Russia-gate Report Ignored Iraq-WMD Lessons

The Obama administration’s “assessment” at the center of Russia-gate ignored the lessons of the Iraq-WMD fiasco and may have made the same mistakes, ex-WMD inspector Scott Ritter writes at The American Conservative.

By Scott Ritter

A January intelligence product has served as the basis for a series of Congressional hearings into the issue of Russian meddling into American elections — and has taken on a near canonical quality that precludes any critical questioning of either the authors or their findings. There is one major problem, however: the supposedly definitive assessment was not that which it proclaimed to be.

Then-CIA Director John Brennan addresses officials at the Agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia. (Photo credit: CIA)

On Jan. 6, the Office of the Director for National Intelligence (DNI) released a National Intelligence Assessment (NIA), Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections. Billed as a “declassified version of a highly classified assessment” whose “conclusions are identical to those in the highly classified assessment,” the report purported to be “an analytic assessment drafted and coordinated among The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and The National Security Agency (NSA), which draws on intelligence information collected and disseminated by those three agencies.”

A National Intelligence Assessment, like its big brother, the National Intelligence Estimate, is supposed to reflect the considered opinion of the U.S. Intelligence Community. Products such as the Russian NIA are the sole purview of the National Intelligence Council (NIC), whose mission is to serve as “a facilitator of Intelligence Community collaboration and outreach” through the work of National Intelligence Officers (NIOs) who are the Intelligence Community’s experts on regional and functional areas — such as Russia and cyber attacks.

Although published under the imprimatur of the NIC, the cover of the Russian NIA lacks the verbiage “This is an IC-Coordinated Assessment,” which nearly always accompanies a NIC product, nor does it provide any identification regarding under whose auspices the Russia NIA was prepared. (Normally the name of the responsible NIO or identity of the specific office responsible for drafting the assessment would be provided.)

Simply put, the Russia NIA is not an “IC-coordinated” assessment — the vehicle for such coordination, the NIC, was not directly involved in its production, and no NIO was assigned as the responsible official overseeing its production. Likewise, the Russia NIA cannot be said to be the product of careful coordination between the CIA, NSA and FBI — while analysts from all three agencies were involved in its production, they were operating as part of a separate, secretive task force operating under the close supervision of the Director of the CIA, and not as an integral part of their home agency or department.

This deliberate misrepresentation of the organizational bona fides of the Russia NIA casts a shadow over the viability of the analysis used to underpin the assessments and judgments contained within. This is especially so when considered in the larger framework of what a proper “IC-coordinated assessment” process should look like, and in the aftermath of the intelligence failures surrounding Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and the lessons learned from that experience, none of which were applied when it came to the Russia NIA.

A Most Sensitive Source

Sometime in the summer of 2015, the U.S. intelligence community began collecting information that suggested foreign actors, believed to be Russian, were instigating a series of cyber attacks against government and civilian targets in the United States.

President Obama in the Oval Office.

The first indications of this cyber intrusion came from the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), a British spy agency tasked with monitoring communications and signals of intelligence interest. GCHQ had detected a surge of “phishing attacks” targeting a wide-range of U.S. entities, and reported this through existing liaison channels to NSA, its American counterpart organization.

Among the targets singled out for this “phishing attack” was the Democratic National Committee; malware associated with these intrusions mirrored the operational methodologies and techniques previously used by Russian actors some cyber security analysts believed were affiliated with the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). Both the NSA and the FBI began actively monitoring this wave of attacks, tipping off entities targeted, including the DNC, that there computer systems had been compromised.

Separate from the phishing attacks, the DNC claims to have detected a separate cyber intrusion into its servers in April 2016. The DNC called in a private cybersecurity company, Crowdstrike, to investigate, despite the fact that it was in active discussions with the FBI about the earlier intrusion.

Crowdstrike claims to have discovered evidence of a separate malware attack, which Crowdstrike concluded was being directed by Russian Military Intelligence (GRU). Curiously, the DNC made no effort to coordinate its findings with the FBI, or to turn over its servers to the FBI for forensic examination, instead opting to go to the Washington Post, which published the Crowdstrike findings, including its attribution of responsibility for the intrusions to Russian intelligence services, on June 22, 2016.

The Washington Post/Crowdstrike attribution took on domestic political import when, in July 2016, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention where Hillary Clinton was to be nominated as the Democratic Party candidate for president, the online publisher Wikileaks released emails sourced from the DNC that were embarrassing to the Democratic Party and considered damaging to the Clinton campaign.

Despite claims by Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange that the emails did not come from Russia, the Clinton campaign immediately charged otherwise, and that the leak of the emails to Wikileaks was part of a Russian campaign to undermine the campaign.

According to reporting from the Washington Post, sometime during this period, CIA Director John Brennan gained access to a sensitive intelligence report from a foreign intelligence service. This service claimed to have technically penetrated the inner circle of Russian leadership to the extent that it could give voice to the words of Russian President Vladimir Putin as he articulated Russia’s objectives regarding the 2016 U.S. Presidential election — to defeat Hillary Clinton and help elect Donald Trump, her Republican opponent. This intelligence was briefed to President Barack Obama and a handful of his closest advisors in early August, with strict instructions that it not be further disseminated.

The explosive nature of this intelligence report, both in terms of its sourcing and content, served to drive the investigation of Russian meddling in the American electoral process by the U.S. intelligence community. The problem, however, was that it wasn’t the U.S. intelligence community, per se, undertaking this investigation, but rather (according to the Washington Post) a task force composed of “several dozen analysts from the CIA, NSA and FBI,” hand-picked by the CIA director and set up at the CIA Headquarters who “functioned as a sealed compartment, its work hidden from the rest of the intelligence community.”

Dangers from Cloistered Analysis

The result was a closed-circle of analysts who operated in complete isolation from the rest of the U.S. intelligence community. The premise of their work — that Vladimir Putin personally directed Russian meddling in the U.S. Presidential election to tip the balance in favor of Donald Trump — was never questioned in any meaningful fashion, despite its sourcing to a single intelligence report from a foreign service.

CIA seal in lobby of the spy agency’s headquarters. (U.S. government photo)

President Obama ordered the U.S. intelligence community to undertake a comprehensive review of Russian electoral meddling. As a result, intelligence analysts began to reexamine old intelligence reports based upon the premise of Putin’s direct involvement, allowing a deeply disturbing picture to be created of a comprehensive Russian campaign to undermine the American electoral process.

These new reports were briefed to select members of Congress (the so-called “Gang of Eight,” comprising the heads of the intelligence oversight committees and their respective party leadership) on a regular basis starting in September 2016.

Almost immediately thereafter, Democratic members began clamoring for the president to call out Putin and Russia publicly on the issue of election meddling. These demands intensified after the November 2016 election, which saw Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton. Intelligence collected after the election, when viewed from the prism of the foregone conclusion that Putin and Russia had worked to get Trump elected, seemed to confirm the worst suspicions of the intelligence analysts and their Congressional customers (in particular, the Democrats).

Calls to make public intelligence that showed Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election intensified until finally, on Dec. 9, 2016, President Obama ordered the U.S. intelligence community to prepare a classified review of the matter. The review was completed by Dec. 29, and briefed to the President that same day.

Brennan’s task force did the majority of the analysis, which solidified the premise of Russian interference that emanated from the original foreign intelligence report that started this process back in early August. President Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats and shut down two Russian recreation facilities the FBI believed were being used to spy on American targets, as well as levied sanctions against persons and entities in Russia, including those affiliated with Russian intelligence, in retaliation for the Russian meddling in American electoral affairs detailed by the intelligence review.  

Remember ‘Curveball’

Any meaningful discussion of the analytical processes involved in the production of the Russia NIA must take into account the elephant in the room, namely the October 2002 NIE on Iraq, Iraq’s Continuing Program for Weapons of Mass Destruction. The Iraq NIE will go down in history as the manifestation of one of the greatest intelligence failures in U.S. history.

President George W. Bush announcing the start of his invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003.

The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, created under Presidential order in 2004 to investigate this failure, was unforgiving: “We conclude that the Intelligence Community was dead wrong in almost all of its pre-war judgments about weapons of mass destruction. This was a major intelligence failure.”

The problem was more than simply getting the assessments wrong. “There were,” the commission noted, “also serious shortcomings in the way these assessments were made and communicated to policymakers” — in short, the NIE process had fundamentally failed.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks in 2004, Congress mandated the creation of the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) in an effort to encourage the free flow of intelligence information between the various agencies comprising the U.S. intelligence community to prevent the kind of intelligence failures that led to the failure to detect and prevent the 9/11 attacks. While the ODNI was created after the publication of the Iraq NIE, and had as its impetus the intelligence failures surrounding the 9/11 terror attacks, and not Iraq, the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities believed that this new structure was a step in the right direction toward resolving some of the underlying systemic failures that led to the intelligence failure regarding Iraq.

The Commission, moreover, made several recommendations regarding the organization of the U.S. intelligence community that were designed to forestall the kind of systemic failures witnessed in the Iraq case. One of these recommendations was the need to create “mission managers” who would “ensure that the analytic community adequately addresses key intelligence needs on high priority topics.”

One of the ways Mission Managers would achieve this would be through the fostering of “competitive analysis” by ensuring that “finished intelligence routinely reflects the knowledge and competing views of analysts from all agencies in the Community.” In this way, the Commission held, mission managers could “prevent so-called ‘groupthink’ among analysts.”

The Commission made other recommendations, including that the DNI build on the statutory requirement for alternative analysis and the existing “red cell” process that postulates speculative analytical positions in response to more formal assessments, and formally empower specific offices to generate alternative hypothesis and part of a systemic process of alternative analysis.

In doing so, the DNI would ensure that the kind of blinder-driven analysis such as which took place with the Iraq NIE — such as not considering that Saddam Hussein would have gotten rid of his WMD stocks in 1991 — would never again occur.

Most of these recommendations were approved by President George W. Bush and subsequently acted on by the DNI. The heads of the National Counterintelligence Center, the National Counter-proliferation Center, and the National Counterintelligence and Security Center were converted into functional National Intelligence Managers, while the NIOs serving under the aegis of the National Intelligence Council became regional National Intelligence Managers. Cyber-driven issues took on a new importance, with a new Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center being formed in 2015, following the creation of a new NIO for cyber Issues in 2011.

The CIA followed suit, embarking on a program that broke down the powerful regional divisions that had dominated the agency since its founding in 1947, and replacing them with new “mission centers” headed by “mission managers” drawn from the ranks of the most experienced senior CIA officers in their respective fields. There is no “Cyber Mission Center” per se; instead, the CIA created a new “Directorate of Digital Innovation” in 2015, whose officers support the work of the existing functional and regional mission centers.

Iraq-WMD Reforms Ignored

The CIA was mandated to incorporate “red cell” alternative analysis processes into its work in the aftermath of 9/11; rather than replicate this activity, the DNI instead published new analytic standards in 2015 that required the incorporation of “analysis of alternatives” — the systematic evaluation of differing hypotheses to explain events of phenomena — into all analytical products.

U.S. Army forces operating in southern Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Apr. 2, 2003 (U.S. Navy photo)

All of these new mechanisms were in place at the time of the “phishing attacks” detected by GCHQ unfolded in the summer of 2015, emails stored on the computer servers of the DNC were compromised in the summer of 2016, and Brennan obtained his foreign-intelligence report directly attributing Russian interference in the U.S. 2016 Presidential election to Russian President Vladimir Putin. And yet none of these “lessons learned” were applied when it came to the production of the Russia NIA.

The decision by Brennan early on in the process to create a special task force sequestered from the rest of the intelligence community ensured that whatever product it finally produced would neither draw upon the collection and analytical resources available to the totality of the national intelligence community, nor represent the considered judgment of the entire community — simply put, the Russia NIA lacked the kind of community cohesiveness that gives national estimates and assessments such gravitas.

The over reliance on a single foreign source of intelligence likewise put Brennan and his task force on the path of repeating the same mistake made in the run-up to the Iraq War, where the intelligence community based so much of its assessment on a fundamentally flawed foreign intelligence source — “Curveball.” Not much is known about the nature of the sensitive source of information Brennan used to construct his case against Russia — informed speculation suggests the Estonian intelligence service, which has a history of technical penetration of Russian governmental organizations as well as a deep animosity toward Russia that should give pause to the kind of effort to manipulate American policy toward Russia in the same way Iraqi opposition figures (Ahmed Chalabi comes to mind) sought to do on Iraq.

The approach taken by Brennan’s task force in assessing Russia and its president seems eerily reminiscent of the analytical blinders that hampered the U.S. intelligence community when it came to assessing the objectives and intent of Saddam Hussein and his inner leadership regarding weapons of mass destruction.

The Russia NIA notes, “Many of the key judgments … rely on a body of reporting from multiple sources that are consistent with our understanding of Russian behavior.” There is no better indication of a tendency toward “group think” than that statement. Moreover, when one reflects on the fact much of this “body of reporting” was shoehorned after the fact into an analytical premise predicated on a single source of foreign-provided intelligence, that statement suddenly loses much of its impact.

Misreading Putin

The acknowledged deficit on the part of the U.S. intelligence community of fact-driven insight into the specifics of Russian presidential decision-making, and the nature of Vladimir Putin as an individual in general, likewise seems problematic. The U.S. intelligence community was hard wired into pre-conceived notions about how and what Saddam Hussein would think and decide, and as such remained blind to the fact that he would order the totality of his weapons of mass destruction to be destroyed in the summer of 1991, or that he could be telling the truth when later declaring that Iraq was free of WMD.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, following his address to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 28, 2015. (UN Photo)

President Putin has repeatedly and vociferously denied any Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Those who cite the findings of the Russia NIA as indisputable proof to the contrary, however, dismiss this denial out of hand. And yet nowhere in the Russia NIA is there any evidence that those who prepared it conducted anything remotely resembling the kind of “analysis of alternatives” mandated by the ODNI when it comes to analytic standards used to prepare intelligence community assessments and estimates.

Nor is there any evidence that the CIA’s vaunted “Red Cell” was approached to provide counterintuitive assessments of premises such as “What if President Putin is telling the truth?”

Throughout its history, the NIC has dealt with sources of information that far exceeded any sensitivity that might attach to Brennan’s foreign intelligence source. The NIC had two experts that it could have turned to oversee a project like the Russia NIA — the NIO for Cyber Issues, and the Mission Manager of the Russian and Eurasia Mission Center; logic dictates that both should have been called upon, given the subject matter overlap between cyber intrusion and Russian intent.

The excuse that Brennan’s source was simply too sensitive to be shared with these individuals, and the analysts assigned to them, is ludicrous — both the NIO for cyber issues and the CIA’s mission manager for Russia and Eurasia are cleared to receive the most highly classified intelligence and, moreover, are specifically mandated to oversee projects such as an investigation into Russian meddling in the American electoral process.

President Trump has come under repeated criticism for his perceived slighting of the U.S. intelligence community in repeatedly citing the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction intelligence failure when downplaying intelligence reports, including the Russia NIA, about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Adding insult to injury, the President’s most recent comments were made on foreign soil (Poland), on the eve of his first meeting with President Putin, at the G-20 Conference in Hamburg, Germany, where the issue of Russian meddling was the first topic on the agenda.

The politics of the wisdom of the timing and location of such observations aside, the specific content of the President’s statements appear factually sound. When speaking on the issue of U.S. intelligence community consensus regarding the findings of the Russia NIA, President Trump commented, “I heard it was 17 agencies [that reached consensus on the Russian NIA] … it turned out to be three or four. It wasn’t 17.”

Trump went on to opine about allegations of Russian hacking: “Nobody really knows. Nobody really knows for sure … I remember when I was sitting back listening about Iraq — weapons of mass destruction — how everybody was 100 percent sure that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Guess what? That led to one big mess. They were wrong.”

On both counts, the President was correct.

Scott Ritter is a former Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD.  He is the author of Deal of the Century: How Iran Blocked the West’s Road to War (Clarity Press, 2017). [This article originally appeared at The American Conservative at https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/did-17-intelligence-agencies-really-come-to-consensus-on-russia/

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40 comments for “Russia-gate Report Ignored Iraq-WMD Lessons

  1. Andrew
    July 16, 2017 at 1:56 am

    I wouldn’t give Trump much credit for getting Iraq “right.” When asked by Howard Stern if he supports invading Iraq on Sept 11, 2002, he said “Yeah, I guess so. You know, I wish it was, I wish the first time it was done correctly.” On Jan. 28, 2003 when Trump was asked by Neil Cavuto on Fox Business about Iraq, he just said “Either you attack or you don’t attack” without any insight on WMD.

    I agree with the dangers of ignoring the lessons from Iraq… but I feel Consortiumnews writers give too much credit to Donnie. Donald only cares about Donald.

    • Fabrizio
      July 17, 2017 at 8:41 am

      I’m not here to defend trump but his statement was mede in 2002, the attack came in 2003. A lot of people believed that WMD in Iraq were real. It became clear that the it was false intelligence only after the war had started.

      What he says today is that we all believed those intellligence reports which stated 100 confidence and it proved wrong, so today caution and a grain of salt is needed before taking for granted what the CIA or any Intel agency says.

  2. Joe Tedesky
    July 16, 2017 at 2:11 am

    I who once sat on the fence in confusion, and watched our country make its most horrible mistake (a war crime) of it’s then 227 years, will never doubt you again Mr Scott Ritter.

    I appreciate the guidance by Ritter to walk us all through the process. After contemplating what Mr Ritter is saying, and reading over a lot of it twice, I can see we citizens could use a few more walk through’s to get the scope of what people like Brennan are doing.

    Look forward to more Scott Ritter essays

    • Realist
      July 16, 2017 at 5:23 am

      I was on board at the time with the analyses of Scott Ritter and Hans Blix concerning weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Most other liberal Democrats were as well, and opposed the specious warmongering policies of Dubya and Cheney. The likes of me and Scott Ritter have maintained our standards and are unafraid to call out Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for now being the same kind of barbarous warmongers that Bush and Cheney were. Unfortunately, most liberal Democrats have deliberately chosen to be hypocrites and support party and personality rather than to uphold consistent standards. Sorry, Democrats, though you may presently have most of your base fooled with your totally contrived narrative of “Russia Gate,” that will not last forever. The facts are out there. They can be accessed and disseminated. The day will come when it becomes politically expedient to expose you and your conspirators. The books and scholarly papers by history professors will eventually be written and this whole sorry affair will exposed for what it is. The collusion between the media, the politicos and the corporate money that buys the services of both will also come to light to the detriment of all. Then you will only have yourselves to blame when your party is rejected by the voters for an even longer stretch of time than might have been had you remained honest. YOU gave us Trump, not Russia or Putin. And you will probably end up giving us Pence or whoever succeeds Trump because of your dishonesty… and your willingness to exploit war for political gain. Mustn’t forget that.

      • NoOneFromNowhere
        July 16, 2017 at 10:39 am

        You don’t mention the powers-behind-the-throne that insist on more and more and more war, and who…we’ve seen…will kill those who get in their way. I mean not only deep-state but the weapons industry and oil industry, bank industry, etc.
        ???

        • Realist
          July 16, 2017 at 4:25 pm

          My comments were not a theory of everything. The point was to criticise the Dems who supported Scott Ritter in 2003 because his target was the Republicans Bush and Cheney, but who refuse to stick with him and his principles now because his ire is directed at Democrats Obama and Clinton. Of course, there are lots of other evil idiots with significant roles in all this warmongering.

      • Joe Tedesky
        July 16, 2017 at 10:46 am

        You can be proud that you were on the right side of history Realist. To be clear about the Iraq invasion and the Ritter part of his being against it, I was just totally confused. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe Ritter, as much as at that time I just couldn’t see my way through it. The news media certainly did a job on Scott Ritter, and if anything at that time in my view it gave Ritter even more credibility. Although there I was stupid as ever, and I just didn’t know what was the right avenue to go down. If there ever is a second time around, well I hope I have you somewhere in sight Realist to at least get your two cents worth, and allow me the opportunity to take it from there.

        • Realist
          July 16, 2017 at 4:40 pm

          Take consolation in the fact that you were definitely in the majority of Americans at the time as the propaganda machine was turned on like never before in our lifetimes. Who amongst the public did not want to believe that Collin Powell was telling the truth in a storied speech before the UN General Assembly? Who would allow themselves to believe that their president was deliberating lying and hiding truths so that he could take our country into a major war, not to avenge 9-11 but basically to steal Iraqi oil and destabilise the first in a series of countries throughout the Middle East? People would rather discount the true evidence produced by Scott Ritter and Han Blix, two men in charge of collecting the actual facts and enforcing the agreements signed by Saddam Hussein, than to believe their president and other top leaders to be bald-faced liars.

          The power elite were counting on this. There was only a small cadre of dissidents who insisted on a policy based on facts not fantasies, and they were mostly Democrats (Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and others NOT included). They were mostly available to YOU as an audience, then as now, only through the alternative media, mostly on the internet but some still on rare left-wing over-the-air broadcasts, such as Randi Rhodes, Mike Malloy and Thom Hartmann. The introduction of live-streaming on the internet made local broadcasters like them available to the masses for the first time ever. Unfortunately, many of those mouthpieces, such as Ms. Rhodes, have deserted truth in favor of partisanship because they cannot get past their support of Hillary strictly because she is a Democrat. When your heroes start telling you lies to prop up a narrative and a power structure, they are false prophets and you must walk away from them.

          • Joe Tedesky
            July 16, 2017 at 5:07 pm

            If I ever need a good defense attorney I will call on you Realist. Also you described the talk radio and media pretty darn well. It’s good to hear from someone who has been paying attention. Take care, hope to correspond with you later. Joe

          • Realist
            July 16, 2017 at 5:26 pm

            Not sure I’d ever want to be mistaken for an attorney, Joe. The notions of “truth” in science and under the law are two different animals. Obvious fact, discernible to all, can and is often discounted in legal proceedings based on the byzantine rules by which US law operates. Sometimes this is done to deter breaking the law in order to enforce it. More often it is done to get away with murder or theft by powerful men or forces.

          • Adrian Engler
            July 16, 2017 at 6:25 pm

            I wonder why those who believed Powell was saying the truth were not in favor of continuing weapons inspections? After all, they claimed they had some leads, so they could have tried to verify them. At that time, after some pressure, Iraq allowed inspections without restrictions everywhere.

            So even if someone believed Powell’s absurd theater at the UN, the behavior of the US – to stop the weapons inspections and to start an illegal war of aggression did not make any sense. I find it very hard to believe how people could watch this and draw any other conclusions than that this whole story about WMD in Iraq had never been meant seriously by the US. Obviously, the decision for the aggression had been taken beforehand, an excuse was needed, and it was not even attempted to make it convincing for people who were thinking about whether the behavior of the US makes sense.

          • Realist
            July 16, 2017 at 7:00 pm

            Your view is the way I saw it, Adrian. Saddam had, in fact, bent over backwards to give “the Coalition of the Willing” (i.e., Washington) every bit of information and all the data it needed to establish the truth. We sneeringly refused to even look at it. Remember the table-top full of CD’s containing all of Iraq’s records that Washington basically spit upon rather than look at? U.S. troops were barging into every palace and government office in the country never finding any evidence of wrongdoing. The American explanation every time was that Saddam had once again adroitly managed to stay ahead of the inspectors and spirit away every particle of evidence.

            It seemed clear to me that the US administration was fixated on a war and there was nothing anybody could do about it. Tariq Azzis, Iraq’s deputy prime minister who was a Christian, even ran to the pope, trying to convince him to intercede against the looming war. The pope did advise the world against using military force to resolve the problem, but the USA was not listening to reason from anyone. One major result of the war has been the virtual extermination of Iraqi Christians, who used to represent a sizable percent of the country’s population. To this day it would seem that nobody in power seems to care about that in this country, just as they seem willing to throw all of Syria’s religious minorities to the wolves from ISIS. “Responsibility to protect?” Never heard a bigger joke told by the Obama administration and his lying minions Samantha Power and Susan Rice.

          • Larco Marco
            July 17, 2017 at 7:51 pm

            1. I seem to recall lyin-ass Colon Powell saying that he/WH would not provide UN weapons inspectors with any evidence regarding mobile weapons labs or other “slam-dunk” evidence of WMD.

            2. I was against the Iraq invasion, not that I disbelieved House N Powell, but the fact that the UN weapons inspectors had Saddam in a box that neutralized him.

      • Bill
        July 23, 2017 at 6:52 pm

        And who are the Democrats most responsible for pushing the Russia story? Hillary Clinton and President Obama.

  3. July 16, 2017 at 2:49 am

    If you are interested, I wrote a very detailed series of posts on the alleged Russian interference in the US presidential election a few months ago, where I also criticize the US intelligence report and the media’s uncritical acceptance of its conclusions. More recently, I published a very detailed post about the scandal of Donald Trump Jr.’s emails, which I called “On Trump’s collusion with Russia, when you add nothing to nothing, what you get is still nothing”. In particular, I explain the connection to the Magnitsky Act, which is very important to understand this story but glossed over by the mainstream media because it doesn’t serve their narrative. Indeed, I carefully document a shocking amount of bias on the part of the New York Times and other news organizations, which is par for the course on that issue. Among other things, I show that The Hill recently changed a piece it published on this story by removing a claim that was unsubstantiated, though without even acknowledging the modification. I already shared this here, but some of you may not have seen it.

  4. Cal
    July 16, 2017 at 3:07 am

    Even monkeys learn from repetition …..evidently Washington is not as smart as monkeys.

  5. Cal
    July 16, 2017 at 4:42 am

    I cant think about Iraq without wondering why Dick Cheney, Elliot Abrams, David Wurmser , Doug Feith, Richard Perle, Michael Ledeen, Paul Wolfowitz and the rest of the zio and neo crowd are still walking around alive,

    They were all ”planning for a crisis” long before there was a 911 crisis.

    January 1, 2001: Neoconservatives Draft War Plans for Joint US/Israeli Onslaught throughout Middle East [American Conservative, 3/24/2003]

    And they are still around nesting in think tanks and spreading their poison. Need to drive stakes thru the hearts of these vampires and be rid of them once and for all.

  6. john wilson
    July 16, 2017 at 4:43 am

    The only quarrel I have with this piece is the use of the word “mistake”. There was nothing about the lies we were told about weapons of mass destruction that was a mistake. Everything was planned and calculated by these stinking war criminals to make the public believe the crass lies of rsoles like Bush, Blair Cheney etc.

    • Martin - Swedish citizen
      July 16, 2017 at 2:46 pm

      This is my firm understanding as well. Isn’t Iraq to be found in neocon doctrine long before the wmd bs was thought up?
      If so, I think this article omits the major point that the wmd report was intendedly faked. Furthermore, that makes it much easier to understand why the mistakes are (probably) being repeated again and again. It looks quite brave by the Donald to refer to the wmds in Warsaw, considering the implications, although he is far from consistent on neocon policy.

      • Martin - Swedish citizen
        July 16, 2017 at 2:54 pm

        I can add that I very well recall the careful comments made by Mr Blix prior to the attack on Iraq. It was clear there was no proof, and that the Coalition was not interested in waiting the weeks or so needed for the UN inspection to finalise their work. It looked like, at the time too, they realised they would report they had not found what was not there.

  7. Herman
    July 16, 2017 at 7:37 am

    Scott Ritter explains how the process is supposed to work and could work. All apologists for allowing some rational process to arrive at decisions are up against political motivation, the power of important actors to create policy. As with the Iraq debacle, we are entertained with after the fact analysis of why the bureaucratic process in place failed. Reading George Kennan’s last book in which he summarized his experience, he postulated that we need a council of wise men free of political interference to make policy. I’m sure he had that opinion to the end, but also knew in his heart that positive outcomes were only possible if the powers that be chose to listen.

  8. July 16, 2017 at 11:18 am

    Yes they appear to be doing their analysis in the same corrosive box, but what might the Mueller report reveal? Will it be comprehensive and examine the DNC’s server? Could it reveal what was on Seth Rich’s laptop?

    • exiled off mainstreet
      July 16, 2017 at 11:39 am

      Mueller unfortunately is part of the same malevolent element. Apparent FBI complicity in the blocking of the investigation into Seth Rich’s murder makes Comey guilty of something. Meanwhile, the way he appears to be handling the investigation indicates a stitch-up is likely unless he is sacked.

  9. exiled off mainstreet
    July 16, 2017 at 11:30 am

    Mr. Ritter, in an excellent article pointing up the parallels between the phony Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruction report and Obama’s Putin report is taking the charitable view of events. I think the parallels are there because in both instances, the inconvenient facts of the ground were manipulated into convenient falsehoods by yankee regime agents with malevolent intent.

  10. mike k
    July 16, 2017 at 11:31 am

    Scott Ritter is a hero of the truth. He stood up for what he knew to be true, even when the liars attacked him every way they could. And he is still doing it. We need more public figures who see the truth and have the guts to speak out for it.

    • Joe Tedesky
      July 16, 2017 at 2:18 pm

      I agree mike. What we also need is a media which won’t censor the words of a Scott Ritter.

  11. exiled off mainstreet
    July 16, 2017 at 11:36 am

    I think Brennan and coconspirators should be put on trial on some sort of sedition theory since their intent is the overthrow of the legally constituted government based on ginned up false charges. The lamestream media and complicit elements of the deep state are all coconspirators

    • Joe Tedesky
      July 16, 2017 at 2:19 pm

      I would only hope I get jury duty, if that case ever comes to be.

  12. Bill
    July 16, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    The intelligence community continues to leak and meanwhile Brennan and Clapper continue to work the talk to show circuit. Is it just a coincidence that these things are happening together? Is it a conspiracy?

  13. MaDarby
    July 16, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    When I carelessly cause myself harm by casting my mind over the Pentagon and imagining myself embedded in the command chain. During the fits if my delusion I just don’t see them having the view that they are loosing. Controlled chaos and keeping multiple parties in conflict seems to be working out pretty well from their view.

    And besides, the Middle East is a low conflict regional conflict – the real action is in the South China Sea and Eastern Europe where encirclement is essentially complete and only a few more anti-missile batteries here and there and the real war can begin.

    Everyone talks about the failure in Libya but I really question whether the empire thinks so, after all Neoliberals hate government and have rejected sovereignty which only inhibit capital.

  14. Mild-ly Facetious
    July 16, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    Scott Ritter: a brave and stand up USA hero.
    I have much respect for his strong stand against the propaganda / fake news presented by Judith Miller and the NY Times.

    Strong deception and Hocus Pocus, (Madison Ave. at it’s most productive, dynamically aided by AI theorems)
    Trump’s theatrical performance of “The Fake President”.

    Trump owes it all to ‘fake media’
    By Warren Olney
    http://www.latimes.com

    Segment:Of all the disputes about “fake news,” none is more richly ironic than President Trump’s attacks on CNN.

    After all, the current head of CNN Worldwide, Jeff Zucker, helped design “The Apprentice” to make household words out of “Donald Trump” and “You’re fired” back when he was head of NBC Entertainment. As president and chief executive of CNN 10 years later, Zucker became the giver who kept on giving.

  15. Mild-ly Facetious
    July 16, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    The Beatles Lyrics –
    “The Fool On The Hill”

    Day after day, alone on the hill
    The man with the foolish grin is keeping perfectly still
    But nobody wants to know him
    They can see that he’s just a fool
    And he never gives an answer

    But the fool on the hill
    Sees the sun going down
    And the eyes in his head
    See the world spinning around

    Well on the way, head in a cloud
    The man of a thousand voices talking perfectly loud
    But nobody ever hears him
    Or the sound he appears to make
    And he never seems to notice

    But the fool on the hill
    Sees the sun going down
    And the eyes in his head
    See the world spinning around

    And nobody seems to like him
    They can tell what he wants to do
    And he never shows his feelings

    But the fool on the hill
    Sees the sun going down
    And the eyes in his head
    See the world spinning around

    He never listens to them
    He knows that they’re the fools
    They don’t like him

    The fool on the hill
    Sees the sun going down
    And the eyes in his head
    See the world spinning around

  16. ranney
    July 16, 2017 at 5:23 pm

    well, that was a breath of fresh air! A lucid walk through ” how things work” and what really happened. Thank you Scott Ritter for your truth and your clarity. I hope this gets a wide readership, although, unfortunately, this requires a desire to know what is really going on and also willingness to spend the time to read the answers. Maybe some intrepid reporter in the MSM (are there any left?) will read it and write about it.

  17. delia ruhe
    July 16, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    Several take-downs of the Russia NIA have appeared, but Ritter’s is by far the most thorough. It should appear in the NY Times and the Washington Post, but such excellent sources of fish-wrap would be more likely to publish a take-down of Ritter.

  18. Peter Hill
    July 16, 2017 at 8:53 pm

    This is no doubt an excellent story, but next time I hope that it will be published in English.

  19. bobzz
    July 16, 2017 at 10:08 pm

    I always believed fellow travelers, Ritter and Blix. US intel, such as it was, kept telling Blix and his workers to look here then there. Nothing was ever found, and Blix complained that the US was actually slowing things down. Ånd I thought, the best US intel just seems to be sending Blix’ inspectors on wild goose chases. Then the excuses came: well the Iraqis know where and when Blix’ inspectors are coming, so they are moving the evidence. Like that will work. There were satellites all over Iraq and they would have spotted any such movement. Oh, they moved it all to Syria. Really? When? And same problem: those ever present satellites. And as for Powell’s UN report—remember the Gulf of Tonkin? America is not to be believed. I was born in a house on a middle TN farm at the end of the depression, 1938. We were struggling, but struggling in hope. This is a different America—focused on building the Tower of Babel, and it will come to dread.

  20. Curious
    July 17, 2017 at 2:43 am

    Scott, I really, truly like the information you can share with those of us who have not had your experience and I read it willing and with interest.
    I just have a mental block similar to a writers block. Can we please stop with the “gate everything stupiity?”
    What’s next, United-gate, Delta-gate because of passenger abuse. Christmas-gate from Fox News, the metro-gate due to construction, and in the older days, the BigDig-gate in Boston. What’s next? Snake bites person on subway for a new “bite-gate”.

    Please, I have asked this a lot. Stop with the-gate this, and the -gate that and please bring a title,that is less trivial, less mundane, and less stupid. They created a thesaurus years ago, try it.

    Thank you for your articles and insite, but leave an aprox of Nixon behind as it’s been enough years for writers to grow, instead of play in the sandbox of old.

  21. CitizenOne
    July 18, 2017 at 12:08 am

    Richard Clark wrote a book about how the Bush administration ignored the threat of Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan which the Clinton administration was trying to defeat prior to the 9/11 attack. Bush had an assessment on his desk which spelled out the imminent attack using airplanes as missiles to crash into skyscrapers. He told R. Clark to “stop swatting at flies”.

    Many years earlier the government had Ramzi Yousef in custody for the 1993 attempt to bring the twin towers down so they knew that the NY towers were prime targets of terrorism. Ramzi Yousef stated that if his attack had been successful, the towers would not be standing and that the intent of the bomb was to send the North Tower (Tower 1) crashing into the South Tower (Tower 2), bringing both towers down and killing tens of thousands of people.

    The national intelligence community was co-opted into a theory that Saddam Hussein was responsible even though Osama viewed the Iraqi government as communist infidels and would never have embraced the Iraqi secular state or cooperated with Saddam to launch the attack in New York. It simply did not happen and all the intelligence was wrong. It was worse than wrong. It was a pack of lies.

    Britain was also co-opted and Tony Blair went along with the “coalition of the willing” which later, the Chilcot report published a damning expose of the false intelligence and willful ignorance of the British government under Blair to go along with the false intelligence and support the Iraq war.

    We can go back to the Vietnam war to find similar faking of the facts supported by the highest levels of government to engage us in that fruitless pursuit.

    I have to ask that given our long history of intelligence failures why we would now place our faith in the intelligence assessment that the Russians were responsible for the results of the recent national election?

    It is clear from history that national intelligence has supported military actions based on nonsense for many decades. It is also clear that our national media has been an enabler of fake news supporting wars. Judith Miller and her reporting by the NY Times giving Chalabi credibility by expounding on his WMD claims in opposition to UN assessments by Hans Blix comes to mind.

    There has been no accountability here in the USA unlike the damning Chilcot report where at least Britain engaged in a self examination of the errors or their ways.

    The new Cold War with Russia is more of the same. It is an attempt to blame a foreign power with something it did not do to justify military action. We have seen this movie before and the re-runs are being played on the air like current events.

    One thing is clear. The military industrial complex has been the beneficiary of all the horse shit that the intelligence agencies, the media and the government have concocted to lead us to war many times based on lies.

    The Russia Gate BS is just more of the same old song being played like a giant propaganda megaphone leading us to military confrontations based on lies.

    There is a difference. Iraq did not possess any WMD but Russia surely does. Between America and Russia those two nations possess 93% of all the nuclear weapons on the planet. US led coups in former Russian allies and the conflicts that have arisen have pitted US might against Russian might in a game of chicken none of us can afford to play since the stakes are so high.

    While we pretend that a nuclear armed Pakistan is our “friend” and ignore nuclear proliferation except North Korea we bait Russia and Putin with international conflicts of our own making like we are dealing with some tin pot dictator. Russia is no tin pot and their military history tells us it is not a good idea to poke the Russian bear.

    The recent assault on Russia from our national intelligence agencies and our government based on a pack of lies should give us concern based on the disastrous outcomes of our former factless war waging with other nations.

    Nothing good will come from it except the further enrichment of the war industry.

    What we need is a new form of McCarthyism but which is focused on shedding light on the fear mongering and war mongering by the right which today far exceeds any former pro communism support here at home which was the cause for the original red scare.

    In the age of mutual assured destruction we need to focus on economic ties rather than fomenting a new arms race which keeps ticking the doomsday clock ever further towards midnight with an ever increasing possibility we end up in a nuclear war.

    Russia and China are forging new alliances and forging strategies to cooperate with each other. The USA is isolating itself from the rest of the planet.

    One has to ask if our geopolitical strategy would be better utilized in non military spending a investing on a more secure future where we planned ahead for the challenges our world will face and offered solutions for a sustainable future rather than going down a self destructive rabbit hole focused on attacking all our perceived enemies based on concocted bull.

  22. RB
    July 18, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    What were the lessons learned?

    Seems they focused on how they got caught…

    …and have spent the last several years honing their craft so that won’t happen again…

  23. Beard68
    July 21, 2017 at 11:53 am

    The BIG issue I have with the WMD argument and who was “FOR” or AGAINST” invading Iraq is that AFGHANISTAN was the start of the problem. The complete lies, distortions, and misdirection of 9/11 responsibilities from The House of Saud and our own intelligence services was the start of the destruction of the Middle East. The Afghanis were at best bystanders but have borne the brunt of US violence. But of course we have to keep at it -so the girls can go to school.

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