Monday, April 30, 2007


Thank Goodness for an Apolitical CIA

As linked by Instapundit, an open letter -- by present and former CIA employees -- in response to former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet's self-serving and face-saving interview on 60 Minutes yesterday.

Interesting enough, on the face of it. CIA employees are calling 'foul' over their director claiming that he had no responsibility for things that happened on his watch; this much is understandable and admirable:
[Y]our lament that you are a victim in a process you helped direct is self-serving, misleading and, as head of the intelligence community, an admission of failed leadership. You were not a victim.
But does it bother anyone else that the letter is heavily slanted politically?
We agree with you that Vice President Dick Cheney and other Bush administration officials took the United States to war for flimsy reasons. We agree that the war of choice in Iraq was ill-advised and wrong headed...
Isn't the CIA supposed to be apolitical? Gosh, I thought they were.

Now, the letter goes on to make several interesting revelations, which, on face value, would appear to bolster the anti-war cause (with which the letter-writers seem to agree heartily):

This is not a case of Monday morning quarterbacking. You helped send very mixed signals to the American people and their legislators in the fall of 2002. CIA field operatives produced solid intelligence in September 2002 that stated clearly there was no stockpile of any kind of WMD in Iraq. This intelligence was ignored and later misused. On October 1 you signed and gave to President Bush and senior policy makers a fraudulent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) - which dovetailed with unsupported threats presented by Vice President Dick Cheney in an alarmist speech on August 26, 2002.
Wait a minute. Weren't we hearing, in late 2002, that intelligence services all over the world were convinced of the existence of Saddam's stockpiles of WMD? Am I expected to believe that the CIA, alone in the world, had solid evidence to the contrary -- evidence of a negative, no less, that no WMD stockpiles existed anywhere in a country the size of California! -- and, having acquired this dynamite, chose to keep it to themselves?

(Let me add, for the record, that I never believed America's invasion of Iraq depended on knowing for certain about WMDs. I don't recall President Bush, or any of his cabinet, declaring unequivocally that Saddam had stockpiles of WMD. What I do recall, clearly, is that we could not prove he did not have them. After decades of trying to acquire nuclear weapons, after using chemical weapons on Iranian troops and on Iraqi civilians, we had no proof that he had destroyed all of his WMD, as the cease-fire Saddam signed in 1991 required him to do. In a post-9/11 world, a dictator of a rogue state, one known to be hostile to the United States, who either had or would soon have WMD, was a threat not to be tolerated. So Saddam was given one last chance to come clean, in the form of a UN Security Council resolution that demanded he do so; he did not. This, to me, was good and sufficient reason to go to war; stockpiles of WMD had nothing to do with it.)

The letter continues:
You were well aware that the White House tried to present as fact intelligence you knew was unreliable. And yet you tried to have it both ways. On October 7, just hours before the president gave a major speech in Cincinnati, you were successful in preventing him from using the fable about Iraq purchasing uranium in Africa, although that same claim appeared in the NIE you signed only six days before.

Although CIA officers learned in late September 2002 from a high-level member of Saddam Hussein's inner circle that Iraq had no past or present contact with Osama bin Laden and that the Iraqi leader considered bin Laden an enemy of the Baghdad regime, you still went before Congress in February 2003 and testified that Iraq did indeed have links to Al Qaeda.
The fable? The one that British Intelligence still stands behind, to this day?

And are we to assume that deceptions of this sort existed, and were reasonably well-known to senior CIA personnel at the time, and that they kept silent about it? Even when Democratic politicians were digging everywhere they could find for hard evidence?

Solid information, of the sort this letter playfully hints about, could have changed the course of the 2004 Presidential election. I do not criticize CIA operatives for keeping their mouths shut -- quite the opposite! -- but I do find it well-nigh unbelievable that such information never surfaced. Sen. John Kerry, as Democratic Nominee for the Presidency, was receiving intelligence briefings in 2004. Did no one, of the multiple signatories to this letter, find an opportune moment to whisper in the Senator's ear?

It would be wonderful to know that the CIA is leak-proof, that secrets never leak out for political advantage. But I don't buy it, not for a moment.

Later in the letter, Tenet is actually criticized for not being critical enough of the President:
Decisions were made, you were in charge, but you have no idea how decisions were made even though you were in charge. Curiously, you focus your anger on the likes of Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, and Condi Rice, but you decline to criticize the President.
Don't you just love how these people are on a first-name basis with cabinet secretaries?
Most importantly and tragically, you failed to meet your obligations to the people of the United States. Instead of resigning in protest, when it could have made a difference in the public debate, you remained silent and allowed the Bush Administration to cite your participation in these deliberations to justify their decision to go to war. Your silence contributed to the willingness of the public to support the disastrous war in Iraq, which has killed more than 3300 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.
The emphasis is mine -- but please note that the text I've marked is straight out of / Daily Kos. Is this how the much-vaunted CIA summarizes the Iraq war -- not in terms of deposed dictators, not in terms of national-security threats, but in body-bag counts?

(And by the way, isn't it just a little weird that the CIA, claiming access to all the behind-the-scenes information, can't specify Iraqi casualties any more precisely than "hundreds of thousands"? Heck, a ten-year-old with Google can do that.)

So, what do I think of this letter? I have no idea if the intelligence thrown about so casually should be taken seriously or not. (I suspect not; as I've indicated above, it doesn't pass the smell test for me.) I do think, however, that we're seeing some seriously disgruntled employees -- perhaps angry that their former boss is going public with his Bush-hatred, while simultaneously covering his own rear end... and leaving them out in the cold.

Time will tell. In the meantime, we're treated to an unusual spectacle: the Bush haters are eating each other alive, in full public view.

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