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Friday, July 09, 2004

Senate Intelligence Report

The Senate Intelligence Committee Report was issued today. I haven't read it yet, though that is readily explained since it runs 511 pages according to Senator Jay Rockefeller. Think about that in the next day or two as you hear and see politicians and talking heads pontificating about it.

I sent an email to Senator McConnell's office in hopes of receiving a paper copy.

Also, I did read through the transcript of the news conference that featured Rockefeller and Committee Chair Pat Roberts of Kansas.

The Republican began the proceedings and he was quite critical about the October 2002 NIE that helped justify war against Iraq.
Obviously, while it is too large for either one of us to summarize, I can point out some of the highlights.

First of all, most of the key judgments in the October 2002 national intelligence estimate on Iraq’s WMD programs were either overstated or were not supported by the raw intelligence reporting.

Here are some examples of statements from the key judgments.

ROBERTS: "Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear program. Iraq has chemical and biological weapons. Iraq was developing an unmanned aerial vehicle, a UAV, probably intended to deliver biological warfare agents. And all key aspects, research and development and production, of Iraq’s offensive biological weapons program are active, and that most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf War."

Now, these are very emphatic statements. Simply put, they were not supported by the intelligence which the community supplied to the committee, and they should not have been included in the NIE.

Second, in the committee’s view, the intelligence community did not accurately or adequately explain the uncertainties behind the judgments in the October 2002 national intelligence estimate to policy-makers, both in the executive branch and here on Capitol Hill.
Those are powerful charges.

Roberts previously stated that the Iraq resolution might not have cleared the Congress if the intelligence had been accurate. Rockefeller said the same thing (more forcefully) in today's new conference.

A lot of the other conclusions pertain to the intelligence-gathering process and to the analysis of that intell.

The Republican Senator also defended the Bush administration:
Finally, the committee found no evidence that the intelligence community’s mischaracterization or exaggeration of intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capabilities was the result of politics or pressure.
Rockefeller directly challenged this claim, so that was not a bipartisan finding even though the Committee accepted the report unanimously.

Rockefeller notes that there were areas of disagreement -- "especially on the question of whether the administration pressured the intelligence community to reach predetermined, in my judgment, conclusions."

Bluntly, the Committee didn't even consider the way the intell was used:
I have to say, that there is a real frustration over what is not in this report, and I don’t think was mentioned in Chairman Roberts’ statement, and that is about the -- after the analysts and the intelligence community produced an intelligence product, how is it then shaped or used or misused by the policy-makers?

...So again there’s genuine frustration -- and Chairman Roberts and I have discussed this many times -- that virtually everything that has to do with the administration has been relegated to phase two.
Though he calls for doing this evaluation ASAP, does anyone believe it will occur before November?

Actually, it has been widely reported that they have no intention of releasing the second report before November.

Roberts notes that the intelligence community's assessment of Iraq-terror connections were accurate, but Rockefeller puts a very different spin on that claim:
Our report found that the intelligence community’s judgments were right on Iraq’s ties to terrorists, which is another way of saying that the administration’s conclusions were wrong, and that is of the relationship -- formal relationship, however you want to describe it, between Iraq and Al Qaida, and no evidence existed of Iraq’s complicity or assistance in Al Qaida’s terrorist attacks, including 9/11, which, through the device of Mohammed Atta and others, the debate continues almost up until two months ago, at least on the part of the vice president.
Will the American people continue to buy the administration's assertions, which now boil down to "the absence of evidence isn't the evidence of absense"?

Rockefeller also points to a juicy tidbit about the now-defunct Office of Special Plans:
We’ve done a little bit of work on the number three guy in the Defense Department, Douglas Feith, part of his alleged efforts to run intelligence past the intelligence community altogether, his relationship with the INC and Chalabi, who was very much in favor with the administration wanting them to come on in. And was he running a private intelligence failure, which is not lawful.
Not lawful.

Here's Rockefeller's devastating but not unexpected conclusion:
Let me just finish by saying, again, an emphasis on this relentless public campaign prior to the war, which repeatedly characterized the Iraqi weapons program in more ominous and threatening terms than any intelligence would have allowed. In short, we went to war in Iraq based on false claims.
Given recent poll findings, the public now understands this too.

I predict a long, hot summer in Washington.

Update: Kathy at Random Thoughts has a nice bullet-point summary of the Report's key findings.

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