DEAN CALLS FOR...

DEAN CALLS FOR DECLASSIFICATION RE WASHPOST PIECE. DNC Chairman Howard Dean this morning called on the Bush administration to declassify a 2003 Defense Intelligence Agency-sponsored report that undercuts a key administration claim about Saddam Hussein-era Iraqi weapons.
As reported in this morning�s Washington Post, the DIA sent a team of experts to Iraq in May 2003 to examine trailers that were suspected of carrying equipment needed to make biological weapons. The team determined that the trailers did not contain such material, and reported that finding to Washington on May 27, 2003. Two days later, President Bush said, �We have found the weapons of mass destruction.�

Dean, at this morning�s Prospect breakfast meeting with roughly two dozen journalists, said, "We are going to call, probably today, for the declassification of the report.� He wouldn�t say whether he had already spoken to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi about this strategy, but one source said that such conversations would commence today, and that Dean would likely appear on television this afternoon to press the claim.
�If the [Post] story is accurate,� Dean said, ��then the onus is on the president to prove that he did not mislead the country.� He sharpened this point later, saying that if the Post was correct, then Bush did mislead the country, and it was either a case of �incompetence, or it was deliberate. And those are both very, very serious.�

The trailers, and their alleged ability to produce biological weapons, comprised a central administration claim on the urgency of the need to attack Iraq. The Post story does not make it explicitly clear that Bush would have known on May 29, when he claimed that the weapons of mass destruction had been found, that the DIA analysts had reached the conclusion that the trailers weren�t a threat. Dean wants to find out if Bush knew of their May 27 findings.

More breakfast tidbits throughout the day.

--Michael Tomasky

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