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Friday, January 30, 2004

Intell Analysts Withstood Pressure

Apparently, the Bush administration didn't effectively pressure analysts to change their views on Iraq. Dana Priest reports this in Saturday's (that is, tomorrow's) Washington Post:
Congressional and CIA investigations into the prewar intelligence on Iraq's weapons and links to terrorism have found no evidence that CIA analysts colored their judgment because of perceived or actual political pressure from White House officials, according to intelligence officials and congressional officials from both parties.

Richard J. Kerr, a former deputy CIA director who is leading the CIA's review of its prewar Iraq assessment, said an examination of the secret analytical work done by CIA analysts showed that it remained consistent over many years.

"There was pressure and a lot of debate, and people should have a lot of debate, that's quite legitimate," Kerr said. "But the bottom line is, over a period of several years," the analysts' assessments "were very consistent. They didn't change their views."

Kerr's findings mirror those of two probes being conducted separately by the House and Senate intelligence committees, which have interviewed, under oath, every analyst involved in assessing Iraq's weapons programs and terrorist ties.

The panel chairmen, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.), and other congressional officials said in recent interviews that they found no evidence that analysts shaded their findings to more closely fit the White House's known desire to create the strongest, most urgent case for war with Iraq.
The article basically says the analysts were pressured, but didn't cave in to it.
There have been instances in which intelligence analysts said they sensed pressure to reach certain conclusions, but the House and Senate investigators said there was no indication they bowed to such wishes.

Last year, for example, some analysts at the CIA complained to senior officials when Vice President Cheney made multiple trips to CIA headquarters to question their studies of Iraq's weapons programs and alleged links to al Qaeda.

And analysts at the Defense Intelligence Agency told investigators they sensed pressure when civilian Defense Department leaders constantly questioned why their analysis had found only tentative links between al Qaeda and Iraq.

But "their constant message" to congressional investigators was "they didn't buckle to pressure," another congressional official said.

Neither the CIA inspector general nor the agency's ombudsmen received any complaints about outside meddling, a senior intelligence official said.

CIA spokesman Bill Harlow said Kerr's and the committees' findings mirror the CIA's view of its analysts' work: "We have long said and still say that our analysts didn't change their assessment of Iraq because of any outside pressure."

In fact, some analysts have told Kerr and congressional investigators that they welcomed the attention of Cheney on his visits.

"Analysts are very independent people," Kerr said. "When they get pressure, they tend to react the other way. They find it quite easy to stand up" to superiors. "It's kind of the culture."
David Kay said the same thing the other day.

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