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March 11, 2008

Senate Phase II Report To Be Whitewash?

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Senate Intelligence Committee is finally wrapping up its report on whether government statements on Iraq were supported by the underlying intelligence. The committee promised to do this over four years ago.

I don't know anything about it beyond the article. But based on that, it unsurprisingly seems to be a whitewash. There are two obvious problems (beyond the fact it's taken them this long to do it):

1. The committee already released a report on whether the intelligence agencies were pressured by the Bush administration. The report concluded they were not. However, they only managed this by ignoring the most glaring evidence imaginable.

The first report was issued when the Republicans controlled the Senate. The committee clearly should have reopened this question, but apparently has failed to do so.

2. The tiny bit of the report's criticism that's mentioned ignores one of the most flagrant and important lies of the entire buildup to war:

In many cases, statements that were later proven wrong -- such as President Bush's assertion in September 2002 that Iraq "possesses biological and chemical weapons" -- were largely in line with U.S. intelligence assessments at the time.

Prewar assertions about Iraq's nuclear program were problematic because they were supported by some intelligence assessments but not others.

"They were substantiated," a congressional official said, "but didn't convey the disagreements within the intelligence community."

In August 2002, for example, Vice President Dick Cheney said in a speech that "Saddam [Hussein] has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons." But by that time, the State Department's intelligence bureau was challenging the assumption that Iraq's nuclear program had been reactivated.

But Cheney's most important deception in that speech regarding the Iraq nuclear issue had nothing to do about "disagreements within the intelligence community." It had to do with the fact that what he said immediately after that sentence was completely false:

But we now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Among other sources, we've gotten this from the firsthand testimony of defectors -- including Saddam's own son-in-law, who was subsequently murdered at Saddam's direction.

Cheney was referred to Hussein Kamel, who'd run Iraq's WMD programs during the eighties and then fled to Jordan in 1995. But as the Washington Post later reported, "Kamel's testimony, after defecting, was the reverse of Cheney's description." Kamel had not said Saddam had "resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons"; just the opposite. While the Clinton administration covered up Kamel's statements, he actually told UNSCOM that Iraq had had no nuclear program since the Gulf War in 1991. Specifically, when asked "Were there any continuation of, or present nuclear activities, for example, EMIS, centrifuge?", Kamel responded "No." (Kamel also said Iraq retained blueprints from its pre-91 program, but these were surrendered after his defection.) The IAEA later confirmed what Kamel had said:

General Hussein Kamel's [August 22, 1995] statement was compatible with statements made in the Baghdad talks, that all nuclear weapons related activities had effectively ceased at the onset of the attack on Iraq by the coalition forces.

Moreover, there is strong evidence Cheney must have known this was false. The WMD Commission report includes this citation:

429. CIA, Iraq's Remaining WMD Capabilities (NESA IR 96-40101) (Aug. 26, 1996) at p. 5; see also Senior Executive Memorandum (Jan. 12, 2002) (discussing the value of Kamil's information).

Senior Executive Memoranda are produced by intelligence agencies at the specific request of the executive branch. Thus, the White House wanted to know more about Kamel in January, 2002, at exactly the time their attention was turning toward Iraq.

Certainly this document would be examined and released as part of a serious Senate Intelligence Committee report. The evidence so far suggests it won't be, because the report won't be serious.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at March 11, 2008 06:40 PM

Well, not to be all wang-obsessed, but I am thinking more and more that they have something quite similar to l'affaire Spitzer on Jay Rockefeller. Oh, sure, he could be in the tank all on his own, but there's an extra bit of groveling in his case that makes me wonder...

Of course, you never make it onto the Senate Select Committee unless you're viewed as "sound", so maybe he's just a natural groveler.

Posted by: Nell at March 11, 2008 08:23 PM

How can you be sure that the belated "Phase II" report on the statements made by the Bush administration prior to the Iraq war is going to be a whitewash?

1) It's coming from the Senate Intelligence Committee.

2) The Senate Intelligence Committee is chaired by Jay Rockefeller.

3) See points 1 and 2.

Posted by: charlie at March 11, 2008 10:14 PM

take it away, Leonard:

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
Thats how it goes
Everybody knows

Posted by: ran at March 11, 2008 10:25 PM

I am thinking more and more that they have something quite similar to l'affaire Spitzer on Jay Rockefeller.

I've certainly wondered this myself. Even if he hasn't been specifically warned, everyone has something they'd like to keep secret, and if you're in his position you'd be an idiot not to be concerned that these guys are watching you. Certainly they've demonstrated themselves willing to do use anything.

On the other hand, as you say, he may just be a natural talent.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at March 11, 2008 10:38 PM

Hey, the Socialists won the elections in Spain! Maybe Dennis could jump back in the race as a Socialist Party candidate, and in his first official act as President appoint J. Scwartz as Chief Investigator for the Retroactive Impeachment Commission! Hey, you're all fucked. The US can't get out of Iraq for years, the economy is going into the tank, and you're about to elect another loser with a fancy Ivy pedigree but no real accomplishments or ability. Suckers : )

Posted by: xyz at March 12, 2008 07:43 AM

well, I have to finish writing reviews of CIS telecoms, Russia electricity, CEE/CIS retail banking, and regional M&A, so I won't be offering much commentary today. I tell you, having "smarest person in 25 country region spanning Zagreb to Almati" as your job description is tough sometimes : (

Posted by: xyz at March 12, 2008 08:16 AM

Leonard Cohen also warned us about 4GW:
Give me back the Berlin Wall,
Give me Stalin and Saint Paul,
I have seen the future, brother,
And it's murder

But that aside.... I still resist the notion that heavy political influence was brought to bear on the Iraq NIE. I think those in the Community who thought there were _no_ WMD in Iraq, as in none at all, were very few and far between. Most people in the IC expected to find chemical warhead stocks, maybe some small-scale biowar research labs, just enough for the administration to crow about. The NIE went off the rails thanks to Curveball and the famous tubes, but even without that stuff there was a general expectation that we would find something. The administration didn't need much from the IC to justify the invasion, and (of course) nothing at all to convince it to invade. We were accessories, nothing more. We knew jack, and didn't trust the UN inspectors, the only people in a position to know. Maybe we're doing better now on that score. I hope so.

Posted by: Ralph Hitchens at March 12, 2008 02:45 PM