Stephen Hadley, Rice's Top Deputy, Says He's to Blame for Nigergate. Is He?
by Bill Berkowitz
August 7, 2003
They're just sixteen words, and whadaya get?
A whopper of a story and I'm in deep shit.
When Condoleezza called me I had to go,
Cover for the Boss and the Company too.
-- With apologies to Merle Travis, composer of "Sixteen Tons"
"Dr. Condoleezza Rice is an honest, fabulous person, and America is lucky to have her service. Period."
-- President George W. Bush, July 30, 2003
From his days as a energetic young staff member with the Tower Commission investigating the Iran-Contra Affair, Stephen Hadley knows from scandals. Now, he's is in the middle of one.
On Tuesday, July 22, at a White House off-camera briefing with White House communications director Dan Bartlett at his side, Stephen Hadley, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice's top deputy, took partial responsibility for the unfounded claim in President Bush's State of the Union address that Iraq had gone uranium shopping in Africa. "I should have recalled at the time of the State of the Union speech that there was controversy associated with the uranium issue," said Hadley. The New York Times described Hadley as "a critical behind-the-scenes player in the Bush White House."
For weeks, the 16 words -- "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" -- dominated the doldrums of mid-Summer Cable news programming.
Internet bloggers, some in the mainstream press and several of the nine Democratic presidential hopefuls helped drive the Nigergate controversy. After a series of denials, the administration, with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice in the lead, convinced CIA Director George Tenet to take one for the team.
Tony Welch, Democratic National Committee spokesman summed up the situation: "First they blamed the Brits. Then, CIA Director George Tenet walked the plank. Now, the Bush White House is dragging former Cheney aide and deputy national security adviser Stephen Hadley forward to take the fall for the president's bogus claim in this year's State of the Union address."
Was Hadley, a highly respected foreign policy official, admitting a mistake of his own making, or stepping up to take one for his "Gipper" -- Condoleezza Rice?
In the past ten days, wall-to-wall coverage of the killing and the subsequent display of the waxy-looking and bloated bodies of Saddam Hussein's criminal sons, Odai and Qusai dominated television news coverage about Iraq. The hunt for Hussein has helped move the cable news networks almost completely off Nigergate. Now, it's "noose is tightening" stories twenty-four/seven. "The phony Niger/uranium scandal has run out of steam," sighs Bill Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, in a recent Standard piece.
But, give us a dull news day, and a nearly 2,000 word piece by Washington Post reporters Dana Milbank and Mike Allen may once again shine the spotlight on Nigergate and, more specifically, on Condoleezza Rice. Milbank and Allen report that in recent weeks, Rice has gone from trusted Bush advisor with a promising political future to "becom[ing] enmeshed in the controversy over the administration's use of intelligence about Iraq's weapons in the run-up to war." She 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." Now everyone's looking in Condy's direction.
Enter Stephen Hadley.
Milbank and Allen: "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."
According to the Post, one government official "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.'"
Like many other pre-war relatively unknown administration staffers -- Had you ever heard of Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, before the Iraq invasion? -- Stephen Hadley played an important supporting role in marketing the invasion of Iraq to the American people. The New York Times reported on November 4, 2002 that Hadley, together with national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, would work closely with the newly established Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. The Committee, with such high-powered members as former secretary of state George P. Shultz, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former senator Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), was to be "modeled on a successful lobbying campaign [co-founded by Hadley] to expand the NATO alliance." From the outset, however, the Committee's goal was clear: the removal of Saddam Hussein from Iraq.
According to an official biography posted at the National Security Council Web site, Hadley served as assistant secretary of defense for international security policy from 1989 to 1993. He was responsible for defense policy on NATO and Western Europe, nuclear weapons and ballistic missile defense, and arms control. He also participated in the START I and START II treaty negotiations. In 2000, he worked closely with the Bush-Cheney campaign as a foreign policy advisor, and has been a partner in the Washington law firm of Shea & Gardner and a principal in The Scowcroft Group international consulting firm.
Hadley is a "good loyal soldier," writes Kynn Bartlett at his "Shock & Awe" Web blog. Bartlett did "a little LexisDiving" and discovered the following:
* "[Hadley] was sent to the Middle East to help along the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.” (New York Times, June 13, 2003)
* "He was sent to Saudi Arabia to warn them of terrorist attacks -- just before the Riyadh car bombings.” (Newsday, May 15, 2003)
* "He was the conduit by which the French ambassador told Bush that a second UN resolution was unnecessary.” (Boston Globe, April 25, 2003)
* "He was one of the four guys who organized the Iraqi exiles for a meeting in London.” (William Safire, New York Times, November 29, 2002)
* "He met with the U.N. administrator for the rebuilding of Iraq to determine how much money the U.S. should chip in.” (Boston Globe, January 9, 2002)
* "He made sure that Bush's post-9/11 speech reminded Americans that they should be scared of further terrorist attacks.” (New York Times, October 7, 2001)
* "He flew to Europe to reassure our allies that NATO still mattered.” (Associated Press, May 9, 2001)
* "He described Bosnia to Congress as an ancient 'blood feud,' in which 'an enduring solution cannot be imposed by force' and said unequivocally that "we should be very reluctant" to start a U.S. military commitment.” (Boston Globe, August 12, 1992)
* He also may have written the bulk of the Tower Commission report that exonerated Reagan and Bush in the Iran-Contra scandal.
Headed by Sen. John Tower, Sen. Edmund Muskie, and Brent Scowcroft, the Tower Commission was appointed by President Reagan in December, 1986 to investigate the Iran-Contra Affair, the administration's authorization of the sale of arms to Iran (only a few years after it kidnapped and held American hostages) and the diversion of the profits to illegally fund the Contras (a CIA-sponsored terrorist band) in Nicaragua.
Whether he wrote the bulk of the Tower Commission Report or not, Hadley was an "extremely able and prolific contributor" to the Commission's work, said W. Clark McFadden, General Counsel for the Commission. In a phone interview, McFadden said that Hadley "was a major drafter of the chronologies that were set forth in the report and drafted other parts as well. It was a very small staff and lots of people helped edit the report. He was absolutely excellent, first rate, a gifted writer and enormously conscientious."
While admitting to not being aware of the current Nigergate matter, McFadden said that Hadley is "an individual of great integrity and a tireless worker. I believe him in whatever he would say. He is absolutely, scrupulously honest and careful."
How did a scrupulously honest and careful Stephen Hadley get caught up in the web of Nigergate? That question has yet to be answered.
Meanwhile, Hadley may not be the last administration staffer to take one for Condy. According to AP's Pete Yost, "The congressional report on pre-Sept. 11 intelligence calls into question answers that National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice gave the public last year about the White House's knowledge of terrorism threats." Hadley. Hello, Hadley. Are you there?
Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His WorkingForChange.com column Conservative Watch documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right.