Nicholas D. Kristof | "The American people were manipulated"
Save Our Spooks
NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Saturday 31 May 2003
On Day 71 of the Hunt for Iraqi W.M.D., yesterday, once again nothing turned 0aup.
Maybe we'll do better on Day 72. But we might have better luck searching for 0asomething just as alarming: the growing evidence that the administration grossly 0amanipulated intelligence about those weapons of mass destruction in the ruup to 0athe Iraq war.
A column earlier this month on this issue drew a torrent of covert 0acommunications from indignant spooks who say that administration officials 0aleaned on them to exaggerate the Iraqi threat and deceive the public.
"The American people were manipulated," bluntly declares one person from the 0aDefense Intelligence Agency who says he was privy to all the intelligence there 0aon Iraq. These people are coming forward because they are fiercely proud of the 0adeepest ethic in the intelligence world that such work should be nonpolitical and are disgusted at efforts to turn them into propagandists.
"The Al Qaeda connection and nuclear weapons issue were the only two ways 0athat you could link Iraq to an imminent security threat to the U.S.," notes Greg 0aThielmann, who retired in September after 25 years in the State Department, the 0alast four in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. "And the administration 0awas grossly distorting the intelligence on both things."
The outrage among the intelligence professionals is so widespread that they 0ahave formed a group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, that wrote 0ato President Bush this month to protest what it called "a policy and 0aintelligence fiasco of monumental proportions."
"While there have been occasions in the past when intelligence has been 0adeliberately warped for political purposes," the letter said, "never before has 0asuch warping been used in such a systematic way to mislead our elected 0arepresentatives into voting to authorize launching a war."
Ray McGovern, a retired C.I.A. analyst who briefed President Bush's father in 0athe White House in the 1980's, said that people in the agency were now "totally 0ademoralized." He says, and others back him up, that the Pentagon took dubious 0aaccounts from migr s close to Ahmad Chalabi and gave these tales credibility 0athey did not deserve.
Intelligence analysts often speak of "humint" for human intelligence (spies) 0aand "sigint" for signals intelligence (wiretaps). They refer contemptuously to 0arecent work as "rumint," or rumor intelligence.
"I've never heard this level of alarm before," said Larry Johnson, who used 0ato work in the C.I.A. and State Department. "It is a misuse and abuse of 0aintelligence. The president was being misled. He was ill served by the folks who 0aare supposed to protect him on this. Whether this was witting or unwitting, I 0adon't know, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt."
Some say that top Pentagon officials cast about for the most sensational 0anuggets about Iraq and used them to bludgeon Colin Powell and seduce President 0aBush. The director of central intelligence, George Tenet, has been generally 0aliked and respected within the agency ranks, but in the last year, particularly 0ain the intelligence directorate, people say that he has kowtowed to Donald 0aRumsfeld and compromised the integrity of his own organization.
"We never felt that there was any leadership in the C.I.A. to qualify or put 0ainto context the information available," one veteran said. "Rather there was a 0atendency to feed the most alarming tidbits to the president. Often it's the most 0aill-considered information that goes to the president.
"So instead of giving the president the most considered, carefully examined 0ainformation available, basically you give him the garbage. And then in a few 0adays when it's clear that maybe it wasn't right, well then, you feed him some 0amore hot garbage."
The C.I.A. is now examining its own record, and that's welcome. But the 0aatmosphere within the intelligence community is so poisonous, and the stakes are 0aso high for the credibility of America's word and the soundness of information 0aon which we base American foreign policy that an outside examination is 0aessential.
Congress must provide greater oversight, and President Bush should invite 0aBrent Scowcroft, the head of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board 0aand a man trusted by all sides, to lead an inquiry and, in a public report, 0asuggest steps to restore integrity to America's intelligence agencies.
Go to Original
Straw, 0aPowell Had Serious Doubts Over Their Iraqi Weapons Claims : Secret transcript 0arevealed
Dan Plesch and Richard Norton-Taylor
Saturday 31 May 2003
Jack Straw and his US counterpart, 0aColin Powell, privately expressed serious doubts about the quality of 0aintelligence on Iraq's banned weapons programme at the very time they were 0apublicly trumpeting it to get UN support for a war on Iraq, the Guardian has 0alearned.
Their deep concerns about the intelligence - and about claims being made by 0atheir political bosses, Tony Blair and George Bush - emerged at a private 0ameeting between the two men shortly before a crucial UN security council session 0aon February 5.
The meeting took place at the Waldorf hotel in New York, where they discussed 0athe growing diplomatic crisis. The exchange about the validity of their 0arespective governments' intelligence reports on Iraq lasted less than 10 0aminutes, according to a diplomatic source who has read a transcript of the 0aconversation.
The foreign secretary reportedly expressed concern that claims being made by 0aMr Blair and President Bush could not be proved. The problem, explained Mr 0aStraw, was the lack of corroborative evidence to back up the claims.
Much of the intelligence were assumptions and assessments not supported by 0ahard facts or other sources.
Mr Powell shared the concern about intelligence assessments, especially those 0abeing presented by the Pentagon's office of special plans set up by the US 0adeputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz.
Mr Powell said he had all but "moved in" with US intelligence to prepare his 0abriefings for the UN security council, according to the transcripts.
But he told Mr Straw he had come away from the meetings "apprehensive" about 0awhat he called, at best, circumstantial evidence highly tilted in favour of 0aassessments drawn from them, rather than any actual raw intelligence.
Mr Powell told the foreign secretary he hoped the facts, when they came out, 0awould not "explode in their faces".
What are called the "Waldorf transcripts" are being circulated in Nato 0adiplomatic circles. It is not being revealed how the transcripts came to be 0amade; however, they appear to have been leaked by diplomats who supported the 0awar against Iraq even when the evidence about Saddam Hussein's programme of 0aweapons of mass destruction was fuzzy, and who now believe they were lied to.
People circulating the transcripts call themselves "allied sources supportive 0aof US war aims in Iraq at the time".
The transcripts will fuel the controversy in Britain and the US over claims 0athat London and Washington distorted and exaggerated the intelligence 0aassessments about Saddam's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programme.
An unnamed intelligence official told the BBC on Thursday that a key claim in 0athe dossier on Iraq's weapons released by the British government last September - that Iraq could launch a chemical or biological attack within 45 minutes of an 0aorder - was inserted on the instructions of officials in 10 Downing Street.
Adam Ingram, the armed forces minister, admitted the claim was made by "a 0asingle source; it wasn't corroborated".
Speaking yesterday in Warsaw, the Polish capital, Mr Blair said the evidence 0aof weapons of mass destruction in the dossier was "evidence the truth of which I 0ahave absolutely no doubt about at all".
He said he had consulted the heads of the security and intelligence services 0abefore emphatically denying that Downing Street had leaned on them to strengthen 0atheir assessment of the WMD threat in Iraq. He insisted he had "absolutely no 0adoubt" that proof of banned weapons would eventually be found in Iraq. Whitehall 0asources make it clear they do not share the prime minister's optimism.
The Waldorf transcripts are all the more damaging given Mr Powell's dramatic 0a75-minute speech to the UN security council on February 5, when he presented 0adeclassified satellite images, and communications intercepts of what were 0apurported to be conversations between Iraqi commanders, and held up a vial that, 0ahe said, could contain anthrax.
Evidence, he said, had come from "people who have risked their lives to let 0athe world know what Saddam is really up to".
Some of the intelligence used by Mr Powell was provided by Britain.
The US secretary of state, who was praised by Mr Straw as having made a "most 0apowerful and authoritative case", also drew links between al-Qaida and Iraq - a 0aconnection dismissed by British intelligence agencies. His speech did not 0apersuade France, Germany and Russia, who stuck to their previous insistence that 0athe UN weapons inspectors in Iraq should be given more time to do their job.
The Waldorf meeting took place a few days after Downing Street presented Mr 0aPowell with a separate dossier on Iraq's banned weapons which he used to try to 0astrengthen the impact of his UN speech.
A few days later, Downing Street admitted that much of its dossier was lifted 0afrom academic sources and included a plagiarised section written by an American 0aPhD student.
Mr Wolfowitz set up the Pentagon's office of special plans to counter what he 0aand his boss, Donald Rumsfeld, considered inadequate - and unwelcome - 0aintelligence from the CIA.
He angered critics of the war this week in a Vanity Fair magazine interview 0ain which he cited "bureaucratic reasons" for the White House focusing on Iraq's 0aalleged arsenal as the reason for the war. In reality, a "huge" reason for the 0aconflict was to enable the US to withdraw its troops from Saudi Arabia, he said.
Earlier in the week, Mr Rumsfeld suggested that Saddam might have destroyed 0asuch weapons before the war.
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