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May 22, 2007

Cowed Experts

This seems like a fairly significant revelation in Gore's new book:

Mr. Gore says that uranium experts at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee told him “there was zero possibility” that aluminum tubes acquired by Saddam Hussein were for the purpose of nuclear enrichment, but felt intimidated from “making any public statement that disagreed with the assertions being made to the people by President Bush.”

Okay: Who are these experts, and was any of the intimidation overt? Because it's really a problem if credible authorities will offer important judgments to prominent politicians but then demand those analyses remain secret or disconnected from the prestige of the expert.

May 22, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

Was the intimidation overt? You may mean were they told their families would be wiped out, or they'd lose their security clearance and be indicted for treason or sent to gitmo. That doesn't seem like the BushCo way, though it is plausible.

Were they told to keep their fucking mouth shut and only speak through Monica Goodling-like 'spokespersons'? You bet your ass they were.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | May 22, 2007 11:33:29 AM

> or they'd lose their security clearance and
> be indicted for treason or sent to gitmo.
> That doesn't seem like the BushCo way,
> though it is plausible.

Yeah, just ask Wen Ho Lee and Valarie Flame how unlikely that is.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer | May 22, 2007 11:41:21 AM

Okay: Who are these experts, and was any of the intimidation overt? Because it's really a problem if credible authorities will offer important judgments to prominent politicians but then demand those analyses remain secret or disconnected from the prestige of the expert.

Those are very good questions, Ezra, and I agree completely. If Gore makes these assertions, he should have something other than his stand-alone statement in an attack book against Bush.
Does he have something, or is this just 'politics as usual'?

Posted by: Fred Jones | May 22, 2007 12:37:11 PM

Any news organization with access to Google or a university professor -- so, all of them -- could have found that information out.

Posted by: James F. Elliott | May 22, 2007 12:41:45 PM

James is right.


Evidence on Iraq Challenged
By Joby Warrick
WaPo, Thursday, September 19, 2002; Page A18

The report, from the Institute for Science and International Security, also contends that the Bush administration is trying to quiet dissent among its own analysts over how to interpret the evidence. The report, a draft of which was obtained by The Washington Post, was authored by David Albright, a physicist who investigated Iraq's nuclear weapons program following the 1991 Persian Gulf War as a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency's inspection team. The institute, headquartered in Washington, is an independent group that studies nuclear and other security issues.
...
The new report questions that conclusion on several grounds, most of them technical. It says the seized tubes were made of a kind of aluminum that is ill-suited for welding. Other specifications of the imported metal are at odds with what is known about Iraq's previous attempts to build centrifuges. In fact, the report said, Iraq had largely abandoned aluminum for other materials, such as specialized steel and carbon fiber, in its centrifuges at the time its nuclear program was destroyed by allied bombers in the Gulf War.

According to Albright, government experts on nuclear technology who dissented from the Bush administration's view told him they were expected to remain silent. Several Energy Department officials familiar with the aluminum shipments declined to comment.


Or how about:
How the White House Embraced Disputed Arms Intelligence
By DAVID BARSTOW, WILLIAM J. BROAD and JEFF GERTH
NYT, October 3, 2004

The tubes were "only really suited for nuclear weapons programs," Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, explained on CNN on Sept. 8, 2002. "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

But almost a year before, Ms. Rice's staff had been told that the government's foremost nuclear experts seriously doubted that the tubes were for nuclear weapons, according to four officials at the Central Intelligence Agency and two senior administration officials, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity. The experts, at the Energy Department, believed the tubes were likely intended for small artillery rockets.
...
Senior administration officials repeatedly failed to fully disclose the contrary views of America's leading nuclear scientists, an examination by The New York Times has found. They sometimes overstated even the most dire intelligence assessments of the tubes, yet minimized or rejected the strong doubts of nuclear experts. They worried privately that the nuclear case was weak, but expressed sober certitude in public.
...
On Sept. 13 [2002], The Times made the first public mention of the tubes debate in the sixth paragraph of an article on Page A13. In it an unidentified senior administration official dismissed the debate as a ''footnote, not a split.'' Citing another unidentified administration official, the story reported that the ''best technical experts and nuclear scientists at laboratories like Oak Ridge supported the C.I.A. assessments.''

As a senior Oak Ridge official pointed out to the Intelligence Committee, ''the vast majority of scientists and nuclear experts'' in the Energy Department's laboratories in fact disagreed with the agency. But on Sept. 13, the day the article appeared, the Energy Department sent a directive forbidding employees from discussing the subject with reporters.

The Energy Department, in a written statement, said that it was ''completely appropriate'' to remind employees of the need to protect nuclear secrets and that it had made no effort ''to quash dissent.''

Posted by: Detlef | May 22, 2007 2:43:43 PM

This sounds like a job for Brad Miller.

Posted by: Robert P. | May 22, 2007 3:46:55 PM

Should have looked at comments before googling. Detlef has it. The big post mortem NY Times article on the tubes definitely states that the intimidation was absolutely explicit (and legal) "on Sept. 13, the day the article appeared, the Energy Department sent a directive forbidding employees from discussing the subject with reporters." http://tinyurl.com/yvek2u

Posted by: Robert Waldmann | May 22, 2007 7:16:44 PM

Take a look at how many "earmarks" went to East Tennessee and you'll get an idea of the levers that can be used for intimidation. A scientist would hardly want to be responsible for the drying up of federal funds for projects in the district where he lives, and I'm sure he might get a pissed off phone call from his Congressman and Senator who had no bacon to bring home.

Posted by: Rick | May 23, 2007 2:45:17 PM

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Posted by: judy | Oct 8, 2007 8:01:40 AM

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