Friday, April 06, 2007



More on the war against terrorists [not to be called the Global War on Terror].

Andy McCarthy at The Corner

Iraq and the War on Terror? Totally Unrelated

Ayman Zawahiri (in a 2005 letter to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq):  “I want to be the first to congratulate you for what God has blessed you with in terms of fighting in the heart of the Islamic world, which was formerly the field for major battles in Islam’s history, and what is now the place for the greatest battle of Islam in this era.”

Osama bin Laden (as quoted in a 2006 speech by President Bush):  "I now address… the whole… Islamic nation: Listen and understand… The most… serious issue today for the whole world is this Third World War… [that] is raging in [Iraq]." He calls it "a war of destiny between infidelity and Islam." He says, "The whole world is watching this war," and that it will end in "victory and glory or misery and humiliation."

Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO), Chairman of the House Armed Services Commmittee, explaining a March 27, 2007 memo instructing against the use of such "colloquialisms" as the war on terror (acceptable phrases now are the war in Iraq or the war in Afghanistan):   "The Iraq war is separate and distinct from the war against terrorists, who have their genesis in Afghanistan and who attacked us on September 11, and the American people understand this."

Perhaps Rep. Skelton could get a copy of the memo to al Qaeda — evidently they haven't heard the news that the mass murders they are carrying out in Iraq have nothing to do with the mass murders they are carrying out everyplace else.

Also from over at The Corner, Michael Rubin links to the Iraq-Al-Qaeda Briefing “at the center of the Pentagon-politicizing-intelligence controversy.”

The Washington Post touches on that same briefing in the context of an orchestrated attack by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) on prewar Intelligence.

The controversy revolves around a Department of Defense (DoD) department, specially tasked, run by Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith. Feith and his department developed intelligence assessments separate from and at times divergent from Intelligence Community (IC) consensus opinions, and the independent assessments of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other IC component Agencies.

The Washington Post reminds us in their story that Feith stands by his work:

Feith has vigorously defended his work, accusing Gimble of "giving bad advice based on incomplete fact-finding and poor logic," and charging that the acting inspector general has been "cheered on by the chairmen of the Senate intelligence and armed services committees." In January, Feith's successor at the Pentagon, Eric S. Edelman, wrote a 52-page rebuttal to the inspector general's report that disputed its analysis and its recommendations for Pentagon reform.

Here’s an extended excerpt from the Post story:

The briefing, a copy of which was declassified and released yesterday by Levin, goes so far as to state that "Fragmentary reporting points to possible Iraqi involvement not only in 9/11 but also in previous al Qaida attacks." That idea was dismissed in 2004 by a presidential commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, noting that "no credible evidence" existed to support it.

When a senior intelligence analyst working for the government's counterterrorism task force obtained an early account of the conclusions by Feith's office -- titled "Iraq and al-Qaida: Making the Case" -- the analyst prepared a detailed rebuttal calling it of "no intelligence value" and taking issue with 15 of 26 key conclusions, the report states. The analyst's rebuttal was shared with intelligence officers on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but evidently not with others.

Edelman complained in his own account of the incident that a senior Joint Chiefs analyst -- in responding to a suggestion by the DIA analyst that the "Making the Case" account be widely circulated -- told its author that "putting it out there would be playing into the hands of people" such as then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, and belittled the author for trying to support "some agenda of people in the building."

But the inspector general's report, in a footnote, commented that it is "noteworthy . . . that post-war debriefs of Sadaam Hussein, [former Iraqi foreign minister] Tariq Aziz, [former Iraqi intelligence minister Mani al-Rashid] al Tikriti, and [senior al-Qaeda operative Ibn al-Shaykh] al-Libi, as well as document exploitation by DIA all confirmed that the Intelligence Community was correct: Iraq and al-Qaida did not cooperate in all categories" alleged by Feith's office.

From these sources, the report added, "the terms the Intelligence Community used to describe the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida were validated, [namely] 'no conclusive signs,' and 'direct cooperation . . . has not been established.' "

This argument will no doubt outlast all of its participants. As a one-time intelligence practitioner, I think much of the “controversy” attached itself into two very different perspectives: one of intelligence assessment based on warnings and indicators, validity and reliability, analytic judgments and measured weighing of factual information as clues to broader patterns; and a law enforcement and judicial approach, based on evidence, a legal standard for final verdicts, proof, and conclusive judgments.

Note in the Feith presentation, and in the complaints against it as reported by the Post and trumpeted by Senator Levin, the two perspectives at war.

If legal proof is the standard, we might as well sit back and wait for the next, even more horrific 9/11 to happen, and then start collecting evidence.

If we are allowed to use good judgment, view behavior and public utterances at their face value, if we don’t allow ourselves to be waylaid by the legalistic arguments thrown up by our enemies – with full knowledge that they can and will use our own freedom and principles against us – then we maybe stand a chance at prevention.

The best tool of all is to agree upon first facts and root assumptions.

Even habitual critics of this Administration acknowledge that the US IC got more assessments wrong than right in the past 30 years. Rather than find fault, I credit former Secretary Rumsfeld for seeking to develop intelligence and policy alternatives to the predictable and often faulty products produced by IC bureaucracies, especially the CIA. The CIA has demonstrated, more than any other institution in US Government, to be riven by power politics and careerism, and complicit in subterfuge and intrigue. With the power and connections at their disposal, political players at the Agency feel no compunction against revealing state secrets, hiding and altering records to hide failure and enhance accuracy post facto, attempting to influence elections and political outcomes, and otherwise placing their own petty preferences and prestige above the national interests of the US.

Feith’s presentation, for whatever it’s flaws, accurately indicts the failings of the CIA and other IC bureaucracies immediately after 9/11:

·        Application of a standard that would not normally obtain

&shy                IC does not normally require juridical evidence to support a finding

This is without a doubt the greatest of all insanities to have erupted within the IC since the crippling of US Intelligence services and agencies in the 1970s, in reaction to Watergate era abuses. We keep buying into the rationales employed by our enemies, that somehow we must “prove” that nations sponsor terror or commit acts of war against us. Unfortunately, our IC in large measure contracted a near-fatal legalism in the wake of 9/11, as if the US needed to win in an International Court of Law, before we could ever act in our own national interests, on best available information.

Intelligence used to be value neutral, and information with which analysts had greater or lesser confidence was so indicated by a validity indicator. Likewise, a source was also so designated based on reliability. In the days after 9/11, the Bush Administration and Defense officials clearly had to fight as much internal resistance to change and action, as they did domestically and internationally. “Not the way we’ve always done things,” and “you can’t prove that,” and “that would never happen, we’ve never seen that before.”

The potential of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the hands of radical terrorists transforms routine bureaucratic stodginess into near paralysis in the face of grave threats and unknown dangers.

·        Consistent underestimation of importance that would be attached by Iraq and al Qaeda to hiding a relationship

&shy                Especially when operational security is very good, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”

State and non-state actors have developed ever more elaborate and complex means of masking operational, financial, managerial, and strategic planning relationships. It is tremendously difficult to verify such linkages and relationships even amongst nations, but in the second and third generation of proxy warfare, such relationships are ever more difficult to identify, let alone prove. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, and only the foolish or ignorant would think so. And yet, that formed the basis of much of US IC thinking about state sponsors of terrorism.

·        Assumption that secularists and Islamists will not cooperate, even when they have common interests

CIA analysts retained this rock solid assumption, and it blinded ever aspect of their analysis into modern radical Islamic terror groups, their members, and their state sponsors. A treasure trove of documents obtained in Iraq after the fall of the Hussein government, as well as the public declarations of terrorists themselves, completely refutes this assumption. Yet it still motivates Senator Levin and every tired old issue he wants to trot out now.

Senator Levin clearly wants regurgitate and re-chew a whole mess of stuff that’s clearly stuck in his craw since at least 2003. In fact, one can clearly observe that the new Democratic majorities in both Houses appear bound and determined to spend the next 2 years re-fighting every previous policy skirmish they lost when in the minority.

I think there are dangerous enough matters in front of us. How we got into Iraq is surely less important as what we need to accomplish now that we’re there. But, to Democrats, it is all about political point scoring. If dredging up old controversies and hoisting tired old canards gain them some political traction against a lame duck President, they’ll gladly do so. They aren’t just fiddling while Rome burns, they want to hold fancy costume balls amidst the flames.

We will yet live to see – and I fear it above all else within my lifetime – the classic example of a nuclear detonation without clearly apparent traceability to a known nuclear nation. If such an event occurs, count on the argument forming along the fault line between legal proof and logical supposition.

In the end, I don’t think we need to spend too much time deciding whether or not one rogue state or another was ultimately responsible, but systematically take out those nations that flout international norms of behavior, actively support terror, and threaten nuclear proliferation as a means to gain power and influence. That nations such as North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela form technological, financial, and military compacts to act against our interests is all we need to know. That these nations develop ties with terror proxies is all we need to know.

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