Feith Based Intelligence

By David Swanson

On Newsweek’s website you can flip through a short PDF slideshow of a presentation produced by the Pentagon in 2002. The presentation purports to show that Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda were working together and had been for years. Not only was this a presentation of intelligence at odds with what the legitimate intelligence community was saying, but the first slide in the presentation provides reasons why the intelligence community had it wrong. This hardly looks like the product of an office doing only policy work, rather than intelligence.

But that is what the Pentagon is claiming in a 53-page public rebuttal to a classified report by the Pentagon’s Inspector General on the work of Doug Feith and the Office of Special Plans.

The sort of work that office did has long been known thanks to numerous sources, including Karen Kwiatkowski.

According to Senator Carl Levin: “An alternative intelligence assessment process was established in the office of Under Secretary for Policy Doug Feith . . . that was predisposed to finding a significant relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. His staff then conducted its own review of raw intelligence reports, including reporting of dubious quality or reliability. Drawing upon both reliable and unreliable reporting, they arrived at an ‘alternative’ interpretation of the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship that was much stronger than that assessed by the IC and more in accord with the policy views of senior officials in the Administration.

“For example, the Feith office promoted the view that a meeting allegedly took place in Prague in April of 2001 – 5 months before 9/11 – between the lead 9/11 hijacker, Mohammed Atta, and an Iraqi intelligence officer. The Feith office took the position that this alleged meeting was ‘key’ evidence of Iraqi involvement in the 9/11 attacks – despite the fact that the Intelligence Community was skeptical that the meeting ever happened, and reported its skepticism in intelligence reports prepared for the highest officials in our government.”

A two-page summary of the classified report concludes that: “The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy developed, produced and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and al-Qaida relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community, to senior decision-makers,” and…”was inappropriately performing Intelligence activities of developing, producing, and disseminating that should be performed by the Intelligence Community.”

Levin reports that “In response to some of my specific questions, the Inspector General confirms today that: The Feith office produced ‘its own intelligence analysis of the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda’ and presented ‘its analysis to other offices in the Executive Branch (including the Secretary of Defense and the staffs of the National Security Council and the Office of the Vice President),’ and the ‘intelligence analysis produced by the Feith office differ[ed] from the Intelligence Community analysis on the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda.’ The Feith office presented ‘a briefing on the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship to the White House in September 2002 unbeknownst to the Director of Central Intelligence, containing information that was different from the briefing presented to the DCI, not vetted by the Intelligence Community, and that was not supported by the available intelligence (for example, concerning the alleged Atta meeting), without providing the IC notice of the briefing or an opportunity to comment,’ and The briefing drew ‘conclusions (or “findings”) that were not supported by the available intelligence, such as the conclusion ‘intelligence indicates cooperation in all categories; mature symbiotic relationship,’ or that there were ‘multiple areas of cooperation,’ and ‘shared interest and pursuit of WMD’ and ‘some indications of possible Iraqi coordination with al Qaida specifically related to 9/11’.”

Levin concludes: “The bottom line is that intelligence relating to the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship was manipulated by high ranking officials in the Department of Defense to support the Administration’s decision to invade Iraq when the intelligence assessments of the professional analysts of the Intelligence Community did not provide the desired compelling case. The Inspector General’s report is a devastating condemnation of inappropriate activities in the DOD policy office that helped take this nation to war.”

Inappropriate? That’s the conclusion drawn by the Inspector General. Feith’s work was inappropriate but not illegal, and no steps are needed at this time, since changes have supposedly been made and the inappropriate activities are over.

But Senator Jay Rockefeller, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee said in a statement: “The IG has concluded that this office was engaged in intelligence activities. The Senate Intelligence Committee was never informed of these activities. Whether these actions were authorized or not, it appears that they were not in compliance with the law. In the coming days, I will carefully review all aspects of the report and will consult with Vice Chairman Bond to determine whether any additional action by the Senate Intelligence Committee is warranted.”

According to numerous reports, the law Rockefeller has in mind is the National Security Act of 1947, which appears to make it illegal to engage in intelligence activities of the sort engaged in by the Pentagon, without notifying Congress.

It’s nice that Rockefeller is consulting with the Vice Chairman. But, this being a democracy, he probably wants to consult with the American people. You can encourage him to get tough on crime by phoning his office at 202-224-1700 or 202-224-6472 or Emailing him here.

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