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The Washington Post fires the next salvo: An unfounded White House claim which the CIA did NOT approve: The 45 Minute Launch Myth:
The White House, in the run-up to war in Iraq, did not seek CIA approval before charging that Saddam Hussein could launch a biological or chemical attack within 45 minutes, administration officials now say.
The claim, which has since been discredited, was made twice by President Bush, in a September Rose Garden appearance after meeting with lawmakers and in a Saturday radio address the same week. Bush attributed the claim to the British government, but in a "Global Message" issued Sept. 26 and still on the White House Web site (link added by Hoffmania), the White House claimed, without attribution, that Iraq "could launch a biological or chemical attack 45 minutes after the order is given."
The 45-minute claim is at the center of a scandal in Britain that led to the apparent suicide on Friday of a British weapons scientist who had questioned the government's use of the allegation. The scientist, David Kelly, was being investigated by the British parliament as the suspected source of a BBC report that the 45-minute claim was added to Britain's public "dossier" on Iraq in September at the insistence of an aide to Prime Minister Tony Blair -- and against the wishes of British intelligence, which said the charge was from a single source and was considered unreliable.
The White House embraced the claim, from a British dossier on Iraq, at the same time it began to promote the dossier's disputed claim that Iraq sought uranium in Africa.
Bush administration officials last week said the CIA was not consulted about the claim. A senior White House official did not dispute that account, saying presidential remarks such as radio addresses are typically "circulated at the staff level" within the White House only.
Virtually all of the focus on whether Bush exaggerated intelligence about Iraq's weapons ambitions has been on the credibility of a claim he made in the Jan. 28 State of the Union address about efforts to buy uranium in Africa. But an examination of other presidential remarks, which received little if any scrutiny by intelligence agencies, indicates Bush made more broad accusations on other intelligence matters related to Iraq.
For example, the same Rose Garden speech and Sept. 28 radio address that mentioned the 45-minute accusation also included blunt assertions by Bush that "there are al Qaeda terrorists inside Iraq." This claim was highly disputed among intelligence experts; a group called Ansar al-Islam in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq and Jordanian Abu Musab Zarqawi, who could have been in Iraq, were both believed to have al Qaeda contacts but were not themselves part of al Qaeda.
The unraveling is happening. Is it too early to wonder if Dean (or whichever Democrat) will be running against Cheney - or even John Dennis Hastert - in 2004?