Sunday, March 16, 2014

What Happened to Iraq's WMD / How politics corrupts intelligence
...The intelligence services of everyone else were not proclaiming Iraq to be in possession of WMD. Rather, the intelligence services of France, Russia, Germany, Great Britain and Israel were noting that Iraq had failed to properly account for the totality of its past proscribed weapons programs, and in doing so left open the possibility that Iraq might retain an undetermined amount of WMD. There is a huge difference in substance and nuance between such assessments and the hyped-up assertions by the Bush administration concerning active programs dedicated to the reconstitution of WMD, as well as the existence of massive stockpiles of forbidden weaponry.

The actions and rhetoric of the Bush administration were aided by the tendency by most involved to accept at face value any negative information pertaining to Hussein and his regime, regardless of the source's reliability. This trend was especially evident in Congress, responsible for oversight on matters pertaining to foreign policy, intelligence and national security.

One might be inclined to excuse lesser members of the legislative branch for such actions, given their lack of access to sensitive intelligence, but not so senior figures who sit on oversight committees, such as California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who occupied a seat on the Senate Select Intelligence Committee. Today, Feinstein all-too conveniently "regrets" her vote in favor of war on Iraq, but defends her yes vote in 2002 by noting that "the intelligence was very conclusive: Saddam possessed biological and chemical weapons." This is a far different from the statement Feinstein made to me in the summer of 2002, when she acknowledged that the Bush administration had not provided any convincing intelligence to back up its claims about Iraqi WMD.

In contrast to Feinstein's actions, Sen. Bob Graham, a Florida Democrat who also sat on the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, noted in September 2002 that the Bush administration's decisions regarding Iraq had been made in the absence of a National Intelligence Estimate from the CIA. The CIA hastily rushed to produce such a document, but the resulting report appeared as much to be an example of intelligence being fixed around policy, as opposed to policy being derived from intelligence. Graham, his eyes opened by the seemingly baseless rush toward conflict in Iraq, voted no on the war. Feinstein and others, their eyes wide shut, voted yes. ...