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Monday, August 09, 2004

Transparency the B Teams

Guest Blogger Paul Parker

My political world view was heavily affected by Nixon's resignation, 30 years ago. And then 10 years later, I learned a lot from a graduate school classmate, our host Dr. Payne. Memorably, Rodger taught me about the Richard Pipes and his influence on government decisionmaking. Following the link leads to "Right Wing Web" entry that includes this historical tidbit:
Richard Pipes, a Russian historian at Harvard University, was a key anti-Soviet crusader in the 1970s and 1980s... [who] chaired the Team B Strategic Objectives Panel, a controversial effort in the mid-1970s to reinterpret CIA intelligence on the Soviet threat
I was reminded of Pipes when reading Digby this evening, who points to a Lawrence Kolb op-ed in the LA Times, "Its Time to Bench 'Team B'". Kolb nicely talks about the inaccuracy of Pipes and company (including Paul Wolfowitz) and then toward he discusses briefly the Office of Special Plans. If you haven't read Seymour Hersh's New Yorker piece from 5/03 on the OSP, I'd recommend it. From the first paragraph:
In the past year, according to former and present Bush Administration officials, their operation, which was conceived by Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, has brought about a crucial change of direction in the American intelligence community. These advisers and analysts, who began their work in the days after September 11, 2001, have produced a skein of intelligence reviews that have helped to shape public opinion and American policy toward Iraq. They relied on data gathered by other intelligence agencies and also on information provided by the Iraqi National Congress, or I.N.C., the exile group headed by Ahmad Chalabi. By last fall, the operation rivalled both the C.I.A. and the Pentagon’s own Defense Intelligence Agency, the D.I.A., as President Bush’s main source of intelligence regarding Iraq’s possible possession of weapons of mass destruction and connection with Al Qaeda. As of last week, no such weapons had been found.
As Rodger has blogged,
A great deal of [Rodger's] academic work concerns transparency, which one colleague calls simply "the opposite of secrecy." The logic of transparency resonates widely, whether applied to governments, markets, or businesses. Citizens, investors and consumers ought to be able to make informed decisions about the large and powerful institutions that have a great impact on their lives.
Advocates of Transparency welcome honest and open discussion, which challenge their assumptions and thinking -- their commitment is to good decision making, and not to a particular outcome. Before Rodger schooled me on Richard Pipes and company, I naively assumed that bureaucratic decisionmaking was done with the best available evidence, by people with the best intentions (even after a poor experience at the DMV).

The problem with the B Teams goes beyond their amazing ability to be wrong, into their amazing ability to be wrong but influential. And out of sight and not accountable.

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