March 17, 2003

	The President 
	The White House 
	Washington, DC20500

	Dear Mr. President:

	I am writing regarding a matter of grave concern. Upon
	your order, our armed forces will soon initiate the
	first preemptive war in our nation's history. The most
	persuasive justification for this war is that we must
	act to prevent Iraq from developing nuclear weapons.

	In the last ten days, however, it has become
	incontrovertibly clear that a key piece of evidence you
	and other Administration officials have cited regarding
	Iraq's efforts to obtain nuclear weapons is a hoax.
	What's more, the Central Intelligence Agency questioned
	the veracity of the evidence at the same time you and
	other Administration officials were citing it in public
	statements. This is a breach of the highest order, and
	the American people are entitled to know how it

	As you know, I voted for the congressional resolution
	condemning Iraq and authorizing the use of force.
	Despite serious misgivings, I supported the resolution
	because I believed congressional approval would
	significantly improve the likelihood of effective U.N.
	action. Equally important, I believed that you had
	access to reliable intelligence information that merited

	Like many other members, I was particularly influenced
	by your views about Iraq's nuclear intentions. Although
	chemical and biological weapons can inflict casualties,
	no argument for attacking Iraq is as compelling as the
	possibility of Saddam Hussein brandishing nuclear bombs.
	That, obviously, is why the evidence in this area is so
	crucial, and why so many have looked to you for honest
	and credible information on Iraq's nuclear capability.

	The evidence in question is correspondence that
	indicates that Iraq sought to obtain nuclear material
	from an African country, Niger. For several months, this
	evidence has been a central part of the U.S. case
	against Iraq. On December 19, the State Department filed
	a response to Iraq's disarmament declaration to the U.N.
	Security Council. The State Department response stated:
	"The Declaration ignores efforts to procure uranium from
	Niger." A month later, in your State of the Union
	address, you stated: "The British government has learned
	that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant
	quantities of uranium from Africa." Defense Secretary
	Rumsfeld subsequently cited the evidence in briefing

	It has now been conceded that this evidence was a
	forgery. On March 7, the Director General of the
	International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei,
	reported that the evidence that Iraq sought nuclear
	materials from Niger was "not authentic." As subsequent
	media accounts indicated, the evidence contained "crude
	errors," such as a "childlike signature" and the use of
	stationary from a military government in Niger that has
	been out of power for over a decade.

	Even more troubling, however, the CIA, which has been
	aware of this information since 2001, has never regarded
	the evidence as reliable. The implications of this fact
	are profound: it means that a key part of the case you
	have been building against Iraq is evidence that your
	own intelligence experts at the Central Intelligence
	Agency do not believe is credible.

	It is hard to imagine how this situation could have
	developed. The two most obvious explanations - knowing
	deception or unfathomable incompetence - both have
	immediate and serious implications. It is thus
	imperative that you address this matter without delay
	and provide an alternative explanation, if there is one.

	The rest of this letter will explain my concerns in

	Use of the Evidence by U.S. Officials

	The evidence that Iraq sought to purchase uranium from
	an African country was first revealed by the British
	government on September 24, 2002, when Prime Minister
	Tony Blair released a 50-page report on Iraqi efforts to
	acquire weapons of mass destruction. As the New York
	Times reported in a front-page article, one of the two
	"chief new elements" in the report was the claim that
	Iraq had "sought to acquire uranium in Africa that could
	be used to make nuclear weapons."[1]

	This evidence subsequently became a significant part of
	the U.S. case against Iraq. On December 7, Iraq filed
	its weapons declaration with the United Nations Security
	Council. The U.S. response relied heavily on the
	evidence that Iraq had sought to obtain uranium from
	Africa. For example, this is how the New York Times
	began its front-page article on December 13 describing
	the U.S. response:

	American intelligence agencies have reached a
	preliminary conclusion that Iraq's 12,000 page
	declaration of its weapons program fails to account for
	chemical and biological agents missing when inspectors
	left Iraq four years ago, American officials and United
	Nations diplomats said today.

	In addition, Iraq's declaration on its nuclear program,
	they say, leaves open a host of questions. Among them is
	why Iraq was seeking to buy uranium in Africa in recent

	The official U.S. response was provided on December 19,
	when Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared before the
	Security Council. As the Los Angeles Times reported, "A
	one-page State Department fact sheet . . . lists what
	Washington considers the key omissions and deceptions in
	Baghdad's Dec. 7 weapons declaration."[3] One of the
	eight "key omissions and deceptions" was the failure to
	explain Iraq's attempts to purchase uranium from an
	African country.

	Specifically, the State Department fact sheet contains
	the following points under the heading "Nuclear
	Weapons": "The Declaration ignores efforts to procure
	uranium from Niger. Why is the Iraqi regime hiding their
	uranium procurement?" A copy of this fact sheet is
	enclosed with this letter.

	The Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium from Africa were
	deemed significant enough to be included in your State
	of the Union address to Congress. You stated: "The
	British government has learned that Saddam Hussein
	recently sought significant quantities of uranium from
	Africa."[4] As the Washington Post reported the next
	day, "the president seemed quite specific as he ticked
	off the allegations last night, including the news that
	Iraq had secured uranium from Africa for the purpose of
	making nuclear bombs."[5]

	A day later, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told
	reporters at a news briefing that Iraq "recently was
	discovered seeking significant quantities of uranium
	from Africa."[6] Knowledge of the Unreliability of the
	Evidence The world first learned that the evidence
	linking Iraq to attempts to purchase uranium from Africa
	was forged from the Director General of the
	International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed
	ElBaradei. On March 7, Director ElBaradei reported to
	the U.N. Security Council:

	Based on thorough analysis, the IAEA has concluded, with
	the concurrence of outside experts, that 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.[7]

	Recent accounts in the news media have provided
	additional details. According to the Washington Post,
	the faked evidence included "a series of letters between
	Iraqi agents and officials in the central African nation
	of Niger."[8] The article stated that the forgers "made
	relatively crude errors that eventually gave them away -
	including names and titles that did not match up with
	the individuals who held office at the time the letters
	were purportedly written."[9] CNN reported:

	one of the documents purports to be a letter signed by
	Tandjia Mamadou, the president of Niger, talking about
	the uranium deal with Iraq. On it [is] a childlike
	signature that is clearly not his. Another, written on
	paper from a 1980s military government in Niger, bears
	the date of October 2000 and the signature of a man who
	by then had not been foreign minister of Niger for 14

	U.S. intelligence officials had doubts about the
	veracity of the evidence long before Director
	ElBaradei's report. The Los Angeles Times reported on
	March 15 that "the CIA first heard allegations that Iraq
	was seeking uranium from Niger in late 2001" when "the
	existence of the documents was reported to [the CIA]
	second- or third-hand." The Los Angeles Times quotes one
	CIA official as saying: "We included that in some of our
	reporting, although it was all caveated because we had
	concerns about the accuracy of that information."[11]
	The Washington Post reported on March 13: "The CIA . . .
	had questions about 'whether they were accurate,' said
	one intelligence official, and it decided not to include
	them in its file on Iraq's program to procure weapons of
	mass destruction."[12]

	There have been suggestions by some Administration
	officials that there may be other evidence besides the
	forged documents that shows Iraq tried to obtain uranium
	from an African country. For instance, CIA officials
	recently stated that "U.S. concerns regarding a possible
	uranium agreement between Niger and Iraq were not based
	solely on the documents which are now known to be
	fraudulent." The CIA provided this other information to
	the IAEA along with the forged documents. After
	reviewing this complete body of evidence, the IAEA
	stated: "we have found to date no evidence or plausible
	indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons programme
	in Iraq."[13] Ultimately, the IAEA concluded that "these
	specific allegations are unfounded."[14] Questions These
	facts raise troubling questions. It appears that at the
	same time that you, Secretary Rumsfeld, and State
	Department officials were citing Iraq's efforts to
	obtain uranium from Africa as a crucial part of the case
	against Iraq, U.S. intelligence officials regarded this
	very same evidence as unreliable. If true, this is
	deeply disturbing: it would mean that your
	Administration asked the U.N. Security Council, the
	Congress, and the American people to rely on information
	that your own experts knew was not credible.

	Your statement to Congress during the State of the
	Union, in particular, raises a host of questions. The
	statement is worded in a way that suggests it was
	carefully crafted to be both literally true and
	deliberately misleading at the same time. The statement
	itself - "The British government has learned that Saddam
	Hussein recently sought significant quantities of
	uranium from Africa" - may be technically accurate,
	since this appears to be the British position. But given
	what the CIA knew at the time, the implication you
	intended - that there was credible evidence that Iraq
	sought uranium from Africa - was simply false.

	To date, the White House has avoided explaining why the
	Administration relied on this forged evidence in
	building its case against Iraq. The first Administration
	response, which was provided to the Washington Post, was
	"we fell for it."[15] But this is no longer credible in
	light of the information from the CIA. Your spokesman,
	Ari Fleischer, was asked about this issue at a White
	House news briefing on March 14, but as the following
	transcript reveals, he claimed ignorance and avoided the

	Q: Ari, as the president said in his State of the Union
	address, the British government has learned that Saddam
	Hussein recently sought significant quantities of
	uranium from Africa. And since then, the IAEA said that
	those were forged documents -

	Mr. Fleischer: I'm sorry, whose statement was that?

	Q: The President, in his State of the Union address.
	Since then, the IAEA has said those were forged
	documents. Was the administration aware of any doubts
	about these documents, the authenticity of the
	documents, from any government agency or department
	before it was submitted to the IAEA?

	Mr. Fleisher: These are matters that are always reviewed
	with an eye toward the various information that comes in
	and is analyzed by a variety of different people. The
	President's concerns about Iraq come from multiple
	places, involving multiple threats that Iraq can
	possess, and these are matters that remain discussed.

	Thank you [end of briefing].[16]

	Plainly, more explanation is needed. I urge you to
	provide to me and to the relevant committees of Congress
	a full accounting of what you knew about the reliability
	of the evidence linking Iraq to uranium in Africa, when
	you knew this, and why you and senior officials in the
	Administration presented the evidence to the U.N.
	Security Council, the Congress, and the American people
	without disclosing the doubts of the CIA. In particular,
	I urge you to address:

	1. Whether CIA officials communicated their doubts about
	the credibility of the forged evidence to other
	Administration officials, including officials in the
	Department of State, the Department of Defense, the
	National Security Council, and the White House;

	2. Whether the CIA had any input into the "Fact Sheet"
	distributed by the State Department on December 19,
	2002; and

	3. Whether the CIA reviewed your statement in the State
	of the Union address regarding Iraq's attempts to obtain
	uranium from Africa and, if so, what the CIA said about
	the statement.

	Given the urgency of the situation, I would appreciate
	an expeditious response to these questions.

	Henry A. Waxman 
	Ranking Minority Member


	[1] Blair Says Iraqis Could Launch Chemical Warheads in
	Minutes, New York Times (Sept. 25, 2002).

	[2] Threats and Responses: Report by Iraq, Iraq Arms
	Report Has Big Omissions, U.S. Officials Say, New York
	Times (Dec. 13, 2002) (emphasis added).

	[3] U.S. Issues a List of the Shortcomings in Iraqi Arms
	Declaration, Los Angeles Times (Dec. 20, 2002) (emphasis

	[4] The President, State of the Union Address (Jan. 28,
	2003) (online at
	html) (emphasis added).

	[5] A War Cry Tempered by Eloquence, Washington Post
	(Jan. 29, 2003).

	[6] Press Conference with Donald Rumsfeld, General
	Richard Myers, Cable News Network (Jan. 29, 2003)
	(emphasis added).

	[7] IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, The
	Status of Nuclear Inspections in Iraq: An Update (Mar.
	7, 2002) (online at

	[8] Some Evidence on Iraq Called Fake; U.N. Nuclear
	Inspector Says Documents on Purchases Were Forged,
	Washington Post (Mar. 8, 2003).

	[9] Id.

	[10] U.N. Saying Documents Were Faked, CNN American
	Morning with Paula Zahn (Mar. 14, 2003).

	[11] Italy May Have Been Misled by Fake Iraq Arms
	Papers, U.S. Says, Los Angeles Times (Mar. 15, 2003).

	[12] FBI Probes Fake Evidence of Iraqi Nuclear Plans,
	Washington Post (Mar. 13, 2003).

	[13] IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, supra
	note 7 (emphasis added).

	[14] Id. (emphasis added).

	[15] Some Evidence on Iraq Called Fake, supra note 8.

	[16] The White House, Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer
	(Mar. 14, 2003) (online at

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