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Jewish World Review July 13, 2004 / 24 Tamuz, 5764

Michael Ledeen

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The Great Intelligence Committee Report: Some mysteries remain unsolved | Wow, more than 520 pages. As Dan Darling and I worked through it (and don't miss his more detailed analysis at, we were constantly entertained by big blocks of "redacted" pages. Why don't they just put in ellipses instead of all those blacked-out paragraphs? Maybe the Government Printing Office gets paid by the page, and Congress wants the GPO to have more money?

The other great mystery is how the authors expect us to read the report. It's terribly written, and talks breathlessly about "trade craft" when "logic" or "common sense" would do better. It takes multiple sentences to say things that should be reduced to one or two. Are there no editors around?

Whatever the explanation, you should know that the text does not always conform to the talk-about-the-text. The text, for example, is at pains to say that the report does not deal with the "accuracy" of the intelligence. That will come later (barely five minutes later in the case of Senator Jay Rockefeller, who looked as if he'd just leapt out of a sauna and hadn't had time to towel off — I hadn't seen an American politician sweat like that since the glory days of Milhous). This report is said to focus on the intelligence "process" — that is, how information was gathered, analyzed, and provided to policymakers.

What a fine idea. But Rockefeller, at the press conference with Senator Roberts, was not happy about it. You could see that the poor man wanted, oh so desperately, to scream "Bush Lied!!!," but he couldn't go all the way. However, he certainly strained at his leash. Listen to this, for example:

The central issue of how intelligence on Iraq was — in this Senator's opinion, was exaggerated by the Bush administration officials, was relegated to that second phase, as yet unbegun...

But in the very next breath, it turns out that it has begun.

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... And was he running a private intelligence failure, which is not lawful. (emphasis added)

I'm not sure what to make of this. On the one hand, I love that "private intelligence failure" bit, as if only the CIA is entitled to intelligence failure. On the other hand, it's appalling and disgusting to have this senator hint of something "not lawful" on the part of the undersecretary of defense for policy, especially when said senator's own fat report totally exonerates Feith of the nasty rumors that have been circulated by the likes of Seymour Hersh, Joshua Marshall, and other camp followers for many months.

Then Rockefeller went on to lament that the report didn't really explain "the environment of intense pressure in which the intelligence officials were asked to render judgments," implying that administration officials bullied the analysts into saying what the president wanted to hear. Not so. The report explained that there was certainly pressure, but that pressure came from the real situation — from the knowledge that error might lead to the death of many Americans — not from policymakers demanding that intelligence officials get the analysis just right.

In fact, for those few people who actually read the report, there's a pretty big story around page 357, on which we learn that Chairman Roberts got upset at the many anonymous leaks alleging pressure to "cook" the intelligence in the run-up to the war. So he, along with his House counterpart, Porter Goss, "made a public call for officials to come forward and contact the Committee if they had information" about such pressure. Roberts issued that call at least nine different times, but "the Committee was not presented with any evidence that intelligence analysts changed their judgments as a result of political pressure...or that anyone even attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to do so..."

So Rockefeller should either put up or shut up. If the report is wrong, he put his signature on a lie. If it's right, he should stop talking as if he lived in an alternate sauna...I mean universe.

It's even worse than that, because the report does talk about pressure, but it's the opposite of what Rockefeller and the Hate Bush crowd was hoping for. It turns out that the CIA pressured some analysts into agreeing with its view of the aluminum tubes — which it said were headed for uranium-enriching centrifuges but could easily have been for rockets. And it wasn't the Pentagon that ran its own private intelligence "failure" but the CIA, which kept the experts at the Department of Energy — who were specialized in such matters — out of that particular loop.

For those who follow the debates over this stuff, I think the plethora of reported contacts between al Qaeda biggies and Iraqi-intelligence officials is sufficient to convince any open-minded person that there was enough to worry about.

The best part of the report is the thorough discrediting of former Ambassador Wilson, who duped just about every self-proclaimed "investigative journalist" in America. Wilson is the husband of a CIA officer who was sent by the CIA to Niger to check on an allegation — based at least in part on some documents given to the American embassy in Rome — that Saddam's minions had approached the Nigeriens with a request for uranium. Wilson had told everyone that the Nigeriens had denied it, and he personally told the Washington Post and others that the documents in question were probably forgeries because names and dates were wrong.

Well, the report says that Wilson had not seen the documents, so he couldn't have had any serious basis for claiming that names and dates were wrong. Worse yet, the Nigeriens told him about an Iraqi delegation that had gone there in '99, and that the Niger's prime minister "believed the Iraqis were interested in purchasing uranium." As the Wall Street Journal elegantly put it, Iraq asked to expand trade, and Niger had only two exports: uranium and goats.

The Wilson story gets even better. He had sworn that his CIA wife had had nothing to do with his appointment as special emissary, but the report quotes a memo from his wife recommending him for the post. And Wilson had chewed out the vice president for standing by the claim, famously made by President Bush in his 2003 State of the Union address, that British intelligence had reported Iraqi requests for uranium from Niger. Wilson said, in effect, the veep knew of my report but he just dissed it. Not true. "CIA's briefer did not brief the vice president on the report (that Iraqis had indeed discussed uranium in Niger), despite the vice president's previous question about the issue."

Oh, I see. The vice president of the United States asks for information about the story. The CIA sends this lout to Niger. He hears from the prime minister of the place that the story is true, and reports as much to the CIA (while saying the opposite to the pressies). And the CIA never bothers to tell Cheney. Is this not a scandal? What have I missed? Maybe somebody should tell Senators Rockefeller and Roberts that the CIA is supposed to answer such questions. They often don't, by the way. I can tell you that two senior administration officials asked the CIA, five months ago, about a report that Iraqi officials had arrested two people in the act of transporting a barrel full of uranium from Iraq to Iran. There is still no answer. If we're really interested in the intelligence "process," this sort of silence has to stop.

Anyway, back to Wilson. The whole journalistic universe was in heat over the Niger story, because Wilson had convinced them that it was a hoax, based on forgeries. All kinds of celebrated journalists, from Hersh on up, presented theories about the origin of the forgeries, as if that were the issue. But it wasn't. Throughout it all, the British government continued to say that they had evidence, that they still believed in that evidence, and that they believed the story was true.

The Brits were right: It was true, as Wilson undoubtedly realized. Thanks to a couple of articles in the Financial Times over the past few weeks, we know that several European countries had reason to believe it. The "forgeries" were a total red herring, they had nothing to do with the price of eggs, and thus Seymour Hersh's breathless spasm — in which he theorized that the forgeries were created by a bunch of ex-CIA "old boys" in order to gull Cheney so they could then "expose" him — is idiocy. And Joshua Marshall's narcissistic echo chamber, broadcasting "Bush lied" 24/7, is another. (I am obliged to reveal that I have an intense personal contempt for Mr. Marshall, who slimed me and my wife and my daughter on the basis of lies and suppositions, and has yet to acknowledge it, let alone apologize.)

Before we leave the Wilson story, here's another mystery: Why did the Bush administration apologize for the16 truthful words the president pronounced? Why was poor Steve Hadley sent out to take the fall for...telling the truth? There are two obvious possibilities. One is that, somehow or other, our leaders decided that the CIA had indeed been gulled by a forgery. The other is that politics trumps truth once again, the story was painful to them, and they decided they'd rather run away than tell the painful truth. But it's peculiar, don't you think?

Penultimate observation: The report tells us several times that we had no human sources "collecting against weapons of mass destruction in Iraq" (there's that awful language again), and we are told that this was the result of "a broken corporate culture and poor management." And why, pray tell, was the "corporate culture" broken? The committee doesn't probe this very deeply, and they are right to avoid it, because the Congress is the main culprit in this sad story.

No one has seen fit to point out that, thanks to the depredations of President Bill Clinton and Senator Robert Torricelli a few years back, the CIA had been told to avoid working relationships with persons of dubious human-rights records. Well, it would be hard to find a high official in Saddam Hussein's Iraq who didn't have a really rotten human-rights record. So, even if the agency had an olive-skinned case officer, fluent in Iraqi Arabic, capable of penetrating the Baathist state, he would probably have had to deal with some real monsters in order to get real secrets. If you were the CIA, you'd have avoided that one. Remember that Torricelli's scorched-earth campaign was the result of a CIA case officer talking to a Guatemalan paramilitary type who killed people from time to time.

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On this one, I hold Congress and Clinton guilty. The CIA didn't have a broken culture — it had a lunatic overseer in the legislature and a cowardly customer in the White House.

Finally, we come to the really big question, and the weird answer of the committee. The big question is this: How could every serious intelligence agency on earth have come to believe there were WMDs in Iraq when (as the current article of faith has it) there were none? Senator Roberts likens it to a global epidemic. The CIA got it wrong and then infected all the others. A worldwide virus, so to speak. The WMD flu, if you will.

I don't buy it. I don't think the French were swayed by the CIA. I don't think the Israelis and the Russians were infected by our views. I think this is like the David Kay theory of WMDs. Remember? He said that Saddam really believed he had some, because all his guys lied to him about it. He didn't actually have WMDs at all, because the Iraqis had failed, and they feared for their lives if Saddam found them out, and so they lied, and he bought the lies.

These are pretty complicated theories, you must admit. What about a simpler approach? Let's say that there were WMDs. Then, in the disgracefully long period between Afghanistan and Iraq, Saddam, knowing he was gonna be overrun, exported some (mostly to Syria and Iran), destroyed some, and hid some.

That's my story, and I'm sticking with it for the time being. I'm sticking with it because I know — as Senator Roberts and the committee staff know, because I told them — that there are very credible reports of WMD sites, but the CIA chooses not to go look at them. Since I told my own story I've learned about others, one of which comes from a very high-ranking former official of the American government. I'm also sticking with it because the Polish government insists that their guys in Iraq found warheads with chemical weapons, even though a CENTCOM press release denies it, and because Zarkawi's killers arrived in Jordan with large quantities of chemical weapons. And because I don't believe the Iraqis would have bought all those funny suits that protect you from chemical and biological weapons unless they had such weapons and expected to use them.

Enough already.

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JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of, most recently, ""The War Against the Terror Masters," Comment by clicking here.


06/30/04: The Fears of the Terror Masters: If we want a peaceful Iraq we will have to confront the mullahs
06/29/04: The Iraqis and the Neocons: Arab democracy is a work in progress
06/23/04: Ready for $60-a-Barrel Oil?: The Iranian election strategy at work
06/15/04: Iran is making trouble, and finessing it is a dangerous strategy
06/02/04: Reagan Seen Plain: He changed the world 06/02/04: Quattrocchi's Killers: We are dealing with a truly international terror network
05/25/04: The Agency Rides Again: Angleton on Chalabi
05/24/04: Lying into the mirror: Misunderstaning the war on terror
05/18/04: Kristof’s Iran
04/19/04: The Iranian Hand: Regime change in Tehran is necessary for peace in Iraq
04/15/04: Dealing with the Libyans: Is Khaddafi about to cash out?
04/08/04: From Tyranny to Freedom: Democracy in Iraq has precedent
03/18/04: Drifting, Dangerously: We must support freedom
03/02/04: Once Upon a Spymaster, Part II: Returning to a conversation
02/24/04: The Great Iranian Election Fiasco: What actually happened; what we must do
02/20/04: Stalinist Mullahs: The Iranian regime is in open battle with its own people
02/11/04: The Jihadis' Primal Scream: Zarkawi's "Yaarrrhhh!"
02/04/04: Inelegant Lies: Making sense out of mullahs
02/03/04: Potemkin WMDs? Really?
01/27/04: The Jihad on Iraq: Bad analysis and bad policy
01/20/04: Our Moment of Vainglory: A p.c. mess
01/06/04: Aftershocks: The West must read the meter in Bam and Tehran
12/02/03: Managing Iraq: We can't continue this way
11/26/03: Back to the Angleton Files
11/25/03: The Turks, Italians & us — never again
11/06/03: Regional Struggle: Fighting narrow vision in Iraq
11/04/03: Unpunished Failure: What are we waiting for?
10/21/03: Curses: Diamonds and Naples
10/15/03: Into the Quagmire: Important days ahead for Iran
09/18/03: The Ayatollahs’ bomb: An invulnerability strategy
09/12/03: You can't make peace until the war is won
09/11/03: Ron Paul, dishonorable congressman
09/03/03: The Latest Horrors: Still organized
08/29/03: The Peace Trap: Back to the war, please
08/27/03: Angrier and Angrier: Self-deception, big-time
08/25/03: Iraq's terrorists have friends in high places
07/10/03: The Future of Iran: Armitage might want to rethink that "democracy" line
07/02/03: Looking Toward July 9: Independence Day in Iran?
06/24/03: Iran: Back the freedom fighters
06/17/03: The Iranian Revolution, 2003: Regime change in the air
06/05/03: Academic Standards: A Middle East scholar has his way with the truth.
05/28/03: The Moment of Truth? U.S. policy could determine Iran's destiny
05/15/03: Iran's Path: Stopping the mullahs in their tracks
05/13/03: The Nuclear Axis of Evil: The people solution
05/08/03: Inside the Dark: Applebaum's ‘Gulag’
05/06/03: Tough Guy: Powell's curious priority list
05/01/03: Desert Shame Redux: Want a free Iran and a free Syria? We have to fight for it
04/25/03: Timing Is Everything: We have a narrow window in Iraq to win Shiite support
04/15/03: Political war can remove terror masters in Syria and Iran
04/07/03: The Others: We have miles to go in eliminating the Axis
04/02/03: French Lies: Take the foreign minister at his word
03/31/03: Why muzzle Saddam's foes?
03/28/03: The post-war terror threat
03/26/03: All Fronts: Military war, political war, psychological war
03/24/03: More Bad News for Daschle: Taking out terror of all nationalities
03/21/03: The Killer Pneu: Virus terror from China
03/13/03: Iran: Nuclear suicide bombers?
03/11/03: A Theory: What if there's method to the Franco-German madness?
03/05/03: The Iranian-Election Revolt: The people speak. The West won't listen
02/19/03: The willful blindness of those who will not see
02/12/03: The Europeans Know More Than They Now Pretend? They choose to dawdle and obstruct
02/03/03: Monumental failure: Nelson Mandela had promise
01/30/03: Elevation: The president knows what it's all about
01/29/03: No Leader: France's Chirac is all about personal interest
01/28/03: The Axis of Evil Redux: Same place, a year later
01/27/03: The Return of the Ayatollah: Washington could afford a little more attention on Iran
01/13/03: How we could lose
01/09/03: Fish are Better than Women: Gauging U.S. priorities
01/07/03: The Shape of Things to Come: The terror masters are now waiting for us
12/20/02: A Prophecy for the New Year --- Faster, please!
12/16/02: Scud Surrender: The "W" factor
12/13/02: The Heart of Darkness: The mullahs make terror possible
12/12/02: The Real War
12/09/02: Tom Friedman's Reformation: His Iran
11/26/02: How Tyrannies Fall: Opportunity time in Iran
11/22/02: The Blind Leading the Blind: The New York Times and the Iranian crisis
11/13/02: The Temperature Rises: We should liberate Iran first --- now
11/05/02: End of the Road: Iran's Mohammed Khatami, on his way out
10/29/02: The Angleton Dialogues, Contnued: What George Tenet doesn’t know
10/24/02: The Iranian Comedy Hour: In the U.S., the silence continues
10/16/02: Sniper, Saboteur, or Sleeper? Channeling James Jesus Angleton
10/01/02: The real foe
09/27/02: The Iranian String Quartet: The mullahs get increasingly nervous
09/25/02: The Dubya Doctrine
09/23/02: Intelligence? What intelligence?
09/12/02: America's revenge: To turn tyrannies into democracies
09/10/02: Iran & Afghanistan & Us: We'll have to deal with the mullahcracy, sooner or later
09/04/02: Iran, according to the Times: All the nonsense that's fit to print
08/21/02: Life and death of Abu Nidal tells us a great deal about our enemies
08/08/02: Can You Keep a Secret?: The media silence on Iran
08/06/02: Fantasy Reporting: The latest disinformation from the Washington Post
08/02/02: Propping Up the Terror Masters: Europe's Solana on tour
07/16/02: Bush vs. the Mullahs: Getting on the side of the Iranian freedom fighters
07/12/02: The State Department Goes Mute: It's official: State has no message
07/09/02: History being made, but the West appears clueless
06/05/02: Is George Tenet endangering peace in Israel?
06/03/02: Ridiculous, even for a journalist
05/20/02: So how come nobody's been fired yet?
05/14/02: Open doors for thugs
04/20/02: Iran on the Brink … and the U.S. does nothing
04/16/02: It’s the war, stupid … someone remind Colin Powell
04/08/02: Gulled: In the Middle East, Arafat doesn't matter
04/02/02: Faster, Please: The war falters
03/26/02: The Revolution Continues: What's brewing in Iran
03/18/02: Iran simmers still: Where's the press?
03/05/02: We can't lose any more ground in Iran
02/14/02: The Great Iranian Hoax
02/12/02: Unnoticed Bombshell: Key information in a new book
01/31/02: The truth behind the Powell play
01/29/02: My past with "Johnny Jihad's" lawyer
01/21/02: It's Munich, all over again
01/08/02: What's the Holdup?: It's time for the next battles in the war against terrorism
12/11/01: We must be imperious, ruthless, and relentless
12/06/01: Remembering my family friend, Walt Disney
11/28/01: The Barbara Olson Bomb: Understanding the war
11/13/01: How We're Doing: The Angleton Files, IV
11/06/01: A great revolutionary war is coming
10/25/01: How to talk to a terrorist
10/23/01: Creative Reporting: Learning to appreciate press briefings
10/19/01: Not the Emmys: A Beltway award presentation
10/15/01: Rediscovering American character
10/11/01: Somehow, I've missed Arafat's praise of the first stage of our war on terrorism
10/04/01: What do we not know?
09/28/01: Machiavelli On Our War: Some advice for our leaders
09/25/01: No Room for the U.N.: Keeping Annan & co. out of the picture
09/21/01: Creative destruction
09/14/01: Who Killed Barbara Olson?
08/22/01: How Israel will win this war
08/15/01: Bracing for war
08/09/01: More Dithering Democrats
08/02/01: Delirious Dems
07/31/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit, cont'd
07/19/01: Be careful what you wish for
07/17/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit
07/05/01: Let Slobo Go
05/30/01: Anybody out there afraid of the Republicans?
05/09/01: The bad guys to the rescue
05/07/01: Bye-bye, Blumenthal
04/20/01: Handling China
04/11/01: EXAM TIME!
04/05/01: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/01: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/01: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/01: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/01: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/01: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/01: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/01: The Rest of the Rich Story
01/22/01: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/01: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen