OPERATION: IRAQI FREEDOM
testimony – twice
Swore he'd learned uranium charge bogus only 'days' ago
Posted: July 15, 2003
1:00 a.m. Eastern
By Paul Sperry
WASHINGTON – In congressional testimony last week, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld swore repeatedly that he'd just "days" earlier learned that the uranium charge President Bush made against Iraq six months ago was bogus.
Since then, he's had to correct the record twice, finally admitting he knew the allegation was false as early as March – less than two months after Bush's now-controversial State of the Union speech and just before the Iraq war started.
"When did you know that the reports about uranium coming out of Africa were bogus?" asked Sen. Mark Pryor, D.-Ark., at Wednesday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on "lessons learned" in Iraq.
"Oh, within recent days, since the information started becoming available," Rumsfeld replied.
"So right after the [State of the Union] speech, you didn't know that?" Pryor pressed.
"I've just answered the question," Rumsfeld snapped.
Asked about it again, the defense secretary insisted: "Do I recall hearing anything or reading anything like that? The answer is as I've given it – no."
But in a Sunday interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert, Rumsfeld backpedaled from his testimony.
Russert: "When Sen. Pryor asked you when did you know that reports about uranium coming out of Africa were bogus, you said, 'Oh, within recent days.'"
Rumsfeld: "I should have said within recent weeks, meaning when ElBaradei came out" with the revelation that the allegation was baseless.
Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the United Nation's International Atomic Energy Agency, told the U.N. Security Council on March 7 that documents allegedly showing Iraqi officials shopping two years ago for uranium in Africa were forgeries. Bush used them in his January speech to suggest Iraq had an active nuclear-weapons program.
The documents had been given to U.N. inspectors by British authorities. They were also reviewed by U.S. intelligence.
The faked evidence has been described as a series of letters between Iraqi agents and officials in the central African nation of Niger. Officials easily detected the counterfeiting through crude errors, such the inclusion of names and titles that didn't match up with the officials who held office at the time the letters claimed to have been written.
Both Rumsfeld and Bush's National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice say they have never actually seen the documents in the British dossier.
In another Sunday show, ABC's "This Week," which aired later that morning, Rumsfeld further revised his story to say he learned "months," not weeks, ago of the false charge.
Rumsfeld insists he hasn't repeated the allegation since learning it was false in March.
At the same time, however, he never tried to publicly correct the record.
In fact, the White House, for its part, waited until July 7 to correct the president's statement – and only after a British parliamentary commission challenged the allegation. The White House quietly acknowledged the error in a prepared statement.
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Paul Sperry is Washington bureau chief for WorldNetDaily.
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