Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser, cautioned other White House aides in the summer of 2003 that Bush's 2004 re-election prospects would be severely damaged if it was publicly disclosed that he had been personally warned that a key rationale for going to war had been challenged within the administration. Rove expressed his concerns shortly after an informal review of classified government records by then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley determined that Bush had been specifically advised that claims he later made in his 2003 State of the Union address -- that Iraq was procuring high-strength aluminum tubes to build a nuclear weapon -- might not be true, according to government records and interviews.Looks like the state of the union is even weaker than we thought. It is, perhaps, possible that this might come under the "cherry picking intelligence" category, albeit unlikely, but what's indisputable is that the president and his various Movement lickspittles presented both the Niger uranium and aluminum tube stories as if they were incontrovertible fact. Even if he didn't believe State and Energy and disagreed with their assessment, he still deceived the American people, and no amount of "b-b-b-but Saddam really wanted nukes" from The Usual Suspects can get around that. More than that, they knew they had deceived, or else Rove wouldn't have been so worried about it!
As the 2004 election loomed, the White House was determined to keep the wraps on a potentially damaging memo about Iraq.
Hadley was particularly concerned that the public might learn of a classified one-page summary of a National Intelligence Estimate, specifically written for Bush in October 2002. The summary said that although "most agencies judge" that the aluminum tubes were "related to a uranium enrichment effort," the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Energy Department's intelligence branch "believe that the tubes more likely are intended for conventional weapons."
Three months after receiving that assessment, the president stated without qualification in his January 28, 2003, State of the Union address: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production...."
...Most troublesome to those leading the damage-control effort was documentary evidence -- albeit in highly classified government records that they might be able to keep secret -- that the president had been advised that many in the intelligence community believed that the tubes were meant for conventional weapons.
The one-page documents known as the "President's Summary" are distilled from the much lengthier National Intelligence Estimates, which combine the analysis of as many as six intelligence agencies regarding major national security issues. Bush's knowledge of the State and Energy departments' dissent over the tubes was disclosed in a March 4, 2006, National Journal story -- more than three years after the intelligence assessment was provided to the president, and some 16 months after the 2004 presidential election.
The President's Summary was only one of several high-level warnings given to Bush and other senior administration officials that serious doubts existed about the intended use of the tubes, according to government records and interviews with former and current officials.
In mid-September 2002, two weeks before Bush received the October 2002 President's Summary, Tenet informed him that both State and Energy had doubts about the aluminum tubes and that even some within the CIA weren't certain that the tubes were meant for nuclear weapons, according to government records and interviews with two former senior officials.
Official records and interviews with current and former officials also reveal that the president was told that even then-Secretary of State Colin Powell had doubts that the tubes might be used for nuclear weapons.
Heck, it wasn't even just about the public: as booman points out, they refused to hand over information to the (Republican friendly!) Senate Intelligence Committee.
"Mad props" to Murray Waas for the story, and hat tip to Booman and ol' Atrios for the chain of links leading there.