NBC's Today Show

July 12, 2003


On CLOSE UP this morning, the CIA takes the blame. In an extraordinary move on Friday, CIA director George Tenet admitted he should never have let the president repeat in his State of the Union address a false British claim that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa. Former Vermont governor and Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean has been calling for the resignation of those he says misled the nation about Iraq.

Governor Dean, good morning.

Mr. HOWARD DEAN (Presidential Candidate): Good morning to you.

O'DONNELL: This morning, President Bush, traveling in Nigeria, expressed his confidence in Director Tenet. Are you surprised, and do you think that's appropriate?

Mr. DEAN: Well, I think there may be more to it than simply this. This reminds me a little of attempts to sort of throw one person over the side and hope that the media stops asking questions. The fact is, according to Ambassador Wilson, that not only did the CIA know about this, but the vice president's office knew about this, and the Department of State knew about this. So I think the—the hasty taking of the blame by George Tenet is an attempt, really, on the part of a loyal person to the president to try to deflect the problem. But the problem really appears now to be in the White House.

O'DONNELL: Scapegoating, do you believe?

Mr. DEAN: I think it is scapegoating. I think Director Tenet quickly took the blame. I think that's the smart thing to do politically, but it does not answer the question of not only what the president knew and when the president knew it about the insertion of false information in the speech, but additional false claims that were made, for example, in March by Secretary Rumsfeld who stated that he knew where the weapons of mass destruction were, right around Tikrit and Baghdad. And, of course, now we've been in control of Iraq for 60 days, and we still not have found those weapons that the secretary knew. So there's a new—a claim that he knew where they were. So we've got a lot more information that needs to be disclosed by this administration about why we went to war in Iraq.

O'DONNELL: Staying with Director Tenet for a moment. In his lengthy statement, which says in part, “The president had every reason to believe that the text presented to him was sound. I am responsible for the approval process in my agency.” Director Tenet did not say that he had personally vetted the claims that were used in the speech. Do you believe he should resign, or are you calling for others to resign since you seem to believe that others had knowledge?

Mr. DEAN: I think we—I think in addition to secretary—excuse me, Director Tenet's problems, there are other problems which we don't yet know about. I have called for the last few weeks for a complete bipartisan investigation outside the Congress and the White House to determine why this was put in, why other information was given to the American people that wasn't true about our invasion of Iraq. And I think we need those people who did misinform the president need to resign, and I think those people who misinformed the president have not yet been identified.

O'DONNELL: Would you believe that Tenet, and as you suggested, Vice President Cheney are among them?

Mr. DEAN: We don't know what happened. We do know that the report that said that there was no substance to the claims that Niger was selling uranium—uranium to Iraq reached the Department of State, the CIA and the vice president's office. We don't know who saw those in the vice president's office. We don't know if Secretary Tenet in fact saw those reports at all. We also know that the White House was quite insistent about putting this in the—in the speech regardless of the reservations of the CIA. So I think there's a lot of questions that need to be answered here. They have not been answered. And I don't think this is going to go away.

O'DONNELL: There are other leaders within the administration and around the world that still maintain that Iraq had the capacity for weapons of mass destruction, was actively pursuing a program. Is this one issue regarding seeking uranium from Africa enough to cause the kind of—of controversy that you're attempting to bring about?

Mr. DEAN: The biggest problem—I'm not attempting to bring about any controversy. I think the controversy was when—began when the White House finally admitted that they had used information that was not true to send us to war. The question is, what other information did they then use that was not true to send us to war—to war? We have statements from the secretary of defense saying that they knew there were weapons. It turned out not to be. We have sate—statements from the vice president saying they knew that there were—they believed that there was a nuclear program. Turned out that wasn't true. We have statements from the president of the United States saying that an attack was imminent and that chemical weapons would be used on our troops. That turned out not to be so. What we need to know is why these statements were made, what authority were they made on. Were they made deliberately, knowing that they were false, or is our intelligence structure simply so rotten and chaotic that horrible information was given to the president and we went to war without knowing the facts?

O'DONNELL: Governor Dean, you are in a crowded field of Democrats seeking the nomination. Have you used your criticism of the war in a way that might politicize the war in Iraq?

Mr. DEAN: I think the war was politicized from the very beginning. You may rem—remember when the Senate voted five months before we went to war to give the president authority to attack Iraq unilaterally. It was a very political time, and it was right before the election. So the White House has politicized this war, and now, of course, they're paying the consequences of that.

O'DONNELL: Governor Howard Dean, thank you so much.

Mr. DEAN: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Now here's Maurice.


Kelly, thank you.

Copyright 2003 National Broadcasting Co. Inc.  NBC News Transcripts

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