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July 08, 2004



Your subtitle read "Together We Can Do Graet Things!"

Graet? Is that a typo or a joke I don't get?


That would be me being mysterious.


The bit about no sworn intel witnesses confirming any sort of political pressure on the process was actually highlighted in a front page story (well, on a Saturday, of course, even though it was an "in the can story" that could have easily run on Monday ...) by Dana Priest in the WaPo a few weeks/months back.

Much as the SOTU/Niger/uranium "scandal", this thing about politicized intel was amenable to easy and quick dissection if examined with even a bit of logic.

The key WMD assessments for Iraq, even if they were different in detail, registered "danger, big problem" going back years and years (see Clintons -- both of them --, Gore, Cohen, Halfbright, et al on this issue from late 1990s up until and even after the Iraq war). So, barring the Bushies' using their time-machine to travel back and somehow cook the books before they were even thinking about their current jobs, it's a little confusing to charge "politicization" -- the pre-war NIE did not reflect much if any material change from the past several years. The only logical potential for outside pressure affecting intel judgements would have been if some exculpatory data/actions on Iraq had raised concrete doubts about elements of the NIE, which were then suppressed because of tampering. Only those with the full folder know, but abstractly it's kind of hard to imagine what those data might be. Nothing that's public gives any indication that Iraq had changed it's WMD spots -- and of course its potential and resources (material and human) could not possibly change.

This whole thing is just one more example of the bizarre flight of some from the reality that the Iraq war -- like most big political-military decisions -- was a judgement call balancing risks, costs, and future threats. It wasn't arithmetic. The implicit requisite assumption that decisions like this can be mechanically crafted based on rock-solid intel, as if they were some engineering analysis, is bunk. It also seems to be an assumption guiding the analysis of many who are, inexplicably, taken seriously on these matters.


It should also be noted that while indefinite containment of Iraq through sanctions, inspections, and bombings etc might have slowed WMD development to a crawl, barring some third party source finding a way to provide them all the necessary ingredients secretly, containment policies put us in the line of sights of terrorists such as OBL and al Qaeda, if we take their manifesto seriously. The death of 3000+ Americans soldiers and civilians and people of other nationalities due to terrorist attacks and hundreds of thousands of deaths of Iraqis at the hands of Saddam's security forces and a sanctions manipulated by Saddam for publicity are more than enough reason to switch from a policy of stalemate and containment to end game and regime change.


I think that the better argument by the anti-Bush crowd would be that the administration made its decisions based upon only looking at those bits of information that supported their preconceived intentions about going into Iraq. That would be the more plausible criticism, in my mind.


Whoa, that's what makes you ICE! It was a Saturday, it was a front-pager, but it was January (your month, I suppose - brrr):

No Evidence CIA Slanted Iraq Data
Probers Say Analysts Remained Consistent
By Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 31, 2004; Page A01

Congressional and CIA investigations into the prewar intelligence on Iraq's weapons and links to terrorism have found no evidence that CIA analysts colored their judgment because of perceived or actual political pressure from White House officials, according to intelligence officials and congressional officials from both parties.


The ranking Dem disagrees! Rockefeller says today that the usage of the term 'pressure' was too narrow! (or something like that, it's the front page of the times).


So he would, and so he did. Here is a longish excerpt:

ROCKEFELLER: That's me. (LAUGHTER) Because there are 511 pages in the report. And the vast amount of that report, which covered basically only the prewar intelligence, basically on weapons of mass destruction, was superb. And we had major disagreements on pressure. And I felt that the definition of pressure was very narrowly drawn in the final report. And that is that, sort of, that if somebody came up to you and you were one of the analysts who had been working on WMD, and they said, Did anybody tell you that you had to change your point of view? and the answer was, No, well that was the description of pressure. That's not my description of pressure. That's a description of pressure. But another description of pressure is the total ambience of this cascade of ominous statements, which continued really up to the present, about what was going to happen or the relationship between Al Qaida and Iraq, Mohammed Atta and the rest of it.

So, to me, pressure also can be defined by what else is in our additional views. And that is that George Tenet indicated that he was approached by analysts from the CIA. Going to the director's office? If you've ever done that, it's, sort of, intimidating. And they came to him and he said, to relieve the pressure,

Simply don't answer the question if there is no new information. But the key phrase there is to relieve the pressure. He was agreeing, assenting to the fact that there was. The ombudsman of the Central Intelligence Agency, whose job it is for people to come to with their complaints, a veteran of many years there, said that the hammering on analysts was greater than he had seen in his 32 years of service to the Central Intelligence Agency, and he was referring to pressure. And the former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Robert Kerr (ph), had a group which did analysis of this within the CIA, and he also came up with the same conclusion, that the pressure was there, it's always internal to the analysts and it was external in the whole ambience, the whole sense of what the nation was moving toward, what the policy-makers were in fact moving toward, except that we couldn't discuss that in our report.

ROBERTS: Well, let me respond to that. I hope to heck there was pressure by the policy-makers. You have to be forward-leaning. We just went through 9/11. We were very forward-leaning. There had been a long history in regards to Iraq and the war against Iran and the war, obviously, against Kuwait in '91, when we found out they were much further ahead in regards to their nuclear program.

You know, you can define pressure any way you want. But I think the debate in the committee largely centered around whether or not there were repetitive questions. And that's a job of a policy-maker to ask repetitive questions. As a matter of fact, when they asked the repetitive questions, we got a better product in regards to the section in regards to terrorism. They were pretty reasonable about that and there were repetitive questions. There were not repetitive questions in regard to the WMD section and as a result, we got a product that was flawed. I must say that in regards to all of the talk about the public statements by those in the administration, i.e., the policy-makers, making very declarative and positive comments, even aggressive comments, I know about that. Everybody read about that.

But those of us in the Congress, some of which who are the most severe critics, made the same comments back in '98, '99, 2000. I urge them to read their own comments in regards to the severity and the possibility of the fact that Iraq had WMD and that we had to use the military action. So I think it cuts both ways. Read the report. I do not think there is any evidence of undue pressure on any analyst. Repeatedly, I asked as chairman in public and in the committee if anybody felt pressured, more especially in terms of politics, let me know. Only one individual ever raised his hand and it was about Cuba and it was a completely different kind of thing...

Here are more excerpts from a different story:

Mr. Roberts said the committee had found no evidence that intelligence analysts were subjected to overt political pressure to tailor their findings — a conclusion that was not embraced totally by committee Democrats, who offered their own statements asserting that that issue had not been satisfactory resolved.

Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, for example, said, "In my view, this remains an open question and needs more scrutiny." And Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, another Democratic committee member, said that while "nobody came before the committee and said, `Look, I had my brains beaten in to change my analysis,' " it was nevertheless true that "policymakers made it very clear what information they were looking for."

Puzzling. Look, as Roberts says, after 9/11, and after the surprises that came out of Iraq during the weapons inspections in the mid-90's, it hardly seems unreasonable to ask the analysts to take a fresh, long look at the problem.

And this is an old yet timely post comparing CIA reports on Iraq from June 2000 (Clinton era, but yoy knew that) with June 2002 (war fever era). My gist - the evaluations for chemical and biological capability changed little, but the CIA went nuclear.

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