Posted by Scott Malensek on 11 June, 2008 at 6:22 am. 28 comments already!


Last week the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released the final findings of their four year investigation into pre-war intelligence on Saddam’s Iraq.  The report was amazing.  In direct contradiction, on the very first page of the report, Democrats controlling the committee chose to seize the opportunity to target the Bush Administration and cover up any and all accountability for anyone else (particularly themselves) regarding pre-invasion statements about how threatening Saddam’s regime was to the United States.  Previous reports have been bi-partisan and even unanimously supported by the committee.  This one was not.  This time, the Republican minority used their allotted “Additional Comments” section of the report to flat out accuse Senate Democrats of a cover-up, of distorting the report’s findings, and of deliberately misleading the American people at the specific expense of degrading the capability of  American intelligence agencies. 

The report is not a fun read.  Republicans and supporters of the choice to invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein cannot escape being frustrated at the clarity of disingenuous presentation and manipulation of facts.  Democrats and people who (today) oppose the decision to invade, might be stirred with enthusiasm and excitement at first, but when they read the “Additional Views” section and are reminded of the pre-war statements made by Democrats privy to intelligence before the war, they might be resentful.  When anyone-any American-reads the “Amendments” section and sees what was left out of the report, they cannot escape sentiments opposite of national pride: sheer and utter embarrassment.

At it’s core, the problem is this: the report’s stated scope (state on pg1) is not supported by the report.  Instead, the report only addresses comments made to the American people by Executive Branch leaders, and no one else, but the scope specifically states:

I. Scope and Methodology
(U) This report’s scope, as agreed to unanimously by the Committee on February 12,2004, is to assess “whether public statements and reports and testimony regarding Iraq by U.S. Government officials made between the Gulf War period and the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom were substantiated by intelligence information.

There are many more “U.S. Government officials” who have made statements between “the Gulf War period” [1991] and “the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom [March 2003].  Yet the Democrats on the committee deliberately chose to remove and ignore all other statements from anyone other than the Bush Administration.  They omitted/removed statements from Clinton Administration officials, from Congressional leaders over a 12-year period, and they removed their own claims about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

535 Members of Congress tens of thousands of people in the first George Bush administration, and the two terms of the Clinton administration all had their claims about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein dismissed as irrelevant.  Instead of all those hundreds of thousands of policy makers and influential representatives of the American people, this report only looked at: 

• Vice President Richard Cheney, Speech in Tennessee to the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention, August 26, 2002.
• President George W. Bush, Statement before the United Nations General Assembly, September 12,2002.
• President George W. Bush, Speech in Cincinnati, October 7, 2002.
• President George W. Bush, State of the Union address, January 28, 2003.
• Secretary of State Colin Powell, Speech to the United Nations Security Council, February 5,2003.

What’s remarkable is that anyone would believe for even a moment that the American people supported the decision to invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein based on 5 little talks from President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Sec Colin Powell.

As mentioned earlier, in the “Additional Views” section (supported by the “Amendments” section), some people cried foul, and would not let the cover-up go completely unchecked and unseen.

Cover-up for Democrats [pg102] Following the Committee’s agreement on February 12,2004, to examine “whether public statements and reports and testimony regarding Iraq by U.S. Government officials made between the GulfWar period and the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom were substantiated by intelligence information” the Chairman and Vice Chairman each provided a list of statements their respective Members wanted examined by the Committee staff. In the reports released today, only those statements submitted by the Democrats were reviewed.

The Republican Members ofthe Committee submitted approximately 100 statements for review. These were statements made by officials in the previous administration and Members of Congress. Many of our Members believed it was relevant and important to include those statements, particularly from Democrats in Congress, to show that during the debate leading up to and during the authorization of the war in Iraq and during previous efforts to use force in Iraq, Members of both parties with access to intelligence information, not just the Republican administration, made very similar statements about Iraq’s weapons ofmass destruction capabilities and links to terrorism. In our opinion, the statements from most policymakers, whether or not they supported the decision to go to war in Iraq, were similar because everyone saw virtually the same intelligence and used that same intelligence in speeches to explain their own decision-making.

The minority’s “Additional Views” section goes on…

Cherry-Picking Intelligence
We have several concerns about the intelligence information the majority chose to include, and chose to ignore, in its report.

First, the majority chose to include only “finished disseminated intelligence” for comparison with policymakers’ statements. This is not only a departure from the Committee’s agreed upon terms of reference, it is unfair to policymakers whom we know had access to far more than just published intelligence assessments.

Second, the report excludes other information relevant to any fair inquiry of whether policymakers’ statements were substantiated by intelligence. For example, the Committee obtained information related to the coordination, declassification, and fact-checking of the President’s Cincinnati speech with the CIA, relevant portions of which we requested be included in the report. Specifically, a handwritten note by a CIA officer at the bottom of one of the drafts to then-DCI Tenet said that the CIA terrorism analyst had “read all the terrorism paragraphs and said it was all okay” (emphasis original.) We believed it was only fair to let the public know that the CIA checked the President’s speech and said that all of the terrorism paragraphs were

determined by CIA analysts to be “all okay.” Apparently the majority did not think: this was something the public needed to know since they denied our request to include it and did not allow a vote on the amendment offered to fix this shortcoming. Why do the Democrats want to hide the fact that the CIA cleared the President’s speech?

Third, in several cases, the report compares policymaker statements to intelligence published after, sometimes months after, the statements were made. This just does not make sense. For example, Amendment 97 addresses a conclusion which says the “President’s suggestion that the Iraqi government was considering using UAVs to attack the United States was substantiated by intelligence judgments available at the time, but these judgments were revised a few months later, in January 2003.” Whether the NIE judgments were reviewed after the President’s speech is irrelevant to whether the statement was substantiated at the time it was made. Furthermore, we note that this conclusion also distorts the President’s words because he did not say that Iraq was considering using UAVs to target the United States. Rather, he said: ”we are concerned that Iraq was exploring ways of using these UAVs for missions targeting the United States,” a comment that was fully consistent with the January 2003 NIE, Nontraditional Threats to  he US. Homeland Through 2007. Obviously the intelligence community had to be concerned that Iraq could use these UAVs to target the homeland or they would not have been included in an NIE about threats to the Homeland at all.

We find the refusal to include all relevant intelligence and the inclusion of information published after the delivery of statements to be particularly ironic since in a letter on November 14,2005, then-Vice Chainnan Rockefeller, along with Senators Levin and Feinstein, wrote to the Majority and Minority Leaders explaining that they had “insisted that the Committee compare statements of government officials against all intelligence infonnation prepared for circulation and relevant to the subject matter at issue, provided it was it was available at the time the statement was made.”

This appeared to be considered a worthwhile task when the burden of collecting all of the available intelligence from the end of the GulfWar through the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom fell to Republican Members and their staff, but when the Democrats took charge, including only some of the intelligence was deemed acceptable. Perhaps forcing the Republican staff to review over 40,000 documents was just a request intended to delay further publication of the Phase II effort and allow the continuation of charges of “obstruction.”

The idea of limiting the intelligence to that which was “available at the time the statement was made” must have seemed like a better idea when the Democrats thought policymakers would not be able to use information published even days after their statements to defend themselves. When it turned out that this could be used to the majority’s own advantage, however, information that was actually available to policymakers apparently became less important. Maybe the majority believes those reading the report will not bother to check the dates.

One of the more dangerous and shocking parts of the report is that many of the points its writers make are fiction.

Unsubstantiated ClaimslDistorting Intelligence
One of the most hypocritical aspects of the Majority report is that while it purports to cast judgment on how well policymakers characterized intelligence analysis in their public statements, the report itself distorts many policymakers’ statements and the intelligence analysis. This has the unfortunate consequence of undermining the Committee’s credibility in exercising oversight.

Several of the minority’s amendments focused on the issue ofmischaracterizing policymakers’statements. One example is Amendment 7 which addresses a portion of the majority report which says that the President, Vice President, and the Secretary of State “stated that the Iraq government had an active nuclear weapons program.” However, even a cursory examination ofthe statements included for review in the report shows that none of the named individuals “stated” that Iraq had an “active nuclear weapons program,” not one. Another amendment, Number 136, addresses a conclusion that claims the President and Vice President made statements that “Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States.” Yet, neither the President nor the Vice President said this.

If you don’t read the report at all, this part of it is the most important part to read regardless of party, political orientation, or views on the decision to invade Iraq.  It’s the core of the entire “Bush Lied” conspiracy theory debate:

Although we are troubled by all of the issues we have outlined thus far-that the report released today was a waste of Committee time and resources that should have been spent overseeing the intelligence community, that the report is part of a partisan agenda, that the report cherry picked information and distorted policymakers’ statements and intelligence, and that the majority refused to offer those it is accusing the opportunity to be heard-we are most concerned about the damage that this report will do, and that the whole Phase II effort has done for the past several years, in creating the impression that policymakers should be bound to make policy based on only that which is published in intelligence assessments. This is not only wrong, it is dangerous and it is contrary to everything else this Committee has done since it published its first report on the Iraq intelligence failure. It has the effect of encouraging intelligence community analysts to become policymakers, and encouraging policymakers to adhere strictly to whatever analysts write, when we know that intelligence analysis can be dangerously inaccurate. Have we forgotten how wrong the intelligence judgments were in the October 2002 Iraq WMD NIB and how many other intelligence failures we had before that one? Intelligence is not incontestable truth and it is only one factor out ofmany that a policymaker must consider before making a policy decision.

This fallacy has also unnecessarily increased demands on the intelligence community. Requesting NIBs with unclassified key judgments has become sport in Washington as each side hopes the NIB will support its position. Cries of “politicization” usually follow from whichever side is unhappy with the results. This is not only unfair to the intelligence community, it is dangerous in that analysts will attempt to please all sides and their muddied judgments will help no one.

We expect intelligence analysts to follow tried and true marching orders for intelligence:
tell me what you know, tell me what you don’t know, tell me what you think, and make sure the policymaker understands the difference. Analysts cannot do this if they are constantly wondering if their assessments will be used for politics.

The Democratic majority, in the partisan way it attempted to suppress intelligence information and skew the historical record, is betting that the public and the media will not take the time to read these and other minority views that expose its hypocrisy. We have written these views to shine a light on it, for if there is any oversight value left in this fruitless endeavor that has consumed so much of the resources of this

Where is the accountability?

Where is the Pulitzer-winning mainstream journalist who has the endurance, professionalism, conviction, or mere interest to actually read the entire report and tell the world that the Democrats in control of this committee not only started the “Bush Lied” conspiracy theory, but they fed it and continue to feed it for their own political gain as well as to protect and hide their party’s aquiescence, submission, and even outright promotion of the invasion of Iraq?

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