Hillary's Iraq Problem Won't Go Away

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D.-N.Y.) said yesterday she was “wrong to believe” President Bush and wouldn’t have voted to authorize him to use force in Iraq. But Hillary said nothing of the Clinton Administration’s role compiling the intelligence that was used to justify the war.

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Remember, it was George Tenet, a Clinton appointee, who was then-director of central intelligence and delivered to Congress a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs. Tenet’s NIE, which had been requested by Sen. Richard Durbin (D.-Ill.), concluded that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons and was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Tenet served both the Clinton and Bush White Houses.

When Meredith Vieira of NBC’s “Today Show” asked Hillary why she hadn’t said she regrets her vote like Sen. John Kerry (D.-Mass.) or former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, Hillary didn’t say it was because she had believed Tenet.

Instead, she said, “Well, you know, obviously, it was wrong to believe this president.” She explained, “Obviously, if we knew then what we know now, there wouldn’t have been a vote and I certainly wouldn’t have voted that way.”

But if it was wrong to believe Bush’s claims that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted his nuclear program and had chemical and biological weapons stockpiles, then it was wrong to believe George Tenet.

So Hillary is in a strange predicament. She should rightly explain why she believed the intelligence and holds her husband’s appointee accountable. This is unlikely, however, because doing so would bring unwanted attention to the Clinton White House’s record on security issues.

Unfortunately for Hillary, she’s already on the record supporting the intelligence work done under Clinton and Bush.

In a breakfast gathering with media in 2003, according to Stephan Dinan of the Washington Times, “the intelligence she saw leading up to the war was consistent with intelligence from previous administrations and she checked out the information with trusted Clinton administration officials.”

If this is true, why was it right to believe President Clinton, but not President Bush?

When many Democrats were accusing Bush of “misleading” Americans into the Iraq war in November 2005, I asked Hillary directly about Tenet’s role in intelligence gathering.

“Do you believe that DCI George Tenet, appointed by your husband, intentionally falsified any of the evidence in his 2002 NIE about WMDs and reconstituting its nuclear program?”

Hillary’s response: “You know I have nothing to say about that. It’s one of the complicated issues surrounding intelligence that I think need to be looked into by the committee.”

Sen. Carl Levin (D.-Mich.), who sits on the Intelligence Committee, told reporters in a session in the Senate press gallery in September that “George Tenant should be held accountable” for his role in intelligence gathering. Although, Levin added, “I don’t know how he would, for saying to the president ‘slam dunk.’ We all know about that.”