9 July 2003

Whoops! 2
From the 7:30 Report
MAXINE McKEW: Mr Downer, on a related question about quality of intelligence, you'd know that today's news out of the White House is that President Bush got a key fact wrong in his State of the Union address that suggests either perhaps an interagency failure or selective use of material.

This, of course, is in relation to uranium out of Africa, possibly to Iraq.

How does this misstatement sit with you as a member of the coalition?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Look, I think to call it a misstatement is a complete re-creation of history.

Obviously President Bush, as others, did use this information -

MAXINE McKEW: Sorry, the White House has admitted they got this wrong.


MAXINE McKEW: The White House has said they got this wrong.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Yeah, but I think to say that this was a misstatement or that to imply, as I've noticed some people have done, that somehow President Bush knew that this was wrong at the time he uttered these words is entirely unfair.

That's not true.

People don't follow these issues very closely -

MAXINE McKEW: Sorry, if that's not true, that means his system has failed him and if his system has failed him --

ALEXANDER DOWNER: No, I don't think that's fair at all.

MAXINE McKEW: ...and, if that system has failed him, then it's failed our intelligence agencies as well.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: I don't think that's fair at all.

Of course, nobody is claiming every piece of intelligence ever received by any government on earth is always right.

No-one ever claims that.

In this case, before the war against Iraq started, the International Atomic Energy Agency came out, I think in early March, and said that they thought they had concluded, having examined these documents relating to uranium trade from Niger, they had concluded that these documents were forgeries.

Well, that's fair enough.

And that's not to say when President Bush made his State of the Union address he knew these documents were forgeries.

Now some people say someone in the State Department had some doubts or other about it, well, fair enough.

But, in the end, the CIA would have made an overall assessment of the credibility of the information and they would have passed that on to the White House.

Now subsequently, the International Atomic Energy Agency in early March has established these documents were forgeries, and everyone accepts that.

No doubt the White House press office are all scurrying to deny their denial now that Australia's foreign minister has set them straight.

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