Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 28, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

FAITH BASED INTELLIGENCE....I've been too busy venting about the Valerie Plame affair to write about a second story from the Washington Post today that also deserves attention. The House intelligence committee has been combing through classified data for four months to try and figure out whether or not our intelligence on Iraq before the war was sound. They aren't impressed:

Top members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence...found "significant deficiencies" in the community's ability to collect fresh intelligence on Iraq, and said it had to rely on "past assessments" dating to when U.N. inspectors left Iraq in 1998 and on "some new 'piecemeal' intelligence," both of which "were not challenged as a routine matter."

"The absence of proof that chemical and biological weapons and their related development programs had been destroyed was considered proof that they continued to exist," the two committee members said in a letter Thursday to CIA Director George J. Tenet. The Washington Post obtained a copy this weekend.

....The committee's letter said the buildup to the war in Iraq amounted to "a case study" of the CIA's and other agencies' inability to gather credible intelligence from informants in Iraq or to employ technologies to detect weapons programs.

There's more, and it's a pretty damning assessment. But even after all that, partisan differences remain:

The letter acknowledges one sharp difference between the two committee leaders. [Ranking Democrat Jane] Harman, the letter indicated, believes the NIE judgments "were deficient with regard to the analysis and presentation." [Republican chairman Porter] Goss believes the judgments were not deficient and were properly couched to reflect the incomplete nature of the intelligence. A congressional source said Goss "does not believe that [the intelligence] community's judgments were inaccurate."

So they basically agree that (a) our information was old, (b) we had almost no recent intel, (c) absence of proof of destruction was taken as proof that WMD still existed, (d) iffy intelligence was given the same weight as more credible information, and (e) the overall quality of information was "relatively fragile."

But despite this, Goss still thinks the final judgments were correct. I wonder what exactly he bases this on?

Kevin Drum 2:06 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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