Posted by Scott Malensek on 7 April, 2007 at 2:55 am. 3 comments already!


A few months ago, a long-awaited investigation into former Undersecretary of Defense, Doug Feith and his Office of Special Plans was finally concluded.

(Dept of Defense Inspector General Report)

The Department of Defense had been asked by Democrats in Congress to see if Feith and/or his office had done anything illegal in their investigation and reports regarding the depth of ties between Al Queda and Saddam Hussein’s regime.  The Department of Defense’s interim Inspector General said essentially that Feith and his office had acted inappropriately by giving the impression that they were an intelligence agency, but that they had not acted illegally.  He was innocent of the charges made by Congressional Democrats and opponents of the war in Iraq.

Both groups of accusers had claimed that Feith and his office had manipulated, cherry-picked, and otherwise distorted real intelligence reports to form conclusions that were not real, and that those conclusions were then used to mislead the Bush Administration and/or Congress via claims from the Bush Administration.  Some of the things reported by Feith and his office were later determined to either not have been based on reliable intelligence, were simply not true after all, or weren’t as bad as expected, but on the other hand, most of the examples of ties between Saddam’s regime and Al Queda which he and his office had reported did in fact turn out to be true.  Still, even today, Congressional Democrats, opponents of the war, and too often traditional media claim that there were no ties whatsoever between Saddam’s regime and Al Queda.

Most people prefer to read the conclusions section when these government reports and findings of investigations come out.  After jumping to the conclusions sections, Congressional Democrats cherry-pick the conclusions to form political talking points.  Opponents of the war always distort the findings to make argumentative claims that the war in Iraq wasn’t necessary and/or that if the US just leaves things will be better than they are today.  Lastly, members of the media have jobs to do, and since scandal sells they tend to write articles that sound more scandalous than they really are, and the investigation into Feith is perhaps the greatest example of lazy, uninformed, faux journalism around.

Congressional Democrats are politicians, and almost always lawyers.  That alone is not a resume´ that compels trust, yet they get it when they demand and demand and demand investigations.  Opponents of the war who distort the findings of these investigations for mere argumentative sake are simply fools who are often too lazy to read the investigation in their full and cannot stomach the tragedy with which they reveal.  We expect such things from those who clearly have agendas to serve by distortion, but shouldn’t we expect more from news media?

Let’s get down to brass tacks.  This week, Senator Levin who had claimed Feith and his office acted illegally finally released a censored version of the Inspector General’s investigation into Feith and his office-the investigation that determined claims made by Senator Levin, other Congressional Democrats, and opponents of the war in Iraq were all incorrect and without merit.  The following day, several reporters skimmed the report.  Some just jumped to the conclusions sections.  Then they wrote their articles-not opinion editorials, but articles reporting on the findings of the investigation.  Did they report that Feith was not found guilty of committing a crime?  No.  Did they report that the claims made against him and his office were found to be without merit, or that the demands for investigation were based more on political distraction than reality?  No.  Instead, respected publications chose not to point out that there was no criminal wrong-doing, and we were given headlines like:

“Pentagon probe fills in blanks on Iraq war groundwork”
By Peter Spiegel, Times Staff Writer

“Hussein’s Prewar Ties To Al-Qaeda Discounted”
By R. Jeffrey Smith Washington Post

“Pentagon report debunks prewar Iraq-Al Qaeda connection”
By Jesse Nunes |

“Hussein-Qaeda Link ‘Inappropriate,’ Report Says “

In all these cases, the headlines suggest that there’s been an investigation to determine the depth of the relationship between Saddam’s regime and Al Queda, and that this fictional investigation has determined there was no relationship at all.  That’s not what the Feith investigation was about.  In fact, most of the things that Feith and his office claimed later turned out to be true.

If readers go beyond the headlines and-as the writers did-make the claim that the Inspector General said Feith and his office acted “inappropriately”, then the question must be asked, HOW?    How and what did Doug Feith and his office do that was inappropriate?    Congressional Democrats (both in their “demands” for investigations and in their post-investigation talking points) claim that Feith and his office misled the Bush Administration into believing that there was a deep, deep tie between Saddam’s regime and al Queda, and in their additional comments to the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation report on pre-war intelligence regarding Iraq, these members of Congress claimed additionally that the Bush Administration used claims from Feith’s office to make the case for war; to mislead Congress and the American people.

The ideas that Feith and his office misled the Administration and/or Congress as well as the idea that his office distorted information are false.  This is a simple fact, and anyone who actually read the report on Feith and his office would see it in a heartbeat.  Writers who claimed that this IG report is a carte blanche, de facto conclusion that determined there was no relationship between Al Queda and the regime did not read the report with professional comprehension and/or ambiguity.

Had someone read the full report with professional comprehension, and clarity of opinion, they’d have seen that Doug Feith’s office only gave two briefings on the question of regime ties to Al Queda.  One was in August 2002, the other was on 9/16/2002.  Both briefings were to the White House, but to follow the Congressional Democrats’ accusation that the briefings wrongfully and illegally misled the White House is stupid.  Why?  On 9/18/2002, just 48hrs later, the CIA presented the White House with their “Iraqi Support for Terrorism 2002” report.   Feith’s accusers have said that he and his office distorted the intelligence and misrepresented themselves as an intelligence service.  The inspector general agreed that they were misunderstood to be acting as an intelligence service, and that some of the intelligence he and his office presented was inaccurate (less than 1/6th of the claims), but so what?

Seriously, who cares, and why should anyone care?

Doug Feith was an undersecretary of Defense.  That’s a powerful position, but it’s not in the line of succession.  It’s not like being the head of a Congressional committee or caucus.  It’s a job that gets lost to history in keeping with its importance.  Can anyone name 3 other Undersecretary of Defenses from 3 other presidents?  No way.  There’s probably not even a wall of photos of them in the Pentagon.  The guy was just not that important, and neither was what he said about the depth of ties between the regime and Al Queda.  Doug Feith and his office could have gone to the White House on Monday, Sept 16th, told the President that Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden were snuggle bunnies in the same swingers club, and it wouldn’t have mattered.  It wouldn’t have mattered what Feith and his office said since 48hrs later on Wednesday Sept 18, 2002, a real intelligence agency-the CIA-made everything clear to the White House in their report “Iraqi Support for Terrorism 2002.”

Even if Feith misled the White House (which by and large he did not since most of his claims were at the time supported by the subsequent CIA report 2 days later), anything he and his office said could not have misled Congress.  Yes, the Congressional Democrats who were in charge of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time have been crying foul since they lost power.  They said that the Bush Administration used Feith’s data as fodder for the rhetoric in the run-up to war, and that it concerned them greatly (See also their additional comments at the end of the Sen Intel Com report on pre-war intelligence regarding Iraq ).  However, if they were so “concerned” about claims that the Administration was making regarding Saddam’s ties to Al Queda…why didn’t the Democratic-controlled intelligence committee ask someone in the intelligence community?

The “concerned” Democratic-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee met almost a dozen times with members of all 16 intelligence agencies from the day that the CIA presented their “Iraqi Support for Terrorism 2002” report to the White House (clearing up an misconceptions, misleading, and ambiguity from Feith’s Office’s presentation) and up to January 2003.  Did the Democrats on the intelligence committee attend the intelligence hearings on pre-war intelligence about Saddam’s regime?  They say they were greatly concerned about comments the Administration was making regarding regime ties, but when asked to declassify their intelligence committee attendance records, Senators Rockefeller, Levin, Edwards, and Kerry all refused.  Were they concerned enough to ask questions of the intelligence community leaders in the closed door briefings, or is it just rhetoric and finger-pointing aimed at distracting people from realizing that they were on the intelligence committee so it would be on their resumes, but they weren’t going to the meetings or performing oversight on the intelligence agencies?

Let’s make believe for a moment that Congressional Democrats who claimed Feith acted illegally (a charge now determined to be false and without merit), were both concerned about Bush Admin claims regarding regime ties to Al Queda, but also remained trusting of the President just a few weeks before the midterm elections and in the heat of the earliest starting Presidential race in American history.  Let’s believe that fragmentary grasp at reality and ask if Congress could have been misled by Feith and his office through the Administration’s claims (as claimed in the additional comments link above).  Even with that, is it possible for Congress to have been misled by Feith?  Nope.  It’s impossible.  After the dozen meetings with intelligence agency leaders, in January 2003-smack dab in the middle of the military buildup for the invasion-the CIA presented Congress with their report “Iraqi Support for Terrorism 2003.”  That report (according to the SSCI Phase I report) was just a rehash of the 2002 version given to the administration 48hrs after Feith’s presentation, but a limited amount of new intelligence was added.  Any misconceptions, misleading, and ambiguity from Feith’s Office’s presentation would have been cleared up by the CIA report given to Congress in January 03.

And yet, even after all that, if we’re to believe that somehow Feith and his office were still able to mislead Congress and the administration, there were dozens more closed door meetings between members of Congress and leaders of all the intelligence agencies.  The Bush Administration was getting 2, 3, or more intelligence briefings each day, and it’s hard to believe that they never voiced any concerns or asked questions about Feith’s presentation.

No, Feith and his office didn’t mislead anyone, and a simple look at the timeline of intelligence presented to the White House and to Congress makes that very clear, and even if they had, it was only for 48hrs or less.  If either branch of government was concerned or doubted or had questions about claims made by Feith and his office, they had more than ample opportunity to ask leaders of the 16 intelligence agencies to clarify.

In the worst case scenario-the one carried on the shoulders of the war in Iraq’s opponents, Feith grossly misled the Bush Administration from Monday Sept 16 until Wednesday Sept 18, 2002.

So, what exactly is it that he did that the interim DoD Inspector general says was, “inappropriate?”

Essentially, Doug Feith was told that the 16 intelligence agencies were refusing to give a conclusive analysis regarding the depth of ties between Saddam’s regime and Al Queda.  Yes, that’s right…even after 911, the intelligence community was outright refusing to look into a threat that the White House was requesting.  Again, the Senate Intelligence Agency’s phase I investigation confirms this repeatedly as does the Phase II rpt.  Only the CIA would come close with three pamphlets on the issue, but they still refused to form a conclusive opinion-citing a lack of evidence gathered regarding ties between the regime and Al Queda.  Those three reports were:

“Iraq and al-Qaida: Interpreting a Murky Relationship” (presented June 2002)

“Iraqi Support for Terrorism 2002” (presented Sept 16, 2002)

“Iraqi Support for Terrorism 2003” (presented January 2003)

After the first CIA report was presented, the Administration officials were frustrated.  They had conflicting reports about the depth of ties between Saddam’s regime and Al Queda.  These reports were based almost entirely on pre-1998 intelligence, foreign intelligence, unreliable intelligence, and other weak or outdated sources.  It came down the chain of command from Def Sec Rumsfeld to Doug Feith and his policy office that they should look into the question of regime ties, and see if the Pentagon could form a policy around his findings.  Feith’s office went around to the different intelligence agencies, collected raw intelligence and presented it in two briefings.  At the first briefing, his office was asked to brief the CIA.  The head of the CIA was impressed and DCI Tenet said it was time to re-examine the depth of the ties. (note, since then members of the 911 Commission have come forth and said the same thing as have members of both houses of Congress from both parties in the wake of intelligence documents and tapes captured in Iraq).

This is where the Interim DoD Inspector General has a problem with Feith and his office.  He claims that by collecting intelligence (even if the intent was to form a policy) and then by briefing the head of the CIA, other intelligence agencies, and the White House, Feith and his office and in effect (though not specifically) acted as an intelligence agency themselves-not the policy forming group that they were, and that was inappropriate.  Asked/demanded to make a recommendation by Senator Levin, the DoD’s interim IG could not make one.  Why?  Because Congress had formed the Director of National Intelligence Office…an office that would collect intelligence form other agencies and use it to help form policies; to do exactly what Feith’s office had done.

Why did Congressional Democrats like Senator Levin claim that Feith and his office had acted illegally?

Read the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into 911.  Do you know how many people were watching Al Queda and UBL between the period of peak threat in 1998 and the 911 attacks?  4-40 CIA people.  That’s it.

Little or no intelligence had been gathered on Al Queda.

Now, read the Senate Intelligence Committee phase I report, the phase II report, the press conference from the rollout of either.  In all four cases, do you know how many CIA spies were in Iraq from 1998 to 91101?  NONE.  In fact, the CIA didn’t get a spy back into Iraq until November 2002-just weeks before the CIA “Iraqi Support for Terrorism 2003” report was presented to Congress in January 2003.

Little or no intelligence had been gathered on Iraq.

Why?  The answer is simple, the intelligence community (according to the 911 Commission report and the Senate Intelligence Committee phase I report) was begging for more money, training, aggressive leaders, looser restrictions, freedom to cooperate with each other, and more.  Who did they beg?  They begged those who are charged with maintaining and overseeing the needs and operations of the 16 intelligence agencies.  They begged Congress.  In 1998 these two reports claim that DCI Tenet was reportedly running around town banging on desks begging for more money; for a piece of the Clinton Administration budget surplus.  The Democrats controlled the senate.  Senator Rockefeller, Senator Levin, Senator Kerry, Senator Edwards and others turned DCI Tenet down.  They refused to give the intelligence agencies what they needed.

Then 911 happened, and we all asked how, why?  Where were our spies?  How could the CIA, NSA, FBI, DIA, etc let this happen?

Then President Bush resolved to end the on/off war with Saddam through a dual track of diplomacy and buildup for invasion, and when he asked about WMD, the CIA told him it was a slam dunk based on their latest (4yr old) intelligence.  When he asked about Saddam’s Ties to Al Queda, he was told there was a relationship (based on the latest, 4yr old intelligence), but that the depth of the relationship was unknown.  That’s why Feith’s office did what the Director of National Intelligence’s office was formed to do today.  It wasn’t his office’s normal tasking, and so it was as inappropriate as a janitor deciding to fix a downed computer network, but he got most of the network back up, and Feith got most of his claims correct.  Doubt it?  Just read the declassified portions of “Iraqi Support for Terrorism 2002.”  Given the intel of the day, he was 80% or more correct.

In the end, Feith is just a scapegoat for Congressional Democrats seeking to hide their failures and lack of attendance.  He’s a figurehead for all that the opponents of the war would like to believe-that the war was based on lies and not weak/bad/dated intelligence which was the result of Congressional Democrats campaigning instead of attending meetings.  And the subject of Feith and his office’s efforts, Saddam’s Ties to Al Queda, is one that reporters are eager to dismiss rather than read more than just jump to the conclusions sections of various reports.

The depth of ties between Saddam’s regime and Al Queda take a great deal of detail to describe.  In the end, it’s not whether there were 16,000 Al Queda fighters in Iraq (claimed in the book, Thunder Run), or 2-3000 (as in most tell alls from the troops who were in the invasion), or if there were just high level visits.  It’s not whether Al Queda lost 4000 fighters in Iraq since the invasion as they claim or 7000 as the US military claims.  The critical, most often, most deeply, and most deliberately ignored and distorted claim is that the war in Iraq somehow is completely off on its own little world from the war with Al Queda.  Bin Laden’s 1996 fatwa, and particularly his 2/98 fatwa describe his casus belli for reviving AQ and calling for a holy war of terror against Americans and American civilians.  Both these declarations of holy war revolved around American action against Iraq.  This isn’t because he had an affinity for Saddam or even for the Iraqi people.  He was just a pissed off killer looking for an excuse for his actions, but IRAQ was his excuse; his reason for going to war and killing Americans.  To pretend that Bin Laden decided to start killing Americans for any other reason is pure denial of reality and his own words.

FREE DOUG FEITH!  Oh wait…he is free, because he didn’t commit a crime as claimed.  He’s been found innocent.

For more about Saddam’s Ties to Al Queda and the Congressional effort to hide Congressional failure go here.

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