"John Gibson, a young White House speechwriter, was at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York,on September 11, 2002, putting the final touches on the president's UN speech, when he received an urgent phone call" from his boss, Michael Gerson [the President's chief speechwriter]. "There was a new piece of intelligence that Gibson might be able to throw in the speech. They weren't sure yet. If they didn't use it in the speech, 'it's something we might leak to The New York Times,' Gerson said." ("Hubris," by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, page 85)
The Bush Administration had just leaked Gerson's "smoking gun/mushroom cloud" sound bite to The New York Times three days earlier --
"U.S. Says Hussein Intensifies Quest for A-Bomb Parts"
"...Hard-liners are alarmed that American intelligence underestimated the pace and scale of Iraq's nuclear program before Baghdad's defeat in the gulf war. Conscious of this lapse in the past, the they argue that Washington dare not wait until analysts have found hard evidence that Mr. Hussein has acquired a nuclear weapon. The first sign of a 'smoking gun,' they argue, may be a 'mushroom cloud.'"
(New York Times, September 8, 2002, by Michael R. Gordon and Judith Miller)
(Also, see "Hubris," pages 34-35)
"Gerson told Gibson to go to a secure line that had been set up at the Waldorf for White House staff and call a National Security aide, Robert Joseph...Saddam, Joseph said, had been attempting to obtain a massive amount of yellowcake uranium in Africa...
As Gibson worked on the speech, Joseph and the NSC sent a message to the CIA asking the agency to clear the use of three sentences:
"And we also know this: within the past few years, Iraq has resumed efforts to obtain large quantities of a type of uranium oxide known as yellowcake, which is an essential ingredient of this [uranium enrichment] process. The regime was caught trying to purchase 500 metric tons of this material. It takes about 10 tons to produce enough enriched uranium for a single nuclear weapon."
Go ahead, the CIA replied, suggesting that the words 'up to' be placed before '500 metric tons.'"
...Later in the day, the CIA [Tenet] rescinds its approval for this passage saying that this allegation had come from a single source and was not solid enough for a presidential speech. The reference to the alleged attempt to obtain uranium is dropped from his UN speech.
("Hubris," page 86)
But still, some people in the White House kept pushing. Less than a month later, Bush had a big foreign policy speech coming in Cincinnati. "The NSC deputy, Stephen Hadley, received two memos and at least one phone call from George Tenet in early October warning him off a reference to the yellowcake story in a speech the president was to give in Cincinnati...Hadley described an Oct. 6 memo from Tenet, after Hadley had removed the yellowcake reference, explaining why it was important to keep the yellowcake reference out:
The memorandum describes some weakness in the evidence, the fact that the effort was not particularly significant to Iraq's nuclear ambitions because the Iraqis already had a large stock of uranium oxide in their inventory. The memorandum also stated that the CIA had been telling Congress that the Africa story was one of two issues where we differed with the British intelligence."
October 5: CIA sends memorandum to Hadley and White House speechwriter Michael Gerson, asking them to remove a line in October 7 Bush speech in Cincinnati referring to Iraq's attempted purchase of "500 metric tons of uranium oxide from Africa."
October 6: CIA sends memorandum to the White House providing additional detail about the Iraq uranium claim and noting the U.S. Intelligence Community's differences with Britain over the intelligence. The rewritten sentence: "[T]he regime has been caught attempting to purchase substantial amounts of uranium oxide from sources in Africa" removed from speech.
While interviewing Richard Armitage, Colin Powell's deputy at the State Department, for his book, "Plan of Attack," Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward taped their June 23, 2003 conversation (in which Armitage off-handedly revealed Valerie Plame's identity to Woodward -- N.B: Woodward didn't publish this information). But, during the perjury trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby in the CIA leak scandal, this audiotape was played in court. Here's a small section concerning the "yellowcake from Africa," Tenet, and the White House --
ARMITAGE: "George [Tenet, then-CIA Director] personally got it out of the Cincinnati speech of the president."
WOODWARD: "Oh, he did?…It was taken out?"
A: "Taken out. George said you can’t do this."
W: "How come it wasn’t taken out of the State of the Union then?"
A: "Because I think it was overruled by the [Vice Pres. Cheney] types down at the White House."