Thu, Jul 24, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Deputy security adviser takes the rap for Bush speech

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , WASHINGTON

President George W. Bush's deputy national security adviser accepted blame on Tuesday for allowing faulty intelligence to appear in the president's State of the Union speech.

He took responsibility after revealing that the CIA had sent him two memoranda warning that evidence about Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium in Africa was weak.

The deputy adviser, Stephen Hadley, a critical behind-the-scenes-player in the Bush White House, told reporters that while he received the memoranda before the president gave a speech about Iraq in October, he had no memory of the warning three months later when the issue came up again in the State of the Union address.

He said the two memos had been discovered in the last 72 hours.

Looking shaken, he said, "I should have asked that the 16 words be taken out" of the State of the Union address, and added, "I failed in that responsibility."

Hadley's account of events on Tuesday once again shifted the White House explanation of events.

Two weeks ago, Ari Fleischer, then the White House press secretary, said that the CIA's concerns about the quality of the intelligence before Bush's October speech in Cincinnati were resolved by changing the president's language in the State of the Union address.

On Tuesday, Hadley said, in fact, that nothing had been resolved.

Had he recalled the warnings describing "some weakness in the evidence" the line would have been stricken, he said.

Hadley's acceptance of the blame seemed likely to fuel the calls for an investigation in Congress.

But it also appeared to be part of an effort to end an open feud between the CIA and the White House over who was responsible for the State of the Union imbroglio.

Ten days ago, the White House fingered George Tenet, director of central intelligence, who accepted partial blame the next day in a statement that said he had never read the draft of the speech that was sent to him.

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