Intelligence and the Iraq War

Here are two excerpts from Michael Scheuer’s Imperial Hubris.
Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.

(Miscellaneous articles on this subject are listed afterwards.)

3.10 A Quiet, Steady, Unnoticed Bleeding

[IH, pages 100–102]

Just under the noise, death, and rhetoric
yielded by the episodes of war described above
lies a largely ignored factor that may constitute al Qaeda’s main war effort—
the steady bleeding of the U.S. economy.
In late 2002,
Abu-Ubayd al-Qurashi wrote an essay in Al-Ansar called “A Lesson in War”
wherein he described al Qaeda’s intention to follow
Clausewitz’s principle of attacking its foe’s “center of gravity.”
He said al Qaeda would unrelentingly focus on identifying that point
and make “sure to direct all available force
against the center of gravity during the great offensive.”

Al-Qurashi wrote that
al Qaeda had studied North Vietnam’s victory over the United States,
and found that Hanoi had
“fully understood that America’s center of gravity lay in the American people,”
and by killing America’s “dearest ones ...
the war ended with victory on the Vietnamese side.”

Al Qaeda took this lesson to heart, Qurashi wrote,
but believes that America’s current center of gravity is its economy.
On the other hand, we find that
God has graciously enabled the mujahedin
to understand the [American] enemy’s essence and nature,
and indeed his center of gravity.
A conviction has formed among the mujahedin that
American public opinion is not the center of gravity in America.
The Zionist lobbies,
and with them the security agencies,
have long been able to bridle all the media
that control the formation of public opinion in America.
This time it is clearly apparent that
the American economy is the American center of gravity.

This is what Shaykh Usama bin Laden has said quite explicitly.
Supporting this penetrating strategic view is that
the Disunited States of America are
a mixture of nationalities, ethnic groups, and races
united only by the “American Dream,”
or, to put it more correctly, worship of the dollar,
which they openly call “the Almighty Dollar.”

May God be exalted greatly above what they say!
Furthermore, the entire American war effort is based on
pumping enormous wealth at all times,
money being, as has been said, the sinew of war.

Leaving aside jargon about Zionists and conspiracies,
al-Qurashi’s depiction of al Qaeda’s intent seems to mesh with reality.
The 09-11 attacks, of course, devastated the U.S. economy;
it is only now, in early 2004, recovering.
But beyond the immediate impact lie massive expenditures—
at all levels of American government—
that will add permanently to the size and cost of government.
In addition to the cost of
hiring thousands of federal employees for homeland security purposes;
acquiring buildings, equipment, and training to make them effective; and
requiring proportionate upgrading at state, municipal, and local levels;
there lie what must be
substantial amounts of unpredictable expenditures for overtime wages—
in government and business alike—
whenever Washington raises the threat level, or
when high levels of security are provided at public places or functions
heretofore not seen as serious security risks.
Likewise, al Qaeda is at the core of massive increases in defense spending,
costs that are likely to accelerate as U.S. officials find
the military is not organized, manned, trained, or equipped
to fight the kind of wars being waged in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Finally, economic planning by government and business
must be experiencing significant difficulty in projecting expenditures,
  • threats of a weapons of mass destruction (WMD) attack
    in the United States;
  • the enormous monetary, material, and manpower costs
    of running several worsening wars;
  • the steady diet of shocks thrown into business
    by steady call-ups of reserve-soldier employees;
    and—especially in the transport and tourist sectors—
    by such events as the “emergency” cancellation of flights
    from Western Europe to the United States
    in late 2003 and early 2004.
Beyond the sound of bombs, then,
al Qaeda’s attack has continued since 09-11
on its notion of the U.S. “center of gravity.”
Without a second 09-11-like attack,
al Qaeda has stimulated immense unanticipated spending,
much of which will become fixed in budgets at all levels of government.
“Aborting the American economy is not an unattainable dream,”
al-Qurashi wrote in Al-Ansar.
Perhaps he is correct.

7.1 Iraq: The Hoped for but Never Expected Gift

[IH, pages 212–214]

Time for a question in the field of cross-cultural analysis:
Why is today’s Iraq
like a Christmas present you long for but never expected to receive?
Give up?
Well, there is nothing bin Laden could have hoped for more
than the American invasion and occupation of Iraq.
The U.S. invasion of Iraq is Osama bin Laden’s gift from America,
one he has long and ardently desired, but never realistically expected.
Think of it:
  • Iraq is the second holiest land in Islam;
  • a place where Islam had been long suppressed by Saddam;
  • where the Sunni minority long dominated and brutalized
    the Shia majority;
  • where order was kept only by the Baathist barbarity that prevented
    a long overdue civil war; and
  • where, in the wake of Saddam’s fall,
    the regional powers Iran and Saudi Arabia would intervene,
    at least clandestinely,
    to stop the creation of, respectively,
    a Sunni or Shia successor state.
In short, Iraq without Saddam would obviously become
what political scientists call a “failed state,”
a place bedeviled by its neighbors and—as is Afghanistan—
a land where al Qaeda or al Qaeda-like organizations would thrive.
Surely, thought bin Laden,
the Americans would not want to create this kind of situation.
It would be, if you will, like deliberately shooting yourself in the foot.

While still hoping against hope, bin Laden would then have thought that
the United States must know that it is hated by many millions of Muslims
for enforcing sanctions that reportedly starved to death a million and more Iraqis.
In this context,
an invasion would sharply deepen anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world,
a hatred that would only worsen as Muslims watched
the U.S. military’s televised and inevitable thrashing
of Saddam’s badly led and hopelessly decrepit armed forces.
And then, dreamed bin Laden wildly, things would get bad for the Americans.
They would
  • stay too long in Iraq,
  • insist on installing a democracy that would
    subordinate the long-dominant Sunnis,
  • vigorously limit Islam’s role in government, and
  • act in ways that spotlighted their interest in Iraq’s massive oil reserves.
All Muslims would see each day on television that the United States was
  • occupying a Muslim country,
  • insisting that man-made laws replace God’s revealed word,
  • stealing Iraqi oil, and
  • paving the way for the creation of a “Greater Israel.”
The clerics and scholars would call for a defensive jihad against the United States,
young Muslim males
would rush from across the Islamic world to fight U.S. troops,
and there—in Islam’s second holiest land—would erupt a second Afghanistan,
a self-perpetuating holy war
that would endure whether or not al Qaeda survived.
Then bin Laden awoke and knew it was only a dream.
It was, even for one of Allah’s most devout, too much to hope for.

But in March 2003 bin Laden—to his astonishment—
got his longed-for gift, complements of America,
when the United States invaded Iraq.
The fatwas that greeted the invasion
essentially validated all bin Laden has said
in arguing for a defensive jihad against the United States.
Even leaving aside the fatwas issued by pro-bin Laden clerics,
the virulence of the remaining fatwas
is clear in those published by such notable scholars as
Shaykh Sayyid Tantawi,
Shaykh Yusuf Qaradawi, and
Shaykh Salman al-Awdah,
all of whom
“are not voices in the wilderness,
but [are] rather the core of the Sunni Muslim establishment,”
according to Professor Daniel Byman.
“Once an enemy lands in Muslim territory,”
Shaykh Tantawi, head of al-Azhar University, declared in March 2003,
“jihad becomes the individual duty of every Muslim man and woman.
Because our Arab and Muslim nation will be faced with a new crusade
that targets land, honor, creed, and homeland,
scholars ruled that jihad against U.S. forces
has become the duty of every Muslim man and woman.”
In the end, something much like Christmas had come for bin Laden,
and the gift he received from Washington
will haunt, hurt, and hound Americans for years to come.

Miscellaneous Articles


The Pentagon Muzzles the CIA
Devising bad intelligence to promote bad policy
by Robert Dreyfuss
The American Prospect, 2002-12-16

[An excerpt:]

Even as it prepares for war against Iraq, the Pentagon is already engaged on a second front: its war against the Central Intelligence Agency. The Pentagon is bringing relentless pressure to bear on the agency to produce intelligence reports more supportive of war with Iraq, according to former CIA officials. Key officials of the Department of Defense are also producing their own unverified intelligence reports to justify war. Much of the questionable information comes from Iraqi exiles long regarded with suspicion by CIA professionals. A parallel, ad hoc intelligence operation, in the office of Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith, collects the information from the exiles and scours other raw intelligence for useful tidbits to make the case for preemptive war. These morsels sometimes go directly to the president.

The war over intelligence is a critical part of a broader offensive by the party of war within the Bush administration against virtually the entire expert Middle East establishment in the United States -- including State Department, Pentagon and CIA area specialists and leading military officers. Inside the foreign-policy, defense and intelligence agencies, nearly the whole rank and file, along with many senior officials, are opposed to invading Iraq. But because the less than two dozen neoconservatives leading the war party have the support of Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, they are able to marginalize that opposition.

Morale inside the U.S. national-security apparatus is said to be low, with career staffers feeling intimidated and pressured to justify the push for war. At the State Department, where Secretary of State Colin Powell’s efforts at diplomacy have thus far slowed the relentless pressure for war, a key bureau is chilled by the presence of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Elizabeth L. Cheney, the vice president’s daughter, who is in charge of Middle East economic policy, including oil. “When [Near East Affairs] meets, there is no debate,” says Parker Borg, who served in the State Department for 30 years as an ambassador and deputy chief of counterterrorism. “How vocal would you be about commenting on Middle East policy with the vice president’s daughter there?” Undersecretary of State John Bolton is also part of the small pro-war faction.

And at the Pentagon, where a number of critical offices have been filled by hawkish neoconservatives whose commitment to war with Iraq goes back a decade, Middle East specialists and uniformed military officers alike are seeing their views ignored. “I’ve heard from people on the Middle East staff in the Pentagon,” says Borg, referring to the staff under neocon Peter Rodman, the assistant secretary of defense for International Security Affairs. “The Middle East experts in those officers are as cut off from the policy side as people in the State Department are.”

But the sharpest battle is over the CIA. “There is tremendous pressure on [the CIA] to come up with information to support policies that have already been adopted,” says Vincent Cannistraro, a former senior CIA official and counterterrorism expert. What’s unfolding is a campaign by well-placed hawks to undermine the CIA’s ability to provide objective, unbiased intelligence to the White House.


But if after failing to find links between Iraq and al-Qaeda for years the CIA is suddenly discovering a connection between the two, some analysts believe that it is Tenet, the CIA director, playing politics and arranging to tell the Pentagon what it wants to hear. “[The CIA] is giving Bush what he wanted on Iraq and al-Qaeda,” says Melvin Goodman of the Center for International Policy, who is also a former CIA Soviet expert and a fierce critic of politicized intelligence. “Tenet is playing the game, to a certain extent.” Goodman, who has maintained contacts inside the agency, says that the CIA’s key intelligence analysts are upset with Tenet and concerned that he will frame their conclusions in a way that kowtows to the Pentagon’s preconceived view. “There’s a lot of anger and questions about whether Tenet will hold off this pressure,” Goodman says. “[The CIA analysts are] worried, and they don’t have a lot of confidence in him. But the analytical core is holding fast to the evidence, and the evidence doesn’t show that link.”

However, the intense pressure from the Pentagon seems to be having an effect. Tenet is, after all, a politician, not a CIA veteran....

“It’s demoralizing to a number of the analysts,” says [Vincent] Cannistraro. “The analysts are human, and some of them are also ambitious. What you have to worry about is the ‘chill factor.’ If people are ignoring your intelligence, and the Pentagon and NSC keep telling you, ‘What about this? What about this? Keep looking!’ -- well, then you start focusing on one thing instead of the other thing, because you know that’s what your political masters want to hear.”


The Uses of Endless War
The hostility by the hard-liners against what they see as the CIA’s myopia on Iraq at least matches any of those earlier fights. Perle, who said recently that the CIA’s analysis of Iraq “isn’t worth the paper it’s written on,” adds that the CIA is afraid of rocking the ark in the Middle East. “The CIA is status-quo oriented,” he told me. “They don’t want to take risks. They don’t like the INC because they only like to work with people they can control.”

According to informed sources, Perle, who’s currently based at the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI), has for the past several years sponsored the work of a former CIA clandestine operative, Reuel Marc Gerecht, helping him financially, lending him the use of his villa in France to write a book and getting him a fellowship at AEI. Gerecht, who spends much of his time living in Brussels, maintains close ties to the INC via its centers in London and Washington. According to a person familiar with the arrangement, Gerecht is privately working with the INC’s intelligence people to help funnel information to Feith’s office in the Pentagon.

Asked whether he is working as an unofficial intelligence handler for the INC, Gerecht demurs but doesn’t deny it. “It’s pretty overstated,” he says. “I talk to the Iraqi opposition now and then, but there are a lot more people in Washington who talk to the Iraqi opposition. So I don’t think that Pentagon requires my assistance ... in gathering information from Iraqi opposition.” But Gerecht is quick to criticize the CIA over Iraq. “There is a great deal of hesitancy if not opposition to the war at the agency,” he says. “I don’t think [Rumsfeld] is terribly happy. The collective output that CIA puts out is usually pretty mushy. I think it’s fair to say that the civilian leadership isn’t terribly cracked up about the intelligence they receive from CIA.”

To call Gerecht a hard-liner on Iraq would be an understatement. For him and for many of his allies -- Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith and others -- an attack on Iraq is a strategic necessity, not because Saddam Hussein is a threat but because America needs to display an overwhelming show of force to keep unruly Arabs and Muslims all over the world in line. “If we really intend to extinguish the hope that has fueled the rise of al-Qaeda and violent anti-Americanism throughout the Middle East, we have no choice but to re-instill in our foes and friends the fear and respect that attaches to any great power,” he wrote in The Wall Street Journal last December. “Only a war against Saddam Hussein will decisively restore the awe that protects American interests abroad and citizens at home. We’ve been running from this fight for 10 years.”

The Pentagon’s campaign against the CIA is broader than just Iraq. Since the end of the Cold War, the CIA has been squeezed by the military again and again. Through its control over the National Security Agency, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Defense Intelligence Agency and other entities, the Pentagon already controls the vast bulk of America’s spy budget. To consolidate that control, Rumsfeld is currently pushing to create an intelligence czar at the Pentagon whose power and influence would rival that of the CIA director’s. And more and more often, the CIA’s covert-operations arm finds itself dominated by the Defense Department’s Special Forces units, the gung-ho soldiers who’ve been on the front lines in the ongoing, and apparently endless, war on terrorism.

What’s at stake here is far greater than a bureaucratic turf battle. The CIA exists to provide pure and unbiased intelligence to its chief customer, the president. George W. Bush, whose knowledge of world affairs is limited at best, probably depends more heavily than most presidents on what his aides tell him about the outside world. And there is mounting evidence that the decision to go to war is based on intelligence of doubtful veracity, which has been cooked by Pentagon hawks.


Memo For: President Bush
Re: War on Iraq

by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
CounterPunch.com, 2003-02-08

Memorandum for Confused Americans
Cooking Intelligence for War

by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
CounterPunch.com, 2003-03-15

Intelligence Officers Challenge Bush
by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
CommonDreams.org, 2003-05-01


FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

SUBJECT: Intelligence Fiasco


Selective Intelligence
by Seymour Hersh
New Yorker, 2003-05-12

[The start of the article:]

They call themselves, self-mockingly, the Cabal—a small cluster of policy advisers and analysts now based in the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans. In the past year, according to former and present Bush Administration officials, their operation, which was conceived by Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, has brought about a crucial change of direction in the American intelligence community. These advisers and analysts, who began their work in the days after September 11, 2001, have produced a skein of intelligence reviews that have helped to shape public opinion and American policy toward Iraq. They relied on data gathered by other intelligence agencies and also on information provided by the Iraqi National Congress, or I.N.C., the exile group headed by Ahmad Chalabi. By last fall, the operation rivalled 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 weapons of mass destruction and connection with Al Qaeda. As of last week, no such weapons had been found. And although many people, within the Administration and outside it, profess confidence that something will turn up, the integrity of much of that intelligence is now in question.

The director of the Special Plans operation is Abram Shulsky, a scholarly expert in the works of the political philosopher Leo Strauss. Shulsky has been quietly working on intelligence and foreign-policy issues for three decades; he was on the staff of the Senate Intelligence Com-mittee in the early nineteen-eighties and served in the Pentagon under Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle during the Reagan Administration, after which he joined the Rand Corporation. The Office of Special Plans is overseen by Under-Secretary of Defense William Luti, a retired Navy captain. Luti was an early advocate of military action against Iraq, and, as the Administration moved toward war and policymaking power shifted toward the civilians in the Pentagon, he took on increasingly important responsibilities.

W. Patrick Lang, the former chief of Middle East intelligence at the D.I.A., said, “The Pentagon has banded together to dominate the government’s foreign policy, and they’ve pulled it off. They’re running Chalabi. The D.I.A. has been intimidated and beaten to a pulp. And there’s no guts at all in the C.I.A.”



Senate Report on Iraq Intel Points to Role of Jerusalem
by Ori Nir
Jewish Daily Forward, 2004-07-16

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

Cooperation between Israel and the United States
helped produce a series of intelligence failures
in the lead up to the Iraq war,
according to separate reports issued by members of the Senate and the Knesset.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, in its report issued last week,
blasted the Central Intelligence Agency
for poor intelligence gathering and analysis,
and concluded that
the U.S. “intelligence community depended too heavily
on defectors and foreign government services”

to make up for America’s lack of human intelligence in Iraq.
The credibility of these outside sources was difficult to ascertain
and, as a result,
the United States was left open to manipulation by foreign governments,
the Senate report concluded.

In particular, the Senate report claimed,
America had become completely dependent on foreign sources
to evaluate Saddam Hussein’s ties to
Hamas, Hezbollah and other Palestinian terrorist organizations.
On this front,
the Senate committee concluded that the foreign intelligence was “credible.”
On the issue of weapons of mass destruction, however,
the Senate report concluded that
the United States relied on incorrect intelligence
to argue that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Any direct references to Israel
were blacked out of the published version of the Senate report,

but an earlier report issued in March by a Knesset committee
made it clear that U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies
were working together and exchanging information.

“In this particular case,
nobody had hard, on-the-ground intelligence information,”
said Gerald Steinberg, a professor at Israel’s Bar Ilan University
and an expert on American-Israeli security relations.

Intelligence agencies, Steinberg said,
were relying on a combination of data collected from Iraqi defectors,
as well as radio monitoring or signal intelligence.
The intelligence community, Steinberg said,
“looked for the signal intelligence to verify what they got from the defectors.
When you’re doing that, and you don’t have ground truth,
you can usually find enough information
to apparently verify what you’re looking to verify.”

Along similar lines, the Senate report criticized
what it described as the creation of an “assumption train” —
a chain of false assumptions based on faulty, unscrutinized intelligence.
Judging from the Knesset report, issued in March by an investigative committee
appointed by the Israeli parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee,
several of the assumption train’s cars were made in Israel.

But while the Knesset report
harshly criticized the Israeli intelligence community,
it also pointed a negative finger at the United States and other countries.
Referring to Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction,
the Knesset report argued that
“the intelligence picture that Military Intelligence and the Mossad put together
relied, among other sources, and to a significant extent,
on the assessments of fellow intelligence services
which were similar to Israel’s intelligence.”

In turn, the Knesset report stated,
foreign intelligence services relied on intelligence passed on by Israel
that actually originated from operatives working for other governments.

The result, according to the Israeli report, was
“a vicious cycle of sorts in the form of a reciprocal feedback,
which at times was more damaging than beneficial.
It very well may be that the assessments
given by an Israeli intelligence organization, or any other organization,
to a fellow organization,
were passed from hand to hand,
played a central role in making up the assessments of that foreign organization,
and then eventually returned to the original organization
as an assessment of a different intelligence organization.
That assessment, in turn, was immediately perceived
as a reinforcement and validation by a reliable source,
of the original Israeli assessment.”

[They say hindsight is 20/20, but even so,
it really doesn’t seem credible
that those intelligence agencies wouldn’t have tools in place
to look for such feedback.
This is hardly a new problem area.

Is it possible that some of the key intelligence people
were motivated by the same imperatives
that so transparently motivated
so much of the political/media establishment
on the issue of Iraq?]

Both the Senate and Knesset reports criticized
their country’s respective intelligence agencies
for drawing incorrect conclusions from faulty assumptions
and for engaging in what U.S. lawmakers described as groupthink —
a collective reasoning that is not challenged by healthy skepticism.

Prewar Assessment on Iraq Saw Chance of Strong Divisions
New York Times, 2004-09-28

[Emphasis is added.]

WASHINGTON, Sept. 27 -
The same intelligence unit
that produced a gloomy report in July
about the prospect of growing instability in Iraq
warned the Bush administration about
the potential costly consequences of an American-led invasion
two months before the war began, government officials said Monday.

The estimate came in two classified reports
prepared for President Bush in January 2003
by the National Intelligence Council,
an independent group that advises the director of central intelligence.
The assessments predicted that an American-led invasion of Iraq
would increase support for political Islam and
would result in
a deeply divided Iraqi society prone to violent internal conflict.

One of the reports also warned of
a possible insurgency against the new Iraqi government or American-led forces,
saying that rogue elements from Saddam Hussein’s government
could work with existing terrorist groups or act independently
to wage guerrilla warfare,
the officials said.
The assessments also said
a war would increase sympathy across the Islamic world for some terrorist objectives,
at least in the short run,
the officials said.

The contents of the two assessments had not been previously disclosed.
They were described by the officials after two weeks in which
the White House had tried to minimize the council’s latest report,
which was prepared this summer and read by senior officials early this month.

Last week, Mr. Bush dismissed the latest intelligence reports,
saying its authors were “just guessing” about the future,
though he corrected himself later, calling it an “estimate.”

The assessments,
meant to address the regional implications and internal challenges
that Iraq would face after Mr. Hussein’s ouster,
said it was unlikely that Iraq would split apart after an American invasion,
the officials said.
But they said there was a significant chance that
domestic groups would engage in violent internal conflict with one another
unless an occupying force prevented them from doing so.

Senior White House officials,
including Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser,
have contended that
some of the early predictions provided to the White House by outside experts of what could go wrong in Iraq,
including secular strife,
have not come to pass.
[Not by 2004. But that did come to pass a year or two later.]
But President Bush has acknowledged a “miscalculation”
about the virulency of the insurgency
that would rise against the American occupation,
though he insisted that it was simply an outgrowth
of the speed of the initial military victory in 2003.

The officials outlined the reports after the columnist Robert Novak,
in a column published Monday in The Washington Post, wrote that
a senior intelligence official had said at a West Coast gathering last week
the White House
had disregarded warnings from intelligence agencies
that a war in Iraq
would intensify anti-American hostility in the Muslim world.

Mr. Novak identified the official as Paul R. Pillar,
the national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia,
and criticized him for making remarks
that Mr. Novak said were critical of the administration.

The National Intelligence Council is an independent group, made up of outside academics and long-time intelligence professionals. The C.I.A. describes it as the intelligence community’s “center for midterm and long-term strategic thinking.” Its main task is to produce National Intelligence Estimates, the most formal reports outlining the consensus of intelligence agencies. But it also produces less formal assessments, like the ones about Iraq it presented in January 2003.

One of the intelligence documents described the building of democracy in Iraq as a long, difficult and potentially turbulent process with potential for backsliding into authoritarianism, Iraq’s traditional political model, the officials said.

The assessments were described by three government officials who have seen or been briefed on the documents. The officials spoke on condition that neither they nor their agencies be identified. None of the officials are affiliated in any way with the campaigns of Mr. Bush or Senator John Kerry. The officials, who were interviewed separately, declined to quote directly from the documents, but said they were speaking out to present an accurate picture of the prewar warnings.

The officials’ descriptions portray assessments that are gloomier than the predictions by some administration officials, most notably those of Vice President Dick Cheney. But in general, the warnings about anti-American sentiment and instability appear to have been upheld by events, and their disclosure could prove politically damaging to the White House, which has already had to contend with the disclosure that the National Intelligence Estimate prepared by the council in July presented a far darker prognosis for Iraq through the end of 2005 than Mr. Bush has done in his statements.

The reports issued by the intelligence council are of two basic types: those that try to assess intelligence data, like the October 2002 document that assessed the state of Iraq’s unconventional weapons programs, and broader predictions about foreign political developments.

The group’s National Intelligence Estimate about Iraqi weapons has now been widely discredited for wildly overestimating the country’s capabilities. Members of the intelligence council have complained that they were pressured to write the document too quickly and that important qualifiers were buried.

The group’s recent National Intelligence Estimate, prepared in July this year, with its gloomy picture of Iraq’s future, was described by White House officials in the past two weeks as an academic document that contained little evidence and little that was new.

“It was finished in July, and not circulated by the intelligence community until the end of August,” said one senior administration official. “That’s not exactly what you do with an urgent document.”

Mr. Pillar, who has held his post since October 2000, is highly regarded within the C.I.A. But he has been a polarizing figure within the administration, particularly within the Defense Department, where senior civilians who were among the most vigorous champions of a war in Iraq derided him as being too dismissive of the threat posed by Mr. Hussein.

A C.I.A. spokesman said Monday that Mr. Pillar was not available for comment and that his comments at the West Coast session had been made on the condition that he not be identified. An intelligence official said Mr. Pillar had supervised the drafting of the document, but the official emphasized that it reflected the views of 15 intelligence agencies, including the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the State Department’s bureau of Intelligence and Research.
A spokesman for the National Security Council, Sean McCormack, said Monday that “we don’t comment on intelligence and classified reports,” and he would not say whether Mr. Bush had read the January 2003 reports. But he said “the president was fully aware of all the challenges prior to making the decision to go to war, and we addressed these challenges in our policies.”

“And we also addressed these challenges in public,” he added.

A senior administration official likened Mr. Bush’s decision to a patient’s decision to have risky surgery, even if doctors warn that there could be serious side effects.

“We couldn’t live with the status quo,” the official said, “because as a result of the status quo in the Middle East, we were dying, and we saw the evidence of that on Sept. 11.”

Officials who have read the July 2004 National Intelligence Estimate have said that even as a best-case situation, it predicted a period of tenuous stability for Iraq between now and the end of 2005. The worst of three cases cited in the document was that developments could lead to civil war, the officials have said. Some Democratic senators have asked that the document be declassified, but administration officials have called that prospect unlikely.

The White House has also sought to minimize the significance of the estimate, with Mr. Bush saying that intelligence agencies had laid out “several scenarios that said, life could be lousy, life could be O.K. or life could be better, and they were just guessing as to what the conditions might be like.” Mr. Bush later corrected himself, saying that he should have used the word estimate.

Democrats have contrasted the dark tone of the intelligence report with the more upbeat descriptions of Iraq’s prospects offered by the administration. The White House has defended its approach, saying that it is the job of intelligence analysts to identify challenges, and the job of policy makers to overcome them. But administration officials have also emphasized that the White House was not given a copy of the document until Aug. 31, only about two weeks before it was made public by The New York Times.

In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Secretary of State Colin L. Powell acknowledged that “we have seen an increase in anti-Americanism in the Muslim world” since the war began. Mr. Powell also said the insurgency in Iraq was “getting worse” as forces opposed to the United States and the new Iraqi leadership remained “determined to disrupt the election” set for January.

Correction: Sept. 29, 2004, Wednesday

A front-page article yesterday about prewar intelligence assessments on Iraq misidentified the television program on which Secretary of State Colin L. Powell discussed them on Sunday. It was ABC’s “This Week,” not “Fox News Sunday,” on which he appeared the same day.


Report Says White House Ignored C.I.A. on Iraq Chaos
by Douglas Jehl
New York Times, 2005-10-13

[If the above link is bad, try this free one.

Emphasis is added in the copy below.]

A review by former intelligence officers has concluded that
the Bush administration “apparently paid little or no attention”
prewar assessments by the Central Intelligence Agency that
warned of major cultural and political obstacles
to stability in postwar Iraq.

The unclassified report was completed in July 2004.
It appeared publicly for the first time this week in Studies in Intelligence,
a quarterly journal, and was first reported Wednesday in USA Today.
The journal is published by the Center for the Study of Intelligence,
which is part of the C.I.A. but operates independently.

The review was conducted by a team led by Richard J. Kerr,
a former deputy director of central intelligence,
working under contract for the C.I.A.
It acknowledged the deep failures
in the agency’s prewar assessments of Iraq’s weapons programs
but said
“the analysis was right”
on cultural and political issues related to postwar Iraq.

Mr. Kerr’s review did not describe those findings in detail.
But The New York Times first reported last year that
two classified reports prepared for President Bush in January 2003
had predicted that an American-led invasion of Iraq
would increase support for political Islam and
would result in a deeply divided Iraqi society
prone to violent internal conflict.

Those reports were by the National Intelligence Council, the high level group responsible for producing the government’s most authoritative intelligence assessments.

Since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003,
the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies have been notably more gloomy
than the White House and the Pentagon about prospects for stability in Iraq.
In the summer of 2004,
newspaper articles about those reports so angered some Republicans
that they accused the agency of trying to undermine President Bush.

The role played by prewar intelligence on postwar Iraq
has not yet been the subject of a comprehensive independent review.

The Senate Intelligence Committee was to have addressed the issue
as part of a second phase of its inquiry
that began with a study of the intelligence on Iraq’s weapons program.
But the Republican-led committee has shown no sign of producing a report,
prompting complaints from Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia and other Democrats.

A White House spokesman, Frederick Jones, disputed any suggestion
that the administration had fallen short in its postwar planning.
“Our position is that we did plan adequately for the postwar period,”
Mr. Jones said. The C.I.A. declined to comment,
and Mr. Kerr did not respond to an e-mail message.

A former senior intelligence official said
Mr. Kerr’s conclusions were “broadly correct.”
Still, the former official said,
“some in the policy-making world would probably deny
that these points were brought forcefully to their attention.”

The review was one of three conducted by Mr. Kerr and his team,
but it is the only one that was unclassified.
It described as “seriously flawed, misleading and even wrong”
most of the conclusions reached by the C.I.A.
before the invasion of Iraq about President Saddam Hussein’s
nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs.

But Mr. Kerr offered praise for prewar intelligence reports
on issues other than Iraq’s weapons programs,
saying that they “accurately addressed such topics
as how the war would develop and how Iraqi forces would or would not fight.”

Mr. Kerr also praised what he called
perceptive analysis by intelligence agencies
on the issue of ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda,
a subject on which the agency clashed with the White House
by concluding that there were no substantive links.

Mr. Kerr said the agency had also accurately
“calculated the impact of the war on oil markets” and
“accurately forecast the reactions of the ethnic and tribal factions in Iraq.”

He credited what he called
“strong regional and country expertise
developed over time” within American intelligence agencies,
as opposed to what he said had been heavy reliance on “technical analysis”
for what proved to be misleading or inaccurate information
about Iraq’s weapons programs.


Ex-CIA Official Faults Use of Data on Iraq
Intelligence 'Misused' to Justify War, He Says
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post, 2006-02-10

The former CIA official
who coordinated U.S. intelligence on the Middle East until last year
has accused the Bush administration
of “cherry-picking” intelligence on Iraq
to justify a decision it had already reached to go to war, and
of ignoring warnings
that the country could easily fall into violence and chaos
after an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Paul R. Pillar,
who was the national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia
from 2000 to 2005,
acknowledges the U.S. intelligence agencies’ mistakes
in concluding that Hussein’s government possessed weapons of mass destruction.
But he said those misjudgments
did not drive the administration’s decision to invade.

“Official intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs was flawed,
but even with its flaws, it was not what led to the war,”
Pillar wrote in the upcoming issue of the journal Foreign Affairs.
Instead, he asserted, the administration
“went to war without requesting -- and evidently without being influenced by --
any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq.”

“It has become clear
that official intelligence was not relied on
in making even the most significant national security decisions,
that intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made,
that damaging ill will
developed between [Bush] policymakers and intelligence officers, and
that the intelligence community’s own work was politicized,”
Pillar wrote.


The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released two reports:
Postwar Findings about Iraq's WMD Programs and Links to Terrorism
and How they Compare with Prewar Assessments

The Use by the Intelligence Community of Information Provided by
the Iraqi National Congress

Iraq's Alleged Al-Qaeda Ties Were Disputed Before War
Links Were Cited to Justify U.S. Invasion, Report Says
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post, 2006-09-09

A declassified report
released yesterday by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
revealed that
U.S. intelligence analysts were strongly disputing
the alleged links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda
while senior Bush administration officials
were publicly asserting those links to justify invading Iraq.

Report Details Errors Before War
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post, 2006-09-09

CIA Learned in '02 That Bin Laden Had No Iraq Ties, Report Says
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post, 2006-09-15, Page A14

[Paragraph numbers, emphasis, and comments have been added.]

The CIA learned in late September 2002
from a high-level member of Saddam Hussein's inner circle that
Iraq had no past or present contact with Osama bin Laden and that
the Iraqi leader considered bin Laden an enemy of the Baghdad regime,
according to a recent Senate Intelligence Committee report.

Although President Bush and other senior administration officials
were at that time regularly linking Hussein to al-Qaeda,
the CIA's highly sensitive intelligence supporting the contrary view
was apparently not passed on
to the White House or senior Bush policymakers.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and two GOP colleagues on the committee disclosed this information for the first time in the panel's report on Iraq released last week.
They wrote in the "additional views" section of the report that
the Cabinet-level Iraqi official
"said that Iraq has no past, current, or anticipated future contact
with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda"
and that the official
"added that bin Laden was in fact a longtime enemy of Iraq."

On Sept. 25, 2002, just days after the CIA received the source's information,
President Bush told reporters:
"Al-Qaeda hides.
Saddam doesn't, but the danger is, is that they work in concert.
The danger is, is that
al-Qaeda becomes an extension of Saddam's madness and his hatred
and his capacity to extend weapons of mass destruction around the world. . . .
[Y]ou can't distinguish between al-Qaeda and Saddam
when you talk about the war on terror."

According to the three Republicans, the CIA said
it did not disseminate the intelligence
about the lack of a Hussein-bin Laden connection
because "it did not provide anything new."

This intelligence seems to directly contradict
the statement of the president that is quoted in paragraph 4.
I’ve never been an intelligence mandarin, but how could those who are
not think that intelligence directly contradicting
what the president is saying
is worthy of informing the NSC of,
and of making sure, by direct contact with the president,
that the NSC passed this information on to him?]

other information obtained at the same time from the same source
that paralleled what administration officials were saying
was immediately passed on

to "alert" the president and other senior policymakers,
the three Republicans said.
A "highly restricted intelligence report" conveyed the source's claim that
although Iraq had no nuclear weapon,
Hussein was covertly developing one and had stockpiled chemical weapons,
according to the committee members.

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said
he could not provide additional information about the situation
beyond what is in the Senate report,
but he added that
"the agency's decisions to disseminate intelligence
are not guided by political considerations."

Committee staff members would not expand on the report's language
other than to say
the Hussein-bin Laden material was
maintained within the CIA at a high level with limited access.

Former senior CIA officials said
it was unclear what happened to the Hussein-bin Laden information,
although two former aides to then-CIA Director George J. Tenet said
they could not remember if they received the original information.

[This is preposterous.
The mooted Hussein-bin Laden link was Topic A in Washington,
and on the national agenda of the time (e.g., as noted in paragraph 4 above).
If top-tier people in the CIA
received information from a credible, top-level source in the Iraq government
directly contradicting what their president was publicly asserting,
how could they not remember this?
There is no way.
So if they had received it, surely they would remember it.
Taking the logical contrapositive,
if they don’t remember receiving it, then they didn’t receive it.
There is no wiggle room for the
“Well, maybe I received it, but maybe I didn’t—I just can’t recall.”

"Nothing was withheld from the White House,"
one former aide said, although there was
"a lot of debate inside the agency about the Saddam-al-Qaeda relationship"
because it was the focus of repeated questions from administration officials,
including Vice President Cheney
and his then-chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

The high-level Iraqi official, who was not identified in the Senate report, was Naji Sabri, then foreign minister. A senior CIA officer, after months of trying, was able to question him through a trusted agency intermediary when Sabri was in New York City around Sept. 19, 2002.

According to former intelligence officials, the CIA case officer filed two separate reports describing his questioning of Sabri. One, involving the Iraq weapons program, would go to analysts interested in that subject, the officer believed; the second, about Hussein and bin Laden, would go to the CIA counterterrorism center. The officer, however, passed his material on to senior agency officials in New York and was not aware of how it was eventually distributed.

Sabri's role as an intelligence source for the CIA has already been publicly reported. New details, including a payment of $200,000 to the intermediary and a secret signal system to assure the CIA officer that Sabri was cooperating, are contained in the recently released book "Hubris," by Michael Isikoff of Newsweek and David Corn, Washington correspondent for the magazine the Nation.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company


Iraq National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) -
“Prospects for Iraq's Stability: A Challenging Road Ahead”
Unclassified Key Judgments

Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 2007-02-02

Between the Lines of the Iraq Intelligence Estimate
Washington Post (Outlook), 2007-02-11

[This was actually published in the Washington Post on 2007-02-11,
but as it provides excellent commentary
on how to interpret the language in the NIE,
I am listing it adjacent to the NIE.
The substantive material is in graphical form,
so you’ll have to click on the link above to see it.]

The unclassified summary of the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq
was released late Friday, Feb. 2,
the time of day the Bush administration [and all administrations]
has often used to release bad news.
The stories about the NIE in the next day’s papers
reported the summary’s strongest language,
but the entire document disappeared from the news.
Outlook asked Mark M. Lowenthal,
a former vice chairman for evaluation of the National Intelligence Council,
which writes NIEs,
to guide readers through the document.
Lowenthal, now retired after a 31-year career as an intelligence officer,
has annotated the NIE in the comments alongside the text.
His purpose was neither to endorse nor criticize the document,
but to explain how intelligence professionals use the English language.

Intelligence on the NIE
An interview with Michael Scheuer
National Interest online, 2007-02-08

[Here is the full interview;
emphasis is added.]

Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA’s Bin Laden unit,
analyzes the conclusions of the National Intelligence Estimate,
refuting its contentions that
Al-Qaeda’s Iraq presence
has any bearing on the group’s international planning

and that
the Iranians have been more active than “key Sunni regimes”
in supporting their proxy militias in Iraq.

In an interview with National Interest online editor, Ximena Ortiz,
Scheuer also said that in broad strokes, the document provides
an impressively frank description of the dire conditions in Iraq.

According to the NIE,
one of the potential consequences of a rapid withdrawal from Iraq would be that
Al-Qaeda “would attempt to use parts of the country,
particularly Al-Anbar province,
to plan increased attacks in and outside of Iraq.”
How do you balance that threat against
the recruitment advantages that the U.S. troop presence in Iraq
gives Al-Qaeda?

I think there’s been a fundamental misunderstanding
of what Al-Qaeda saw in Iraq from the beginning.
They saw an opportunity certainly to kill Americans.
They welcomed Washington’s blind effort that resulted in
clerics all over the world calling for defensive jihad against the Americans
in exactly the words that Bin Laden and Zawahiri have used.

But most of all, Al-Qaeda derives from our invasion of Iraq
an opportunity to push its center of activities 1,000 kilometers westward.
They saw Iraq as
contiguous territory from which to launch attacks and infiltration
to the Arabian Peninsula, into Turkey and into the Levant,
and eventually, into Lebanon and Israel.
And so, I think that idea had stood from the beginning
but people didn’t look at it from Al-Qaeda’s perspective.

Bin Laden of course grew up in the Afghan War
and has consistently said over the years:
“I can’t attack the Israelis because I don’t have contiguous territory.”
He also pointed to that reason in explaining why they couldn’t get to Bosnia,
because they couldn’t base in Catholic Croatia or Orthodox Serbia.
And so Iraq fulfills one of his ambitions,
which is to have safe-haven for his people to get into the Levant,
as I said Turkey and the Arabian Peninsula.

America’s “Disastrous Position”

In terms of your first point,
in terms of seeing an opportunity to kill Americans,
if the Americans are no longer there, that opportunity would no longer exist.
But on your second point,
has Al-Qaeda been able to, in your view, establish that contiguous territory?

Certainly the Israelis are claiming that
they’ve established themselves in Palestine and Lebanon.
Al-Qaeda organizations have announced their presence
in Syria, in Jordan, in Egypt,
all since the beginning of the Iraq War.
So it’s hard to define, or decide, whether or not these claims are legitimate.
But they certainly make sense.
There’s been an ambition, as I said,
of Al-Qaeda to be able to reach in to these areas
and I think that’s probably happening.

America is in a disastrous position really,
because we’re damned if we stay and we’re damned if we leave.
And I think you’ll recall just on the eve of the invasion,
Zawahiri said “Praised to God for the Americans invading Iraq,”
because once they get there,
they won’t be able to stay,
but they won’t be able to leave and they’ll just bleed [cf.].

In view of the fact that they’ve presumably been able to establish
this contiguous presence,
to what degree do they then still need Iraq?
And if the U.S. troops were to leave,
would Al-Qaeda be able to significantly expand its presence in Iraq
or do you believe that the Mahdi Army and other militia groups
could contain that expansion?

I don’t think they’re very interested in expanding their presence in Iraq.
They really need a very small presence in mostly, as you say, in Anbar.
It is the one place
that was mentioned by Bin Laden in his speech before the invasion
where he said,
that’s where we’re going to concentrate,
that’s where the heroes of Islam will be, in Anbar.
I don’t think it matters to them really whether we stay or not,
the presence is established.
One thing I read in the NIE that was I thought a little Pollyannish
was the idea that
Iraq’s neighbors wouldn’t be driving the violence in Iraq,
and I think that’s a mistake.

Yes, it said that not only would they not be driving the violence significantly,
but that also they would not really be able to be drivers for stability
in any substantial way.

Well they would not be drivers for stability because
stability by the reality of the population would be a Shi‘a state.
Which is exactly what the Egyptians, and the Jordanians, and the Saudis and the Kuwaitis don’t want to be part of.

What the NIE said to me was, we’re still,
as an intelligence community at least in our publicly released documents,
afraid to discuss and account for the power of religion.
What we’ve created in Iraq is
an arena for the playing out of the Sunni-Shi‘a confrontation
that has been festering for a millennium.

And the NIE, at least what I’ve read of it,
does not take account for
the Sunni governments that are going to ride to the rescue
of their brothers in Iraq.
You know, in many ways it’s going to be like Afghanistan over again,
but Shi‘as are much more hated than the Russians.
So, Americans unfortunately tend to try to compartmentalize the world
and we assume that when people say, when governments say,
“We all want a stable, peaceful, prosperous Iraq”,
that each of those governments are defining it the same way America does.
It’s the problem we have in Afghanistan.
The Saudis’ definition of
a peaceful, prosperous Afghanistan and a peaceful, prosperous Iraq
are probably almost diametrically different to ours.

Protecting the Administration, Bipartisan Elite

The other contention the NIE makes, is that,
while Iran is now providing lethal support to its proxies in Iraq,
“key Sunni regimes” are simply considering lending that type of support
and that they’re constraining their willingness to cooperate.
It uses that sort of language to point to this dichotomy between
so-called key Sunni regimes and Iranians and the Syrians.
Do you believe that there is that dichotomy . . . ?

Oh there is no dichotomy.
What the NIE does in its released public form is to protect
not only this administration
but also the bipartisan elite in the United State:
their insistence that
the Saudis and the Kuwaitis, and all the rest of the Sunni governments
are our allies.
The Sunni governments
have been involved in supporting their brethren from the first day.
If you remember,
it wasn’t long after the invasion that we discovered that
the Saudis had sent a medical hospital into Baghdad
and it turned out to be a cover for their intelligence services.

They’ve been there from the first day.
Only really a Pollyanna would believe that
the Sunni governments weren’t supporting their brethren in Iraq.

You know it’s, I could be too old and too cynical,
but I’ve watched this for a long time, and you know,
the first thing I thought for example,
when Prince Turki left in such a hurry, was:
he is the one guy in the Saudi government
who has 15 years experience in running guns into Sunni insurgents,
and I wondered if that wasn’t one of the reasons
he hoofed out of town very quickly.

So you certainly see a kind of political hedging in the NIE,
and it’s interesting because if you do a News Google search,
you see a wide variety of interpretations.
You have Real Clear Politics, for example, saying
“NIE Report Seems to Back Bush Iraq Plan”,
and then you have All American Patriots with the story,
“Senator Biden: National Intelligence Estimate
is Devastating Repudiation of the President’s Strategy in Iraq.”

So it seems like the document is a Rorschach test,
perhaps as a result of hedging.

An Indictment of Failure

When I read the report, in its unclassified form—what I took from that was
the classified version probably says as clearly as it can be said,
given bureaucratic realities,
that we’re sunk in Iraq.
‘Cause if you read it, it lays out a whole litany of terrible things,
and then it says, if these things happen, that could change.
But the things they say need to happen would be close to miracles.
I think that, to me,
if this is the best they could do to make this palatable to the administration—
for the publicly released form—
the classified form must be just an indictment, if you will, of failure.

That point that the NIE made, which I mentioned before,
about how Al-Qaeda would attempt to use parts of the country,
particularly Al-Anbar province,
to plan increased attacks in and outside Iraq
in the event of a U.S. troop withdrawal—
that seems to validate one of the central rationales for the Iraq War, which is,
“If we don’t fight them there, we will be fighting them here.”
Do you believe that given a U.S. troop withdrawal,
Al-Qaeda would ramp up its planning of attacks inside and outside of Iraq,
particularly of interest would be its plans for the United States.
What’s your view on that?

I don’t think the possession or non-possession of Iraq
makes any difference to the planning of Al-Qaeda,

because Al-Qaeda’s headquarter is in Afghanistan,
where they’re about to, over the next seven years, evict the U.S. and NATO.
[Scheuer has been consistently pessimistic, and accurate,
about the situation in Afghanistan.
Maybe that’s why he is quoted so infrequently by elite print media.]

So the idea that somehow Iraq provides them a safe haven from which to plan attacks in the United States
is kind of nonsense.
Planning goes on where Bin Laden and Zawahiri are
and that’s in South Asia at the moment.

So I think that that’s not a credible statement and the idea of Mr. Bush,
with all respect for the office of the president,
that we were going to fight them there instead of here
is just ludicrous.
There are 1.4 billion Muslims, there’s plenty to go around.

I don’t know if that was Mr. Bush or Mr. Cheney, but that was always nonsense.

Scheuer’s Estimate

What would be your own intelligence estimate
of the threat that Al-Qaeda poses today?

I think it’s probably worse then it was on 9/11.
Not necessarily because they’re stronger, simply because
we’ve done nothing to defend the United States.

We didn’t have to invade Iraq and what we’ve done is really push
the transformation that Bin Laden has been aiming for of Al-Qaeda,
from a man and a group
to a philosophy and an organization.
But as an American citizen what I’m just utterly appalled by
are basically three things.

The president—
not only not the president or the vice president
but no one in the Democratic Party—
has yet stood up and told the American people
the truth about why we’re fighting.
This is not about our liberties, our freedoms, our gender equality,
it’s about what we do in the Islamic world.

And until we get some politician who will stand up and say that,
we’re not going to be able to even understand what the enemy is about.
[That’s the real intelligence failure in America:
one that cuts across all sectors of the elite: political, media, academic.]

The second thing is that the borders are still open.
The idea that America can be defended without closing the borders,
at least giving law enforcement the chance to find out who is in the country,
is just not possible to do.
We’re losing in Iraq, we’re losing in Afghanistan—
one of the major reasons in both places is because we didn’t close the borders.
The enemy is constantly being reinforced and refunded and re-equipped.

And then the third thing, probably the one that will come back to haunt,
is the failure of the last three administrations to complete
the securing of the Soviet nuclear arsenal,
giving Bin Laden now a 16-year window to purchase, build or steal
some sort of a nuclear device out of the Soviet arsenal.

You know, I think we’re very much as a country and a government
still at the drawing board.

In what regard? In terms of . . .

In terms of defending America.
You know it’s almost—perhaps it’s not a very clever analogy,
but when you’re on the airplane and they’re giving you the safety indoctrination, they say:
“If we lose pressure, the air mask comes down,
put it on yourself
before you help your daughter or your wife or your grandfather.”
What we did is exactly the opposite after 9/11.
We’ve spent the whole period since 9/11 trying to put the oxygen on
the Afghan situation, the Iraq situation, the Somalia situation
and here at home, we’re kind of gasping breath.

To me, as a former intelligence officer,
I was impressed by what I think the released version of the NIE means about
what’s in the classified version.

NIo: That’s very interesting.

Frank—And Dire

It strikes me very much that it’s a very frank NIE.
Certainly with the released version,
because they’re bureaucrats and politicians
they dressed it up to make it less Cassandra-like.

It’s really kind of silly to say it
but I’m proud of the people who wrote that NIE
because it sounds to me like it’s a very factual, direct text.

And your point before being that that level of frankness suggests to you that
the classified version is really quite dire and grim indeed.
And if what we’re getting unclassified is, I guess you could say, this pessimistic,
then the classified version must be two-fold in that regard, or three-fold.

The classified version is going to be backed up point-by-point
by evidence,
by reporting from the field,
by signals intelligence,
by what other countries are telling us.
So yes, if the part that’s available on the DNI’s website
is as sweet and sunny as they could make it,
the NIE itself must be a very frank document about, as you said,
the dire situation in Iraq.

Michael Scheuer participated in The National Interest symposium
“9/11, The Sequel?” in the September/October issue.
He also authored “Al-Qaeda: Lebanon's Unbloodied Victor”
in National Interest online in September 2006.

Review of Pre-Iraqi War Activities of the Office of the
Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
Executive Summary

by the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General

Prewar Intelligence Unit at Pentagon Is Criticized
New York Times, 2007-02-09

A Pentagon investigation into the handling of prewar intelligence
has criticized civilian Pentagon officials
for conducting their own intelligence analysis
to find links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda,
but said the officials did not violate any laws or mislead Congress,
according to Congressional officials who have read the report.

The long-awaited
report by the Pentagon’s acting inspector general,
Thomas F. Gimble,
was sent to Congress on Thursday.
It is the first major review to rebuke senior officials working for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld
for the way intelligence was used before the invasion of Iraq early in 2003.

Working under Douglas J. Feith,
who at the time was under secretary of defense for policy,
the group
“developed, produced and then disseminated
alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and Al Qaeda relationship,
which included some conclusions that were
inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community,
to senior decision-makers,”

the report concluded....

In a rebuttal to an earlier draft of Mr. Gimble’s report,
Eric S. Edelman, the under secretary of defense,
said the group’s activities
were authorized by Mr. Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul D. Wolfowitz.
They did not produce formal intelligence assessments,
and they were properly shared,
the rebuttal said.


[T]he chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee,
John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia,
said in a statement that
because the inspector general considered the work of Mr. Feith’s group
to be “intelligence activities,”
the committee would investigate
whether the Pentagon violated the National Security Act of 1947
by failing to notify Congress about the group’s work.


The Pentagon’s rebuttal vehemently rejected the report’s contention that
there was “inappropriate” use of intelligence by Pentagon civilians
and said
the effort to identify links between Saddam Hussein’s government and Al Qaeda
was done at the direction of Mr. Wolfowitz,
who was deputy defense secretary at the time.

Describing the work as a “fresh, critical look”
at intelligence agency conclusions about Al Qaeda and Iraq,
the Pentagon rebuttal said,
“It is somewhat difficult to understand how activitie
that admittedly were lawful and authorized
(in this case by either the secretary of defense or the deputy secretary of defense)
could nevertheless be characterized as ‘inappropriate.’ ”


The inspector general’s report criticizes a July 25, 2002, memo,
written by an intelligence analyst detailed to Mr. Feith’s office,
titled, “Iraq and al-Qaida: Making the Case.”

The memo said that, while “some analysts have argued” that
Osama bin Laden would not cooperate with secular Arab entities like Iraq,
“reporting indicates otherwise.”

The inspector general concluded that the memo constituted
an “alternative intelligence assessment”
from that given by the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies
and that it led to a briefing on links between Al Qaeda and Iraq
that was given to senior Bush administration officials in August 2002,
according to excerpts of the draft inspector general report quoted by Mr. Edelman.

It is not clear whether the inspector general revised his report
after receiving the rebuttal.

The draft inspector general report said Mr. Feith’s office
should have followed intelligence agency guidelines
for registering differing views,
“in those rare instances where consensus could not be reached.”


Official's Key Report On Iraq Is Faulted
'Dubious' Intelligence Fueled Push for War
By Walter Pincus and R. Jeffrey Smith
Washingon Post, 2007-02-09

Correction to this story (2007-02-10)

Intelligence provided by former undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith
to buttress the White House case for invading Iraq
included “reporting of dubious quality or reliability” that
supported the political views of senior administration officials
rather than
the conclusions of the intelligence community,
according to a report by the Pentagon's inspector general.

Feith's office
“was predisposed to finding a significant relationship
between Iraq and al Qaeda,”
according to portions of the report,
released yesterday by Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.).
The inspector general described Feith's activities as
“an alternative intelligence assessment process.”


[A summary of the report] stated that
the office produced intelligence assessments
“inconsistent” with the U.S. intelligence community consensus,
calling those actions “inappropriate” because the assessments
purported to be “intelligence products”
but were far more conclusive than the consensus view.

Senators Debate Significance of Pentagon Report On Intelligence
By Walter Pincus and Karen DeYoung
Washington Post, 2007-02-10

More to Come?
The Defense Department Inspector General’s report
may only spell the beginning of inquiries
into the intelligence activities of Douglas Feith’s office.
By Laura Rozen
American Prospect, 2007-02-12

Real Special
Douglas Feith and the Office of Special Plans
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2007-02-12

Saving Feith
A new report gives the Pentagon intelligence peddler a pass.
by Philip Giraldi
American Conservative, 2007-03-12

[The conclusion (emphasis is added):]

If the inspector general had only looked a little wider and deeper,
he might have discerned a persistent pattern of
questionable information being deliberately manipulated,
then landing on the desks of White House officials to make a case for war.

That would have made for an interesting report.

Denouement on Iraq: First Stop the Bleeding
Memo to Congressional Leaders on Iraq Funding
by Ray McGovern
Antiwar.com, 2007-03-16

Speaker of the House
Senate Majority Leader

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Denouement on Iraq: First Stop the Bleeding


Report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
Prewar Intelligence Assessments About Postwar Iraq

Warning: This is a 229 page PDF file.
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 2007-05-25

Senate Democrats Say
Bush Ignored Spy Agencies’ Prewar Warnings of Iraq Perils

New York Times, 2007-05-26

Analysts’ Warnings of Iraq Chaos Detailed
Senate Panel Releases Assessments From 2003
By Walter Pincus and Karen DeYoung
Washington Post, 2007-05-26

Sometimes the CIA is Right
by Paul R. Pillar
National Interest Online, 2007-06-06

[This is the complete version of Paul Pillar’s on-line 2007-06-06 article.
Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.
A considerably expanded (to seven printed pages) version is:
in print in the September/October 2007 National Interest, and
on-line as 2007-08-29-Pillar.]

What comes to mind when someone mentions intelligence and the Iraq War?
Why, of course,
the intelligence estimate on Iraqi unconventional weapons programs
excoriated in a 500-page report
that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
issued with much fanfare in July 2004,
further torn apart in another 500-page report
by a White House–appointed commission,
and scorned and vilified ever since.

But the weapons estimate was
one of only three classified, community-coordinated assessments about Iraq
that the intelligence community produced in the months prior to the war.
Don’t feel bad if you missed the other two, which addressed
  • the principal challenges that Iraq likely would present
    during the first several years after Saddam’s removal
    [Appendix B, 40 pages],
    as well as
  • likely repercussions in the surrounding region
    [Appendix A, 39 pages].
After being kept under wraps (except for a few leaks) for over four years,
the Senate committee
quietly released redacted versions of those assessments on its website May 25,
as Americans were beginning their Memorial Day holiday weekend.

[These two reports are appendices (as identified above)
to this SSCI report (a 229 page PDF file).]

I initiated those latter two assessments
and supervised their drafting and coordination.
My responsibilities at the time as
the National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia
concerned analysis on political, economic and social issues in the region.
A duty of any intelligence officer
is not only to respond to policymakers’ requests
but also to anticipate their future needs.
With the administration’s determination to go to war
having become painfully clear during 2002,
I undertook these assessments to help policymakers,
and those charged with executing their policies,
make sense of what they would be getting into after Saddam was gone.
Following a common practice of the National Intelligence Council
with many self-initiated projects,
we got a policy office—in this case the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff—
to provide cover of sorts by agreeing to be listed as the customer of record.

The tremendous notoriety the estimate on weapons programs achieved
has been all out of proportion
to any role it played, or should have played,
in the decision to launch the war.
The administration never requested it
(Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee did),
its public line about Iraqi weapons programs
was well-established before it was written,
and as the White House later admitted,
the president (and the then national security adviser)
did not even read it—nor did most members of Congress.
Opposition to the war among many at home and abroad
who shared the misperceptions about Iraqi weapons programs
demonstrated that
those perceptions did not,
contrary to the administration’s enormous selling effort,
imply that a war was necessary.

In contrast, the other two assessments spoke directly to
the instability, conflict, and black hole for blood and treasure
that over the past four years we have come to know as Iraq.
The assessments described the main contours of the mess that was to be,
  • Iraq’s unpromising and undemocratic political culture,
  • the sharp conflicts and prospect for violence
    among Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian groups,
  • the Marshall Plan-scale of effort needed for economic reconstruction,
  • the major refugee problem,
  • the hostility that would be directed at any occupying force
    that did not provide adequate security and public services, and
  • the exploitation of the conflict by Al-Qaeda and other terrorists.

The Senate committee report released two weeks ago
revealed sharp partisan divisions,
so sharp that the only evaluative comments
are in separate statements by majority and minority members.
The focus of the political clash was on
what heed the Bush Administration should have taken
of the intelligence community’s judgments.

The two sides even disagreed over including in the report
a list of who received the assessments.

The story of these pre-war assessments has other implications
that are at least [as] important,
however, including ones for current debate over Iraq policy.
The assessments support the proposition that

the expedition in Iraq always was a fool’s errand
rather than a good idea spoiled by poor execution,

implying that
the continued search for a winning strategy
is likely to be fruitless.

Some support for the poor execution hypothesis
can be found in the assessments,
such as the observation that
Iraq’s regular army could make an important contribution in providing security
(thus implicitly questioning in advance the wisdom of ever disbanding the army).
the analysts had no reason to assume poor execution,
and their prognosis was dark nonetheless.

amid the stultifying policy environment that prevailed
when the assessments were prepared—
in which it was evident that
the administration was going to war
and that
analysis supporting that decision was welcome
and contrary analysis was not—

it is all the more remarkable that
the analysts would produce such a gloomy view.

A second observation—
bearing in mind how long it took for these assessments to be made public—
is that
evaluation of the intelligence community’s performance
tends to be heavily politicized,

with much criticism having more to do with
agendas and interests of the critics
than with
anything the intelligence community does.
The two assessments,
which contained very little sensitive reporting,
should have been far easier to declassify
than the Top Secret estimate on weapons.
Yet it has taken almost three more years,
and a change in party control in Congress,
to release them or any report based on them.
(But give the Senate committee credit for even belatedly doing something that
neither its House counterpart nor the executive branch did.)

Republican interest in protecting the administration,
and in so doing
shifting blame for the Iraq disaster to the intelligence community,
clearly is a large part of this.
But the scapegoating has a bipartisan element as well.
For all members of Congress who supported the war,
the assessments about postwar consequences
are an inconvenient reminder of how
  • they bought into the administration’s false equation of
    a presumed weapons program
    the need to invade,
  • in trying to protect themselves
    against charges of being soft on national security,
    they failed to consider
    all of the factors that should have influenced their votes.

Spinning the intelligence community’s performance through selective attention
has consequences that go far beyond
institutional pride or the historical record.
For example, the enactment in late 2004
of an intelligence reorganization of doubtful effectiveness
depended in large part on the public perception—incomplete and incorrect—
that intelligence on Iraq had been all wrong.

A final observation concerns
how the intelligence community really did perform on Iraq.
It offered judgments on
the issues that turned out to be most important in the war
(as distinct from
ones the administration had used to sell the war),
even though those judgments
conspicuously contradicted the administration’s rosy vision for Iraq.
And for the most part,
those judgments were correct.

Report Offers Grim View of Iraqi Leaders
New York Times, 2007-08-24

A stark assessment released Thursday by the nation’s intelligence agencies depicts a paralyzed Iraqi government unable to take advantage of the security gains achieved by the thousands of extra American troops dispatched to the country this year.

The assessment, known as a National Intelligence Estimate, casts strong doubts on the viability of the Bush administration strategy in Iraq. It gives a dim prognosis on the likelihood that Iraqi politicians can heal deep sectarian rifts before next spring, when American military commanders have said that a crunch on available troops will require reducing the United States’ presence in Iraq.

But the report also implicitly criticizes proposals offered by Democrats, including several presidential candidates, who have called for a withdrawal of American combat troops from Iraq by next year and for a major shift in the American approach, from manpower-intensive counterinsurgency operations to lower-profile efforts aimed at supporting Iraqi troops and carrying out quick-strike counterterrorism raids.

Such a shift, the report says, would “erode security gains achieved thus far” and could return Iraq to a downward spiral of sectarian violence.

NIE Cites 'Uneven' Security Gains, Faults Iraqi Leaders
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post, 2007-08-24

The U.S. intelligence community yesterday provided a mixed picture of the security situation in Iraq but cautioned that a drawdown of U.S. forces there and a scaled-back mission for the remaining U.S. troops “would erode security gains achieved thus far.”

The addition of 30,000 U.S. troops in Iraq over the past several months has so far brought “uneven improvements in Iraq’s security situation,” according to declassified key judgments of a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, an update of a January assessment.

“The level of overall violence . . . remains high; Iraq’s sectarian groups remain unreconciled . . . and to date Iraqi political leaders remain unable to govern effectively,” the new report said.

When the Bush administration announced the troop increase, officials said that the aim was to provide additional security in Baghdad and elsewhere and to give “breathing space” to the Iraqi government to permit political reconciliation among Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish factions.

Yesterday’s report, however, concluded that although the increase has temporarily halted the overall security decline of six months ago, political reconciliation has come to a “standstill,” said a senior intelligence official who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity

The Right Stuff
by Paul R. Pillar
National Interest Online, 2007-08-29
National Interest, 2007-09/10

[Emphasis is added.]

WHAT COMES to mind when someone mentions intelligence and the Iraq War?
Why, of course,
the intelligence estimate on Iraqi unconventional weapons programs—
excoriated in a 500-page report
that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
issued with much fanfare in July 2004,
further torn apart in another 500-page report
by a White House–appointed commission,
and scorned and vilified ever since.

But the estimate on weapons was one
of only three classified, community-coordinated assessments about Iraq
that the intelligence community produced in the months prior to the war.
Don’t feel bad if you missed the other two,
which addressed
  • the principal challenges that Iraq would present
    during the first several years after Saddam’s removal
  • the likely repercussions of regime change in Iraq
    on the surrounding region.
After being kept under wraps (except for a few leaks) for over four years,
the Senate committee quietly released
redacted versions of those assessments on its website
on a Friday as Americans were beginning their Memorial Day weekend.

The Bush Administration had not requested any of the three assessments.
Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee asked for the weapons estimate,
which was rushed to completion
before Congress voted on the resolution endorsing the war.
I initiated the other two assessments
and also supervised their drafting and coordination.
My responsibilities at the time as
the National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia
concerned analysis of political, economic and social issues in those regions.
Although the first duty of any intelligence officer
is to respond to policymakers’ requests,
the duties also include
anticipating policymakers’ future needs.
With the administration’s determination to go to war
already painfully clear in 2002,
I undertook these assessments to help policymakers,
and those charged with executing their decisions,
make sense of what they would be getting into after Saddam was gone.


[This is a really excellent seven page discussion
of what the CIA provided to the political decision-makers,
and how they seemed to use it (or, more accurately, not use it).
Unfortunately, the remainder of this article seems to require
a subscription to the National Interest.
But if you can get ahold of it and are interested in the subject,
this is an outstanding report.

An earlier version of the beginning of the article,
more extensive than the above three paragraphs,
is 2007-06-06-Pillar.]

Curveball, Swing and A Miss
By George F. Will
Washington Post, 2007-11-11

[An excerpt.]

In late 2002, two strong-willed CIA officers,
identified only as Beth and Margaret,
were at daggers drawn.
They had diametrically opposing views about
the veracity of an Iraqi defector’s reports
concerning Saddam Hussein‘s biological weapons programs,
especially the notorious but never-seen mobile weapons labs.

“Look,” said Beth defiantly,
“we can validate a lot of what this guy says.”

Margaret, angry and incredulous:
“Where did you validate it?”

“On the Internet.”

“Exactly, it’s on the Internet.
That’s where he got it, too!”

Margaret was right in that episode,
recounted in the new book Curveball by Bob Drogin of the Los Angeles Times.
Curveball was the code name
of the Iraqi defector in Germany on whose reports
the Bush administration relied heavily
in its argument that Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction
justified a preventive war.


[Secretary of State Colin Powell,
in his 2003-02-05 presentation to the United Nations Security Council,]
took the word of people who took Curveball’s word.
Such as Beth,
who had conceded that Curveball was odd, but weren’t most defectors?
Curveball’s reports were “too detailed to be a fabrication”
and too complicated and technical for Margaret to judge.
“Well,” Margaret replied,
“you can kiss my ass in Macy’s window.”
And the war came.

[The question is, where is the CIA management in all this?
If “Beth” and “Margaret” cannot agree,
then it is the job of management to find a way to adjudicate the dispute.
Evidently, management took Beth’s side.
That makes management equally culpable.
In fact,
Michael Scheuer assigns full responsibility to “senior [CIA] managers”
(see his reference to Curveball).

By the way, this dispute is described in at least one
of the two government reports on prewar intelligence,
senate Roberts-Rockerfeller or especially
presidential Silberman-Robb.]

Justifying the Iraq War:
Why the NIE Is Wrong

by Gordon Prather
Antiwar.com, 2007-12-22

[This is cross-posted to both my posts
Intelligence and war with Iran and
Intelligence and the Iraq War.]


Senate Finds Pre-War Bush Claims Exaggerated, False
by Jim Lobe
Antiwar.com, 2008-06-06

Intelligence [sic] Committee Report
by Gordon Prather
Antiwar.com, 2008-06-07


Ex-Official Says Afghan and Iraq Wars Increased Threats to Britain
New York Times, 2010-07-21


The former director general of Britain’s domestic intelligence agency said Tuesday
that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had
greatly increased the terrorist threat to Britain
and that
intelligence available before the Iraq war
had not been sufficient to justify the invasion of that country.

“Our involvement in Iraq, for want of a better word,
radicalized a whole generation of young people —
not a whole generation, a few among a generation —
who saw our involvement in Iraq,
on top of our involvement in Afghanistan,
as being an attack on Islam,”
said the former official, Baroness Manningham-Buller.



Jeez, here it is twelve years after the U.S. attacked Iraq,
and some people are still claiming the attack was due to faulty intelligence,
and that it was all the fault of politicians.
As to the last point,
please refer to Patrick Buchanan's excellent May 2003 (!) article, “Whose War?”.
As to it being due to faulty intelligence,
here is an excellent May 2015 article by Ray McGovern
(Still kicking around at age 75!
and evidently recovered from his experience with Hillary Clinton's storm troopers.):

The Phony ‘Bad Intel’ Defense on Iraq
Ray McGovern
Antiwar.com, 2015-05-15


It is a safe bet that, by Thursday,
Iraq War champion Paul Wolfowitz,
now a senior adviser to Jeb Bush [Super ugh!!! When will they ever learn???],
had taken him to the woodshed, admonishing him along these lines:
“Jeb, you remembered to emphasize the mistaken nature of pre-war intelligence;
that’s the key point; that’s good.
But then you need to say that if you knew how mistaken the intelligence was,
you would not have attacked Iraq. Got it?”

It was then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz —
together with his boss Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney and a string of neocon advisers —
who exploited the tragedy of 9/11 to make war on Iraq,
which they had been itching for since the 1990s.
They tried mightily (and transparently) to link Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to the Sept. 11 attacks.
Following their lead,
the fawning corporate
[Ray, Ray, Ray.
It's not the corporations, it's the Jews.
The big defense contractors, LockMart, Boeing, the shipyards, etc.,
can make far more money building high-tech weapons
(the Ford, the Zumwalt, replacing the Ohio boats with something more survivable as potential adversaries increase their underwater listening capabilities, replacing the Ticonderoga's,
the next-generation bomber, advanced space weapons and survaillence methods, etc.)
designed for high-intensity war with a peer competitor
than they can from
the low-tech, manpower-intensive, human-factors intensive conflicts
designed to keep
a strong Muslim adversary for Israel from developing, or even surviving.]

played up this bum rap with such success that, before the attack on Iraq,
polls showed that almost 70 percent of Americans believed that
Saddam Hussein played some kind of role in 9/11.

Not so, said honest intelligence analysts who, try as they might, could find no persuasive evidence for Hussein’s guilt other than the synthetic kind in Wolfowitz’s purposively twisted imagination.
Yet the pressure on the analysts to conform was intense.
CIA’s ombudsman commented publicly that
never in his 32-year career with the agency
had he encountered such “hammering” on CIA analysts
to reconsider their judgments
and state that there were operational ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda.

The pressure was reflected in pronouncements at the highest levels.
A year after 9/11, President Bush was still saying,
“You cannot distinguish between al-Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror.”
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was more direct, claiming that
the evidence tying Iraq to al-Qaeda was “bulletproof.”

But Brent Scowcroft, national security advisor to President George H.W. Bush and Chairman of George W. Bush’s President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board,
supported honest analysts in CIA and elsewhere,
stating publicly that
evidence of any such connection was “scant.”


What Donald Rumsfeld Knew We Didn’t Know About Iraq
The document reveals gaps of intelligence on WMD.
Why didn’t the Pentagon chief share it?

By John Walcott
Politico, 2016-01-21


The report originated with a question from the man whose obsession with “known unknowns” became a rhetorical trademark.
On August 16, 2002, [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld asked Air Force Maj. Gen. Glen Shaffer,
head of the Joint Staff’s intelligence directorate,
“what we don’t know (in a percentage) about the Iraqi WMD program,”
according to a Sept. 5 memo from Shaffer to [JCS Chairman Richard] Myers and three other senior military officials.

On September 5, Shaffer sent Myers his findings, titled “Iraq: Status of WMD Programs.”
In a note to his boss, he revealed:
“We don’t know with any precision how much we don’t know.”

And while the report said intelligence officials
“assess Iraq is making significant progress in WMD programs,”
it conceded that “large parts” of Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs were concealed.
As a result,
“Our assessments rely heavily on analytic assumptions and judgment rather than hard evidence.
The evidentiary base is particularly sparse for Iraqi nuclear programs.”

What Myers said when he received the report is not known,
but by September 9, it had made its way across Rumsfeld’s desk,
where it elicited his terse, typed summation: “This is big.”

But it wasn’t big enough to share with [Secretary of State Colin] Powell,
who in five months would be asked to make the U.S. case for war to the United Nations.
Nor was it shared with other members of the National Security Council, according to former NSC staff.
An intelligence official who was close to CIA Director George Tenet
said he has no recollection of the report and said he would have remembered something that important.


JCS J-2/DIA told Rumsfeld and Myers there was no WMD in September, 2002
by Patrick Lang
turcopolier.typepad.com (his blog), 2016-02-21

[How on earth did Colonel Lang get that title out of the Politico story or the DIA briefing which it discusses?
I read the briefing slides,
and IMO they basically say
"We just don't know where they are with their WMD program."
The first bulleted point of the slide titled "IRAQ: STATUS OF WMD PROGRAMS"
"(bullet) We assess Iraq is making significant progress in WMD programs".
The slide concludes with, in a box and in italics,
"We don't know with any precision how much we don't know".
That's a far cry from "there was no WMD".]

[On Monday, 2016-02-22 at about 7 PM EST
I attempted to add the following comment to Lang's post in his blog:]

Colonel, I question the accuracy of your post's title:
"JCS J-2/DIA told Rumsfeld and Myers there was no WMD in September, 2002".

In the briefing slides pointed to by your link
the first bulleted point of the slide titled "IRAQ: STATUS OF WMD PROGRAMS"
"(bullet) We assess Iraq is making significant progress in WMD programs".
That slide concludes with, in a box and in italics,
"We don't know with any precision how much we don't know".
How do you get from that to the assertion in your title?
Isn't it more accurate to describe the DIA briefing as a candid admission of ignorance?

[Col. Lang chose to not add my comment to his post.
However, he did add the following comment to his post,
which I can fairly assume was in response to my attempted post above:]

turcopolier said...
A neocon has challenged my title because the DIA paper does not actually say there is no WMD in Iraq.
Instead it says how little is known of the existence of such weapons in Iraq.
Well, pilgrims, that is how the "little people" tell their bosses that they are full of crap. pl
22 February 2016 at 08:06 PM

[Colonel Lang can call me anything he likes,
but the fact is that I never, never endorsed Bush-43's tragically misguided 2003 invasion of Iraq,
and in fact did as much as I could to indicate my opposition to that war.
OTOH, neocons are usually assumed to have supported the war.
I didn't support the war, but I do favor accurate reporting.
I stand by my previous remarks.]

Michael Hayden: Blame Intel Agencies, Not White House, For Getting Iraq Wrong
NPR, 2016-02-22

The former head of the National Security Agency, Gen. Michael Hayden, says U.S. intelligence agencies got it wrong when they concluded Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and they should take the blame for that, rather than the White House.

"It was our intelligence estimates" that were incorrect, Hayden says in an interview with NPR's Robert Siegel. "We were wrong. It was a clean swing and a miss. It was our fault."

Hayden, a retired Air Force general, ran the the National Security Agency in the run-up to the Iraq War in 2003. He later served as deputy director of National Intelligence and then as director of the CIA.

His 10-year tenure in these top intelligence positions was no ordinary decade. In addition to the Iraq War, there were the Sept. 11 attacks, the expansion of NSA data collection and the investigations into claims of torture by CIA interrogators.

Hayden writes about this period in a new memoir, Playing to the Edge.


DIA controversy

Exclusive: This Is the ISIS Intel the U.S. Military Dumbed Down
by Shane Harris
The Daily Beast, 2015-09-20

The intelligence pros said killing certain ISIS leaders might not diminish the group and that airstrikes might not be working. The bosses didn’t like those answers—not at all.

Military Analyst Again Raises Red Flags on Progress in Iraq
New York Times, 2015-09-24


Although critics have suggested that the bombing campaign’s stalemate proves the need for more troops in Iraq, colleagues say [Gregory] Hooker’s team is not advocating that approach. “I don’t know anyone outside of a political commercial who thinks we need to send large numbers of troops into Iraq,” said one intelligence official who has worked closely with the Centcom analysts.

Instead, analysts say the dispute centers on whether the military is being honest about the political and religious situation in Iraq and whether a bombing campaign can change it.

“What are the strategic objectives here? There are none. This is just perpetual war,” said David Faulkner, the former targeting director at Centcom who worked alongside the Iraq analysts. “People say: ‘Oh, you’re military. You like that.’ No, we don’t.”

Current and ex-officials said tension about how to portray the war’s progress began almost at the start of the campaign last summer, when Mr. Obama authorized strikes against Islamic State fighters in Iraq and later expanded the bombings to Syria.

Early this year, one former official said, Mr. Hooker’s team concluded that, despite public statements to the contrary, airstrikes against Islamic State-held refineries had not significantly weakened its finances because it had built makeshift refineries to sell oil on the black market. But the finding was not distributed outside Centcom, the ex-official said.

Over this past year, analysts felt pressure to keep their assessments positive. In order to report bad news, current and former officials said, the analysts were required to cite multiple sources. Reporting positive news required fewer hurdles. Senior officials sent emails cautioning against using pessimistic phrases that they said were more likely to get attention, according to one former official. In some instances, officials said, conclusions were completely changed.

Anger among analysts grew so intense that in the spring, Mr. Hooker’s civilian boss, William Rizzio, confronted his superiors about the problems. Mr. Rizzio, a retired Marine colonel who had gradually come to take the side of the analysts in the dispute, had meetings with General Grove and Mr. Ryckman. It is unclear what transpired in the meetings, but three people with knowledge of the situation, who, like some others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter is part of the inspector general’s investigation, said the result was that Mr. Rizzio was punished for siding with the analysts. He was temporarily reassigned, and analysts were left wondering what happened to him after his name was scraped off the front of his office at Centcom’s Joint Intelligence Center.

Mr. Rizzio, who has since returned to his position, declined to be interviewed.

His concerns gained a more sympathetic hearing several months later, when officials began speaking to the Pentagon’s inspector general, who opened his investigation in July. Officials would not say if Mr. Hooker was the first analyst to do so.

The inspector general’s investigation turned a quiet matter into one of the most high-profile intelligence disputes since officials issued new rules that encourage dissenting views. Those rules were intended to prevent a repeat of the debacle over weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The investigation has put this team of analysts, who for years worked in relative obscurity, at the center of a dispute that has the attention of intelligence officials across the government.

“Signing onto a whistle-blowing complaint can easily be a career-ender,” David Shedd, a former acting head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, wrote in a column this week on Defense One, a national security news website. “The nation’s analytic professionals are watching closely to see how it is handled.”

Pentagon Expands Inquiry Into Intelligence on ISIS Surge
New York Times, 2015-11-22

[Most of this article I am not qualified to dispute,
but one statement certainly needs refuting:]

Such changes are at the heart of
an expanding internal Pentagon investigation of Centcom, as Central Command is known,
where analysts say that supervisors revised conclusions
to mask some of the American military’s failures in training Iraqi troops
and beating back the Islamic State.

[Is the assertion here that
if only the U.S. had done a better job of training Iraq's troops
then they could have repulsed the ISIL takeover?
Look, I have said time and time again (and it should be well known to military analysts) that
TRAINING is only part of what makes an effective soldier.
The other critical ingredients are his equipment
but far more importantly his MOTIVATION, or lack thereof.
Without motivation, all the training and good equipment in the world
will not make an effective fighter.
Are those CENTCOM analysts really saying that
the collapse of the Iraqi army was due to poor training?
Or is this spin the NYT reporters are putting on
what the CENTCOM analysts have said?]

Analysts Accuse CENTCOM of Covering Up Cooked ISIS Intelligence
by Shane Harris and Nancy A. Youssef
The Daily Beast, 2015-11-23

Allegations are mounting that senior intelligence officials at Central Command
not only skewed findings on the ISIS war to please D.C.,
but tried to hide what they did.


The analysts’ concerns about ISIS intelligence being manipulated have their roots in earlier complaints about reports on al Qaeda.

In 2012, U.S. intelligence agencies produced a draft National Intelligence Estimate, which said that Al Qaeda no longer posed a direct threat to the U.S. homeland. That assessment, which is supposed to represent the consensus view of all intelligence agencies, was in keeping with the Obama administration’s argument that the terror network had been dealt a massive blow following the death of Osama bin Laden and sustained efforts by the U.S. to dismantle the group and its affiliates.

But, as The Daily Beast previously reported, some officials, most notably then-director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Gen. Michael Flynn, argued against that reassessment, and had the judgment about al Qaeda no longer posing a direct homeland threat struck from the document.

“Flynn and others at the time made it clear they would not go along with that kind of assessment,” one U.S. intelligence officer who worked on the al Qaeda file told The Daily Beast in 2014. “It was basically: ‘Over my dead body.’”

The analysts now calling foul on doctored ISIS reports have also noted the past experience with al Qaeda assessments in the complaint to the inspector general, said two sources familiar with its contents.

One of those people said that while the al Qaeda history is not a front-and-center issue, it’s part of the background material that goes to support the analysts’ broader argument that some intelligence leaders are hostile to analysis that runs counter to the White House’s public statements.

Former intel chief says WH worried over re-elect 'narrative'
By Tom LoBianco, CNN
CNN, 2015-12-01

Washington (CNN)

President Barack Obama's former top military intelligence official said Tuesday that the White House ignored reports prefacing the rise of ISIS in 2011 and 2012 because they did not fit its re-election "narrative."

"I think that they did not meet a narrative the White House needed. And I'll be very candid with you, they just didn't," retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told CNN's Jake Tapper on "The Lead."

Flynn, who has been critical of both Obama's and former President George W. Bush's handling of the Iraq War and involvement in the Middle East, said that Obama was served poorly by a small circle of advisers who were worried about his re-election prospects at the time.

The story they needed to tell, he said, was that pulling troops from Iraq would not leave the region vulnerable to the rise of a radical Islamic group like ISIS.

"I think the narrative was that al Qaeda was on the run, and (Osama) bin Laden was dead. ... They're dead and these guys are, we've beaten them," Flynn said -- but the problem was that
no matter how many terrorist leaders they killed, they "continue to just multiply."


Flynn has been a vocal critic of the Obama and Bush administrations since leaving his job overseeing the Defense Intelligence Agency last year.
Flynn told the German news outlet Der Spiegel on Sunday that
removing Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Moammar Gadhafi in Libya destabilized the region.

"It was huge error. As brutal as Saddam Hussein was,
it was a mistake to just eliminate him.
The same is true for Moammar Gadhafi and for Libya, which is now a failed state.
The historic lesson is that it was a strategic failure to go into Iraq.
History will not be and should not be kind with that decision,"

Flynn said.

[I totally agree with the assessment highlighted above.
Indeed, that has been my concern since even before Bush launched the Iraq War in 2003.
However, I disagree with Flynn's proposal below.
Instead, I share the view of Michael Scheuer and others
that the U.S. needs to minimize its involvement with the Middle East and the Muslim world in general.
Whatever we do there,
it is sure to antagonize some Muslims,
and some Muslims in the U.S. may choose to retaliate against the U.S.
for what they see as anti-Muslim U.S. policies.

Better to just stay away from the various internal conflicts in the Muslim world.
Isolationism isn't such a bad word to me.
An alternative term is "decoupling":
reducing the coupling of the U.S. to all the problems in the larger world.]

The answer to ISIS, Flynn told Tapper, should be
the creation of an "Arab NATO" organized among U.S. allies in the region,
with a parceling of duties to take out ISIS.

"I do believe that there has to be some type of Arab NATO-like structure formed,
so there has to be a recognition that the Arab community in that particular region ...
that gets after this problem," Flynn said, adding that the U.S. would have to lead the group with support from Russia and Europe.

[Interesting to compare this view of the former chief of DIA
to that of DIA's one-time chief Middle Eastern analyst, Patrick Lang,
who has, in his blog,
severely and repeatedly disparaged the ability of the Arab states
to form an effective such intervention force.]


House Republicans find Centcom produced overly upbeat intelligence on Islamic State
By Missy Ryan
Washington Post, 2016-08-11

An investigation by House Republicans has found that the U.S. military’s Central Command regularly produced intelligence that distorted the results of the campaign against the Islamic State, suggesting that command leaders shaped analysis in a way that resulted in a more upbeat depiction of the war.

Interim conclusions from a joint panel including Republicans from the House Armed Services, Intelligence and Appropriations committees found that assessments produced by Centcom’s intelligence unit routinely differed during 2014-2015 from the judgments of senior career analysts there. The investigation relied on survey results and interviews with Centcom personnel.

The intelligence reports examined by lawmakers “also consistently described U.S. actions in a more positive light than other assessments from the [intelligence community] and were typically more optimistic than actual events warranted,” the investigation found.

The probe stems from an internal complaint by a civilian intelligence analyst who alleged that intelligence from Centcom, which is responsible for military operations in the Middle East, was being improperly distorted. The Pentagon’s inspector general’s office is conducting a separate investigation into the issue.

Cmdr. Kyle Raines, a spokesman for Centcom, said the command had seen the report, but he declined further comment while other investigations were continuing.


"Centcom Senior Leaders "Cooked the Books" On ISIS"
by Willy B
Sic Semper Typrannis (Patrick Lang's blog), 2016-08-13


Cooking the books on the war on terror is apparently not unique to Centcom, however.
The story of the trove of intelligence seized during the 2011 raid
in which Osama bin Laden was killed should, it seems to me, if it is accurate, be an even bigger scandal.
The main source of the story is Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard
who reported in a December 7, 2015 article that
the White House had severely limited access to those documents
by analysts from the military and other intelligence agencies
(outside of the CIA which has control of them)
because they contradicted the White House narrative that AQ was weakened and on the run.
"Taken together, this new primary-source intelligence
undercut happy-talk from the White House about progress in defeating jihadist terror,"
Hayes wrote.
"Al Qaeda wasn't dying; it was growing.
The Afghan Taliban wasn't moderating;
its leaders were as close to al Qaeda as ever.
The same Iranian regime promising to abide by the terms of a deal to limit its nuclear program had provided safe haven for al Qaeda leaders and their families and had facilitated al Qaeda attacks on the interests of the United States and its allies."

"As word of the contents of the documents began to circulate informally in intelligence circles,
one official on the team was summoned to Washington and ordered to quit analyzing the documents. ...
Four sources with knowledge of the bin Laden documents tell TWS that
the White House was intimately involved in limiting access to them."
Hayes names names, too.
Michael Pregent, a DIA analyst on the CENTCOM team, told Hayes that
"We were certainly blocked from seeing all the documents,
and we were given limited time and resources to exploit the ones we had."
Former DIA chief LTG Michael Flynn, Hayes reports,
told Fox News that any investigation of the Centcom scandal has to include the White House.

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