A New Memo-gate? Knight Ridder Covers Leaked British Document That Disputes Bush Claims on Iraq

By: E&P Staff

For much of the week, much of the U.S. press paid little attention to the highly classified British memo, leaked to a British newspaper, which seems to reveal that President Bush decided by summer 2002 to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and was determined to ensure that U.S. intelligence data supported his policy.

That changed on Friday, when Knight Ridder circulated a lengthy report on the memo by Warren P. Strobel and John Walcott.

The memo was first disclosed earlier this week by the Sunday Times of London. It has not been disavowed by the British government. A White House official told Knight Ridder that the administration wouldn’t comment on the leaked document.

Meanwhile, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, has gained 88 signatures on a letter among fellow Democrats asking the White House for an explanation of the memo. Among other things, he wants to know: ?Did the Administration lie to the American people about its intentions with respect to Iraq? Did the Administration deliberately manipulate intelligence to deceive the American people about the strength of its case for war??

The memo reports on a U.S. visit by Richard Dearlove, then head of Britain’s MI-6 intelligence service. ?The visit took place while the Bush administration was declaring to Americans that no decision had been made to go to war,? Knight Ridder observed today.

The MI-6 chief’s account of his U.S. visit was paraphrased this way: “There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and [weapons of mass destruction]. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. … There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.”

Strobel and Wolcott noted that the White House has repeatedly denied accusations by top foreign officials that intelligence estimates were manipulated.

But they report that a former senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, called it “an absolutely accurate description of what transpired” during Dearlove’s visit to Washington.

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