Pressuring the CIA to Lie, Calling Result an Accident

By David Swanson

Try as I might to believe that the President accidentally got it all wrong about those weapons of mass destruction and ties to 9-11, I just can’t seem to square it with the fact that the White House pressured the CIA to get it wrong or else.

And pressure the CIA they did.

This story is nicely documented on pages 54-55 of Congressman John Conyers’ report, “The Constitution in Crisis; The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Coverups in the Iraq War.”

A former CIA analyst described the intense pressure brought to bear on the CIA by the Bush Administration in these terms: “The analysts at the C.I.A. were beaten down defending their assessments. And they blame George Tenet” — the CIA director – “for not protecting them. I’ve never seen a government like this.”

Protecting them? From mushroom clouds and unmanned vehicles?

No, from Dick Cheney, who with his sidekick I. Lewis Libby visited CIA headquarters about a dozen times to personally ensure that CIA analysts knew precisely what their instructions were — what conclusions their analysis should yield. And this all went on with their always-eager-to-please-the-boss boss, George Tenet, standing directly behind the vice president.

Veteran CIA analyst Ray McGovern was asked if this were unusual: “No; not unusual; unprecedented! Never in my 27 years at CIA, from Kennedy to George H. W. Bush, did a sitting vice president come to CIA headquarters on a working visit,” said Ray. “That was not the way we did business. We would go down to brief the vice president in his office.

“If Tenet wished to protect his analysts from that kind of blatant political pressure, he would have told Cheney that CIA analysts could be at his beck and call; but in the Vice President’s, not the analysts’ offices. This was customary procedure, not only with the Vice President but with all senior policymakers. Had Tenet an ounce of courage, he would have said, ‘Don’t come to us; we’ll come to you.’ One distinct advantage of being located in the Virginia woods several miles from downtown was that this was a disincentive to policymakers like Cheney to invite themselves to come on over and ‘help’ with the analysis. This is precisely what the analysts do not need.”

Ray McGovern testified at a hearing hosted by Congressman John Conyers on June 16, 2005. “Sham Dunk: Cooking Intelligence for the President,” an 18-page chapter in Ray’s “Neo-CONNED Again!” exposes in detail the “intelligence-made-me-do-it” myth:

Mel Goodman, a 24-year veteran of the CIA, who lectures at the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute, has recounted what his students from the intelligence agencies told him about the political pressure they faced regarding Iraq:

“I get into the issue of politicization . . . [t]hey [the students] don’t say much during the question period, but afterwards people come up to me, D.I.A. and C.I.A. analysts who have had this pressure. I’ve gotten stories from D.I.A. people being called into a supervisor’s office and told they might lose their job if they didn’t revise a paper. ‘This is not what the administration is looking for. You’ve got to find W.M.D.’s, which are out there.'”

Here’s how The Washington Post described the pressure on intelligence officials from a barrage of high-ranking members of the Bush Administration:

“Former and current intelligence officials said they felt a continual drumbeat, not only from Cheney and Libby, but also from Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, Feith, and less so from CIA Director George J. Tenet, to find information or write reports in a way that would help the administration make the case that going into Iraq was urgent. ‘They were the browbeaters,’ said a former defense intelligence official who attended some of the meetings in which Wolfowitz and others pressed for a different approach to the assessments they were receiving. ‘In interagency meetings,’ he said, ‘Wolfowitz treated the analysts’ work with contempt.'”

On October 8, 2002, Knight Ridder reported that various military officials, intelligence employees, and diplomats in the Bush Administration charged “that the administration squelches dissenting views and that intelligence analysts are under intense pressure to produce reports supporting the White House’s argument that Hussein poses such an immediate threat to the United States that preemptive military action is necessary.”

Is there any way to fit all of this together with the “Oops, we got it wrong” line? Or the “Congress knew the same things we knew” line? Or the “All the world agreed” line, which always had a major conflict with reality anyway?

Well, maybe if we really stretch our capacity for loyalty and obedience. But what about the spying business? I don’t mean the recent scandal over spying on Americans by the NSA. I mean the spying on the National Security Council by the Vice President.

It has been reported that the Vice President’s staff monitored the National Security Council staff in such a heavy-handed fashion that some N.S.C. staff “quit using e-mails for substantive conversations because they knew the vice president’s alternate national security staff was reading their e-mails now.” Col. Lawrence
Wilkerson, as quoted by Maureen Dowd, Fashioning Deadly Fiascos, N.Y. TIMES, Nov. 5, 2005.

US Diplomat John Brady Kiesling resigned his post as a diplomat because of the flaws in the intelligence process. In his resignation letter, he cited his opposition to the “distortion of intelligence, such systematic manipulation of American opinion.” (WASH. POST, Mar. 9, 2003, page B-3.)

A CIA official working on WMD explained: “‘[T]here was a great deal of pressure to find a reason to go to war with Iraq.’ And the pressure was not just subtle; it was blatant. At one point in January 2003, the person’s boss called a meeting and gave them their marching orders. ‘And he said, “You know what-if Bush wants to go to war, it’s your job to give him a reason to do so” . . . He said it at the weekly office meeting. And I just remember saying, “This is something that the American public, if they ever knew, would be outraged” . . . He said it to about fifty people. And it’s funny because everyone still talks about that – “Remember when [he] said that.”‘” (From James Bamford’s “A Pretext for War.”)

Last year’s Senate Intelligence Committee report on prewar intelligence assessments on Iraq showed that committee chair, U.S. Marine Pat Roberts, always semper fi to the party, had acquiesced in White House instructions to cover up the rampant politicization. Roberts proudly insisted – disingenuously — that no intelligence analysts had complained about attempts to politicize their conclusions. What outsiders do not realize is that each of those analysts was accompanied by a “minder” from Tenet’s office, minders reminiscent of the ubiquitous Iraqi intelligence officials that Saddam Hussein insisted be present when scientists of his regime were interviewed by U.N. inspectors.

The hapless Democrats on Roberts’ committee chose to acquiesce in his claim that political pressure played no role — this despite the colorful testimony by the CIA’s ombudsman that never in his 32-year career with the agency had he encountered such “hammering” on CIA analysts to realign their judgment regarding ties between Iraq and al Qaeda in order to make them more compatible with Cheney’s. Subsequently the President’s own commission (Silberman-Robb) parroted the Roberts’ committee’s see-no-evil findings regarding politicization, even though that commission’s report is itself bizarrely replete with examples of intelligence analysts feeling the intense political heat—the “hammering.”

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