Thursday, December 09, 2004


In a post last month, I tried to set the record straight about the supposed consensus on pre-war intelligence regarding Iraq's WMD capacity circulating throughout the capitals of the world before the invasion. Despite the building of the narrative of unanimity by the right wing punditry, there was no such concurrence, and there was nothing approaching uniformity of opinion. Relying on a comprehensive report put out by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, I catalogued the many substantive differences between the appraisal that the US was offering, and that of the rest of the world through organizations such as the United Nations. On almost every subject, the UN and other nations were more skeptical about Iraq's capabilities than the Bush administration. But the differences did not only exist between the Bush administration and the rest of the world, they existed internally as well.

...there was a sharp divergence within the U.S. intelligence community itself, which occurs upon the completion of the October 2002 NIE. Before that NIE, the U.S. intelligence community was less unequivocal about Iraq's capacity. Doubts and qualifications were prevalent, and in some cases (especially regarding the nuclear programs) the conclusions were that Iraq did not have any active infrastructure. The October 2002 Estimate changes all that. Agnosticism converts to certainty, doubts are reversed and become positive assessments, and speculation is transformed into firm conclusions.

This overnight metamorphosis has led to much speculation and suspicion on the part of impartial observers. After all, what changed in October 2002? Why did the prognostications of the prior decade suddenly reverse course in so many ways, gravitating to the most dire predictions of Iraq's capacity. What methodology changed for the preparation of the October 2002 Estimate? Was there a sudden influx of erstwhile unknown, yet reliable, evidence that turned the tide? According to the authors of the report:

The dramatic shift between prior intelligence assessments and the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), together with the creation of an independent intelligence entity at the Pentagon and other steps, suggest that the intelligence community began to be unduly influenced by policymakers' views sometime in 2002.
An article in today's Washington Post (via Laura Rozen) backs up this conclusion by the non-partisan Carnegie group.

A senior CIA operative who handled sensitive informants in Iraq asserts that CIA managers asked him to falsify his reporting on weapons of mass destruction and retaliated against him after he refused.

The operative, who remains under cover, asserts in a lawsuit made public yesterday that a co-worker warned him in 2001 "that CIA management planned to 'get him' for his role in reporting intelligence contrary to official CIA dogma"...

Those investigations, the lawsuit asserts, were "initiated for the sole purpose of discrediting him and retaliating against him for questioning the integrity of the WMD reporting...and for refusing to falsify his intelligence reporting to support the politically mandated conclusion" of matters that are redacted in the lawsuit...

In 2002, the lawsuit says, the CIA officer "attempted to report routine intelligence" from a human asset "but was thwarted by CIA superiors." It goes on to say that he was subsequently approached by a senior desk officer "who insisted that Plaintiff falsify his reporting," and that when he refused, the "management" of the CIA's Counterproliferation Division ordered that he "remove himself from any further 'handling' " of the unnamed asset, who is referred elsewhere in the document as "a highly respected human asset"...

In September 2003, the CIA placed the officer on administrative leave without explanation, the lawsuit says. Eight months later, it says, the inspector general's office advised him that he was under investigation for "diverting to his own use monies provided him for payment to human assets." The document says the allegations were made by the same managers who had asked him to falsify reports. [emphasis added]
It is worth noting that this politicization of intelligence gathering happened on George Tenet's watch. Is there any way that the American people can expect less bias from the highly partisan Porter Goss? Worse still, how can the United States government enlist the support of the rest of the world if and when a real threat emerges in the future? Our credibility is not an unlimited quantity, and unfortunately we spent far too much capital on an invasion that we had to fabricate evidence in order to justify. Furthermore, how do you think the rest of the world is going to react to these revelations? Is our image going to be buttressed or further tarnished? Is that going to make winning over the hearts and minds of moderate Muslims easier or harder? In what light will our motives be perceived as we attempt to nation build in the Middle East given this state of affairs?

While I'm asking questions, could somebody explain to me again how it is exactly that George Bush "understands" the stakes in the war on terror?

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