More News -- July 21-31, 2003

"Follow the Yellowcake Road" -- Michael Isikoff and Evan Thomas in Newsweek, 7/28/03:

In an age when American policy is to strike first, before the enemy can strike the American homeland, intelligence needs to be very precise. In real life, it rarely is. Intelligence officials say they are careful to weigh and double-check tips and leads. But the behind-the-scenes story of the handling of the bogus documents about Saddam's attempts to buy uranium in Africa, pieced together by NEWSWEEK, does not present a reassuring picture.

The report from Italy's SISME -- that Iraq was trying to buy 500 tons of pure yellowcake uranium from Niger -- made it into the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate. But the CIA did not bother to first examine the documents. An Italian journalist turned the papers over to the American Embassy in Rome that same month, but the CIA station chief in Rome apparently tossed them out, rather than send them to analysts at Langley. At a congressional hearing last week, the CIA's Tenet was unable to explain why. "The CIA dropped the ball," said Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois. (Incredibly, the Italian press, which doesn't let the facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory, appeared to have higher standards than the CIA. The Italian reporter, Elisabetta Burba, worked for Panorama, a weekly magazine owned by Italy's conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. She went to Niger and checked out the documents but declined to use them because she feared they were bufala -- fraudulent -- and she would lose her job.)

Tenet did have qualms about using the Niger information in a presidential speech. The DCI warned deputy national-security adviser Steve Hadley not to include a reference to Niger in a speech delivered by President Bush on Oct. 7 in Cincinnati. But according to a top CIA official, another member of the NSC staff, Bob Joseph, wanted to include a mention of Iraqi efforts to buy uranium from Niger in the president's State of the Union speech. According to this CIA official, an agency analyst cautioned him not to include the Niger reference. The NSC man asked if it would be all right to cite a British intelligence report that the Iraqis were trying to buy uranium from several African countries. The CIA official acquiesced. Though the British have not backed off that claim (a British official told NEWSWEEK that it came from an East African nation, not Niger), CIA Director Tenet publicly took responsibility for allowing a thinly sourced report by another country to appear in the State of the Union. (The White House last week denied that the Niger reference had ever shown up in an SOTU draft.) What Bush said in his address: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." . . .

It wasn't until February, several days after the State of the Union, that the CIA finally obtained the Italian documents (from the State Department, whose warnings that the intelligence on Niger was "highly dubious" seem to have gone unheeded by the White House and unread by Bush). At the same time, the State Department turned over the Italian documents to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which had been pressing the United States to back up its claims about Iraq's nuclear program. "Within two hours they figured out they were forgeries," one IAEA official told NEWSWEEK. How did they do it? "Google," said the official. The IAEA ran the name of the Niger foreign minister through the Internet search engine and discovered that he was not in office at the time the document was signed. The FBI is investigating the whole affair, NEWSWEEK has learned, trying to determine if the documents were just a con job by a diplomat looking for some extra cash or a more serious attempt by Iraqi nationals to plant a story. In any case, the FBI will be, in effect, investigating the CIA, a sure script for more acts in the long-playing production of Intelligence Follies.

"Antiwar Groups Say Public Ire Over Iraq Claims Is Increasing" -- Evelyn Nieves in The Washington Post, 7/22/03:

About 400,000 people from every state have contacted members of Congress in the past three weeks as part of a petition that asks Congress to investigate the controversial claims that led to the war on Iraq, with more than 50,000 people signing on to the liberal activist Web site in the past five days alone.

"It seems more and more people who supported the war are signing on," said Eli Pariser,'s campaigns director. "They're angry. People who in the past couple of weeks before the war decided to support it are swinging back."

For organizations that opposed the war, these are busy days. Not since hundreds of thousands of people across the country marched in antiwar rallies in the weeks before the U.S.-led invasion has the rationale for the preemptive war come under such fire. The groups hope to galvanize a broad spectrum of the American people, a majority of whom supported the war, but with reservations. The goal is to persuade public officials to support an independent, bipartisan commission modeled on the panel investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In the week since the administration admitted that President Bush's State of the Union speech in January should not have mentioned that the British had "learned" Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Africa for a nuclear weapons program, antiwar groups say that more and more Americans have been contacting them, looking for answers.

"You know an issue has momentum," said Andrea Buffa, co-chair of the United for Peace and Justice coalition, "when people are coming into your office to ask if there's a protest planned about it." . . .

Both United for Peace and Justice and Win Without War, the largest mainstream antiwar coalitions, with hundreds of member groups, including the National Council of Churches and the AFL-CIO, have launched campaigns that include petitions demanding an investigation into the intelligence that led to war, print and television ads that accuse Bush of misleading the nation with discredited or unproven claims about Iraq's nuclear arsenal and suggestions for organizing at the local level to reinvigorate the broad movement that developed in the weeks before the war. . . .

Win Without War and are already calling a 30-second ad they co-sponsored, which aired over the past week in the Washington and New York area cable markets, an unqualified hit. The ad, which labels Bush a "misleader," brought in thousands of people to the Web site to sign the petition. The coalition said it will place ads in at least 10 other cities over the next two weeks.

"Columnist Blows CIA Agent's Cover" -- Timothy M. Phelps and Knut Royce in Newsday, 7/22/03 (archived at

WASHINGTON - The identity of an undercover CIA officer whose husband started the Iraq uranium intelligence controversy has been publicly revealed by a conservative Washington columnist citing "two senior administration officials."

Intelligence officials confirmed to Newsday yesterday that Valerie Plame, wife of retired Ambassador Joseph Wilson, works at the agency on weapons of mass destruction issues in an undercover capacity - at least she was undercover until last week when she was named by columnist Robert Novak.

Wilson, while refusing to confirm his wife's employment, said the release to the press of her relationship to him and even her maiden name was an attempt to intimidate others like him from talking about Bush administration intelligence failures.

"It's a shot across the bow to these people, that if you talk we'll take your family and drag them through the mud as well," he said in an interview.

It was Wilson who started the controversy that has engulfed the Bush administration by writing in the New York Times two weeks ago that he had traveled to Niger last year at the request of the CIA to investigate reports that Iraq was trying to buy uranium there. Though he told the CIA and the State Department there was no basis to the report, the allegation was used anyway by President George W. Bush in his State of the Union speech in January.

Wilson and a retired CIA official said yesterday that the "senior administration officials" who named Plame had, if their description of her employment was accurate, violated the law and may have endangered her career and possibly the lives of her contacts in foreign countries. Plame could not be reached for comment.

"When it gets to the point of an administration official acting to do career damage, and possibly actually endanger someone, that's mean, that's petty, it's irresponsible, and it ought to be sanctioned," said Frank Anderson, former CIA Near East Division chief.

A current intelligence official said that blowing the cover of an undercover officer could affect the officer's future assignments and put them and everyone they dealt with overseas in the past at risk.

"If what the two senior administration officials said is true," Wilson said, "they will have compromised an entire career of networks, relationships and operations." What's more, it would mean that "this White House has taken an asset out of the" weapons of mass destruction fight, "not to mention putting at risk any contacts she might have had where the services are hostile."

Deputy White House Press Secretary Claire Buchan referred questions to a National Security Council spokesman who did not return phone calls last night.

"This might be seen as a smear on me and my reputation," Wilson said, "but what it really is is an attempt to keep anybody else from coming forward" to reveal similar intelligence lapses.

Novak, in an interview, said his sources had come to him with the information. "I didn't dig it out, it was given to me," he said. "They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it." . . .

A senior intelligence official confirmed that Plame was a Directorate of Operations undercover officer who worked "alongside" the operations officers who asked her husband to travel to Niger.

But he said she did not recommend her husband to undertake the Niger assignment. "They [the officers who did ask Wilson to check the uranium story] were aware of who she was married to, which is not surprising," he said. "There are people elsewhere in government who are trying to make her look like she was the one who was cooking this up, for some reason," he said. "I can't figure out what it could be."

"We paid his [Wilson's] air fare. But to go to Niger is not exactly a benefit. Most people you'd have to pay big bucks to go there," the senior intelligence official said. Wilson said he was reimbursed only for expenses.

"Dead: The Sons of Hussein" -- Julian Borger and Gary Younge in The Guardian, 7/23/03:

Uday and Qusay, Saddam Hussein's sons and his most feared lieutenants, were killed yesterday in a gun battle at their hideout in the northern Iraqi town of Mosul.

The deaths of Saddam's two fugitive "princes" represent the biggest coup for coalition forces since the fall of Baghdad more than three months ago. It offers Washington and London hope of a turning point in a bloody guerrilla war. . . .

Saddam's sons, together with another man and a young boy, had barricaded themselves inside the home of a Mosul businessman, thought to be a distant relative, and put up fierce resistance. Gen Sanchez said the entire operation took six hours.

"They died in a fierce gun battle. They resisted the detention and the efforts of the coalition forces to apprehend them. They were killed in the ensuing gunfight," he said.

The US army promised conclusive proof of the deaths today, possibly by presenting photographs.

General Sanchez said the raid on the house followed a tip-off from a local informant. "We had a walk-in last night that came in and gave us the information [about where they were hiding]," he said.

Gen Sanchez added that it was likely that the $15m (£9.4m) reward on each of their heads - for information leading to their discovery - would be claimed. "We are pursuing that at this point in time. That will probably happen," he said.

The deaths of Saddam's sons will come as an immense relief to the US and British governments, which have been under sustained attack for justifying the invasion with questionable intelligence.

The elimination of Uday and Qusay will provide a temporary distraction from the intelligence scandal. Iraq analysts said their deaths could sap the morale of guerrilla groups fighting for the restoration of the Hussein dynasty.

"Bush Aides Disclose Warnings from CIA" -- Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus in The Washington Post, 7/23/03:

The CIA sent two memos to the White House in October voicing strong doubts about a claim President Bush made three months later in the State of the Union address that Iraq was trying to buy nuclear material in Africa, White House officials said yesterday.

The officials made the disclosure hours after they were alerted by the CIA to the existence of a memo sent to Bush's deputy national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, on Oct. 6. The White House said Bush's chief speechwriter, Michael Gerson, on Friday night discovered another memo from the CIA, dated Oct. 5, also expressing doubts about the Africa claims.

The information, provided in a briefing by Hadley and Bush communications director Dan Bartlett, significantly alters the explanation previously offered by the White House. The acknowledgment of the memos, which were sent on the eve of a major presidential speech in Cincinnati about Iraq, comes four days after the White House said the CIA objected only to technical specifics of the Africa charge, not its general accuracy.

In fact, the officials acknowledged yesterday, the CIA warned the White House early on that the charge, based on an allegation that Iraq sought 500 tons of uranium in Niger, relied on weak evidence, was not particularly significant and assumed Iraq was pursuing an acquisition that was arguably not possible and of questionable value because Iraq had its own supplies.

Yesterday's disclosures indicate top White House officials knew that the CIA seriously disputed the claim that Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium in Africa long before the claim was included in Bush's January address to the nation. The claim was a major part of the case made by the Bush administration before the Iraq war that Hussein represented a serious threat because of his nuclear ambitions; other pieces of evidence have also been challenged.

Hadley, who also received a phone call from CIA Director George J. Tenet before the president's Oct. 7 speech asking that the Africa allegation be removed, took the blame for allowing the charge to be revived in the State of the Union address. "I should have recalled . . . that there was controversy associated with the uranium issue," he said. He said Bush and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice were counting on his dependability, and "it is now clear to me that I failed." Hadley said Rice was not made aware of the doubts but "feels personal responsibility as well."

"The high standards that the president set with his speeches were not met," Hadley said, acknowledging that the problem was not solely that the CIA failed to strike the reference from the January speech. "We had opportunities here to avoid this problem. We didn't take them," he said. . . .

The new information amounted to an on-the-record mea culpa for a White House that had pointed fingers at the CIA for vetting the speech, prompting an earlier acceptance of responsibility by Tenet. But that abruptly changed yesterday after the CIA furnished evidence that it had fought the inclusion of the charge.

The disclosures punctured claims made by Rice and others in the past two weeks. Rice and other officials had asserted that nobody in the White House knew of CIA objections, and that the CIA supported the Africa accusation generally, making only technical objections about location and quantity. On Friday, a White House official mischaracterized the CIA's objections, saying repeatedly that Tenet opposed the inclusion in Bush's Oct. 7 speech "because it was single source, not because it was flawed." . . .

The new information disclosed by the White House provides additional material for Democrats who have been criticizing Bush's handling of Iraq intelligence. Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), a former intelligence committee chairman and now a presidential candidate, said the admission "raises sharp new questions as to who at the White House engaged in a coverup." Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), who has been pressing the administration on the matter for months, said, "Congress needs to investigate this with immediate public hearings."

But strategists in both political parties said the lifespan of the criticism, and the possibility of congressional hearings in the fall, largely depends on whether the occupation of Iraq continues to be as violent and chaotic as it has been. Yesterday's disclosures by the White House came at a time of otherwise good news related to Iraq, as the U.S. military confirmed that it had killed Hussein's two sons, Uday and Qusay, and Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch, a rescued prisoner of war, returned to her home town in West Virginia after four months of hospitalization.

"White House Tries to Limit Iraq Damage" -- Tom Raum (AP) in The Washington Post, 7/23/03:

The Bush administration is reaching out to its Republican allies in Congress in an effort to counter criticism of President Bush's Iraq policy and his use of discredited intelligence to advance the case for toppling Saddam Hussein. . . .

On Monday, White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett went to Capitol Hill to urge Republicans to emphasize positive aspects of the broader war against terrorism, administration and congressional officials said.

Bartlett met with top GOP House and Senate aides to essentially provide "talking points" for countering Democratic attacks and to share recently declassified intelligence information with them, officials said.

The administration wants its GOP allies in Congress to do more to emphasize some of the upside to deposing Saddam, including humanitarian gestures and the freeing of the Iraqi people.

Other aggressive efforts are expected by the administration in the days ahead to try to regain control of the message, including a possible speech on the issue by Vice President Dick Cheney, administration and congressional GOP aides said. . . .

A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Monday that Bartlett's trip to Capitol Hill was an attempt to touch base with congressional allies on the subject and go over what the administration views as "misinformation."

"Who's Unpatriotic Now?" -- Paul Krugman in The New York Times, 7/22/03:

Issues of principle aside, the invasion of a country that hadn't attacked us and didn't pose an imminent threat has seriously weakened our military position. Of the Army's 33 combat brigades, 16 are in Iraq; this leaves us ill prepared to cope with genuine threats. Moreover, military experts say that with almost two-thirds of its brigades deployed overseas, mainly in Iraq, the Army's readiness is eroding: normal doctrine calls for only one brigade in three to be deployed abroad, while the other two retrain and refit.

And the war will have devastating effects on future recruiting by the reserves. A widely circulated photo from Iraq shows a sign in the windshield of a military truck that reads, "One weekend a month, my ass."

To top it all off, our insistence on launching a war without U.N. approval has deprived us of useful allies. George Bush claims to have a "huge coalition," but only 7 percent of the coalition soldiers in Iraq are non-American ? and administration pleas for more help are sounding increasingly plaintive.

How serious is the strain on our military? The Brookings Institution military analyst Michael O'Hanlon, who describes our volunteer military as "one of the best military institutions in human history," warns that "the Bush administration will risk destroying that accomplishment if they keep on the current path."

But instead of explaining what happened to the Al Qaeda link and the nuclear program, in the last few days a series of hawkish pundits have accused those who ask such questions of aiding the enemy. Here's Frank Gaffney Jr. in The National Post: "Somewhere, probably in Iraq, Saddam Hussein is gloating. He can only be gratified by the feeding frenzy of recriminations, second-guessing and political power plays. . . . Signs of declining popular appreciation of the legitimacy and necessity of the efforts of America's armed forces will erode their morale. Similarly, the enemy will be encouraged."

Well, if we're going to talk about aiding the enemy: By cooking intelligence to promote a war that wasn't urgent, the administration has squandered our military strength. This provides a lot of aid and comfort to Osama bin Laden -- who really did attack America -- and Kim Jong Il -- who really is building nukes.

"9/11 Report: No Iraq Link to al-Qaeda" -- Shaun Waterman at

The report of the joint congressional inquiry into the suicide hijackings on Sept. 11, 2001, to be published Thursday, reveals U.S. intelligence had no evidence that the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein was involved in the attacks, or that it had supported al-Qaida, United Press International has learned.

"The report shows there is no link between Iraq and al-Qaida," said a government official who has seen the report.

Former Democratic Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, who was a member of the joint congressional committee that produced the report, confirmed the official's statement.

Asked whether he believed the report will reveal that there was no connection between al-Qaida and Iraq, Cleland replied: "I do ... There's no connection, and that's been confirmed by some of (al-Qaida leader Osama) bin Laden's terrorist followers."

The revelation is likely to embarrass the Bush administration, which made links between Saddam's support for bin Laden -- and the attendant possibility that Iraq might supply al-Qaida with weapons of mass destruction -- a major plank of its case for war.

"The administration sold the connection (between Iraq and al-Qaida) to scare the pants off the American people and justify the war," said Cleland. "What you've seen here is the manipulation of intelligence for political ends."

The inquiry, by members of both the House and Senate intelligence committees, was launched in February last year amid growing concerns that failures by U.S. intelligence had allowed the 19 al-Qaida terrorists to enter the United States, hijack four airliners, and kill almost 3,000 people.

Although the committee completed its work at the end of last year, publication of the report has been delayed by interminable wrangles between the committees and the administration over which parts of it could be declassified.

Cleland accused the administration of deliberately delaying the report's release to avoid having its case for war undercut.

"The reason this report was delayed for so long -- deliberately opposed at first, then slow-walked after it was created -- is that the administration wanted to get the war in Iraq in and over ... before (it) came out," he said.

"Had this report come out in January like it should have done, we would have known these things before the war in Iraq, which would not have suited the administration."

The case that administration officials made that al-Qaida was linked to Iraq was based on four planks.

Firstly, the man suspected of being the ringleader of the Sept. 11 hijackers, Mohammed Atta, was supposed to have met with an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, in April 2001. But Czech intelligence - the original source of the report - later recanted, and U.S. intelligence officials now believe that Atta was in the United States at the time of the supposed meeting.

The Iraqi official, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani is now in U.S. custody.

Secondly, U.S. officials said Iraq was harboring an alleged al-Qaida terrorist named Abu Mussab al-Zakawi.

But the government official who has seen the report poured scorn on the evidence behind this claim.

"Because someone makes a telephone call from a country, does not mean that the government of that country is complicit in that," he told UPI.

"When we found out there was an al-Qaida cell operating in Germany, we didn't say 'we have to invade Germany, because the German government supports al-Qaida.' ... There was no evidence to indicate that the Iraqi government knew about or was complicit in Zakawi's activities."

Newsweek magazine has also reported that German intelligence agencies - having interrogated one of Zakawi's associates - believed that Zakawi was not even an al-Qaida member, but headed a rival Islamic terror group.

Thirdly, defectors provided to U.S. intelligence by the then-exiled opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress, said that Islamic terrorists had been training to hijack airliners using a disused plane fuselage at a camp in Salman Pak in Iraq.

"My understanding was that there was an alternate explanation for that," said the government official, suggesting that that they were doing counter terrorism training there. "I'm not saying that was the explanation, but there were other ways of looking at it."

Fourthly, officials have cited a series of meetings in the 1980's and 1990's between Iraqi officials and al-Qaida members, especially in Sudan.

Former CIA counter-terrorism analyst Judith Yaphe has questioned the significance of this data, "Every terrorist group and state sponsor was represented in Sudan (at that time)," she said recently, "How could they not meet in Khartoum, a small city offering many opportunities for terrorist tête-à-têtes."

The government official added that the significance of such meetings was unclear: "Intelligence officials, including ours, meet with bad guys all around the world every day. That's their job. Maybe to get information from them, maybe to try and recruit them.

"There are a series of alternative explanations for why two people like that might meet, and that's what we don't know."

He went on to suggest that the conclusions drawn from the information about the Sudan meetings was indicative of a wider-ranging problem with the administration's attitude to intelligence on the alleged Iraq al-Qaida link.

"They take a fact that you could draw several different conclusions from, and in every case they draw the conclusion that supports the policy, without any particular evidence that would meet the normal bar that analytic tradecraft would require for you to make that conclusion," he concluded.

"Sword-Passing" -- Richard Cohen in The Washington Post, 7/24/03:

Earlier this month CIA Director George Tenet accepted responsibility for the assertion in George Bush's State of the Union address that Iraq had tried to secure uranium in Africa. It was said at the time that Tenet had fallen on his sword. It is now clear that he fell on his credibility instead.

In a game of White House sword-passing not seen since the Nixon administration, it now turns out that yet another administration official -- Stephen Hadley of the National Security Council -- has stepped forward to take a piece of the blame himself. He follows Tenet and various White House and CIA underlings -- so many confessions, so many swords, so many people responsible yet none of them accountable.

Hadley now says he was twice warned by the CIA not to include the accusation about African uranium in a speech Bush was set to deliver last Oct. 7 in Cincinnati. One memo was sent on Oct. 5 and another on Oct 6. As a result, the mention of African uranium was deleted from Bush's speech. Later, of course, it resurfaced in the State of the Union.

Why? Bush's own response, provided to the media while he was visiting Africa, was that the CIA cleared the speech. Condoleezza Rice said the same thing while winging her way to Uganda: "The CIA cleared the speech in its entirety." In a flash, Tenet took the hint. "I am responsible for the approval process in my agency."

But Tenet had never read Bush's speech. Why? It's impossible to say for sure, but maybe -- just maybe -- he had given up fighting with a White House determined to exaggerate the urgency of dealing with Iraq's nuclear weapons program. Whatever the case, he had twice warned the White House -- and his deputies had issued similar warnings. What more could a CIA director do?

Well, he might have resigned. He might have spoken up. He might have done what in Washington is considered virtually noble Roman behavior and leaked the truth. Instead, he did as the Bush White House wished. He took the blame.

It would be one thing if Tenet had proved himself to be a whiz-bang CIA director. He has not. He was the nation's premier intelligence official on Sept. 11, which can only be called a massive intelligence failure. The United States was attacked on his watch -- not because the terrorists were so awfully clever but because our intelligence agencies were so awfully inept.

The same could be said for Rice. She had been warned by the Clinton administration's outgoing NSC head, Sandy Berger, that terrorism -- specifically Osama bin Laden -- would be her number-one priority. Upon taking office, she relegated it to something less than that -- with disastrous consequences. It was her job to keep the FBI and the CIA coordinated. She failed at that, too.

Hadley is Rice's top aide. He says he forgot about the warnings from Tenet -- two memos and one phone call -- and did not tell her. If that's the case, he's in the wrong job. If it's not the case -- and a reasonable man could have reasonable doubt -- is it possible Rice said nothing to Bush? Maybe not. But if not, why not? That's her job.

By now it is clear that the White House was so desperate to buttress its unsupportable claims of an imminent Iraqi nuclear threat that it was willing to include the most questionable of evidence. That happened not only with the uranium reference but also with another piece of supposedly significant evidence -- those aluminum tubes that turned out to play no role in any nuclear weapons program. Who was behind this? Rice? Dick Cheney? The president himself? The uranium reference kept turning up like a bad penny. It had a sponsor -- someone awfully high up.

"Why Commander in Chief Is Losing the War of the 16 Words" -- Dan Balz and Walter Pincus in The Washington Post, 7/24/03:

If President Bush's White House is known for anything, it is competence at delivering a disciplined message and deftness in dealing with bad news. That reputation has been badly damaged by the administration's clumsy efforts to explain how a statement based on disputed intelligence ended up in the president's State of the Union address.

How did the White House stumble so badly? There are a host of explanations, from White House officials, their allies outside the government and their opponents in the broader debate about whether the administration sought to manipulate evidence while building its case to go to war against Iraq.

But the dominant forces appear to have been the determination by White House officials to protect the president for using 16 questionable words about Iraq's attempts to buy uranium in Africa and a fierce effort by the Central Intelligence Agency to protect its reputation through bureaucratic infighting that has forced the president's advisers to repeatedly alter their initial version of events.

At several turns, when Bush might have taken responsibility for the language in his Jan. 28 address to the country, he and his top advisers resisted, claiming others -- particularly those in the intelligence community -- were responsible.

Asked again yesterday whether Bush should ultimately be held accountable for what he says, White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters, "Let's talk about what's most important. That's the war on terrorism, winning the war on terrorism. And the best way you do that is to go after the threats where they gather, not to let them come to our shore before it's too late."

White House finger-pointing in turn prompted the CIA's allies to fire back by offering evidence that ran counter to official White House explanations of events and by helping to reveal a chronology of events that forced the White House to change its story.

The latest turn came Tuesday, when deputy national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley and White House communications director Dan Bartlett revealed the existence of two previously unknown memos showing that Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet had repeatedly urged the administration last October to remove a similar claim that Iraq had tried to buy uranium in Africa.

White House officials and their Republican allies in Congress hope the Hadley-Bartlett briefing will help the administration turn a corner on the controversy, and they plan a counteroffensive to try to put Bush's critics on the defensive. But the administration faces new risks as Congress begins its own investigations, which could bring the bureaucratic infighting into open conflict.

The White House and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence are trying to work out ground rules for the collection of information from National Security Council personnel involved in preparing the president's State of the Union address, according to administration and congressional sources.

"A list has gone to the White House and documents have been requested," according to one congressional aide. On that document list are the two memos cited by Hadley and Bartlett from the CIA, dated Oct. 5 and Oct. 6, which contained comments on specific sections of drafts of the president's Oct. 7 speech on the dangers posed by Saddam Hussein.

Tenet testified yesterday in closed session of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and today the CIA inspector general, John L. Helgerson, is scheduled to appear before the Senate intelligence panel to discuss the findings of his ongoing investigation of how the speech was vetted. Tenet was questioned about the State of the Union speech and about the intelligence developed around Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Beyond the memos, one area of potential risk for the administration is an October telephone call from Tenet to Hadley to make certain the offending language had been removed from Bush's Oct. 7 speech. Hadley said he cannot recall whether that issue was discussed with Tenet on Oct. 5, Oct. 6 or Oct. 7, but a senior administration official familiar with the events said it was "most likely" on Oct. 7, the day of Bush's speech. Going to Hadley directly indicated Tenet's fear that his underlings had not been successful.

Another potential problem for the White House is the sharp disagreement between testimony given the committee last Thursday by CIA senior analyst Alan Foley about his conversation with Robert Joseph, a National Security Council staff member, about what was to go into the State of the Union address and how Bartlett described it to reporters Tuesday.

For all the purported discipline and unity within the Bush administration, disputes among members of the national security team have been common, particularly in the run-up to the war with Iraq. Those disputes, however, generally pitted the State and Defense departments against one another, but once Bush made a decision, the combatants generally accepted that and moved on.

What is unusual about this episode is that the combatants are officials at the White House and the CIA -- and that the White House has tried without success to resolve the controversy. The biggest lesson learned so far, said one administration official, is that "you don't pick a bureaucratic fight with the CIA." To which a White House official replied, "That wasn't our intention, but that certainly has been the perception."

"Columnist Blows CIA Agent's Cover" -- Timothy M. Phelps and Knut Royce in Newsday, 7/22/03:

Washington - The identity of an undercover CIA officer whose husband started the Iraq uranium intelligence controversy has been publicly revealed by a conservative Washington columnist citing "two senior administration officials."

Intelligence officials confirmed to Newsday yesterday that Valerie Plame, wife of retired Ambassador Joseph Wilson, works at the agency on weapons of mass destruction issues in an undercover capacity - at least she was undercover until last week when she was named by columnist Robert Novak.

Wilson, while refusing to confirm his wife's employment, said the release to the press of her relationship to him and even her maiden name was an attempt to intimidate others like him from talking about Bush administration intelligence failures.

"It's a shot across the bow to these people, that if you talk we'll take your family and drag them through the mud as well," he said in an interview.

It was Wilson who started the controversy that has engulfed the Bush administration by writing in the New York Times two weeks ago that he had traveled to Niger last year at the request of the CIA to investigate reports that Iraq was trying to buy uranium there. Though he told the CIA and the State Department there was no basis to the report, the allegation was used anyway by President George W. Bush in his State of the Union speech in January.

Wilson and a retired CIA official said yesterday that the "senior administration officials" who named Plame had, if their description of her employment was accurate, violated the law and may have endangered her career and possibly the lives of her contacts in foreign countries. Plame could not be reached for comment. . . .

Novak, in an interview, said his sources had come to him with the information. "I didn't dig it out, it was given to me," he said. "They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it."

Wilson and others said such a disclosure would be a violation of the law by the officials, not the columnist.

Novak reported that his "two senior administration officials" told him that it was Plame who suggested sending her husband, Wilson, to Niger.

"Iraq Flap Shakes Rice's Image" -- Dana Milbank and Mike Allen in The Washington Post, 7/27/03:

Just weeks ago, Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser, made a trip to the Middle East that was widely seen as advancing the peace process. There was speculation that she would be a likely choice for secretary of state, and hopes among Republicans that she could become governor of California and even, someday, president.

But she has since become enmeshed in the controversy over the administration's use of intelligence about Iraq's weapons in the run-up to war. She has been made to appear out of the loop by colleagues' claims that she did not read or recall vital pieces of intelligence. And she has made statements about U.S. intelligence on Iraq that have been contradicted by facts that later emerged.

The remarks by Rice and her associates raise two uncomfortable possibilities for the national security adviser. Either she missed or overlooked numerous warnings from intelligence agencies seeking to put caveats on claims about Iraq's nuclear weapons program, or she made public claims that she knew to be false.

Most prominent is her claim that the White House had not heard about CIA doubts about an allegation that Iraq sought uranium in Africa before the charge landed in Bush's State of the Union address on Jan. 28; in fact, her National Security Council staff received two memos doubting the claim and a phone call from CIA Director George J. Tenet months before the speech. Various other of Rice's public characterizations of intelligence documents and agencies' positions have been similarly cast into doubt.

"If Condi didn't know the exact state of intel on Saddam's nuclear programs . . . she wasn't doing her job," said Brookings Institution foreign policy specialist Michael E. O'Hanlon. "This was foreign policy priority number one for the administration last summer, so the claim that someone else should have done her homework for her is unconvincing." . . .

In the White House briefing room on July 18, a senior administration official, speaking to reporters on the condition of anonymity, said Rice did not read October's National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, the definitive prewar assessment of Iraq's weapons programs by U.S. intelligence agencies. "We have experts who work for the national security adviser who would know this information," the official said when asked if Rice had read the NIE. Referring to an annex raising doubts about Iraq's nuclear program, the official said Bush and Rice "did not read footnotes in a 90-page document. . . . The national security adviser has people that do that." The annex was boxed and in regular type.

Four days later, Rice's deputy, Stephen J. Hadley, said in a second White House briefing that he did not mention doubts raised by the CIA about an African uranium claim Bush planned to make in an October speech (the accusation, cut from that speech, reemerged in Bush's State of the Union address). Hadley said he did not mention the objections to Rice because "there was no need." Hadley said he does not recall ever discussing the matter with Rice, suggesting she was not aware that the sentence had been removed.

Hadley said he could not recall discussing the CIA's concerns about the uranium claim, which was based largely on British intelligence. He said a second memo from the CIA protesting the claim was sent to Rice, but "I can't tell you she read it. I can't tell you she received it." Rice herself used the allegation in a January op-ed article.

One person who has worked with Rice describes as "inconceivable" the claims that she was not more actively involved. Indeed, subsequent to the July 18 briefing, another senior administration official said Rice had been briefed immediately on the NIE -- including the doubts about Iraq's nuclear program -- and had "skimmed" the document. The official said that within a couple of weeks, Rice "read it all." . . .

When the controversy intensified earlier this month with a White House admission of error, Rice was the first administration official to place responsibility on CIA Director Tenet for the inclusion in Bush's State of the Union address of the Africa uranium charge. The White House now concedes that pinning responsibility on Tenet was a costly mistake. CIA officials have since made clear to the White House and to Congress that intelligence agencies had repeatedly tried to wave the White House off the allegation.

The main issue is whether Rice knew that U.S. intelligence agencies had significant doubts about a claim made by British intelligence that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa. "The intelligence community did not know at that time or at levels that got to us that this, that there was serious questions about this report," she said on ABC's "This Week" on June 8. A month later, on CBS's "Face the Nation," she stood by the claim. "What I knew at the time is that no one had told us that there were concerns about the British reporting. Apparently, there were. They were apparently communicated to the British."

As it turns out, the CIA did warn the British, but it also raised objections in the two memos sent to the White House and a phone call to Hadley. Hadley last Monday blamed himself for failing to remember these warnings and allowing the claim to be revived in the State of the Union address in January. Hadley said Rice, who was traveling, "wants it clearly understood that she feels a personal responsibility for not recognizing the potential problem presented by those 16 words."

In a broader matter, Rice claimed publicly that the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, or INR, did not take issue with other intelligence agencies' view that Iraq was rebuilding its nuclear program. "[W]hat INR did not take a footnote to is the consensus view that the Iraqis were actively trying to pursue a nuclear weapons program, reconstituting and so forth," she said on July 11, referring to the National Intelligence Estimate. Speaking broadly about the nuclear allegations in the NIE, she said: "Now, if there were doubts about the underlying intelligence to that NIE, those doubts were not communicated to the president, to the vice president, or to me."

In fact, the INR objected strongly. In a section referred to in the first paragraph of the NIE's key judgments, the INR said there was not "a compelling case" and said the government was "lacking persuasive evidence that Baghdad has launched a coherent effort to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program." . . .

In Rice's July 11 briefing, on Air Force One between South Africa and Uganda, she said the CIA and the White House had "some discussion" on the Africa uranium sentence in Bush's State of the Union address. "Some specifics about amount and place were taken out," she said. Asked about how the language was changed, she replied: "I'm going to be very clear, all right? The president's speech -- that sentence was changed, right? And with the change in that sentence, the speech was cleared. Now, again, if the agency had wanted that sentence out, it would have gone. And the agency did not say that they wanted that speech out -- that sentence out of the speech. They cleared the speech. Now, the State of the Union is a big speech, a lot of things happen. I'm really not blaming anybody for what happened."

Three days later, then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said Rice told him she was not referring to the State of the Union address, as she had indicated, but to Bush's October speech. That explanation, however, had a flaw: The sentence was removed from the October speech, not cleared.

In addition, testimony by a CIA official before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence two days after Fleischer's clarification was consistent with the first account Rice had given. The CIA official, Alan Foley, said he told a member of Rice's staff, Robert Joseph, that the CIA objected to mentioning a specific African country -- Niger -- and a specific amount of uranium in Bush's State of the Union address. Foley testified that he told Joseph of the CIA's problems with the British report and that Joseph proposed changing the claim to refer generally to uranium in Africa.

White House communications director Dan Bartlett last Monday called that a "conspiracy theory" and said Joseph did not recall being told of any concerns.

As White House officials try to control the latest fallout over President Bush's flawed suggestion in the State of the Union address that Iraq was buying nuclear bomb materials, there's growing talk by insiders that National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice may take the blame and resign. For most insiders, it's inconceivable that Rice, touted as a future secretary of state, California governor, and even vice president, would go, but the latest revelations that her shop and deputy Stephen Hadley mishandled CIA warnings have put the NSC in the bull's eye of controversy.

While it's unclear how serious the talk is inside the administration about the future of Rice or Hadley with the NSC, a few top aides are already suggesting replacements for Rice. They include former Bush administration National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, NASA chief and former Navy Secretary Sean O'Keefe, and Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq.

"A Tax Strategy for the Democrats" -- David Broder in The Washington Post, 7/27/03:

[I]t seems at least counterintuitive -- and maybe highly improbable -- for Democratic pollster-political consultant Stan Greenberg to argue that taxes can be a good issue for his party.

In a memo he sent out earlier this month, Greenberg, a sometime adviser to Bill Clinton and Al Gore, argued, on the basis of a June poll of 1,000 likely voters, that the Bush tax cuts and the Republican approach to taxes command only "lukewarm support." Further, he said, "The voters are angry about taxes, not because they think their taxes are too high, but because the wealthy and corporations do not pay their fair share."

Rather than making the past three years of tax cuts permanent, as Bush proposes, voters prefer shutting "the loopholes and tax shelters used by the wealthy and corporations" and requiring high-income people to pay Social Security taxes on all of their earnings, Greenberg said.

The implication of this analysis is that a Democrat proposing major reforms of the tax system could trump Bush's record of tax-cutting and his promise of more such reductions to come.

I was skeptical of these conclusions, but examining the poll whittled away some of my doubts. . . .

One clue came with a query about "what bothers you the most about taxes." Forty-six percent said it was "the feeling that the wealthy and corporations don't pay their fair share," compared with 31 percent who said it was the complexity of the tax system and only 14 percent who said, it was "the large amount you pay in taxes" that bothers them most.

When a variety of possible tax changes were outlined, the only ones a majority said they strongly favored were closing the tax loophole that allows corporations to set up offshore tax havens in places such as Bermuda and collecting Social Security taxes on a person's entire earnings, instead of capping them at $87,000 as is done now. Canceling recent tax cuts for the top 1 percent of earners enjoyed as much support as making all the tax cuts permanent. And moving to a flat tax -- the dream of conservatives such as Steve Forbes and Grover Norquist -- finished near last.

"Privatization and Neo-Feudalism" -- Bill Willers in The San Francisco Bay View, 7/23/03:

As the deficit balloons, the rightist program to privatize public lands is also moving right along. Free marketeer Terry Anderson, whose published plan to give each citizen "shares" of the public domain, said shares being sellable on the open market to those with the wealth to scoop them up, has been made President Bush's adviser on public lands issues.

Late last year, fellow free marketeer and Interior secretary, Gale Norton, a product of the anti-environmental "Wise Use Movement," revealed plans to "outsource" to the private sector 3,500 jobs in the U.S. Park Service. This raised no eyebrows, and by January 2003 the estimate had risen to more than 11,000 positions -- an eyebrow-raising 72 percent. Soon thereafter, President Bush revealed that as many as 850,000 positions, now federal, could become privatized. It was a declaration of war on public ownership and government by the people, framed as an argument for fiscal efficiency.

"Deployment Comments under Investigation" -- Lisa Burgess in Stars and Stripes, European edition, 7/25/03:

On Monday, the 3rd ID commander, Maj. Gen. Buford Blount, decided to stop allowing reporters to spend time with his troops, other than to gather information for pre-approved "news features," according to an e-mail response from Lt. Col. Birmingham, 3rd ID spokesman in Baghdad.

The 3rd ID is "no longer embedding media for short stays, effective the beginning of this week," Birmingham said.

The only exceptions to the policy will be made for three journalists who were embedded with the unit during the war and have subsequently returned, Birmingham said.

Blount "instituted the new ground rules with the intent to give soldiers some opportunity to unwind among themselves," Birmingham said.

"Poindexter's Follies" -- New York Times editorial, 7/30/03:

The time has obviously come to send John Poindexter packing and to shut down the wacky espionage operation he runs at the Pentagon. The latest idea hatched by Mr. Poindexter's shop -- an online futures trading market where speculators could bet on the probabilities of terrorist attacks, assassinations and coups -- was canceled yesterday by embarrassed Pentagon officials. The next logical step is to fire Mr. Poindexter.

In testimony before Congress yesterday, Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, disowned the futures project. The insensitivity of the idea boggles the mind. Quite apart from the tone-deafness of equating terrorist attacks with, say, corn futures, the plan would allow speculators -- even terrorists -- to profit from anonymous bets on future attacks. The project's theoretical underpinnings are equally absurd. Markets do not always operate perfectly in the larger world of stocks and bonds. The idea that they can reliably forecast the behavior of isolated terrorists is ridiculous.

The "Policy Analysis Market" would actually have opened for business on Oct. 1 had Senators Ron Wyden and Byron Dorgan not blown the whistle. Despite Mr. Wolfowitz's pledge to kill it, however, the problem of Mr. Poindexter remains. He is a man of dubious background and dubious ideas. A retired rear admiral, he served as Ronald Reagan's national security adviser and helped devise the plan to sell arms to Iran and illegally divert the proceeds to the rebels in Nicaragua. He was sentenced to six months in jail for lying to Congress, a conviction overturned on appeal. He resurfaced under the Bush administration at the Pentagon. His first big brainstorm post-9/11 was a program known as Total Information Awareness, designed to identify potential terrorists by compiling a detailed electronic dossier on millions of Americans.

Congress agreed earlier this year to subject that program to strict oversight and prohibit it from being used against Americans. In light of the revelations about the latest Poindexter scheme, Congress obviously did not go far enough. It should close his operation for good. The Senate recently agreed to do just that, adding an amendment to a Defense Department appropriations bill that would terminate funds for the program. The House must now follow suit.

"Defying Labels Left or Right, Dean's '04 Run Makes Gains" -- Jodi Wilgoren, with David Rosenbaum, in The New York Times, 7/30/03:

[Howard Dean] first dipped his toes in political water in a 1978 campaign to build a bike trail around Lake Champlain. He spent four years in the Vermont Legislature and five as lieutenant governor, both part-time jobs, before being elevated to the top job in in 1991, when Gov. Richard Snelling, a Republican, died of a heart attack.

He inherited a state budget deficit of about 11 percent, the highest income taxes in the country and the lowest bond rating in New England.

To the dismay of liberals in the Legislature who wanted to expand social and environmental programs, Dr. Dean and his chief economic adviser, Harlan Sylvester, a conservative stockbroker and investment banker, stuck with the Snelling budget-cutting plan. Helped by a booming economy, the state's finances improved sharply. Dr. Dean lowered income tax rates by 30 percent and put away millions in a rainy day fund. Vermont's bond rating became the highest in the Northeast.

In his last term, Dr. Dean won a change in law so that Vermont taxes were not automatically lowered by Mr. Bush's cut in federal income taxes, and Vermont had a comfortable surplus this spring when most other states faced crippling budget shortfalls. . . .

When he entered office, Dr. Dean was determined to provide health insurance to everyone in the state in one fell swoop. Despite support from liberal lawmakers, his plan failed, along with a similar initiative by the Clinton administration.

So Dr. Dean changed tactics and managed to accomplish much of his goal incrementally. Vermont now offers the nation's most generous health benefits to children, low-income adults and elderly residents of modest means. Almost all children in the state have full medical insurance, and more than a third of Vermont residents on Medicare get state help in paying for prescription drugs.

Under the program, teenage girls can often get counseling about sex and contraception without their parents' knowledge.

Dr. Dean promised that as president he would spend half of the money he would save by repealing Mr. Bush's recent tax cuts to provide free insurance to people under 25 and those who earn less than 185 percent of the poverty rate, and to let everybody else buy into a national plan for 7.5 percent of their gross income.

"My plan is not reform -- if you want to totally change the health-care system, I'm not your guy," Dr. Dean told supporters in Lebanon, N.H. "I'm not interested in having a big argument about what the best system is. I'm interested in getting everybody covered."

Dr. Dean earned the National Rifle Association's highest rating in its ranking of governors by signing two bills that protected gun ranges from commercial development and shifted responsibility for background checks to the federal government from county sheriffs. He says he would enforce federal laws banning assault weapons and requiring background checks, but would leave the rest to the states.

But the two most controversial bills Dr. Dean signed were forced on him by State Supreme Court decisions declaring the state's school financing system unconstitutional and demanding the same legal benefits for gay couples as for married heterosexuals.

In both instances, Dr. Dean mostly stayed in the background and left the heavy lifting to the Legislature. He insisted only that income taxes not be raised; the Legislature then turned to property taxes in wealthier communities to subsidize schools in poorer areas. And he pressed the state not to sanction gay marriages, although he allowed civil unions.

Although Dr. Dean flirted briefly with the idea of running for president in 2000, he says it was the civil union battle that finally convinced him to do so. "I realized you could win by standing up for what you believe in," he said.

"Read between the Lines of Those 28 Missing Pages" -- Robert Scheer in The Los Angeles Times, 7/29/03:

In the last week we've moved from the 16 deceitful words in George W. Bush's State of the Union speech to the 28 White House-censored pages in the congressional report that dealt with Saudi Arabia's role in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the United States.

Yet even in its sanitized version, the bipartisan report, long delayed by an embarrassed White House, makes clear that the U.S. should have focused on Saudi Arabia, and not Iraq, in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

As we know, but our government tends to ignore, 15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia; none came from Iraq. Leaks from the censored portions of the report indicate that at least some of those Saudi terrorists were in close contact with -- and financed by -- members of the Saudi elite, extending into the ranks of the royal family.

The report finds no such connections between Iraq and Al Qaeda terrorists. It is now quite clear that the president -- unwilling to deal with the ties between Saudi Arabia and Osama bin Laden -- pursued Hussein as a politically convenient scapegoat. By drawing attention away from the Muslim fanatic networks centered in Saudi Arabia, Bush diverted the war against terror. That seems to be the implication of the 28 pages, which the White House demanded be kept from the American people when the full report was released.

Even many in Bush's own party are irritated that the president doesn't think we can be trusted with the truth.

"I went back and read every one of those pages thoroughly," Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), former vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Sunday on "Meet the Press." "My judgment is 95% of that information could be declassified, become uncensored so the American people would know."

Asked why he thought the pages were excised, Shelby, a leading pro-administration conservative, said, "I think it might be embarrassing to international relations."

Quite an embarrassment if the censored pages reveal that the Bush administration covered up the Saudi connection to the terrorist attacks.

Obviously alluding to Saudi Arabia, Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), the former Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, said Sunday, "High officials in this government, who I assume were not just rogue officials acting on their own, made substantial contributions to the support and well-being of two of these terrorists and facilitated their ability to plan, practice and then execute the tragedy of Sept. 11."

On Monday, Graham, responding to reports that Saudi Arabia would welcome making public some of the pages, called on Bush to fully declassify "the currently censored pages."

Newsweek, relying on anonymous government sources, reported Monday that the "connections between high-level Saudi princes and associates of the hijackers" included helping Al Qaeda operatives enter the U.S. and financing their residence in San Diego, where they plotted their infamous attacks.

Remember too that it was well known that Saudi charities with ties to the royal House of Saud were bankrolling the Al Qaeda operation in Afghanistan -- even as George H.W. Bush visited the kingdom shortly after his son was elected, eager to secure contracts for his then-employer, the Carlyle Group.

The fact is, Riyadh, unlike Baghdad, has long been a key hotbed of extremist Muslim organizing. By shielding and nurturing our relationship with the Saudi sheiks, Bush & Son have provided cover for those who support terror.

After all, is it really likely that career-conscious FBI and CIA officers would be willing to criticize possible Al Qaeda-House of Saud links when the president's father is out hustling business ties with the same family?

Even after Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush administration immediately protected Saudis in the United States, including allowing members of the large Bin Laden family who were in this country to be spirited home on their government's aircraft before they could be questioned. This at a time when many immigrants from all over the world were being detained arbitrarily.

"Remembering When the Truth Mattered" -- Minneapolis Star-Tribune editorial, 7/30/03:

One can never be sure when to believe ex-cons, but let's say Jeb Magruder is telling the truth. Let's imagine the former campaign aide to President Richard Nixon is right that Nixon personally ordered the notorious Watergate burglary of Democratic Party headquarters in 1972. That revelation not only answers one of the world's most-asked questions -- "What did the president know and when did he know it?" -- but also illustrates how public sentiment about presidential conduct has changed in the decades since. . . .

Perhaps, to today's citizenry, the development will be no big deal. Those who recall the Watergate era remember Nixon as a deceitful man. Time has painted for them a portrait of a craven president who considered himself above the law. That he may have gone so far as to order a burglary may shock them no longer.

Indeed, such a blasé attitude toward presidential miscreancy fits well with popular sentiment toward other, more recent, presidential missteps. When President Ronald Reagan's administration was accused of violating the congressional ban on aiding Nicaragua's contra rebels, onlookers seemed less interested in discovering the truth than dividing into political camps. The same occurred when Bill Clinton walked into a swamp of prevarication during the Monica Lewinsky drama. And now that President Bush is leading America into ill-considered wars, few of Bush's supporters appear alarmed.

Could it be that Americans have come to expect their presidents to lie, cheat, burgle, conspire and cover up? That they're no longer surprised when the leader of the free world turns out to be less than a model citizen? If so, they may have people like Jeb Magruder -- folks who prize simpering loyalty and self-interest over true patriotism -- to thank. There was a time when a less-than-honest president sparked scorn from both sides of the political aisle and from within the White House itself. These days? Not such a big deal.