Thursday, September 14, 2006

Politicizing Intelligence – Yet Again

Kenneth R. Timmerman,
If you thought efforts were over to rewrite history on the lead-up to the war in Iraq and to smear the head of the Iraqi National Congress, Ahmad Chalabi, then think again.

A remarkable pair of reports released last week by the Senate Select committee on Intelligence re-examine for the umpteenth time the pre-war intelligence on Iraqi WMD programs and Saddam’s alleged ties to al-Qaeda. The reports were produced at the demand of committee Democrats as part of a vast fishing expedition aimed at buttressing their old saw, Bush lied-People died.

What’s remarkable about these reports are not the facts they contain, although they are jammed packed with new information, culled from the more than 40,000 finished intelligence reports produced by CIA on Iraq in the six years leading up to the war.

The absolutely stunning news, totally unreported by the formerly mainstream media, is the scurrilous effort by committee Democrats to falsify the facts, introduce phony and erroneous conclusions, and then parade about on their political high-horse to journalists who never bothered to read the actual reports. READ MORE

In an unprecedented move for a committee that until 2004 was known for bipartisan efforts to conduct oversight of the intelligence community, the committee chairman –Sen. Pat Roberts (R, Ks) – actually dissented from the report’s published conclusions on intelligence provided by Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress, as did most of the majority members.

The full report, accessible as a PDF file here, makes fascinating reading. To understand what actually happened, readers need to turn directly to page 123 of the printed report, which details how the committee arrived at the final version.

Here you read how Vice Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV, D-WV, outvoted Roberts thanks to the defection of Senators Olympia Snowe, RINO-ME, and Chuck Hagel, R-France, and succeeded in superimposing totally bogus conclusions on an otherwise factual report.

“Paraphrasing the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan,” Roberts wrote in his dissent, “everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own set of facts… I will continue to draw the line when it comes to amending conclusions in a way that mischaracterizes or ignores the underlying facts.”

Roberts then dissected one by one the “mythsabout alleged INC efforts to influence the judgment of the U.S. intelligence community on Iraqi WMD programs and Saddam’s ties to terror that the Democrats (plus Snowe and Hagel) adopted in the report’s conclusions.

Primary among them was the myth that the INC was “engaged in a disinformation campaign to supply erroneous information to the Intelligence community” that influenced the now infamous October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraqi WMD programs.

The facts detailed in the findings portion of this report… do not support this theory,” Roberts stated blandly. On the contrary, “INC information did not significantly affect intelligence judgments” on Iraqi WMD programs. Nor did the INC supply information “used to support the Intelligence community’s key judgments about Iraq’s links to terrorism.”

For example, “of the 45 human intelligence (HUMINT) sources cited in the WMD NIE, only two were affiliated with the INC – and that does not account for the vast amount of information in the WMD NIE derived from signals intelligence, imagery, and HUMINT sources not specifically cited,” Roberts wrote.

In addition, he stated, “the INC did not supply information used to support the Intelligence Community’s key judgments about Iraq’s links to terrorism.”

Despite this, Rockefeller and his colleagues asserted that “false information from the Iraqi National Congress-affiliated sources was used to support key Intelligence Community assessments on Iraq and was widely distributed in intelligence products prior to the war,” and cited “over 250 intelligence information reports” from just a single INC-affiliated defector.

And of course: the chief villains in this enterprise to peddle “false” intelligence from the INC were the Office of the Vice President, and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Doug Feith, Rockefeller and his colleagues claimed.

Even the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), often cited by the New York Times and SSIC Democrats for its wisdom in resisting INC information, couldn’t quite stomach this blatant twisting of the truth.

Referring specifically to the two INC-affiliated defectors whose information was included in the 2002 NIE, the INR told the committee that the defectors “did not influence any INR assessments relating to prohibited weapons programs.” Regarding to terrorism, INR said it “did not make much use of INC reporting… in the years before Operation Iraqi Freedom.” [emphasis in the original]

The CIA also conducted a review at the request of Intelligence Committee staff of how it used INC-related defector information and found that aside from two sources,most of the other reports were of marginal value to the CIA finished intelligence production and had almost no impact on CIA analytic assessments.”

Furthermore, the CIA found “no evidence” that the INC had fabricated information of consciously provided false information aimed at “convincing the United States that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and had links to terrorists,” as the Democrats asserted [p159]

If you’re trying to say that the INC is the one that pushed us to go to war because of the WMD reporting, that’s wrong,” one CIA officer told the committee. (p144).

The facts are clear,” Roberts concluded. “The prewar assessments of Iraq’s WMD programs were a tragic intelligence failure. However, the real causes of that failure… had nothing to do with Ahmed Chalabi and the INC.”

You would think such unambiguous findings would lay to rest the old conspiracy-laden allegations that Chalabi’s INC concocted a bunch of stories to sucker the U.S. into war.

But the Democrats have shown that they will not hesitate to use the Senate intelligence committee for partisan goals, with reckless disregard not just of the facts, but of their own obligations to conduct oversight of the intelligence community.

This ultimately is the most disturbing aspect of this latest chapter in the Bush lied-People died attacks. As Pat Roberts warned, “Rather than perpetuating an ongoing effort to rewrite history, the committee should be focusing all its resources on a host of troubling issues: monitoring Intelligence Community reforms, balancing acquisition requirements with budgetary constraints, corrected the flawed tradecraft which led to the Iraq intelligence failure, and assessing collection and analysis of intelligence on Iran, North Korea, and al-Qa’ida.”

Those are serious issues, that could become life and death issues – especially if Congress continues to ignore them.

Kenneth R. Timmerman is the author of Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran (Crown Forum, New York), and Executive Director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran.