Intelligence provided by former undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith to buttress the White House case for invading Iraq included “reporting of dubious quality or reliability” that supported the political views of senior administration officials rather than the conclusions of the intelligence community, according to a report by the Pentagon’s inspector general.
Feith’s office “was predisposed to finding a significant relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda,” according to portions of the report, released yesterday by Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.). The inspector general described Feith’s activities as “an alternative intelligence assessment process.”
An unclassified summary of the full document is scheduled for release today in a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which Levin chairs. In that summary, a copy of which was obtained from another source by The Washington Post, the inspector general concluded that Feith’s assessment in 2002 that Iraq and al-Qaeda had a “mature symbiotic relationship” was not fully supported by available intelligence but was nonetheless used by policymakers.
At the time of Feith’s reporting, the CIA had concluded only that there was an “evolving” association, “based on sources of varying reliability.”
Expect to see the phrase “alternative intelligence assessment process” again. Feith’s remarks are priceless, too:
In a telephone interview yesterday, Feith emphasized the inspector general’s conclusion that his actions, described in the report as “inappropriate,” were not unlawful. “This was not ‘alternative intelligence assessment,’ ” he said. “It was from the start a criticism of the consensus of the intelligence community, and in presenting it I was not endorsing its substance.”
Now if he was just playing Devil’s Advocate, that would be one thing. But in hindsight, it looks like he was merely filling the role of advocate, and we made a series of decisions based upon his work. I am not of the opinion that intelligence is a 100% thing, and that there will always be uncertainties and we have to expect our leadership is acting in good faith and doing the best they can with the intelligence they have. I am not going to accuse people of “lying us into war,” or whatever you want to call it.
I will state, however, that at this point it is a virtual certainty that EVERY time an opportunity was made available to portray intelligence in a certain light, it was done. The document dumps ofthe past few years, the revelations during the Libby trial, bits and pieces of investigative journalism here and there make this pretty clear. Additionally, this administration would then downplay any criticism of those portrayals or attack those questioning them. I fully expect the spin machines to pitch a fit about this IG report. After all, Carl Levin’s name was mentioned, so it must be liberal bias.