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Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Iraqi WMD Intell Update

"They used the thinnest sources to justify the grandest conclusions about weapons of mass destruction and other activity in Iraq," Sen. Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat on the panel, told Reuters.
The obvious question: Who are "they"?

Well, according to this Wired News story from Reuter's ("Senate Report to Detail Iraq Intelligence Flaws"), "they" are the CIA and other US intelligence agencies.

The soon-to-be forthcoming Senate Report is apparently going to blame the CIA for ignoring evidence suggesting Iraq did not have WMD -- such as interviews with Iraqi scientists.

Other Dems besides Durbin are placing a lot of blame on the CIA, but there's more here than meets the eye:
Sen. Evan Bayh, a Democrat from Indiana, said flawed intelligence resulted from a pre-existing belief that Iraq had banned weapons, pressure to reach conclusions in the face of ambiguity, and that all doubts were resolved in favor of the pre-existing beliefs.

"It's also important to have a devil's advocate, somebody playing the contrarian; I'm afraid some of that may have gotten lost," Bayh told Reuters.
In other words, at least some of the Dems lay at least some of the blame on the Bush administration for pressuring the intelligence agencies:
Some Democrats have written "additional views" to the report which will raise questions about whether the Republican Bush administration, including the White House and Pentagon officials, pressured the CIA to fit its conclusions with the administration's desire to go to war.

"Go to each of the key elements justifying the invasion of Iraq and you will find a failure of our intelligence agencies to properly assess the evidence given to them and to describe it to policymakers," Durbin said.
According to the story, the key 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) included a lot of dubious intelligence that had been eliminated from earlier drafts.

Is this too much like "inside baseball"?
One main area of focus is the process by which the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate was drafted. That key pre-war report, which compiles views of various intelligence agencies, concluded that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Draft portions of that report are submitted to administration officials and various agencies and then the material is adjusted after comments.

"And in the last draft, all of a sudden, this material that has been thought to be erroneous by the CIA or has been said to be wrong, is now back in that report," a government source familiar with the Senate report said. "That's the kind of stuff that is problematic."
That doesn't sound like the CIA goofed by relying too much on technology and ignoring new evidence casting doubt on Iraqi WMD.

That sounds like a CIA vulnerable to political pressure.

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