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Bush defends declassification of prewar report

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   http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2006-04-10-cia-leak_x.htm?POE=NEWISVA

http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2006-04-10-cia-leak_x.htm?POE=NEWISVA

Bush defends declassification of prewar report
Updated 4/11/2006 7:57 AM ET

By Richard Benedetto, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON President Bush acknowledged for the first time Monday that he ordered declassification of parts of a prewar intelligence report on Iraq to counter critics who charged he manipulated intelligence to justify the war.
He also dismissed as "wild speculation" reports over the weekend that he was secretly preparing for a possible air attack on Iran to knock out its nuclear facilities. He said his focus is still on multinational diplomacy to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.

Bush's remarks came in a question-and-answer session after a speech on Iraq at Johns Hopkins University's Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.

On Iraq, Bush said he declassified parts of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) to answer questions about why the United States invaded Iraq. The document said Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and was trying to develop a nuclear weapon. No such weapons were found after the invasion.

"I decided to declassify the NIE for a reason," Bush said. "I wanted people to see what some of those statements were based on, so I wanted people to see the truth."

Bush was responding to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's disclosure last week in a court filing that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, had told a grand jury that he leaked the NIE information to a New York Times reporter after Cheney authorized him to, citing Bush's approval.

Fitzgerald's legal brief said the leak was part of a White House effort to discredit former ambassador Joseph Wilson. Wilson had charged that the White House manipulated intelligence to justify the war, particularly intelligence that Saddam tried to buy uranium from the African nation of Niger.

Wilson later accused the White House of retaliating by leaking the identity of his wife, Valerie Plame, then an undercover CIA operative.

Fitzgerald is investigating that leak. Nothing in the court papers said Bush was involved in the Plame leak.

A grand jury indicted Libby last October on charges of lying about his role in telling reporters about Plame's identity. He pleaded not guilty and awaits trial.

"The declassification and subsequent leaking of this information is still shrouded in mystery," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

"There are many questions that the president must answer so that the American people can understand that this declassification was done for national security purposes, not for immediate political gain," Schumer said.

On Iran, the president disputed reports in The Washington Post newspaper and The New Yorker magazine that the Bush administration was considering attacks against underground nuclear sites in Iran.

"I read the articles in the newspapers this weekend. It was just wild speculation," Bush said.

Posted 4/10/2006 10:43 PM ET



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