Arms Control Wonk ArmsControlWonk

 

So who looks more foolish here?

A. Kim Jong-Il for staging a July 4th fireworks display that blew up in his face;

B. William Perry and Ash Carter for hyperventilating that we had to blow up this missile on the launch pad, instead of waiting for it to blow itself up 40 seconds after launch;

C. All those reporter who repeated the Pentagon palbum about how until the launch failure “we were ready to do what was necessary to defend the country,” as if the interceptors in Alaska had any chance of intercepting anything; or

D. All of the above.

You can guess my choice.

Let’s be clear what this means. The North Korean have now blown it by actually testing a system that was always worth much more as a bargaining chip than as a military capability. Continued attempts to hype the threat (by either the DPRK or the National Missile Defense Agency) will now be much harder to make with a straight face. (Good thing the Senate added funds to the anti-missile program last week, before it became clear Kim was drawing to an inside straight). Finally, all those reporters and analysts who have been talking about both the North Korean missiles and the US anti-missiles as if both were proven capabilities should slap themselves in the face and snap out of it.

Remember the 1995 NIE on the ballistic missile threat to the United States? The one that said that any country other than Russia or China was a good 15 years away from the ability to strike America with a ballistic missile? The one that drove the Gingrich Republicans so nuts that they created the 1998 Rumsfeld Commission that predicted such a capability within 5 years and then pressured the intelligence agencies to conform their assesments to the party line?

Doesn’t look so bad eleven years later, does it?

 
 

How did they do it? How exactly did Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Hadley and other senior officials get the intelligence agencies to twist the evidence to fit their war plans?

Larry Wilkerson knows. And now he’s talking. Testifying before The Senate Democratic Policy Committee, on June 26, the former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell said of his participation in Powell’s infamous speech to the United Nations in February 2003 “I’m not proud of having participated in what I consider to be a perpetration of a hoax.”

Wilkerson told how then-Deputy National Security Advisor Steven Hadley tried to shape the presentation to support the bogus claim that Saddam Hussein was involved in the September 11 attacks.

In the rehearsal and discussion sessions at Langley, the give and take was mostly the Secretary of State trying to eliminate unsubstantiated and/or unhelpful material and others from the White House trying to keep that material in, or add more. One such incident occurred several times and the final time it occurred provided an example of the Secretary’s growing frustration. Repeatedly, the OVP or NCS staff personnel tried to insert into the presentation the alleged meeting in Prague between al-Qaeda operative and 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and Iraqi intelligence personnel. Repeatedly, Secretary Powell eliminated it based on the DCI’s refusal to corroborate it. Finally, at one of the last Langley rehearsals, Secretary Powell was stopped in mid-presentation by deputy national security advisor Steve Hadley and asked what had happened to the paragraph describing the meeting in Prague. Secretary Powell fixed Hadley with a firm stare and said with some pique, “We took it out, Steve — and it’s staying out.”

Ron Suskind’s new book, The One Percent Doctrine, details the same process played out repeatedly. Now, if Wilkerson is talking, if key sources are talking to Suskind, what is preventing the Senate Intelligence Committee from concluding their long-promised Phased Two report on the role of the administration in shaping the pre-war intelligence? Can’t find the right witnesses? Maybe they should ask Suskind. Here’s one example, from pages 189-191, where he provides the details the Senate seems unable to find.

Cheney’s office claimed to have sources. And Rumsfeld’s too. They kept throwing them at [Deputy Director for Intelligence Jami Miscik] and CIA. The same information, five different ways. They’d omit that a key piece that had been discounted, that the source had recanted. Sorry, our mistake. Then it would reappear, again, in a memo the next week. The CIA held firm: the meeting in Prague between Atta and the Iraqi agent didn’t occur.

Miscik was no fool. She understood what was going on. It wasn’t about what was true, or verifiable. It was about a defensible position, or at least one that would hold up until the troops were marching through Baghdad, welcomed as liberators.

A few days before, when she had sent the final draft [of a report about connections between Saddam and al-qaeda] over to Libby and Hadley, she told them, emphatically, This is it. There would be no more drafts, no more meetings where her analysts sat across from Hadley, or Feith, or the guys in Feith’s office, while the opposing team tied to slip something by them. The report was not what they wanted. She knew that. No evidence meant no evidence.

“I’m not going back there, again, George,” Miscik said. “If I have to go back to hear their crap and rewrite this [expletive] report…I’m resigning, right now.”

She fought back tears of rage.

Tenet picked up the phone to call Hadley.

“She is not coming over,” he shouted into the phone. “We are not rewriting this [expletive] report one more time. It is [expletive] over. Do you hear me! And don’t you ever [expletive] treat my people this way again. Ever!”

They did not re-write the report.

Powell and Tenet held out on Atta, at least according to these somewhat self-serving accounts, but they gave in on just about everything else. They buckled to the pressure.

If the Senate’s Phase Two investigation into the fraudulent pre-war intelligence, supposedly nearing completion, does not focus on these events and the dozens like them, you will know that the Committee itself is still participating in the perpetuation of a hoax.

 
 

Thanks to Jeff, I get to grab the controls of this fine sports car of a blog while he is doing something in Paris that he has convinced his funders is of vital importance.

Let me start on a serious note with an elaboration of an analysis I posted on my home blog, Think Progress, last week. The Senate Democratic Policy Committee, lead by Senator Byron Dorgan, had the courage and wisdom to keep open the question of how our pre-war intelligence on Saddam’s weapons became so horribly distorted. I testified at the hearing.

Now I know some are tired of this. The administration is counting on that. Like OJ, they say the jury is in, they have been proven innocent, case closed.

But it isn’t. All the investigations (done by the Senate Intelligence Committee, the British and the president’s hand-picked commission) have focused exclusively on the gross errors in the intelligence community and not on what went on in the White House, the Department of Defense and, most importantly, the Vice-President’s office. Thus, we still have only half the story.

And maybe not even the most important half. We need a thorough investigation of how administration officials dealt with the intelligence agencies, how their own DoD intelligence operations (under Doug Feith and Steve Cambone) operated, and how the officials used the intel they got.

Eric Martin does a nice job dissecting this in a piece called “Euphoric Recall,” on his blog, Total Information Awareness,

Some of those posting comments to my original post seemed to be confused between concerns that Saddam could still have weapons or programs in 2002 with conclusions that he definitely had them. In other words, weren’t we all wrong?

Many agencies, countries and experts (including me and my colleagues then at the Carnegie Endowment) were concerned that without inspections it was possible, even likely, that Saddam still had tons of weapons agents. We also worried that he could be continuing a clandestine nuclear weapons research program. These concerns were largely based on the materials unaccounted for at the time the UNSCOM inspectors had to leave Iraq at the end of 1998. We made estimates of the possible.

Here’s the difference: In late 2002, inspectors went back in. We started getting new intelligence. Dozens of inspectors went to hundreds of sites. The inspectors visited the former nuclear facilities at which US satellites detected suspicious actives.

These guys are the Nuclear CSI. They could now look under the roofs, swipe for radiological traces, interview technicians, audit accounts. They found the facilities in a worse state of repair than when the had left.

There was absolutely no evidence of any renewed nuclear activity. The same for chemical and biological programs. We could now make new, more accurate estimates based on this new intelligence.

In other words, it was never a choice between war and nothing; between taking action and trusting Saddam. We had in place the most coercive inspection regime ever imposed on an independent nation. And it was working. Saddam was in an iron box, surrounded by thousands of troops, his political base deteriorating. David Kay said later that Saddam’s regime was in “a death spiral.” The concerns expressed at the time of the difficulties in keeping troops in the area through the summer to allow inspections to continue seem ludicrous in light of the 2500 US troops killed, 15,000 maimed and $300 billion squandered.

But it is even worse. US officials intentionally disparaged the inspectors and ignored their intelligence. They were bent on war and nothing, certainly not UN inspectors, was going to stop them.

I spoke to inspectors after Secretary Powell’s February 2003 UN presentation. I asked them how they felt to be told that the Iraqis were moving chemical weapons from sites just before their inspections. They said they knew the Secretary was wrong. I asked about the decontamination trucks that the Secretary had identified from overhead photos. They said that those were water trucks. They knew because they had been at the site and seen them. They also said they told the Americans this, but were ignored.

No, it was not for lack of intelligence that we invaded Iraq. It was not because the intelligence analysts misled us. The betrayal happened at a far higher level. The entire nation will pay the price for a generation.