As part of its much belated inquiry into the prewar intelligence, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a 229-page report on Friday on the intelligence produced by US intelligence agencies on what could be expected to occur in Iraq following a US invasion. No surprise: the intelligence community foresaw the likelihood of chaos and trouble inside and outside Iraq.
As the committee’s report notes, before the war the top intelligence analysts of the United States government concluded that creating a stable democratic government in Iraq would be a difficult and “turbulent” challenge, that sectarian conflict could erupt in a post-invasion Iraq, that al Qaeda would view a US invasion of Iraq as an opportunity to increase and enhance its terrorist attacks, that a heightened terrorist threat would exist for several years, that the US occupation of Iraq would probably cause a rise of Islamic fundamentalism and a boost in funding for terrorist groups, and that Iran’s role in the region would enlarge.
That is, prior to the war, the experts predicted the tough times to come. In the book I co-wrote with Michael Isikoff Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, we reported that the intelligence community and the Pentagon had produced several estimates in early 2003 that warned about what could happen following a U.S. invasion. In his memoirs, former CIA director George Tenet quoted from some of these intelligence assessments. And the Senate Intelligence Committee report reprints two such studies. The intelligence establishment blew the WMD call–partly because it failed to accept its own skeptical intelligence evaluations–but it was largely correct about what would transpire after the United States entered Iraq.
But the Senate Intelligence Committee–now chaired by Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller–blinked.
That assessment comes from one of the committee’s own members: Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat. In comments attached to the report, she justifiably gripes that the report ignores a critical matter–what the Bush administration did (or did not do) with all this strong intelligence. She writes:
I believe that the report could have, and should have, been much stronger and more direct on the quality and use of prewar intelligence.
In particular, the report should have included a conclusion that the quality of prewar assessments was generally high and that many of the predictions made by the Intelligence Community (IC) about postwar Iraq proved to be correct. There should also have been a conclusion that although policymakers had access to these assessments…they failed to take steps to prevent or lessen postwar challenges.