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Politicization of the Intelligence Process

Hours after the 9/11 attacks, Donald Rumsfeld  asked his aides to look for evidence of Iraqi involvement, according to notes taken by Stephen Cambone, now undersecretary of defence for intelligence. The notes have just been declassified under the US Freedom of Information Act  in response to a request by law student and blogger Thad Anderson and published in the Guardian and elsewhere. (Time Magazine's Andrew Sullivan gives his post the title of Prof. Glenn Instapundit Reynold's new book An Army of Davids about ordinary people beating mass media, government and other Goliaths.)
Bob Woodward apparently had access to the classified documents and quoted from Chambone's notes in his book Plan of Attack: "hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] @ same time—not only UBL [Usama Bin Laden]." According to Woodward, Colin Powell then said "What the hell! What are these guys thinking about? Can't you get these guys back in the box?"
Paul. R. Pillar, the National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005, describes in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs how from his standpoint the "Bush administration disregarded the community's expertise, politicized the intelligence process, and selected unrepresentative raw intelligence to make its public case":
The administration used intelligence not to inform decision-making, but to justify a decision already made. It went to war without requesting -- and evidently without being influenced by -- any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq. (...) If the entire body of official intelligence analysis on Iraq had a policy implication, it was to avoid war -- or, if war was going to be launched, to prepare for a messy aftermath.
The essay of this former high-level official does not include any new revelations and accusations, but is a good summary of familiar criticism of the use of intelligence to justify the Iraq war. Concerning the prospects of a democratic Iraq, he writes:
Before the war, on its own initiative, the intelligence community considered the principal challenges that any postinvasion authority in Iraq would be likely to face. It presented a picture of a political culture that would not provide fertile ground for democracy and foretold a long, difficult, and turbulent transition. (...) The intelligence community argued that any value Iraq might have as a democratic exemplar would be minimal and would depend on the stability of a new Iraqi government and the extent to which democracy in Iraq was seen as developing from within rather than being imposed by an outside power. More likely, war and occupation would boost political Islamand increase sympathy for terrorists' objectives -- and Iraq would become a magnet for extremists from elsewhere in the Middle East.


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David on :

The television newsman Ted Koppel had an op/ed piece in the New York Times the other day that pretty much explains it all. You can read it (without a subscription) here:

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