Walter Pincus and Peter Baker / Washington Post – 2005-04-03 11:40:24
(Apr 1, 2005 ) — US intelligence agencies were “dead wrong” in their prewar assessments of Iraq’s nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and today know “disturbingly little” about the capabilities and intentions of other potential adversaries such as Iran and North Korea, a presidential commission reported yesterday.
While praising intelligence successes in Libya and Pakistan, the commission’s report offered a withering critique of the government’s collection of information leading to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, calling its data “either worthless or misleading” and its analysis “riddled with errors,” resulting in one of the “most damaging intelligence failures in recent American history.”
The 692-page report to President Bush determined that many of the problems that led to the Iraq breakdown have not been fixed and warned that they may be undercutting the quality of current U.S. evaluations of Iranian and North Korean nuclear weapons development.
To avoid a repeat performance, the commission produced a set of 74 recommendations intended to “transform” a sprawling intelligence bureaucracy that it described as “fragmented, loosely managed and poorly coordinated.”
The report presented the most extensive examination to date of how the United States came to believe that Saddam Hussein was harboring secret weapons of mass destruction, leading to a war that toppled a dictator but turned up no such weapons. The report depicted an intelligence apparatus plagued by turf battles, wedded to old assumptions and mired in unimaginative thinking.
Yet while unstinting in its appraisal of intelligence agencies, the panel that Bush appointed under pressure in February 2004 said it was “not authorized” to explore the question of how the commander in chief used the faulty information to make perhaps the most critical decision of his presidency.
As he accepted the report yesterday, Bush offered no thoughts about relying on flawed intelligence to launch a war and took no questions from reporters.
Instead, he focused on the proposals to further revamp the intelligence agencies following their post-Sept. 11 reorganization. “The central conclusion is one that I share,” Bush said, flanked by the commission co-chairmen, retired judge Laurence H. Silberman and former senator Charles S. Robb (D-Va.). “America’s intelligence community needs fundamental change to enable us to successfully confront the threats of the 21st century.”
Bush ordered White House homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend to cull through the recommendations, most of which could be enacted by executive action, and she directed Cabinet secretaries to report back to her quickly. “You will begin to see action in a matter of weeks,” Townsend said.
Dems: Report Failed to Hold White House Accountable
Some Democrats complained that the commission effectively ducked the central issue of how Bush decided to go to war in Iraq to eliminate weapons that were not there. Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said the report “fails to review an equally important aspect of our national security policymaking process — how policymakers use the intelligence they are provided.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was even sharper. “The president’s decision to go to war in Iraq was also dead wrong,” she said, adding, “The investigation will not be complete unless we know how the Bush administration may have used or misused intelligence to pursue its own agenda.”
But former CIA director George J. Tenet, who reportedly once told Bush that the Iraq weapons intelligence was a “slam dunk,” said the report was too harsh on his old agency. “I wish the commission had spent more time reflecting on how far the intelligence community has come in rebuilding American intelligence,” he said.
The nine-member panel, officially called the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, blamed intelligence agencies for overselling their knowledge and not disclosing conflicting information to policymakers. At the same time, it exonerated Bush and Vice President Cheney from allegations of pressuring analysts to conclude that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction.
“The analysts who worked Iraqi weapons issues universally agreed that in no instance did political pressure cause them to skew or alter any of their analytical judgments,” the commission said. “That said, it is hard to deny the conclusion that intelligence analysts worked in an environment that did not encourage skepticism about the conventional wisdom.”
In fact, the commission concluded that policymakers should in the future challenge analysts harder to justify their conclusions, even at the risk of being accused of politicizing intelligence. “It’s very important for policymakers to question and push hard on the intelligence community to explore and to fill gaps,” Silberman said.
The panel’s report became the latest to document the Iraq intelligence failures and offered details never disclosed in previous reports. It revealed, for example, that the National Security Agency, the organization that intercepts electronic signals, was effectively shut out of Iraq and lost access to “important aspects of Iraqi communications.”
WMD Data Flawed
And it described how the CIA failed to tell Secretary of State Colin L. Powell before his showdown presentation to the UN Security Council in February 2003 that a key allegation was provided by a single Iraqi source nicknamed “Curveball” whose credibility had been undercut. The analysts who helped prepare Powell’s speech were unaware that, as the report puts it, Curveball was “lying.”
The report expressed particular concern that the nation’s intelligence agencies were not adequately focusing on biological weapons. It said U.S. forces in Afghanistan discovered that al Qaeda’s bioweapons research was “further along” than U.S. intelligence had known, particularly involving a pathogen the commission referred to only as “Agent X.”
“The program was extensive, well-organized, and operated for two years before September 11” at sites containing commercial equipment and run by “individuals with special training,” the report noted. Based on what they found in Afghanistan, U.S. intelligence theorized that al Qaeda “had acquired several biological agents possibly as early as 1999, and had the necessary equipment to enable limited, basic production of Agent X.”
Bioweapons specialists said Agent X most likely referred to a strain of anthrax. U.S. officials have previously said that al Qaeda conducted research on anthrax at an Afghan facility called Tarnak Farm, some of it by Yazid Sufaat, a Malaysian bioscientist trained in California and now in detention in Malaysia.
The commission expressed misgivings that intelligence agencies may still be misjudging situations in North Korea and Iran, however the section of the report dealing with those countries remained classified.
“The bad news is that we still know disturbingly little about the weapons programs and even less about the intentions of many of our most dangerous adversaries,” the panel said in a cover letter to Bush.
For all of the technical challenges facing the intelligence community, the commission linked its overall problem to management. “They’re still in some respects fighting the last war,” said Robb, referring to the Cold War. “The enemy has changed dramatically.”
The panel proposed empowering the new director of national intelligence, a position created by legislation last year, to better integrate the collection efforts of the government’s 15 intelligence agencies at the CIA, Pentagon, State Department, Energy Department and FBI. But at the same time it urged that analysts remain diversified at those agencies so they can carry on what the commission hopes will be a more lively debate about interpretations.
The panel suggested a variety of reorganizations, including the creation of a new Human Intelligence Directorate within the CIA to oversee increased overseas spying by the agency’s Directorate of Operations as well as the Pentagon and FBI.
It also proposed merging the FBI’s counterintelligence and counterterrorism divisions with its new intelligence division into a new National Security Service within the bureau. The new service would report to both the FBI director and the new national intelligence director.
The report suggested several other new institutions as well, including a National Counter Proliferation Center to coordinate the fight against weapons of mass destruction; a National Intelligence University to enhance tradecraft training; a new long-term analysis unit to escape the pressures of day-to-day intelligence collection; an Open Source Directorate to focus on finding publicly available information, particularly on the Internet; and a nonprofit research institute outside the intelligence community to encourage dissenting views.
The panel also recommended changes to the intelligence reports Bush gets known as the presidential daily briefing. Leading up to the Iraq war, the panel found, the presidential briefings were “disastrously one-sided” and “more alarmist and less nuanced” than longer studies, such as the National Intelligence Estimates.
The daily briefings never cast doubt on prior information provided to Bush and thus “seemed to be ‘selling’ intelligence in order to keep its customers, or at least the First Customer, interested.”
The panel called for toning down headlines in the presidential briefings and limiting their content to intelligence that “requires high-level attention.” It also recommended that the new intelligence director, John D. Negroponte, who is awaiting Senate confirmation, oversee the production of the briefings but not prepare them or even go the White House each morning to present them because it would consume too much of his time.
Staff writers Charles Babington and John Mintz contributed to this report.
Posted in accordance with Section 107, Title 17 USCode, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
FLASHBACK: CIA Official ‘Sacked over WMD’
A sacked CIA official is suing the agency for allegedly retaliating against him for refusing to falsify his reports on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction to support the White House’s pre-war position, The Washington Post said on Thursday.
Posted Mar 31, 2005 04:11 PM PST
FLASHBACK: Bush Bullied CIA in Order To Dupe US
Pressure was exerted in private, including visits by Cheney to cross-examine analysts at CIA headquarters. It took place in public, as well, as mouthpieces in the conservative press attacked the CIA as Saddam-loving apologists. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld even created a whole new intelligence office to reinterpret evidence “overlooked” by the fools at CIA.
FLASHBACK: No WMDs in Iraq, Says CIA
Re-linked in light of today’s pathetic effort to dump the blame for Bush’s lies on the CIA.
Links to the following stories can be found on the
WMD COMMISSION REPORT – INTELLIGENCE FAILURES
• Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 (50 U.S.C. 421 et seq.)
• WMD Commission Report: —LEAKGATE, Thu Mar 31 19:22
• US intelligence on Iraq `dead wrong’ —GOOGLE: UPDATES WMD REPORT, Thu Mar 31 20:54
• INTEL COMMUNITY: “Panel’s Findings Criticized” —The Washington Post, Thu Mar 31 20:14
• Thomas S. Foley — American Chairman of the Trilateral Commis —THE FIXER, Thu Mar 31 20:06
Former CIA Chief and his Deputy
Furiously Reject Report on WMD
WASHINGTON (April 2, 2005 (RHC)–In the wake of a report issued by a US presidential commission to investigate intelligence failures in the scandal relating to weapons of mass destruction, the former director of the CIA and his top deputy deny that they were told a vital intelligence source was unreliable.
George Tenet and John McLaughlin both angrily denied prior knowledge of the questionable information fed to US intelligence by an Iraqi refugee in Germany.
The Iraqi, code-named Curveball, provided the CIA with information on supposed mobile biological weapons units that have since proved to be fabrications. The information was used by the Bush administration to justify its attack on Iraq.
In direct contradiction to Tenet and McLaughlin, the CIA’s former operations chief as well as one of his assistants insisted that debates had raged inside the CIA about Curveball’s credibility.
James Pavitt, former deputy director of operations said, however, that he didn’t directly inform Tenet of his concerns about Cuveball’s testimony at the time because he did not know to what extent the Iraqi’s fabrications would be used to prosecute war on Saddam Hussein. This only became apparent after US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s address to the UN Security Council in February 2003.
Former head of the CIA’s European Division, Tyler Drumheller, supported Pavitt’s version of events saying that he and others had repeatedly warned that Curveball was suspicious.
Drumheller said that Tenet and McLaughlin could say what they want — the fact was they knew about the issue and did nothing to disabuse the White House of its main excuse to go to war. He added that the CIA had plenty of documentation to substantiate his and Pavitt’s claim including direct warnings to McLaughlin’s office and to the Weapons Intelligence Non Proliferation and Arms Control Center, known as WINPAC, which was the group responsible for many of the erroneous assessments on Iraq passed on to the Oval Office. McLaughlin denies that he ever met with Drumheller.
Drumheller goes further, revealing that on the eve of the presentation to the UN by Powell, he spoke to former CIA director Tenet and told him there were problems with Curveball’s account of supposedly mobile WMD units. Tenet denies he was told this.
Saying he had absolutely no recollection of Drumheller’s warning in spite of its importance.