File under "Couldn't Happen In This Day and Age" - one our nation's intelligence services made a ghastly intelligence mistake that helped lead us into war. Then, they covered up the error.
Fortunately, this is ancient history, involving the NSA, the Gulf of Tonkin, and the Vietnam War.
The National Security Agency has kept secret since 2001 a finding by an agency historian that during the Tonkin Gulf episode, which helped precipitate the Vietnam War, N.S.A. officers deliberately distorted critical intelligence to cover up their mistakes, two people familiar with the historian's work say.
The historian's conclusion is the first serious accusation that communications intercepted by the N.S.A., the secretive eavesdropping and code-breaking agency, were falsified so that they made it look as if North Vietnam had attacked American destroyers on Aug. 4, 1964, two days after a previous clash. President Lyndon B. Johnson cited the supposed attack to persuade Congress to authorize broad military action in Vietnam, but most historians have concluded in recent years that there was no second attack.
So why was this kept secret from 2001, and why are we hearing about it now? Your suspicions are correct:
Mr. Hanyok's findings were published nearly five years ago in a classified in-house journal, and starting in 2002 he and other government historians argued that it should be made public. But their effort was rebuffed by higher-level agency policymakers, who by the next year were fearful that it might prompt uncomfortable comparisons with the flawed intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq, according to an intelligence official familiar with some internal discussions of the matter.
"Uncomfortable comparisons"? Never. If the current crop of CIA leakers say that they were right and that the White House pressured them to be wrong, well, that is God's own truth.
By odd coincidence, we will illustrate the CIA's eternal and unquestionable veracity with this old Knight-Ridder story, which can be contrasted with the Senate Intelligence Committee report from a year later.
Inexplicably, the national media expressed doubts about the CIA's credibility and impartiality in this amicus brief filed as part of the Plame investigation:
While there is no suggestion that the Special Counsel is proceeding in bad faith, there should be abundant concern that the CIA may have initiated this investigation out of embarrassment over revelations of its own shortcomings.
Couldn't happen here, and never did.