Ron Susskind names names in his book accusing the Bush administration with fabricating a letter connecting Saddam and al Qaeda. You would think the press would be all over this incredible allegation. But once they fail the American people. They allowed the neocons to get with the lies leading up to the start of the Iraq War. Now the press is allowing the Bushies to get away impeachable offenses without holding them accountable. This transcript is from CNN's Situation Room program.
A controversial new book is giving President Bush's critics new reasons to believe he went to disturbing lengths to justify the Iraq War, and it's prompting the president's defenders to issue stern denials.
Brian Todd is working this story for us.
And it's got some powerful accusations. The Pulitzer Prize- winning author Ron Suskind delivers a lot of material in there.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's a lot of material in this book, Wolf, and we've got some very powerful pushback from the White House, from the CIA, and from the agency's former director.
TODD (voice-over): Two bombshells on the Iraq War from a controversial author that the White House issued a fake document and that the administration knew well in advance that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. In his new book, "The Way of the World," Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Suskind writes that in 2003, the White House concocted a fake letter from former Iraqi intelligence chief Tahir Jalil Habbush to Saddam Hussein, backdated to July 1, 2001. "It said that 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta had actually trained for his mission in Iraq."
In an interview with NBC's "Today Show," Suskind said former CIA director George Tenet got the order to fabricate the letter.
RON SUSKIND, AUTHOR, "THE WAY OF THE WORLD": The CIA folks involved in the book and others talk about George coming back -- Tenet coming back from the White House with the assignment on White House stationery and turning to the CIA operatives who are professionals, saying, you may not like this but here's our mission, and they carried it through step by step.
TODD: Contacted by CNN, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said, "The notion that the White House would concoct such a letter is absurd."
Tenet issued a statement saying there was no such order from the White House to him. And he said the idea that he'd plant false evidence is ridiculous.
CNN contributor Fran Townsend was Condoleezza Rice's deputy for counterterrorism at the time.
FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's just patently ridiculous. I mean, I will tell you that when you think about it, there were 17 U.N. Security Council resolutions that Saddam was flagrantly in violation of. There were reasons that we went to war.
TODD: Suskind also writes that months before the Iraq invasion, Habbush had relayed to the Americans through British intelligence that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He quotes a former U.S. intelligence official as saying, when that information was passed to President Bush, "He said, 'F it. We're going in."
TODD: Now, the White House didn't respond to that specific quote, but again pushed back hard on the idea that they knew there were no weapons of mass destruction. White House spokesman Tony Fratto said U.S. and foreign intelligence estimates at the time said Saddam did have such weapons, and Fratto said Saddam had already used them to murder his own people -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And this former Iraqi intelligent chief, they are also casting doubt on his credibility, what he was saying apparently to British intelligence.
TODD: That's right. The White House is doing that and George Tenet is doing that as well.
Tenet says, look, the British themselves had lost faith in this man's credibility. And Tenet says they cut off relations with him. So that -- you know, in Tenet's mind, that shoots down any credibility that Tahir Habbush had in this regard.
BLITZER: All right, Brian. Thanks very much. I know you're working on other material from this book as well.
BLITZER: Here is some more information on Ron Suskind. He's a journalist who won the Pulitzer Prize back in 1995 for a series of articles he wrote for "The Wall Street Journal." "The Way of the World" is the latest of his three books he's written, all critical of the Bush administration. Suskind says he spoke to more than 150 sources for his new book, including many of them mentioned by name.
Suskind, by the way, will join us tomorrow live here in THE SITUATION ROOM for a one-on-one interview. That's coming up tomorrow.