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Saturday, January 31, 2004

Congress: No Evidence CIA Slanted Iraq Intelligence

Despite the shrill rhetoric emanating from the Democratic primaries and certain broadsheets, two Congressional investigations have concluded that no one pressured intelligence agencies to slant their data to support the Administration's casus belli:

Congressional and CIA investigations into the prewar intelligence on Iraq's weapons and links to terrorism have found no evidence that CIA analysts colored their judgment because of perceived or actual political pressure from White House officials, according to intelligence officials and congressional officials from both parties. Richard J. Kerr, a former deputy CIA director who is leading the CIA's review of its prewar Iraq assessment, said an examination of the secret analytical work done by CIA analysts showed that it remained consistent over many years.

"There was pressure and a lot of debate, and people should have a lot of debate, that's quite legitimate," Kerr said. "But the bottom line is, over a period of several years," the analysts' assessments "were very consistent. They didn't change their views."

In other words, both investigations have confirmed the obvious. If you read the newspapers from 1991 forward, the intelligence data on WMDs has remained consistent, and in fact the UN and all of its Security Council members have operated from the same understanding of Saddam's weapons programs. Not only has there been no change in the intelligence, there was no change in the conclusions between the Clinton and Bush II administrations: regime change was the only way the WMD question (and Saddam's oppression and aggression) could be resolved. The only difference was in strategy, and that didn't change until after 9/11. Just before that, Bush and Powell were about to roll out a new plan for "smart sanctions" that would more effectively target Saddam's personal and military interests.

Democratic insistence that some unholy cooking of intelligence occurred when the exact same allegations, figures, and conclusions were operative during the Clinton administration makes them look extremely desperate and not terribly honest. The real question should be how the American and international intelligence communities could have been so far off, if indeed we never find WMDs, which may still be an open question. Two changes in American intelligence strategies contributed to the problem: the Carter administration's insistence on curtailing human intelligence assets and the Clinton administration's order to refuse association with field assets that don't support our human-rights values, as if the people who present a danger to us only associate with Boy Scouts. On top of that, Senator John Kerry led the fight to cut CIA funding in the 1990s as part of the so-called "peace dividend" (see this for an interesting perspective). You can't tie blinders onto a horse and then beat him for wandering off the road.

If Americans want their intelligence services operating correctly, it seems to me that the solution isn't to let the people who caused the problems dictate the solutions. Instead of making ludicrous claims that the Bush administration twisted intelligence so much that it was identical to what Clinton produced, Democrats should be addressing their plans to reinvest in humint and taking the shackles off of the CIA. Their rhetoric demonstrates that they do not intend on fixing the problem and instead want nothing more than to score political cheap shots.

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Comments

great news, but the mouth without a brain crew will plug their ears and say "I CAN'T HEAR YOU".

Look at the bs going on in the Hutton post inquiry at the moment. Oh, it's a whitewash, it's a scandal, give me a break.

During the Hutton inquiry, they were so sure it was going to find Blair guilty. Now that the news did not work out, well ....

This morning on CNN, Phylis Bennis of some left wing outfit was yelling "BUSH LIED, BUSH LIED". She was insisting the not ony Cheney but Powell forced those poor analysts to change their story.

sad ....

Posted by: capt joe at Jan 31, 2004 11:51:56 AM

Doesn't anyone remember that during Gulf War I, Saddam suddenly flew what was left of his Air Force to Iran, his former mortal enemy?

It was a huge one or two day story. As I recall it ocurred sometime during the six weeks of aerial attack preceding the ground attack into/around Kuwait. Saddam's Air Force was being taken out even though it was parked in its reinforced bunkers. All of a suddent the AWACS detected the flight of numerous (I don't remember how many -- over a hundred?) Iraqi aircraft over the border into Iranian landing fields, where presumably they're still sitting. Everyone was astonished by it and then the war moved on.

It's become clear to me in retrospect that Saddam's total amorality led him to believe that he thought he could "ransom" them later, even though he'd just been complicit in the deaths of half a million Iranians during their war from 1980-88.

I have yet to see anyone in the mass media -- repeat ANYONE -- make an analogy of this situation to the possible movement of chemical/biological agents in Syria and the Bekaa Valley Lebanon. And even more mystifying is why the Administration hasn't suggested it.

If Saddam would send weapons to his mortal enemies, hoping to redeem them later, just why wouldn't he do the same with his fellow Arab Muslim Baathist ideological soulmates?

Posted by: Paul at Jan 31, 2004 12:46:09 PM

Paul - the administration is surprisingly reticent on a number of issues on which, it appears to me, they could be scoring political points. I don't know if they are just keeping their powder dry for the general election or, if they just prefer not to speculate and get accused of "lying" when trivial details fail to match their statements.

Posted by: Reid at Jan 31, 2004 1:30:06 PM

We couldn't find Saddam, for a time, but nobody screamed that he didn't exist, just that the adminstration couldn't find him, and that was a problem.

This whole intelligence witch hunt, so early in the game, is beyond reason.

Posted by: Dorian at Jan 31, 2004 7:28:32 PM

The fact is intelligence agencies seem to be fundamentally incapable of saying when a clandestine WMD program is "imminent". The score card is not very promising.

They missed the Soviet bomb, Chinese bomb, Indian bomb, were late on North Korean bomb and South African bomb, drastically underestimated the Iraqi nuclear program before Gulf War I, underestimated the Libyian program, and had no clue that North Korea, Libya, and Pakistan were exchanging equipment and know-how. During the Cold War they completely missed the Soviet anthrax program, despite an outbreak of the disease caused by a spill from a Soviet weapons factory.

I don't (and I suspect the public doesn't know either) how good they were on the Israeli bomb or the Pakistani bomb.

I suspect the batting average is no better than .250, at best.

Since we cannot (based on the evidence) know exactly when a threat is imminent, we had better be prepared for some false positives.

Posted by: Ernst Blofeld at Feb 1, 2004 9:34:35 PM

know-how. During the Cold War they completely missed the Soviet anthrax program, despite an outbreak of the disease caused by a spill from a Soviet weapons factory.know-how. During the Cold War they completely missed the Soviet anthrax program, despite an outbreak of the disease caused by a spill from a Soviet weapons factory.

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