The Blogiston Post

Politics, money, and war.

Sunday, June 1

intelligence matters

In recent days, critics of intelligence gathering that lead to an invasion of Iraq increased exponentially. Whether this news will reach middle America on CNN remains to be seen.

In early May, the New Yorker carried an expose Selective Intelligence by Seymour Hersh about the Office of Special Plans. OSP was created for gathering and analyzing intelligence that supported a War in Iraq. While the Hersh article went into great detail on Straussian philosophy used to assess intelligence, it is where the intelligence came from that is disturbing.

The intelligence on Iraq did not come out of the CIA or the DIA or any of the other members of the established Intelligence Community. The intelligence came out of the Policy formation branch of the Department of Defense.

The unusual ladder in descending order by which Iraq intelligence reached the President was:
President George W. Bush
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Deputy Secretary of Defense is Paul Wolfowitz
Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith
Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Peter W. Rodman.
Deputy Under Secretary of Defense in charge of Special Plans and Near East and South Asia Dr. William J. Luti
Director of the Office of Special Plans Abram Shulsky and 3 assistants
Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress
Informants and varied sources
If you were looking for or expecting the CIA, you would be looking for a different ladder.

News Hour

Margaret Warner on News Hour recently held a discussion with two members of Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Policy Board.

James Schlesinger, former secretary of defense and CIA director during the Nixon and Ford administrations and Richard Perle, former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration.

Joining Schlesinger and Perle were Judith Yaphe, a 20-year CIA analyst who specialized in the Middle East, now a senior research fellow at the National Defense University in Washington and David Albright, who worked with U.N. inspectors on Iraq in the mid '90s, now president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington.
MARGARET WARNER: But are you saying then though that you do think that perhaps the consumers of the intelligence on weapons of mass destruction misread it -- or were too quick to connect the dots in a way that they wanted to connect, whether consciously or unconsciously?

JAMES SCHLESINGER: I think that Secretary Wolfowitz had it right. There were bureaucratic reasons that they centered down on weapons of mass destruction as the only common reason for going ahead. But there were more powerful reasons to go ahead. If one thinks back to 9/11 and thinks in what shape the United States was at that time, we have repaired our relations with Russia and China, and we have scored two decisive victories in the Middle East that have made a major impression in the region. Those are powerful reasons to go ahead, and one should not focus exclusively on weapons of mass destruction.

JUDITH YAPHE: There are a couple of misconceptions here. One is that intelligence shapes policy. It doesn't. The second one is that policy uses intelligence. That doesn't happen either. So you can have the best, most accurate intelligence available, but the people who are in charge of the government, the president, the National Security Council, the advisers, they have to decide if they want to use it or not, believe it or not or discard it.
New York Times

Nicholas Kristof chimes in with Save Our Spooks in the New York Times.
On Day 71 of the Hunt for Iraqi W.M.D., yesterday, once again nothing turned up.

Maybe we'll do better on Day 72. But we might have better luck searching for something just as alarming: the growing evidence that the administration grossly manipulated intelligence about those weapons of mass destruction in the run up to the Iraq war.
All Things Considered

All Things Considered on NPR aired a very short interview with former CIA analyst, Larry Johnson. NPR's Michele Norris talks with Larry Johnson about Nicholas Kristof's New York Times article "Save Our Spooks." Kristof writes the Department of Defense deliberately skewed the facts to convince the Bush administration to go to war with Iraq. Larry Johnson says he believes the people behind this represent a "clear and present danger" to America.

NPR Click on the icon to hear the broadcast (requires RealOne Player)


Across both ponds, things are not going so well. Tony Blair and John Howard are facing strong criticism for what their countries perceive as intelligence failures. Failure may be too kind a word as some of the press accuses their leaders of promoting outright lies.

The Independent

In the UK, Paul Waugh of The Independent weighs in:
A senior minister warned yesterday that the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq would constitute 'Britain's biggest ever intelligence failure' and would trigger an overhaul of the security services.

The minister told The Independent that the security services were responsible for Downing Street's uncompromising stance on Saddam Hussein's weapons. He spoke after a row erupted between politicians and the intelligence community over the Government's justification for going to war.

A senior intelligence official also told the BBC that Downing Street had wanted the Government dossier outlining Saddam's capability 'sexed up' and that Downing Street included information against security service advice.
Waugh's colleague at the Independent, Glen Rangwala, pens a pre-quel on early intelligence reports with The lies that led us into war ...
There is no UN report after 1994 that claims that Iraq continued to possess weapons of mass destruction. This was well known in intelligence circles. That such a claim could appear in a purported intelligence document is a clear sign that the information was "pumped up" for political purposes, to support the case for an invasion.
The Guardian

Based on reports of a classified document called the Waldorf Transcript, the Guardian writes that Powell and Straw knew all along the intelligence was shaky.
Mr Powell told the foreign secretary [Straw] he hoped the facts, when they came out, would not "explode in their faces".

What are called the "Waldorf transcripts" are being circulated in Nato diplomatic circles. It is not being revealed how the transcripts came to be made; however, they appear to have been leaked by diplomats who supported the war against Iraq even when the evidence about Saddam Hussein's programme of weapons of mass destruction was fuzzy, and who now believe they were lied to.
Sydney Morning Herald

Heading west, Australia's Sydney Morning Herald has an article by Andrew Wilkie, a former analyst at the Office of National Assessments who resigned in protest at the Federal Government's actions over the Iraq war.
Another big concern is the dumbing-down and politicisation of Australia's intelligence. Most junior analysts try to offer frank and fearless advice. But the process is flawed. It involves so many layers of politically astute managers that the final result is often a report so bland as to be virtually worthless, or skewed ever so subtly towards the Government's preferred line. Better that, management would argue, than a brave report prepared in good faith that contradicts Government thinking or is likely to prove wrong over time.

Not that leaving the sharp edges on the intelligence reports would make much difference if a government chooses to believe only what it wants to believe and selects from the intelligence only what best suits its political purposes. The Federal Government pays much more attention to the mush of politicians' and advisers' views, public opinion and media commentary. And it applies a good dose of pro-US sycophancy. The result can be a fine compost indeed, as this whole Iraq business has proven.
The Australian

The Australian reports that everyone wants the intelligence investigated and published.
Pressure is mounting on British Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George W. Bush to publish the evidence on weapons of mass destruction they used to justify the war on Iraq.

The US Congress will investigate the Bush administration's claims that Saddam Hussein held massive stockpiles of illegal weapons, while scores of British MPs have backed a motion demanding their government justify its case.


A former director of Middle East analysis at the Defence Intelligence Agency, Patrick Lang, said this month that the Office of Special Plans "started picking out things that supported their thesis and stringing them into arguments that they could use with the President".

"It's not intelligence. It's political propaganda," he said.
Policy to Blame

When a CIA spokesman was contacted by the AFP in April to comment on criticism that had begun to surface, Tim Crispell replied:
"They're criticizing policy, not intelligence."
What the AFP did not realize in transcribing the statement is it should have read: "They're criticizing Policy, not Intelligence."


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