Saturday, April 14, 2007

 

The Emperor's Tailor

The newly ascended Democrat majority in Congress have obviously decided to make their fabled “cooked intelligence” trope the centerpiece of their legislative legacy. Senator Carl Levin plays Brother Grimm in their myth-making in the Senate, and shows no sign of having any interest in truth (or full disclosure).

Thomas Joscelyn, writing at Weekly Standard, summarizes the facts, long-in-evidence, that refutes Levin’s untruthful crusade against “pre-war intelligence.”

This will of course make no difference to the willfully or constitutionally ignorant. Levin, oddly, can’t really be numbered among these, since he knew the factual basis for Intelligence behind our decision to invade Iraq, back when we did so, and has only changed his tune for political opportunity since.

Joscelyn finds startling the Post lead-in on the story:
"Captured Iraqi documents and intelligence interrogations of Saddam Hussein and two former aides 'all confirmed' that Hussein's regime was not directly cooperating with al-Qaeda before the U.S. invasion of Iraq."
Joscelyn rightly dismisses the notion that we should put any stock in denials by Hussein and his top aides that they had any truck with or cooperated in any way with Al Qaeda. Hussein also denied gassing Kurds and Iranians, draining the marshes, conducted ethnic cleansing throughout Iraq, or having any designs on acquiring or developing nuclear weapons. He also insisted Kuwait was rightfully part of Iraq. Surely Levin wouldn’t rather believe Saddam and his goons, than those legitimate voices of the Intelligence Community who believed (and still do) that links were significant?

If critics want to take that route, there’s no point in further discussions, at least if you want to keep them rational or logical.

But what of the documents that somehow “confirmed that Hussein’s regime was not directly cooperating with al-Qaeda before the U.S. invasion of Iraq"?

Here’s a summary of what just a few captured documents actually show, chronicled by Joscelyn:
1. Saddam's Terror Training Camps & Long-Standing Relationship With Ayman al-Zawahiri. As first reported in THE WEEKLY STANDARD, there is extensive evidence that Saddam used Iraqi soil to train terrorists from throughout the Middle East. Joe Klein, a columnist for Time magazine and an outspoken critic of the Bush administration, has confirmed the existence of Saddam's terrorist training camps. He also found that Iraqi intelligence documents demonstrated a long-standing relationship between Saddam and al Qaeda bigwig Ayman al-Zawahiri.

2. A 1992 IIS Document lists Osama bin Laden as an "asset." An Iraqi Intelligence memorandum dated March 28, 1992 and stamped "Top Secret" lists a number of assets. Osama bin Laden is listed on page 14 as having a "good relationship" with the Iraqi Intelligence Service's section in Syria.

3. A 1997 IIS document lists a number of meetings between Iraq, bin Laden and other al Qaeda associates. The memo recounts discussions of cooperating in attacks against American stationed in Saudi Arabia. The document summarizes a number of contacts between Iraqi Intelligence and Saudi oppositionist groups, including al Qaeda, during the mid 1990's. The document says that in early 1995 bin Laden requested Iraqi assistance in two ways. First, bin Laden wanted Iraqi television to carry al Qaeda's anti-Saudi propaganda. Saddam agreed. Second, bin Laden requested Iraqi assistance in performing "joint operations against the foreign forces in the land of Hijaz." That is, bin Laden wanted Iraq's assistance in attacking U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia.

4. A 1998 IIS document reveals that a representative of bin Laden visited Baghdad in March 1998 to meet with Saddam's regime. According to the memo, the IIS arranged a visit for bin Laden's "trusted confidant," who stayed in a regime-controlled hotel for more than two weeks. Interestingly, according to other evidence discovered by the U.S. intelligence community, Ayman al-Zawahiri was also in Baghdad the month before. He collected a check for $300,000 from the Iraqi regime. The 9-11 Commission confirmed that there were a series of meetings (perhaps set up by Zawahiri, who had "ties of his own" to the Iraq regime) in the following months as well.

5. Numerous IIS documents demonstrate that Saddam had made plans for a terrorist-style insurgency and coordinated the influx of foreign terrorists into Iraq. In My Year in Iraq, Ambassador Paul Bremer says a secret IIS document he had seen "showed that Saddam had made plans for an insurgency." Moreover, "the insurgency had forces to draw on from among several thousand hardened Baathists in two northern Republican Guard divisions that had joined forces with foreign jihadis."
Joscleyn points out Levin’s dishonesty, about opinions within the Intelligence Community, and even of the Senator himself:
The bottom line is that members of the CIA, including the Agency's director, certainly believed in 2002 that there was a relationship between the Iraqi regime and al Qaeda. And no matter what he says now, Senator Levin knows that. In a June 16, 2003 appearance on NewsHour, Senator Levin explained:

"We were told by the intelligence community that there was a very strong link between al-Qaida and Iraq, and there were real questions raised. And there are real questions raised about whether or not that link was such that the description by the intelligence community was accurate or whether or not they [note: "they" here refers to the intelligence community, not the Bush administration] stretched it."
Levin’s motive in “spinning intel” are clear. Less obvious are the reasons behind The Washington Post’s unwillingness to make clear the actual state of intelligence in 2002 and 2003, the quite substantial evidence for some kind of relationship between Al Qaeda and agents of Saddam Hussein, if not Hussein himself.

My guess is that the Washington Post, as the premier “in town” paper, is thoroughly enmeshed with CIA officials (AKA leakers). The political legitimacy and expert credentials of these career manipulators are most exposed by revelations that the Company misread the intelligence during the run up to 9/11.

The CIA was the Emperor’s tailor, who swore up and down that the boss was well dressed. We all should have realized how naked we stood by the afternoon of 9/11. But the Agency continued to deny reality for years – and still does, judged by the continued leaking in their ongoing battle against the Bush Administration. All to preserve their illusion of analytic purity. Note to Democrats and Media Accessories: May you enjoy the CIA you’ve created in your war against President Bush.

John Hinderaker, regularly of Powerline, asked whether the behavior of the Post (or Levin for that matter) constitutes malpractice or malice.

Hinderaker provides a little more of the context of Levin’s mythmaking, and the Post’s unwillingness to do anything but pass through allegations without any independent reporting:
Yesterday the Washington Post reported on the declassification of a report by the Inspector General of the Defense Department as though it were a scoop, in an article headlined "Hussein's Prewar Ties to Al-Qaeda Discounted."
(snip)
As we noted a couple of months ago, the IG report was something of a joke. It criticized a Defense Department operation run by Undersecretary Douglas Feith for disagreeing with the CIA and the DIA on the significance of intelligence data on the connections between Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda. Given what we know now about the CIA's performance in relation to Iraq, one would think that rethinking that agency's approach to such an important topic would be applauded. But no--the IG thought it was "improper" for a group within the Defense Department to dissent from the CIA's dogmatic interpretations of the evidence. To read [the Post report], one would think that the Post is actually reporting new information on this long-contentious subject. In fact, the IG's report contains no news on the subject at all, and the IG made no attempt to figure out who--the CIA or Feith's Defense Department group--was right. The statements in the IG's report that lead the Post's coverage come from a single footnote; worse, the Post didn't even report that footnote correctly. Here is what the footnote says:

Noteworthy is that post-war debriefs of Saddam Hussein, Tariq Aziz, al-Tikriti and al-Libi as well as document exploitation by DIA all confirmed that the Intelligence Community was correct: Iraq and al-Qaeda did not cooperate in all categories. The terms the Intelligence Community used to describe the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda were validated, "no conclusive signs," and "direct cooperation...has not been established."

Put aside, for a moment, the fatuity of assuming that Saddam and his henchmen can be relied on to describe their regime's relationship with al Qaeda truthfully, and note how the Post misrepresented the content of the footnote. The footnote doesn't say that Iraq and al Qaeda were not cooperating before the U.S. invasion, as the Post erroneously reported; it says that "direct cooperation...has not been established," an entirely different proposition. Further, the IG's footnote says that al Qaeda and Iraq "did not cooperate in all categories." This refers to a slide in a presentation prepared by Feith's group which says that al Qaeda and Iraq cooperated across "all categories," of which ten were listed, e.g., training and financing. So, far from saying that there was no cooperation at all, the IG footnote said that the two entities didn't cooperate "in all [ten] categories."Further, by extracting (and misreporting) that single footnote, the Post misrepresents the overall tenor of prewar intelligence, as set forth in the IG's report. Far from flatly stating that al Qaeda and Iraq didn't collaborate, the CIA and DIA expressed doubt and agnosticism about the extent of such cooperation.
This, then, has been the basis of the Democrats dishonest allegations about “cooked intelligence,” lies that led to war, “cherry picking intelligence, and so forth. That this kind of analytic nitpicking gets amplified in the popular conspiracy mongering makes it all the more pathetic.

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