Senate WMD Report Whacks CIA, Not Bush
There is a split within the committee--and it just so happens to occur along party lines--between those who say there was no undue pressure (just perhaps intense demands for the best information) and those who say repeated requests to look at a topic (say, possible links between Al Qaeda and Hussein) were a form of pressure. As of yet there has been no smoking memo or whistleblowing analyst willing to come forward. The full report blames "group think" and "a combination of systemic weaknesses, primarily in analytic trade craft, compounded by a lack of information sharing, poor management, and inadequate intelligence collection" for this gargantuan intelligence screw-up.
The intelligence committee report does dig into other troubling areas. It notes that a public white paper on Iraq produced by the intelligence community did not include the caveats contained in the NIE and "misrepresented" intelligence findings "to the public which did not have access to the classified National Intelligence Estimate containing the more carefully worded assessments." But the committee never discovered who was responsible for this. The committee also examined a Pentagon effort mounted by Feith to examine intelligence on Al Qaeda and Hussein in order to make a case that a working relationship existed between the two.
The committee report downplays the importance of this episode. But pointing to an August 20, 2002, meeting in which Feith's underlings gathered with intelligence community analysts, Rockefeller, Levin and Durbin say, this "meeting is clear evidence of the Administration politicizing an analytical process that should be protected from the meddlesome reach of policy officials. The Pentagon's policy office had delayed the publication of an important Intelligence Community assessment on Iraq and terrorism [which did not find evidence of a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda] and insinuated themselves into a coordination meeting in the hopes of molding the judgments to establish a link between Iraq and the attacks carried out by al-Qaeda terrorists on September 11th. The Pentagon officials [according to a memo they drafted] 'raised numerous objections to the paper' as if they believe it was the policy office's role to object to an Intelligence Community assessment prior to its publication.... The problem is that the Intelligence Community did not find the report alleging a meeting between al Qaeda hijacker [Mohamed] Atta and an Iraq intelligence official in the Czech Republic to be credible, a meeting Vice President Cheney had already said publicly was 'pretty well confirmed.'"
Rockefeller, Levin and Durbin report that the intelligence community analysts did not yield to the pressure from the Pentagon. Consequently, Feith's staffers mounted an end run. Two days before the CIA disseminated its assessment of Al Qaeda and Iraq, Feith's guys presented an alternative analysis to the White House--specifically to Stephen Hadley, the deputy national security adviser, and I. Lewis Libby, Cheney's chief of staff. Tenet told the committee that he was unaware that this alternative briefing had taken place. All this does suggest that the Bush White House countenanced an effort to skirt and manipulate the intelligence process.
For months, Bush and his crew repeatedly said Iraq was a "grave and gathering threat." That was the primary rationale for war. The Senate intelligence report is further proof that the war was launched on lies. There was no good intelligence that Iraq had WMDs. There was no good intelligence that Hussein was in cahoots with Al Qaeda. Will Bush admit that this war was based on false information? The report does give his defenders an escape route: they can point an accusing finger at the hapless hacks of the CIA. But Bush made hyperbolic assertions about the Iraq threat that were not only unsupported but contradicted by the existing intelligence. Along with Tenet and the culprits at the CIA, Bush and his posse deserve to take the rap for one of the most immense and consequential strategic failures in US history. But unlike the CIA crowd--which messed up by producing misinformation--Bush peddled both misinformation and disinformation to grease the way to war.
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