Clancys political thriller Sum of All Fears, the United States and
Russia are being pushed to the brink of nuclear war by neo-Nazi
terrorists who have detonated a nuclear explosion in Baltimore and want
the Americans to blame the Russians.
CIA analysts have
pieced together the real story but cant get it to the president. The
president is basing his decisions on some really bad information,
analyst Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck) pleads to a U.S. general. My orders are
to get the right information to the people who make the decisions.
Though a bit corny,
Ryans dialogue captures the credo of professional intelligence
analysts. Solid information, they believe, must be the foundation for
sound decisions, especially when lives and the national security are at
stake. The battle over that principle is the real back story to the
recent dispute over Iraqs alleged weapons of mass destruction. It is a
story of how the CIAs vaunted analytical division has been corrupted
or politicized by conservative ideologues over the past quarter
Some key officials in
George W. Bushs administration from Deputy Defense Secretary Paul
Wolfowitz to Vice President Dick Cheney have long been part of this
trend toward seeing intelligence as an ideological weapon, rather than a
way to inform a full debate. Other figures in Bushs circle of advisers,
including his father, the former president and CIA director, have played
perhaps even more central roles in this transformation. [More on this
For his part, the
younger George Bush has shown little but disdain for any information
that puts his policies or gut judgments in a negative light. In that
sense, Bushs thin skin toward contradiction cant be separated from the
White House campaign, beginning in July, to discredit retired Ambassador
Joseph Wilson for publicly debunking the Bush administrations claim
that Iraq had tried to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger. That
retaliation included the exposure of Wilsons wife as an undercover CIA
officer, an act that is now under FBI investigation as a possible
Dating Back to
Though one cost of
corrupting U.S. intelligence can now be counted in the growing U.S.
death toll in Iraq, the origins of the current problem can be traced
back to the mid-1970s, when conservatives were engaged in fierce
rear-guard defenses after the twin debacles of the Vietnam War and
Watergate. In 1974, after Republican President Richard Nixon was driven
from office over the Watergate political-spying scandal, the Republicans
suffered heavy losses in congressional races. The next year, the U.S.
backed government in South Vietnam fell.
At this crucial
juncture, a group of influential conservatives coalesced around a
strategy of accusing the CIAs analytical division of growing soft on
communism. These conservatives led by the likes of Richard Pipes, Paul
Nitze, William Van Cleave, Max Kampelman, Eugene Rostow, Elmo Zumwalt
and Richard Allen claimed that the CIAs Soviet analysts were ignoring
Moscows aggressive strategy for world domination. This political
assault put in play one of the CIAs founding principles objective
Since its creation in
1947, the CIA had taken pride in maintaining an analytical division that
stayed above the political fray. The CIA analysts confident if not
arrogant about their intellectual skills prided themselves in bringing
unwanted news to the presidents door. Those reports included an
analysis of Soviet missile strength that contradicted John F. Kennedys
missile gap rhetoric or the debunking of Lyndon Johnsons assumptions
about the effectiveness of bombing in Vietnam. While the CIAs
operational division got itself into trouble with risky schemes, the
analytical division maintained a fairly good record of scholarship and
But that tradition
came under attack in 1976 when conservative outsiders demanded and got
access to the CIAs strategic intelligence on the Soviet Union. Their
goal was to contest the analytical divisions assessments of Soviet
capabilities and intentions. The conservatives saw the CIAs tempered
analysis of Soviet behavior as the underpinning of then-Secretary of
State Henry Kissingers strategy of détente, the gradual normalizing of
relations with the Soviet Union. Détente was, in effect, a plan to
negotiate an end to the Cold War or at least its most dangerous
This CIA view of a
tamer Soviet Union had enemies inside Gerald Fords administration.
Hard-liners, such as William J. Casey, John Connally, Clare Booth Luce
and Edward Teller, sat on the Presidents Foreign Intelligence Advisory
Board. Another young hard-liner, Dick Cheney, was Fords chief of staff.
Donald Rumsfeld was then as he is today the secretary of defense.
The concept of a
conservative counter-analysis, which became known as Team B, had been
opposed by the previous CIA director, William Colby, as in inappropriate
intrusion into the integrity of the CIAs analytical product. But the
new CIA director, a politically ambitious George H.W. Bush, was ready to
acquiesce to the right-wing pressure.
Although his top
analysts argued against such an undertaking, Bush checked with the White
House, obtained an O.K., and by May 26  signed off on the
experiment with the notation, Let her fly!!, wrote Anne Hessing Cahn
after reviewing Team B documents that were released more than a decade
ago. [See Team
B: The Trillion Dollar Experiment, The Bulletin of the Atomic
The senior George
Bush offered the rationale that Team B would simply be an intellectual
challenge to the CIAs official assessments. The elder Bushs rationale,
however, assumed that Team B didnt have a pre-set agenda to fashion a
worst-case scenario for launching a new and intensified Cold War. What
was sometimes called Cold War II would demand hundreds of billions of
dollars in taxpayers money for military projects, including big-ticket
items like a missile-defense system. [One member of Team B, retired Lt
Gen. Daniel Graham, would become the father of Ronald Reagan Star Wars
missile defense system.]
Team B did produce a worst-case scenario of Soviet power and intentions.
Gaining credibility from its access to secret CIA data, Team B
challenged the assessment of the CIAs professional analysts who held a
less alarmist view of Moscows capabilities and intentions. The
principal threat to our nation, to world peace and to the cause of human
freedom is the Soviet drive for dominance based upon an unparalleled
military buildup, wrote three Team B members Pipes, Nitze and Van
Team B also brought
to prominence another young neo-conservative, Paul Wolfowitz. A quarter
century later, Wolfowitz would pioneer the post-Cold War strategy of
U.S. preemptive wars against countries deemed potential threats by
using the same technique of filtering the available intelligence to
build a worst-case scenario. In 2001, George W. Bush made Wolfowitz
deputy secretary of defense under Rumsfeld.
Though Team Bs
analysis of the Soviet Union as a rising power on the verge of
overwhelming the United States is now recognized by intelligence
professionals and many historians as a ludicrous fantasy, it helped
shape the national security debate in the late 1970s. American
conservatives and neo-conservatives wielded the analysis like a club to
bludgeon more moderate Republicans and Democrats, who saw a declining
Soviet Union desperate for arms control and other negotiations.
Scary assessments of
Soviet power and U.S. weakness also fueled Ronald Reagans campaign in
1980, and after his election, the Team B hard-liners had the keys to
power. As Reagan and his vice presidential running mate, George H.W.
Bush, prepared to take office, the hard-liners wrote Reagans transition
team report, which suggested that the CIA analytical division was not
simply obtuse in its supposed failure to perceive Soviet ascendancy, but
These failures are
of such enormity, the transition team report said, that they cannot
help but suggest to any objective observer that the agency itself is
compromised to an unprecedented extent and that its paralysis is
attributable to causes more sinister than incompetence. [For details,
see Mark Perrys Eclipse.]
With Reagan in power,
the Team B analysis of Soviet capabilities and intentions became the
basis for a massive U.S. military buildup. It also was the justification
for U.S. support of brutal right-wing governments in Central America and
Since Soviet power
was supposedly on the rise and rapidly eclipsing the United States, it
followed that even peasant uprisings against death squad regimes in El
Salvador or Guatemala must be part of a larger Soviet strategy of world
conquest, an assault on the soft underbelly of the U.S. southern
border. Any analysis of these civil wars as primarily local conflicts
arising from long-standing social grievances was dismissed as fuzzy
thinking or worse.
In the first few
months of the Reagan administration, the hard-liners animosity toward
the CIAs analytical division intensified as it resisted a series of
accusations against the Soviet Union. The CIA analysts were obstacles to
the administrations campaign to depict Moscow as responsible for
virtually all acts of international terrorism, including the attempted
assassination of Pope John Paul II in Rome in 1981.
With William Casey
installed as CIA director and also serving in Reagans Cabinet , the
assault on the analytical division moved into high gear. Casey put the
analytical division under the control of his protégé, Robert Gates, who
had made his name as an anti-Soviet hard-liner. Gates then installed a
new bureaucracy within the DI, or Directorate of Intelligence, with his
loyalists in key positions.
objectivity on the Soviet Union ended abruptly in 1981, when Casey
became the DCI [director of central intelligence] and the first one to
be a member of the presidents Cabinet. Gates became Caseys deputy
director for intelligence in 1982 and chaired the National Intelligence
Council, wrote former CIA senior analyst Melvyn Goodman. [See Foreign
Policy magazine, summer 1997.]
Under Gates, CIA
intelligence analysts found themselves the victims of bureaucratic
pummeling. According to several former CIA analysts whom I interviewed,
analysts faced job threats; some were berated or even had their
analytical papers literally thrown in their faces; some were subjected
to allegations of psychiatric unfitness.
The Gates leadership
team proved itself responsive to White House demands, giving serious
attention to right-wing press reports from around the world. The Reagan
administration, for instance, wanted evidence to support right-wing
media claims that pinned European terrorism on the Soviets. The CIA
analysts, however, knew the charges were bogus partly because they were
based on black or false propaganda that the CIA's operations division
had been planting in the European media.
assassination of Pope John Paul II in 1981 was viewed as another
opportunity to make propaganda points against what Reagan called the
evil empire. Though the attack had been carried out by a neo-fascist
extremist from Turkey, conservative U.S. writers and journalists began
to promote allegations of a secret KGB role. In this case, CIA analysts
knew the charges were false because of the CIAs penetration of East
Bloc intelligence services.
But responding to
White House pressure in 1985, Gates closeted a special team to push
through an administration-desired paper linking the KGB to the attack.
Though the analysts opposed what they believed to be a dishonest
intelligence report, they couldnt stop the paper from leaving CIA and
being circulated around Washington.
As the CIAs
traditions of analytical objectivity continued to erode in the 1980s,
analysts who raised unwelcome questions in politically sensitive areas
found their jobs on the line.
analysts were pressured to back off an assessment that Pakistan was
violating nuclear proliferation safeguards with the goal of building an
atomic bomb. At the time, Pakistan was assisting the Reagan
administrations covert operation in Afghanistan, which was considered a
higher priority than stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. In
Afghanistan, the CIAs operations division and the Pakistani
intelligence service were helping Islamic fundamentalists, including
Osama bin Laden, battle Soviet troops.
One analyst involved
in the Pakistan nuclear-bomb assessment told me that the CIA higher-ups
applied almost the opposite standards that were used two decades later
in alleging an Iraqi nuclear program. In the Pakistani case, the Reagan
administration blocked warnings about a Pakistani bomb until the last
bolt was turned while more recently on Iraq, speculative worst-case
scenarios were applied, the analyst said.
One consequence of
giving Pakistan a pass on proliferation was that Pakistan did succeed in
developing nuclear weapons, which have contributed to an escalating arms
race with India in South Asia. It also has created the potential for
Islamic extremists to gain control of the Bomb by taking power in
Missing the Fall
The politicization of
intelligence in the 1980s had other effects. Under pressure always to
exaggerate the Soviet threat, analysts had no incentive to point out the
truth, which was that the Soviet Union was a decaying, corrupt and
inefficient regime tottering on the brink of collapse. To justify
soaring military budgets and interventions in Third World conflicts, the
Reagan administration wanted the Soviets always to be depicted as 10
systematic distortion of the CIAs Soviet intelligence assessments
turned out to be a political win-win for Reagan and his supporters.
Not only did Congress
appropriate hundreds of billions of dollars for military projects
favored by the conservatives, the U.S. news media largely gave Reagan
the credit when the Soviet Union suddenly collapsed in 1991. The CIA
did take some lumps for missing one of the most significant political
events of the century, but Reagans success in winning the Cold War is
now solidly entrenched as conventional wisdom.
The accepted version
of events goes this way: the Soviets were on the ascendance before
Reagan took office, but thanks to Reagans strategic missile defense
program and his support for right-wing insurgencies, such as arming
contra rebels in Nicaragua and Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan,
the Soviet Union fell apart.
A more realistic
assessment would point out that the Soviets had been in decline for
decades, largely from the devastation caused by World War II and the
effective containment strategies followed by presidents from Harry
Truman and Dwight Eisenhower to Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. The rapid
development of technology in the West and the lure of Western consumer
goods accelerated this Soviet collapse.
But the U.S. news
media never mounted a serious assessment of how the Cold War really was
won. The conservative press corps naturally pressed its favored theme of
Reagan turning the tide, while a complacent mainstream press offered
little additional context.
The plight of the CIA
analysts in the 1980s also received little attention in Washington amid
the triumphalism of the early 1990s. The story did surface briefly in
1991 during Gatess confirmation hearings to become President George H.W.
Bushs CIA director. Then, a group of CIA analysts braved the
administrations wrath by protesting the politicization of
Led by Soviet
specialist Melvyn Goodman, the dissidents fingered Gates as the key
politicization culprit. Their testimony added to doubts about Gates,
who was already under a cloud for his dubious testimony on the
Iran-contra scandal and allegations that he had played a role in another
covert scheme to assist Saddam Husseins Iraq. But the elder George Bush
lined up solid Republican backing and enough accommodating Democrats
particularly Sen. David Boren, the Senate Intelligence Committee
chairman to push Gates through.
Borens key staff
aide who limited the investigation of Gates was George Tenet, whose
behind-the-scenes maneuvering on Gatess behalf won the personal
appreciation of the senior George Bush. Those political chits would
serve Tenet well a decade later when the younger George Bush protected
Tenet as his own CIA director, even after the intelligence failure of
Sept. 11, 2001, and later embarrassing revelations about faulty
intelligence on Iraqs WMD.
With the Cold War
over, the need for objective intelligence also seemed less pressing.
Political leaders apparently didnt grasp the potential danger of
allowing a corrupted U.S. intelligence process to remain in place. There
was a brief window for action with Bill Clintons election in 1992, but
the incoming Democrats lacked the political will to demand serious
issue was put squarely before Clintons incoming national security team
by former CIA analyst Peter Dickson, who wrote a two-page memo on Dec.
10, 1992, to Samuel Sandy Berger, a top Clinton national security
aide. Dickson was an analyst who suffered retaliation after refusing to
rewrite a 1983 assessment that noted Soviet restraint on nuclear
proliferation. His CIA superiors didnt want to give the Soviets any
credit for demonstrating caution on the nuclear technology front. When
Dickson stood by his evidence, he soon found himself facing accusations
about his psychological fitness.
Dickson urged Clinton
to appoint a new CIA director who understood the deeper internal
problems relating to the politicization of intelligence and the
festering morale problem within the CIA. In urging a housecleaning,
Dickson wrote, This problem of intellectual corruption will not
disappear overnight, even with vigorous remedial action. However, the
new CIA director will be wise if he realizes from the start the dangers
in relying on advice of senior CIA office managers who during the past
12 years advanced and prospered in their careers precisely because they
had no qualms about suppressing intelligence or slanting analysis to
suit the interest of Casey and Gates.
The appeals from
Dickson and other CIA veterans were largely ignored by Clinton and his
top aides, who were more interested in turning around the U.S. economy
and enacting some modest social programs. Although Gates was removed as
CIA director, Clinton appointed James Woolsey, a neo-conservative
Democrat who had worked closely with the Reagan-Bush administrations.
Under Woolsey and Clintons subsequent CIA directors, the Gates team
sans Gates consolidated its bureaucratic power.
The old ideal of
intelligence analysis free from political taint was never restored.
Clintons final CIA director was George Tenet, who was kept on by George
W. Bush in 2001. In violation of the CIAs long-standing tradition of
avoiding even the appearance of partisanship, Tenet happily presided
over the ceremony that renamed the CIAs Langley, Va., headquarters the
George Bush Center for Intelligence, after George Bush senior.
The Iraq Debacle
Tenet also has proved
himself a loyal bureaucrat to the second Bush administration. For
instance, in February when Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the
United Nations Security Council about Iraqs alleged WMD program, Tenet
was prominently seated behind Powell, giving the CIAs imprimatur to
Powells assertions that turned out to be a mixture of unproved
assertions, exaggerations and outright lies. At one point in his speech,
Powell even altered the text of intercepted conversations between Iraqi
officials to make their comments appear incriminating. [For details, see
If one goes back to
that very long presentation [by Powell], point by point, one finds that
this was not a very honest explanation, said Greg Thielmann, a former
senior official in the State Departments Bureau of Intelligence and
Research, in an interview with PBS Frontline. I have to conclude
Secretary Powell was being a loyal secretary of state, a good soldier
as it were, building the administrations case before the international
community. [For details, see Frontlines Truth,
War and Consequences.]
primary responsibility should have been to the integrity of the
intelligence product, he was backing up Powell in helping the
administration build a bogus case before the U.N.
Now, as the case for
Iraqs possession of trigger-ready WMD has fallen apart, the Washington
debate has turned to who was at fault for the shoddy intelligence, a
topic under investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
In testimony before
the Senate Armed Services Committee on June 25, Army Lt. Gen. John
Abizaid offered a clue when he compared the accuracy of tactical
intelligence in the Iraq war versus the faulty strategic intelligence.
Intelligence was the most accurate that I have ever seen on the
tactical level, probably the best Ive ever seen on the operational
level, and perplexingly incomplete on the strategic level with regard to
weapons of mass destruction, said Abizaid, who heads the U.S. Central
Command, which is responsible for Iraq.
In other words, the
intelligence handled by low-level personnel was excellent. It was the
intelligence that went through senior levels of the Bush administration
The WMD issue really
comes down to two questions: Was the CIAs intelligence analysis that
bad or did the White House cherry-pick the intelligence that it wanted
to march the country off to war? The answer appears to be that both
points are true. A thoroughly politicized CIA slanted the intelligence
in the direction that Bush wanted and the White House then trimmed off
any caveats the CIA may have included.
The CIAs internal
complaint that it was just the victim of administration ideologues is
undercut by its own analytical products, including a post-invasion
report claiming that two captured Iraqi trailers were labs to produce
chemical or biological weapons. That claim has since collapsed as
evidence has emerged to show that the labs were for making hydrogen for
artillery weather balloons. [For an early critique of this CIA report,
see Consortiumnews.coms "America's
Plus, while Tenet and
the CIA have noted that they objected to other bogus administration
claims, such as the assertion that Iraq was seeking yellowcake uranium
from Niger, those protests were mostly half-hearted and made behind
closed doors. Bush was only forced to back off the yellowcake claim,
which he cited in his State of the Union address, after former
Ambassador Wilson went public with evidence that the allegation was a
While it's true that
Tenet put up little fight for the CIA's tattered integrity, the Bush
administration didn't want to chance having its Iraqi WMD allegations
vetted by any serious intelligence professionals. At the State
Department, Pentagon and White House, senior political officials created
their own channels for accessing raw or untested intelligence that was
then used to buttress the charges.
In a New Yorker
article about CIA analysts again on the defensive, journalist Seymour
Hersh described this stovepiping process of sending raw intelligence
to the top. Intelligence agencies have historically objected to this
technique because policy makers will tend to select unvetted information
that serves their purposes and use it to discredit the more measured
assessments of intelligence professionals.
The analysts at the
CIA were beaten down defending their assessments, a former CIA official
told Hersh. And they blame Tenet for not protecting them. Ive never
seen a government like this. [See Hershs The
Stovepipe, The New Yorker, Oct. 27, 2003]
But the intelligence
analysts werent the only ones coming under attack for pointing out
evidence that didnt conform to the Bush administrations propaganda.
From the start of its drive to invade Iraq, the administration treated
the war like a public relations game, with the goal of manufacturing
consent or at least silencing any meaningful opposition.
undermined Bushs conclusions was minimized or discarded. People who
revealed unwanted evidence were personally discredited or intimidated.
When former Ambassador Wilson reported that he had been assigned by the
CIA to investigate the Niger yellowcake claims and found them bogus,
administration officials leaked the fact that Wilsons wife, Valerie
Plame, was an undercover CIA officer.
This clumsy attempt
to discredit or punish Wilson is now the subject of a criminal
investigation by the U.S. Justice Department because leaking the
identity of an undercover CIA officer can be a crime. The leak also may
have put at risk agents who worked with Plame. Bush has said he hopes
the leaker will be identified and taken care of, but hes also stated
that he doubts the culprits will ever be caught.
'Slime and Defend'
Still, it's not clear
how committed the administration really is to getting to the bottom of
this potential felony. While Bush was publicly denouncing the leak
against Wilsons wife, an unnamed Republican aide on Capitol Hill told
the New York Times that the underlying White House strategy was to
slime and defend, that is to slime Wilson and defend Bush. [NYT,
Oct. 2, 2003]
The slime and
defend strategy has been carried forward by conservative news outlets
with the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Rev. Sun Myung Moons
Washington Times attacking Wilson's motives, even as Wilsons debunking
of the Niger allegations has been borne out by other investigations.
Joseph C. Wilson IV,
the man accusing the White House of a vendetta against his wife, is an
ex-diplomat turned Democratic partisan, declared a front-page article
in the Washington Times. Mr. Wilson told the Washington Post he and his
wife are already discussing who will play them in the movie.
[Washington Times, Oct. 2, 2003]
The Washington Times
returned to its anti-Wilson campaign several days later. As for Mr.
Wilson himself, his hatred of Mr. Bushs policies borders on the
pathological, wrote Washington Times columnist Donald Lambro on Oct. 6.
This is a far-left Democrat who has been relentlessly bashing the
presidents Iraq war policies.
The mystery behind this dubious
investigation is why this Bush-hater was chosen for so sensitive a
The Wall Street
Journal also raised questions about Wilsons motives. Joe Wilson (Ms.
Plames husband) has made no secret of his broad disagreement with Bush
policy since outing himself with an op-ed, the Journal wrote in a lead
editorial on Oct. 3, 2003.
attacks on Wilsons alleged bias (which he denies) have continued even
as Bushs hand-picked Iraqi weapons inspector David Kay was confirming
Wilsons findings. In his report to the CIA and Congress, Kay
acknowledged that no evidence has been found to support the stories
about Iraq seeking African uranium.
To date we have not
uncovered evidence that Iraq undertook significant post-1998 steps to
actually build nuclear weapons or produce fissile material, Kay said.
between fact and spin apparently has grown so complete among Bushs
allies that they cant stop attacking Wilsons findings as biased even
when the facts he uncovered are being confirmed by one of Bushs own
The attacks on Wilson
also do not stand alone. In the drive to limit debate about Bushs case
for war, his allies have ostracized virtually all major critics of the
administrations WMD claims, including the U.N.s chief weapons
inspector Hans Blix and former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter.
campaigns also have been mounted against celebrities, such as actor Sean
Penn and the music group Dixie Chicks, for criticizing Bushs rush to
war. When France urged more time for U.N. weapons inspections, Bushs
supporters organized boycotts of French products, poured French wine in
gutters and renamed French fries as Freedom Fries.
A letter-writer to
the Los Angeles Times, Wally Armstrong of Torrance, Calif., noted the
vilification of these critics as he urged public hearings on the WMD
controversy. Several months ago, former United Nations arms inspector
Scott Ritter (a former Marine) was called a traitor by many on the cable
news talk shows for saying that most of the chemical and biological
weapons in Iraq had been destroyed, Armstrong wrote.
France was demonized
for suggesting that the U.N. should be given a few more months to
complete its inspections and for requesting more inspectors. Chief U.N.
weapons inspector Hans Blix was berated for not finding weapons of mass
destruction in sites presented to him by the Bush administration. After
almost three months of inspections, with 1,400 inspectors now on the
ground, I think its perfectly appropriate to ask the Bush
administration, How are we doing? Armstrong wrote. [Los Angeles
Times, June 22, 2003]
As with the Wilson
case, Bush and his supporters haven't let the failure to find the
alleged trigger-ready WMD stop their efforts to discredit these critics.
Instead of apologies, for instance, Ritter continues to suffer from
conservative smears about his patriotism.
In one particularly
smarmy performance on June 12, Fox News anchor Bill OReilly teamed up
with Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., to air suspicions that Ritter had been
bribed by the Iraqis to help them cover up their illegal weapons.
Neither OReilly nor Pence had any evidence that Ritter accepted a
bribe, so they framed the segment as a demand that the FBI investigate
Ritter with the purported goal of clearing him of any suspicion of
The segment noted
that a London newspaper reporter had found Iraqi documents showing that
Ritter had been offered some gold as gifts for his family. I turned
down the gifts and reported it to the FBI when I came back, Ritter said
in an interview with Fox News.
statement stands uncontradicted, OReilly and Pence demanded that the
FBI disclose what it knew about Ritters denial. Now, we want to know
whether that was true, said OReilly about whether Ritter had reported
the alleged bribe. The FBI wouldnt tell us. OReilly then asked Pence
what he had done to get the FBI to investigate Ritter.
After that report in
the British newspaper, many of us on Capitol Hill were very concerned,
Pence said. Candidly, Bill, theres no one whos done more damage to
the argument of the United States that Iraq was in possession of large
stores of weapons of mass destruction leading up to Operation Iraqi
Freedom other than Scott Ritter, and so the very suggestion that
theres evidence of treasonous activity or even bribery, I believe,
merits an investigation. I contacted the attorney general about that
While Pences point
was clear that Ritters role as a skeptic about Bushs WMD claims made
him an appropriate target for a treason investigation OReilly tried
to present the case as simply a desire to corroborate Ritters on-air
I mean Ritter came
on here. He said, hey, yes, they made the offer, I declined it, I turned
it over to the FBI, OReilly said. All we want to do is confirm
Ritters story. [Fox News The OReilly Factor, June 12, 2003]
Time and again, Bush
and his administration have replaced the principle that good
intelligence makes for good policy with the near-opposite approach: you
start with a conclusion and then distort all available information to
sell the pre-ordained policy to a gullible, ill-informed or frightened
The WMD intelligence
was pushed through a kind of backward filter. Instead of removing the
imprecision that comes with raw intelligence, the Bush administrations
intelligence process let through the dross as long as it fit with Bushs
goal of bolstering political support for the war.
As the Iraqi death
toll mounts and the price tag for the U.S. occupation grows, a similar
process of intelligence manipulation is now being applied to the
so-called reconstruction phase. Bush and his surrogates are picking
and choosing the evidence that is designed to sell the public on the
notion that Operation Iraqi Freedom is still going great.
misleading rhetoric has switched from exaggerating the danger posed by
Saddam Hussein to exaggerating the gains attributable to the invasion.
New half-truths and lies are quickly replacing the old ones, lest
Americans begin to wonder how they had been misled by the previous bogus
Unlike the fictional
president in Tom Clancy's Sum of All Fears who was tricked into that
really bad information Bush and his team have actively sought out
the bad information and assembled it as justification for going to war.
This administration, which can sometimes be stranger-than-fiction,
didn't just peer into the fog of war. It set up the fog machine.
While a correspondent for the Associated Press
and Newsweek in the 1980s, Robert Parry broke many of the stories now
known as the Iran-contra scandal. His latest book on the manipulation of
intelligence is entitled Lost History.