Phase II: Loaded For Bear
November 10, 2005
John Prados is a senior fellow of the National Security Archive in
As the Senate panel investigating the administration’s use of intelligence begins work, their mandate must be to probe into the heart of the cabal.
Last week a bipartisan panel of six senators launched the investigation into whether the Bush administration manipulated the findings of the intelligence community in order to wage war in
Unfortunately, it appears that Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., is already attempting to divert the panel from fulfilling its responsibility. The committee’s own press release described the aim of phase two as an inquiry into “whether any influence was brought to bear on anyone to shape their analysis to support policy objectives." To accomplish this, Roberts is arguing that the panel should merely review administration statements in the run-up to war and see if there was intelligence that supported each claim. This minimalist approach would give the Bush administration a free pass for politicizing the analytical process and then cherry-picking the conclusions that fit its needs.
As the leading Democrat on the Senate committee, Jay Rockefeller, explained it recently, investigating politicization will involve some in-depth work:
Securing a mandate to explore that context backed by subpoena power is essential. A finding of “politicization” cannot be limited to mean uncovering evidence of George Bush standing over an intelligence analyst and ordering him to put a certain judgment in a report. A finding of “politicization” will have to involve assessing the atmosphere in which intelligence estimators go about their work. Writing in TomPaine.com last summer, I explained how John Bolton created just such a hostile atmosphere, threatening careers and making good on those threats. In phase one, the Bush administration sought a definition of “politicization” that was so narrow it prevented the commission from reaching finding any fault. That cannot happen again.
First, Go Back To The Beginning
With the parameters set, the panel must have access to the broadest timeline to allow investigators to begin at the beginning. The evidence shows that efforts in Washington to build a bill of particulars against Saddam Hussein started shortly after an April 2002 summit meeting in Crawford, Texas, between President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Subsequent British investigations indicate that London began drafting its white paper, the notoriously “sexed-up” dodgy dossier, that spring, and the Senate intelligence committee’s own initial report confirms that early work on what became the CIA white paper occurred at the same time. Thus, CIA estimators were aware of White House interest in this matter months before the frantic drafting of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate. Here, it’s important to establish the extent that the White House pushed
Ultimately, the panel must focus on the coordinating role of the office of the vice president. The veep and his acolytes, most importantly security adviser I. Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, were the hub for the cabal that sent us to war. Cheney and Libby ran a network of allies in key positions across the national security architecture that allowed them to subvert the bureaucratic safeguards against ill-considered war. Don Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz set up the Office of Special Plans. John Bolton had his cell in the State Department, and Stephen Hadley was deputy national security adviser. Even pro-war Iraqi dissidents such as Ahmad Chalabi had a direct line into the office of John Hannah, Cheney’s deputy national security adviser.
From there, the panel must examine how this network mainstreamed false intelligence, politicized the intelligence community product and coordinated and sustained a major propaganda effort that melded its bogus claims with those cherry-picked bits of intelligence that best supported them.
Cheney and Libby enjoyed a direct relationship with the special unit Don Rumsfeld had set up at the Pentagon to second-guess
We also know from the Downing Street memos that, in late July 2002, British spy chieftain Sir Richard Dearlove, just returned from
Mapping The Key Players
Another crucial area of inquiry for Roberts’ committee is the identification of the informal links between Cheney’s office and the bureaucracy. The evidence from
There are also the links between Cheney and then-Undersecretary of State John Bolton, who attempted to get a senior CIA estimator fired just a month before the Iraq NIE exercise. This CIA employee sat on the same group as those who worked on the report the administration demanded. Here, the objective of the inquiry is to clarify the extent to which CIA analysts felt personally under pressure, particularly from the White House, but also from other actors.
The purpose of that enormous effort to “fix the intelligence” was political: the White House needed to make a “slam-dunk case” for war. Late in the summer, the administration created its White House Iraq Group (WHIG) to manage the propaganda effort, help draft speeches and reports advocating attacking Iraq—including some of those containing the most blatant fabrications—and generally manage interagency initiatives in these areas. It was exactly then that Cheney accused the Iraqis of possessing nuclear weapons, and White House chief of staff Andrew Card told the press that a new policy, like a new product, should not be trotted out during the summer doldrums. Bush had already ordered the
The precise relationship between the WHIG and Tenet’s intelligence community needs to be explored, including the degree of interaction, whether the WHIG could (and if it could, did it?) require work from the CIA, and the impact on CIA analysts of seeing the WHIG’s products in the public domain. The atmosphere surrounding
To say the CIA was buffeted would be understatement. First it received phony raw intelligence from the Iraqi exiles. Then the Rumsfeld special unit was there to challenge the CIA analysts’ rejection of the bad intel. Beyond that, the vice president of the
And they claim there was no “politicization?” That’s laughable. The phase two inquiry should examine each of these areas. Nothing less will be credible to the American people.