ABC News’ Martha Raddatz Reports: The White House made a stunning admission Wednesday that appeared to suggest President Bush has directly contradicted himself about when he learned U.S. intelligence that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program.
During a press conference on Tuesday, the President told reporters that he was briefed that there was new intelligence information about Iran, but nothing specific.
"I was made aware of the NIE last week," Bush said Tuesday. "In August, I think it was [Director of National Intelligence] Mike McConnell came in and said, we have some new information. He didn’t tell me what the information was; he did tell me it was going to take a while to analyze."
However today the White House is saying the President was told much more.
After taking a reporters’ question earlier today about exactly what the President was told, White House press secretary Dana Perino provided a response to reporters Wednesday night.
Perino stated Bush had been told in August that Iran suspended it’s covert nuclear weapons program.
"In August, DNI Director McConnell advised President Bush that the intelligence community would not be able to meet a congressionally imposed deadline requiring a National Intelligence Estimate on Iran because new information had been obtained just as they were about to finalize the report," Perino wrote in an emailed response.
"He said that if the new information turns out to be true, what we thought we knew for sure is right. Iran does in fact have a covert nuclear weapons program, but it may be suspended," Perino’s email said.
Perino also said McConnell told the President the new information might cause the intelligence community to change its assessment of Iran’s covert nuclear program.
The latest National Intelligence Estimate — declassified excerpts of which were released on Monday – found that Iran actually shelved it’s nuclear weapons program in 2003.
Despite the fact that Bush was told in August that U.S. intelligence agencies believed Iran’s nuclear weapons program had been halted, the Bush administration continued to raise the rhetoric against Iran, calling for a third round of United Nations sanctions.
The President even warned publicly in October about a World War III if Iran didn’t cease their weapons program.
"I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them (Iran) from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon," Bush said in October.