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Ten Questions for Cheney

Not much is known about the Vice President's role in building the case for war. Members of a key congressional subcommittee want more information.
 
 
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Editor's note: The following letter was sent to Vice President Dick Cheney on July 21, 2003.

The Honorable Dick Cheney
Vice President
Office of the Vice President of the United States Eisenhower Executive Office Building
Washington, DC 20501

Dear Mr. Vice President:

While it has been widely reported that the President made a false assertion in his State of the Union address concerning unsubstantiated intelligence that Iraq purchased uranium from Niger, your own role in the dissemination of that disinformation has not been explained by you or the White House. Yet, you reportedly paid direct personal visits to CIA's Iraq analysts; your request for investigation of the Niger uranium claim resulted in an investigation by a former U.S. ambassador, and you made several high-profile public assertions about Iraq's alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons. We hope that you will take the opportunity to provide responses to the following ten questions.

I. Concerning "unusual" personal visits by the Vice President to CIA analysts.

According to The Washington Post, June 5, 2003, you made "multiple" "unusual" visits to CIA to meet directly with Iraq analysts. The Post reported: "Vice President Cheney and his most senior aide made multiple trips to the CIA over the past year to question analysts studying Iraq's weapons programs."

These visits were unprecedented. Normally, Vice Presidents, yourself included, receive regular briefings from CIA in your office and have a CIA officer on permanent detail. In other words, there is no reason for the Vice President to make personal visits to CIA analysts.

According to the Post, your unprecedented visits created "an environment in which some analysts felt they were being pressured to make their assessments fit with the Bush administration's policy objectives."

Questions:

1) How many visits did you and your chief of staff make to CIA to meet directly with CIA analysts working on Iraq? 2) What was the purpose of each of these visits? 3) Did you or a member of your staff at any time direct or encourage CIA analysts to disseminate unreliable intelligence? 4) Did you or a member of your staff at any time request or demand rewriting of intelligence assessments concerning the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

II. Concerning a request by the Vice President to investigate intelligence of Niger uranium sale, revealing forgery one year ago.

This alleged sale of uranium to Iraq by Niger was critical to the administration's case that Iraq was reconstituting a nuclear weapons program. During the period of time you reportedly paid visits to CIA, you also requested that CIA investigate intelligence that purported to show Iraqi pursuit of uranium from Niger, and your office received a briefing on the investigation.

According to The New York Times of May 6, 2003, "more than a year ago the vice president's office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. Ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger."

The ambassador "reported to the CIA and State Department that the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged," according to the Times. Indeed, that former U.S. Ambassador, Joseph Wilson, wrote in The New York Times, July 6, 2003, "The vice president's office asked a serious question. We were asked to help formulate the answer. We did so, and we have every confidence that the answer we provided was circulated to the appropriate officials within our government."

Moreover, your chief of staff, Mr. Libby, told Time magazine this week that you did in fact express interest in the report to the CIA briefer. Our understanding is that Standard Operating Procedure is that if a principal asks about a report, he is given a specific answer.

Questions:

5) Who in the office of Vice President was informed of the contents of Ambassador Wilson's report? 6) What efforts were made by your office to disseminate the findings of Ambassador Wilson's investigation to the President, National Security Adviser, and Secretary of Defense? 7) Did your office regard Ambassador Wilson's conclusions as accurate or inaccurate?

III. Assertions by the Vice President and other high ranking members of the Administration claiming Iraqi nuclear weapons program.

The President's erroneous reference to the faked Niger uranium sale in his State of the Union address was only one example of a pattern of similar assertions by high ranking members of the administration, including yourself. The assertion was made repeatedly in the administration's campaign to win congressional approval of military action against Iraq.

For instance, you said to the 103d National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars on August 26, 2002, "they [the Iraqi regime] continue to pursue the nuclear program they began so many years ago... we now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons... Should all his ambitions be realized... [he could] subject the United States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail."

In sworn testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, just weeks before the House of Representatives voted to authorize military action against Iraq, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld testified on September 18, 2002: "He [Saddam]... is pursuing nuclear weapons. If he demonstrates the capability to deliver them to our shores, the world would be changed. Our people would be at great risk. Our willingness to be engaged in the world, our willingness to project power to stop aggression, our ability to forge coalitions for multilateral action, could all be under question. And many lives could be lost."

Questions:

8) Since your address to the VFW occurred nearly 7 months after Ambassador Wilson reported his findings to the CIA and State Department, what evidence did you have for the assertion that Iraq was continuing "to pursue the nuclear program" and that Saddam had "resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons"? 9) Since the Secretary of Defense testified to Congress that Iraq was "pursuing nuclear weapons" nearly 8 months after Ambassador Wilson's briefing to CIA and the State Department, what effort did you make to determine what evidence the Secretary of Defense had for his assertion to Congress?

Further refutation of the authenticity of the forged Niger documents came from IAEA Director General ElBaradei, when he reported to the UN Security Council on March 7, 2003: "These documents, which formed the basis for reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger, are in fact not authentic. We have therefore concluded that these specific allegations are unfounded... we have found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons programme in Iraq." Yet on March 16 -- nine days afterwards -- you again repeated the unfounded assertion on national television (Meet the Press, Sunday, March 16, 2003). You said:

"We think Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong," and "We believe [Saddam] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."

Question:

10) What was the basis for this assertion made by you on national television? We hope you will take the opportunity to answer these questions about your role in the dissemination of false information about Iraq's nuclear program to justify the war in Iraq. We look forward to a response.

Sincerely,

Dennis J. Kucinich, Ranking Minority Member Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations

Carolyn B. Maloney, Member
Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations

Bernie Sanders, Member
Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations