The White House on Friday denied willfully understating violence in Iraq, one of the charges stemming from a new book that reportedly paints top US officials as being in a state of disarray over the war.
At issue is State of Denial, the new tome by veteran journalist Bob Woodward, whose reporting on the Watergate scandal three decades ago helped force president Richard Nixon to resign.
According to the Washington Post, where Woodward is an assistant managing editor, the writer found that the Pentagon in May predicted in a secret intelligence estimate that violence in Iraq would increase through next year.
And in a recent interview with CBS television, Woodward also said that US President George W. Bush's administration was keeping the sharply increased frequency of attacks on US troops in Iraq a secret.
"Nobody's tried to mislead anyone about it," countered administration spokesman Tony Snow, who declined to spell out whether US forces are facing more or fewer attacks because "classified briefings remain classified."
"I can neither confirm nor deny" that US troops are attacked every 15 minutes, said the spokesman. "Sometimes the attacks go up and sometimes they've gone down."
Snow confirmed Woodward's claim Bush has been taking advice on the strategy for Iraq from Henry Kissinger, the controversial national security adviser during the Vietnam War who later became US secretary of state.
"The role is not an extraordinary one," Snow said after speaking to Kissinger. "The president has a lot of people in, and he listens to them. And Dr Kissinger was one of them."
"Dr Kissinger says he agrees with the overall thrust of American policy. He thinks we're doing the right things. He said he also may have times when he disagrees on details," Snow said.
On another front, Snow denied that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld feuded to the point that he would not return her telephone calls.
"I talked with Secretary Rice today and her quote was `This is ridiculous, and I told that to Woodward,'" Snow said.
Snow added that Rice and Rumsfeld take part in a daily telephone call with the national security adviser.
But he stopped well short of denying another bombshell reportedly in Woodward's book: that former White House chief of staff Andrew Card had twice pushed Bush to fire Rumsfeld.
Snow said he had not yet spoken to Card about the claim, but said: "It's typical, as a matter of fact, quite often in administrations at this point people are asked to submit their resignations."
"People serve at the pleasure of the president. If tomorrow the president decided that he didn't want Don Rumsfeld to serve as secretary of defense, Don Rumsfeld would no longer serve as secretary of defense," he said.
The Post cited Woodward's book as saying that Card made his first push after Bush's reelection in November 2004, urging him to replace Rumsfeld with former secretary of state James Baker.