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March 31, 2005

Oh, If Only Someone In The United States Government Had The Ability To Read

So, the presidential commission on WMD intelligence has released its report:

"We conclude that the intelligence community was dead wrong in almost all of its prewar judgments about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction," the commission said in a report to the president. "This was a major intelligence failure"...

But the commission also said that it found no indication that spy agencies distorted the evidence they had concerning Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction...


Now, no regular, non-cleared citizens can know for certain how thoroughly the commission investigated this issue. Their transmittal letter (pdf) says they conducted "a lengthy investigation, during which we interviewed hundreds of experts from inside and outside the Intelligence Community and reviewed thousands of documents."

However, we can certainly speculate. I suggest you read the below excerpts from the recent books Blowing My Cover by Lindsay Moran and Pretext for War by James Bamford and speculate away. (As you'll see, both books likely describe the same episode.)

And as you speculate, keep in mind something I discussed with Moran and Bamford for an article I'm currently writing: no one from the commission asked either of them about this.

From Blowing My Cover:

During my short tenure in Iraqi Operations, I met one woman who had covered Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program for more than a decade. She admitted to me, unequivocally, that the CIA had no definitive evidence whatsoever that Saddam Hussein’s regime possessed WMD, or that Iraq presented anything close to an imminent threat to the United States.

Another CIA analyst, whose opinion I’d solicited about the connection between Al-Qa’ida and Iraq, looked at me almost shamefacedly, shrugged, and said, "They both have the letter q?" And a colleague who worked in the office covering Iraqi counterproliferation reported to me that her mealy-mouthed pen pusher of a boss had gathered together his minions and announced, "Let’s face it. The president wants us to go to war, and our job is to give him a reason to do it."

From Pretext for War:

...within a few months [after the September 11 attacks], for many [at the CIA] the morale once again began to drop through the floor as they began getting pressure to come up with Saddam Hussein's fingerprints on 9/11 and Al Qaeda.

One of those who felt the pressure was a DO case officer who spent years running agents overseas, but who had been reassigned to the unit charged with finding weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq... According to the official, the group never found any indications of WMD in Iraq. "Where I was working, I never saw anything—no one else there did either," the person said.

Nevertheless, there was a great deal of pressure to find a reason to go to war with Iraq. And the pressure was not just subtle; it was blatant. At one point in January 2003, the person's boss called a meeting and gave them their marching orders. "And he said, 'You know what—if Bush wants to go to war, it's your job to give him a reason to do so'... He said it at the weekly office meeting. And I just remember saying, 'This is something that the American public, if they ever knew, would be outraged'...He said it to about fifty people. And it's funny because everyone still talks about that—'Remember when [he] said that.'"

Posted at March 31, 2005 08:12 AM | TrackBack

One of the things that keeps me from being is good wingnut is I can understand and sympathize with the spooks' predicament.

Posted by: Harry at March 31, 2005 09:08 AM

Lying to Congress is an impeachable offense, Mr. Bush.

Posted by: Jeff at March 31, 2005 10:14 AM

The beauty of the report is how it marries the obvious to the absurd. After informing us of what we already know (The intel was wrong? No. Really?), it treats us with this gem: "We need an intelligence community that is [...] far more imaginative and willing to run risks."

That's right! What's with the aluminum tubes, the yellow cake deals, the mushroom clouds, the 45 minute claim? That's chickenshit. Where's the imagination, where's the risk? The commission has it right. We need boldness. Next time, let's try "Lochness monster recruited by al-Qaeda," "Bubonic plague strains in Diet Pepsi cans," "Islamic Martians spotted in Roswell." Or even scarier: "John Ashcroft threatens to baby-sit your kid."

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at March 31, 2005 10:32 AM

Sadly, "Bubonic plague strains in Diet Pepsi cans" contains roughly the same amount of truth as Colin Powell's embarrassing performance in front of the UN.

You have to feel sorry for Agency people. They dedicated their lives to the pursuit of truth and ended up spewing falsehood. Even the best and brightest of us are domesticated animals with big brains and opposable thumbs; at the end of the day, if the choice comes down to doing a dumb trick or not eating, we'll perform the trick every time.

Posted by: Charlie Angel at March 31, 2005 11:22 AM

Any attempts to put the blame on the CIA and other intelligence agencies ignore one critical fact, which I have been harping on from time to time for over two years now: In late 2002, UN inspectors returned to Iraq and looked everywhere that US "intelligence" told them to look. For four months. They found NOTHING. The recriminations about the "failure" of US "intelligence" should have started then. Instead, the war started. The blame rests on the head of our idiot president, and eternal shame on him both for having started the war and for not having admitted his guilt and committing hari-kari.

Posted by: Bob at March 31, 2005 01:07 PM

As Bob says, this is a delegation problem. The true believers (read: white house staff) drink the Kool-Aid and brow beat the department bosses. The Cabinet secretaries and appointees are too busy seeing to the running of the country to, you know, do anything about stuff like this.

Posted by: Josh Berthume at March 31, 2005 01:28 PM

I figured Saddam had some WMD but also figured that if he didn't have nukes we shoudn't attack.

Then I saw Colin Powell's performance before the UN and I knew there were none at all and that lots and lots of people who never did one thing in the whole world were about to be killed, supposedly in the name of my safety and my heart sank. People who believe what they are saying just don't talk that way, don't parse everything so carefully like Powell did, like they all do. Or did, until they got bold. Now it's like they don't care enough about us to lie carefully.

Posted by: Maezeppa at April 2, 2005 10:33 PM

The article as well as the comments point in one direction only and you all know what it is, so stop clowning around and get focused, locally, regionally, nationally, and globally.

This enemy is too easy to subdue, given spontaneous citizen exercise of their sovereign and Constitutional rights.

The future may be uncertain, but the outcome is not.

Posted by: Beowulf at April 9, 2005 12:41 AM