Monday, July 12, 2004

Intelligence Whitewash

At least someone is asking the pointy little questions ... why are the Dimmocrat Senators so sound asleep to let this report out?

"The report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday confirmed widespread doubts about the accuracy of the intelligence President Bush used to make his case for war in Iraq, but left unanswered several questions surrounding Bush and his administration's role in the production and use of that intelligence. The findings in the report offered a "broad indictment" of the CIA, and "left in shreds" the Bush administration's main rationales for war. However, it stopped short of addressing the pressure applied by the administration in gathering that intelligence, including repeated trips to CIA headquarters by Vice President Cheney, the creation of a secretive Office of Special Plans to filter intelligence, and several pre-war statements exaggerating intelligence estimates or ignoring conflicting points of view.

UNDER PRESSURE: The report states there is no evidence intelligence analysts were pressured to change their judgments or alter " intelligence products to conform with administration policy," but committee co-chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) indicated he "voted for the report in spite of that with which I did not agree, that is the subject of pressure. I think there was a lot of pressure." The evidence supports Rockefeller's suspicions: if analysts weren't sufficiently intimidated by Cheney's "repeated trips to CIA headquarters in the run-up to the war for unusual face-to-face sessions with intelligence analysts poring over Iraqi data," they may have noticed when the Pentagon set up a rival intelligence-gathering outfit, the Office of Special Plans, which "rivaled both the C.I.A. and the Pentagon's own Defense Intelligence Agency, the D.I.A., as President Bush's main source of intelligence regarding Iraq's possible possession of WMD and connection with Al Qaeda." Rockefeller said, "the ombudsman of the CIA, whose job it is to listen to people's complaints said that in his 32 years of work in the CIA, he had never seen so much hammering, i.e. pressure, on the intelligence community."

THE 2002 NIE: The report focused on the flawed findings of the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), claiming the report said Iraq had WMD, was developing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and "probably intended to deliver biological warfare agents." Conservatives have suggested it was this unsupported intelligence which led Bush administration to make inflated claims. There's just one problem—the 2002 NIE does not support many of those claims. For instance, a declassified excerpt of the report noted that the Department of Energy disagreed with assertions that aluminum tubes were being used as part of Saddam's effort to reconstitute nuclear weapons. But this didn't stop Secretary of State Colin Powell from using the tubes to make his case for war to the United Nations. The report also lists as "highly dubious" the claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa, which Bush nevertheless cited as fact in his 2003 State of the Union Address. It's hard to know what else the 2002 NIE really said, because "the CIA has decided to keep [it] almost entirely secret," despite a Freedom of Information Act request from the National Security Archive. But you can see this declassified list of warnings the administration was given that its assertions about Iraq were weak.

OTHER INTELLIGENCE: There was plenty of available information that conflicted with the 2002 NIE, but it was ignored by administration officials. In February of 2003, a CIA report on proliferation said the intelligence community had "no 'direct evidence' that Iraq has succeeded in reconstituting its biological, chemical, nuclear or long-range missile programs in the two years since U.N. weapons inspectors left and U.S. planes bombed Iraqi facilities." Inspectors repeatedly told the UN Security Council they could not find evidence of weapons in Iraq and the IAEA warned Bush it had "found no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear-related activities in Iraq." For more examples of the administration neglecting intelligence, check out this American progress backgrounder.

HELPING OUT THE COMMITTEE: The Senate Intelligence Committee will soon begin a "follow-up investigation that will examine prewar statements by President Bush and other administration officials." According to the LA Times, Chairman Pat Roberts (R – KS) has asked members of the panel "to submit lists of claims made by White House officials and other policymakers that would be scrutinized to determine whether they were exaggerated or unsupported by intelligence assessments available before the invasion of Iraq." Here are a few exaggerated or unsupported claims that could help get the panel off to a good start: 9/25/02: President Bush tells the press, "You can't distinguish between al-Qaida and Saddam." 8/26/02: Vice President Cheney says, "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction." 9/19/02: Donald Rumsfeld tells the Senate Armed Services Committee, "[Saddam has] amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of biological weapons, including anthrax, botulism, toxins and possibly smallpox." And on 9/7/03, Condoleezza Rice told CNN, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

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