Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Bush's Intelligence Policy: Lie, Then Blame The Analysts

The second comparison (between the Vietnam and Iraq wars)is trying to draw the American people into support of the war by cooking the books. We did it with the Gulf of Tonkin situation, where we were led to believe there was an attack on our destroyers while they were innocently in international waters, when they weren't. They were in North Vietnam territorial waters supporting an ongoing operation. And here we have had the case for WMD as an imminent threat for not using international authority to go in.
Anthony Zinni on comparisons between the Vietnam and Iraq wars.
This weekend on Kos I found links to two major stories having to do with U.S. intelligence and the ongoing lies of the Bush Administration.

First, via Hunter, we have this- U.S. Misled Allies About Korea's Nuclear Export
In an effort to increase pressure on North Korea, the Bush administration told its Asian allies in briefings earlier this year that Pyongyang had exported nuclear material to Libya. That was a significant new charge, the first allegation that North Korea was helping to create a new nuclear weapons state.

But that is not what U.S. intelligence reported, according to two officials with detailed knowledge of the transaction. North Korea, according to the intelligence, had supplied uranium hexafluoride -- which can be enriched to weapons-grade uranium -- to Pakistan. It was Pakistan, a key U.S. ally with its own nuclear arsenal, that sold the material to Libya. The U.S. government had no evidence, the officials said, that North Korea knew of the second transaction.

Pakistan's role as both the buyer and the seller was concealed to cover up the part played by Washington's partner in the hunt for al Qaeda leaders, according to the officials, who discussed the issue on the condition of anonymity. In addition, a North Korea-Pakistan transfer would not have been news to the U.S. allies, which have known of such transfers for years and viewed them as a business matter between sovereign states.

The Bush administration's approach, intended to isolate North Korea, instead left allies increasingly doubtful as they began to learn that the briefings omitted essential details about the transaction, U.S. officials and foreign diplomats said in interviews. North Korea responded to public reports last month about the briefings by withdrawing from talks with its neighbors and the United States.
Don't forget, this was released on the same week that secretary of State Rice heaped praise on Pakistan. Anyway, who needs credibility with your allies, especially when dealing with intelligence reports on WMD, when you have the worlds strongest military?

But don't worry, we already know who's to blame for this exaggeration- it's the intelligence agencies! Bush will make sure that whomever is to blame for this is brought to account- and by "this" I mean leaking the lies of the Administration to the press or telling the truth to congress and the American people.

The second story, via teacherken, is an article by former CIA agent Ray McGovern (who chaired the national intelligence estimates for the CIA), titled The Intelligence Made Me Do It.
Let's review now. It was bad intelligence that made President George W. Bush invade Iraq, right? No, you say, and you are correct; that is just White House spin. The "intelligence" was conjured up many months after President George W. Bush's decision to attack.

Now, two years and tens of thousands of lives later, I marvel at the ease with which the White House has succeeded in getting Congress to scapegoat the intelligence community. All it takes is "a few good men"-like Senate Intelligence Committee chairman and former Marine Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), living out the Marine Corps motto, Semper Fi-always faithful.

But faithful to what? Faithful, first and foremost, to the party, in what-let us be frank-has become for all intents and purposes a one-party state. That pejorative label, you may recall, is what we used to pin on the dictatorship in the U.S.S.R., where there were no meaningful checks and balances. It is getting scary.

Scary indeed. What ever happened to keeping national security above partisan politics? Like so many of the Republican "principles" (i.e. talking points) this rule only applied when they were out of power. Now that they have control they've revealed themselves for who and what they really are- extremist ideologues more intent on keeping their party in power than they are with pesky little issues like national security. Who needs security when you have faith?

Roberts to the Rescue

Chairman Roberts is still faithfully marching to the drum of the commander in chief, as he did last year in deflecting blame onto the intelligence agencies prior to the presidential election. The White House can count on the senator from Dodge City to salute. And fortunately for him, he and his staff have abundant instances of malfeasance and misfeasance by the CIA and other agencies from which to draw. That his Democrat colleagues usually acquiesce makes it still easier.

The hapless Democrats on Roberts' committee let themselves be snookered last summer into agreeing to postpone until after the election "phase two" of the panel's investigation into the performance of intelligence on Iraq. In return for their acquiescence in an incomplete report that, in effect, exonerated the White House, Roberts promised phase two would deal later with the question of White House misuse of intelligence and pressure on intelligence analysts. (CIA's ombudsman had told the committee that never in his 32-year career with the agency had he encountered such "hammering" on CIA analysts to review and reconsider their judgments.)

Roberts also agreed to look into the role played by the controversial Pentagon Office of Special Plans, conduit of much of the spurious intelligence on Iraq. Most important, he conceded that public statements by top White House officials had been "very aggressive, very declarative" in asserting the existence of "weapons of mass destruction," and may have gone beyond the evidence. On July 9, 2004 he assured reporters that the committee would proceed with phase two after the election: "It is a priority. I made my commitment and it will get done."

Bait and Switch?

Marines respond instinctively when upper echelons change their orders. Thus, it should have come as no surprise when Roberts told reporters last week that the phase-two probe was no longer a priority for his committee. Roberts explained:

"If you ask any member of the administration, 'Why did you make that declarative statement?'...basically, the bottom line is they believed the intelligence and the intelligence was wrong."

This, however, does not stand up to close scrutiny. Take the ubiquitous mushroom clouds about which the president and his top advisers warned on October 7, 8, and 9, 2002 just before Congress voted on October 10 and 11 to authorize war. It was Vice President Dick Cheney, not Saddam Hussein, who "reconstituted" Iraq's nuclear weapons development program, and he did it out of thin air.
At some point our intelligence capabilities are going to break under this kind of preassure. Let's just hope that before this happens we can get some Senators into the halls of Congress who still put our nation and our security before their party loyalty. The consequences for failing to mount an opposition to the Republican lies and insanity will be severe, and we will all pay the consequences.