and the advocates have raised that issue of the need for America to do that. For years, I think, some of the neoconservative foreign policy intellectuals have talked about having a greater military presence in the region for the US. So that certainly has been an idea that's been floating out there. Certainly something, if true, would not have been shared with the American public.
DR: An email from Diane in Intervale, New Hampshire. "One of the terror suspects being moved to Guantanamo as announced yesterday by the President is Abu Zubayda. According to Ron Suskind's "One Percent Doctrine," Zubayda was a low-level Al Qaeda functionary who turned out to be schizophrenic. The Bush administration was fully aware of his mental instability, yet he was touted as a key figure. Do you have a comment?"
MI: I do know that the assertion in the Suskind book has been disputed by people in the CIA. But I think the larger question about all this is that there's so little we know about who these people are and the way they were treated and what's been learned and the credibility of what they've said. Until yesterday, when the President talked about this, it was still considered a federal crime for anybody in the US government to confirm that we held these people! Much less talk about the circumstances in which they were being interrogated. And that's why -- when we talked about this before -- the Ibn Sheikh al Libi story is so telling. That's one they don't want to talk about now because it's inconvenient and it doesn't fit the narrative that they've gotten good intelligence from these people.
DR: Let's go to St. Louis, Missouri and Sean.
Sean: My question for your panel... Everything they've said just shows that this Administration has been more than willing to use manufactured or questionable intelligence. And that they've actually punished people who've opposed the intelligence. So my question is: how can we hold this Administration responsible and send a signal to future administrations that you can't just cherrypick whatever intelligence might justify your doctrine. I would also call for your panel to use their public forums to call for accountability for... to move for impeachment or at least censure of the President to show that this is not something that the American people are going to tolerate.
DC: Well, as Mike said earlier, this book is a narrative. This is an inside account of what went on, and I think it provides a lot more information to anyone who wants to have this sort of debate the caller is interested in. At the end of the day, accountability is always an issue and we'll see to what degree the reading public -- the book-buying public -- cares about such matters as these by how they respond to the book. [The book is at #11 on Amazon on 9/12/06.] But we're both journalists here, though I'm sometimes more outspoken in my views than Mike is! The job of this book is to get the information out there. If it makes your blood boil, then you can take action. If it doesn't do anything for you, you can stay home and worry about something else!
DR: Here's an email from Charles in Boca Raton, Florida. "I haven't heard the word 'lie' used yet on the show today. If credibility is in question, did the President lie when he said we needed to go to war with Iraq? I am curious as to what the answer might be!"
MI: We don't use that word...
DR: Why not?
MI: Because lying requires you to assume that somebody is deliberately being false. The analogy I would make is that once the decision was made that it was in the country's best interest to go to war with Iraq, a public case was made based on the intelligence. At that point...
DR: But the intelligence was faulty and you argue that the President knew the intelligence was faulty. Am I correct?
MI: We conclude that there was plenty of grounds for senior people in the US government to know that there were serious questions about the intelligence being used. The analogy I use is that everybody from the President on down acted like lawyers arguing a court case.
DR: On their own behalf.
MI: Right. They picked the intelligence that they thought strengthened their argument and ignored or downplayed the intelligence that undercut it.
DC: I'd have to disagree with my co-author. Instead of a court case, I would say it was more like a political campaign where the standards are slightly weaker! In the book, we do talk to Paul Pillar, who was in charge of a lot of the intelligence on terrorism. And we note that he came out publicly last fall and was asked, why didn't the President make the right case for the war? He said, I don't know. I can't understand it. It would have been in America's interest to have a full debate about this. And then he was asked by a journalist, So then the President lied? And Pillar paused for a long moment and he looked at the journalist and said, That's your word, not mine! But clearly, people can come to their own conclusions on that point...
DR: And it's all right here in the book, "Hubris."