Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A Trailer Here, A Trailer There: Ah, Who Cares? Subtitle: Who should issue an apology to whom?

When does a trailer pose a threat to the W, Rove and Co? When they sit idle and devoid of WMD(either in Iraq or Arkansas). Does Scotty have a right to ask for a public apology? Should he expect one? Will he get one?
Q Scott, there were reports this morning that in late May of 2003 there were questions raised about whether or not the trailers were bio-weapons -- mobile bio-weapons in Iraq. When did the administration come to understand that those trailers were not mobile bio-weapons labs?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think that's a new issue. I mean, I saw the report. This is nothing more than rehashing an old issue that was resolved long ago. I cannot count how many times the President has said the intelligence was wrong. The Robb-Silberman Commission, which was the independent bipartisan commission that looked into this intelligence, said that the intelligence community's assessment of Iraq's biological weapons programs was almost entirely wrong.

Now, you bring up an issue that goes back to a time period when the intelligence community had assessed -- the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency -- that a couple of mobile laboratories that were found in Iraq were for the production of biological weapons. That was the assessment of the intelligence community that stood for some time period. And this was widely covered at the time. People looked at it; there were questions raised about -- some of those that raised questions about that intelligence. But the intelligence community's assessment stood for some period of time.

Now, we know that the Iraq Survey Group, which we had go into Iraq to search for the weapons of mass destruction, looked into this issue, and it was September 2004, I think, that they concluded that certainly this was not for biological weapons production. And what we have done since that time period is move forward on implementing important reforms so that the executive branch and the Congress have the best possible intelligence as they move forward to deal with the threats that face this country and face this world.

And that's very important. We appointed the Director of National Intelligence, restructured the intelligence community. We've taken a number of other steps to make sure that the intelligence-gathering process is better and that it's the best possible intelligence that is coming to the White House and coming to the Congress, so that they can make decisions.

Q So, insofar as in May there was a 122-page report filed by DIA that said that these trailers were not bio-weapons, but it was -- or bio-weapons labs, and then we heard from the Vice President and Colin Powell after that period suggesting that they still were -- that information hadn't --

MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, intelligence is -- when an assessment is made, it looks at a lot of different intelligence and it takes time to vet that intelligence, go through it, debate it, discuss it with the intelligence community, look at all the different intelligence coming in, whether it's human intelligence or signals intelligence or open-source intelligence. And they pull that all together and the intelligence community makes the assessment. The White House is not the intelligence-gathering agency. And the assessment that the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency, which is the arm of the Pentagon, made initially was that those -- in this report that was released on May 28, 2003, was that the labs that were found were for producing biological weapons. And that assessment remained in place for quite some time, as you just pointed out.

Now, I will point out that the reporting I saw this morning was simply reckless and it was irresponsible. The lead in The Washington Post left the impression for the reader that the President was saying something he knew at the time not to be true. That is absolutely false and it is irresponsible, and I don't know how The Washington Post can defend something so irresponsible...

...Q Can I just follow up on what Carl was asking about sort of the time line? When did the President know -- after that intelligence was vetted and debated, when did he know --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, as I held out a short time ago, the intelligence assessment was provided by the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency on May 28, 2003. The President was asked a question on the very next day, and the President's statements were based on the joint assessment of the CIA and DIA that was publicly released the day before. So this was publicly provided to the American people, it's what the White House had. That was the assessment of the intelligence community. So I think it's important to keep that in mind.

And the suggestion, or impression that was left by some of the reporting was that the President was saying something he knew not to be true. No, the President was saying what the intelligence community assessed to be right, based on their intelligence-gathering. And so that was the very next day; it was in response to a question. I saw some reporting saying he had gone out and given a speech about it, and that's not true. In fact, the very day that he was talking about it, numerous papers were reporting on the briefing by the intelligence community. The intelligence community said that they were "highly confident" that they had discovered a "mobile biological production plant."

And in terms of your specific question in terms of if and when the White House became aware of this particular issue, I'm looking into that matter. I've asked the -- the White House has asked at CIA and the DIA to go and look into that issue. But it's not the point. The Washington Post even acknowledges in their article that the intelligence community continued to stand by that position for quite some period of time.

Q Can I ask just a follow-up? The President said earlier -- just in talking about the rest of his presidency, that he intends to charge hard in his final two-and-a-half years --

MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely. He's a hard charger.

Q -- and sprint to the end. But when you have to come up here and acknowledge and discuss front-page reports that --

MR. McCLELLAN: Acknowledge and discuss something that has been stated for quite some time, Elaine? No, no, this is a media issue that you're getting into. Go ahead, though.

Q Well, this is exactly what I'm trying to get at. When you're having to discuss stories which focus attention once again on how the President took this country to war, does that make it more difficult for the President to --

MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, the President is focused on victory in Iraq, because a free Iraq will be an example for the rest of the Middle East and it will help lay the foundations of peace for generations to come.

You know, I saw some reporting talking about how this latest revelation -- which is not something that is new, this is all old information that's being rehashed -- was an embarrassment for the White House. No, it's an embarrassment for the media that is out there reporting this. I brought up with some of you earlier today some of the reporting that was based off this Washington Post report, and I talked to one network about it and they have publicly -- well, they've expressed their apologies to the White House. I hope they will go and publicly apologize on the air about the statements that were made, because I think it's important, given that they had made those statements in front of all their viewers. And so we look forward to that happening, as well.
I've got an idea. How about we demand an apology from the WP when the W, Rove and Co apologize for leaving so many mobile homes undeployed for so long in the Katrina aftermath? Here are some intersting facts:
FEMA spent $857.8 million on 24,967 manufactured homes and $40 million on 1,295 modular homes.

Only about 4,600 of all the homes purchased after hurricanes Katrina and Rita can be used to shelter displaced families. There are no plans for the remaining homes.

295 mobile homes, previously used for Florida hurricane victims, sit unused on a vacant lot off Jacaranda Boulevard in Venice. They will be moved to a Fort Pierce storage facility in May.

10,777 recently purchased mobile homes have been stored in Hope, Ark., since September 2005. None has been used.

Another 1,900 have stored at Red River Army Depot in Texas. Only 17 have been used to house evacuees from Hurricane Katrina.


Neil Shakespeare said...

This story is just wonderful. I'm calling it 'The Sgt. Schulz Defense'. A few weeks ago I used that great quote from Howard Fineman on a TV talk show when asked about Bush's credibility: "I think Bush has a lot of credibility when he pleads ignorance." Lots and lots of credibility. "Well sure!" says the man in the street. "I understand now. He's just plain stupid!"

Anonymous said...

Inquiring minds want to know

Here's another question on those bio-weapons mobile trailers that never were.

Here's what Vice President Cheney said to Juan Williams on January 24th 2004 ...

''In terms of the question what is there now, we know for example that prior to our going in that he had spent time and effort acquiring mobile biological weapons labs, and we're quite confident he did, in fact, have such a program. We've found a couple of semi trailers at this point which we believe were, in fact, part of that program. Now it's not clear at this stage whether or not he used any of that to produce or whether he was simply getting ready for the next war. That, in my mind, is a serious danger in the hands of a man like Saddam Hussein, and I would deem that conclusive evidence, if you will, that he did, in fact, have programs for weapons of mass destruction.''

Cheney's persistence in lying to the public about al Qaida and WMD claims is almost the stuff of legend. So even though the baldness of this lie still sort of grabs me, I can't say it's exactly shocking. - Josh Marshall