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Oh, Those Documents

2 minute read

THE TIMING COULD NOT HAVE BEEN WORSE FOR THE Bush campaign. The Senate Intelligence Committee is burrowing into the possibility that the CIA and the Justice Department collaborated to mislead prosecutors looking into the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro’s illicit loans to Iraq. Blaming an “honest mistake,” CIA officials have conceded responsibility for a Sept. 17 letter that failed to advise prosecutors and a federal judge that the agency possessed a cache of classified cables relating to the case. Late last week, according to the New York Times and the Washington Post, CIA officials testified in closed hearings that a senior Justice Department official had pressured them to dispatch the misleading letter. The CIA and Justice denied the reports. Said the Justice official in question, Laurence Urgenson, a Deputy Assistant Attorney General: “I can’t pressure the CIA. I can’t even get them to return my phone calls.”

Immediately at stake is the fate of BNL’s former Atlanta branch manager, Christopher Drogoul, who faces trial for allegedly engineering $4 billion in illegal loans to Iraq. But of increasing concern is the credibility of the CIA, the Justice Department and the Bush Administration. Even if it amounts to a mere bureaucratic botch, the tussle over who misled the public allows Democrats to renew calls for a special prosecutor to examine whether the White House tried to cover up its efforts to coddle Saddam Hussein before the invasion of Kuwait.

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