Senior U.S. Intelligence Analyst Defends Prewar Findings on Iraq

Discussion in 'Middle East - General' started by Lefty Wilbury, Nov 28, 2003.

  1. Lefty Wilbury
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    Lefty Wilbury Active Member

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    http://ap.tbo.com/ap/breaking/MGAY7SMSKND.html

    Senior U.S. Intelligence Analyst Defends Prewar Findings on Iraq
    By John J. Lumpkin Associated Press Writer
    Published: Nov 28, 2003

    WASHINGTON (AP) - A top U.S. intelligence analyst who supervised the production of the U.S. government's key prewar findings on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs says he believes those conclusions were sound, even though many have not been validated.

    Stuart A. Cohen, the vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council, a body of senior intelligence analysts which advises CIA Director George J. Tenet, argued in an article Friday that with all the evidence the U.S. government possessed, "no reasonable person could have ... reached any conclusions or alternative views that were profoundly different from those that we reached."

    Cohen was the acting chairman of the council when he oversaw the production of a National Intelligence Estimate summarizing U.S. evidence on Iraq's alleged weapons programs.

    Distributed in October 2002, it judged that Iraq had prohibited biological and chemical weapons and missiles and was producing more. It also concluded that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program but did not have a finished weapon, while noting the State Department's intelligence branch dissented from that view.

    "We have re-examined every phrase, line, sentence, judgment and alternative view in this 90-page document and have traced their genesis completely," Cohen wrote on the op-ed page of The Washington Post. "I believed at the time the estimate was approved for publication, and still believe now, that we were on solid ground in how we reached the judgments we made," he said.

    A longer version of Cohen's defense was posted on the CIA's web site Friday afternoon.

    Only a small portion of the classified National Intelligence Estimate was made public, in July. Last year, as the estimate was circulated within the government, the CIA released an unclassified paper that summarized its key points.

    The estimate's findings served as a foundation for the Bush administration's case for war.

    In his article, Cohen stayed away from discussing any divide between the U.S. intelligence community's judgments on Iraq and the way President Bush and his administration characterized these conclusions to the public. Some Democrats have said the administration exaggerated what intelligence community knew, ignoring uncertainties as it tried to persuade the world to support the war.

    Cohen did acknowledge some uncertainties, but did not speak to the politics of the issue.

    "There is a reason that the October 2002 review of Iraq's WMD programs is called a National Intelligence ESTIMATE and not a National Intelligence FACTBOOK," he said. "On almost any issue of the day that we face, hard evidence will only take intelligence professionals so far. Our job is to fill in the gaps with informed analysis."

    Cohen also set out to correct what he describes as myths that have emerged about the intelligence estimate on Iraq. The estimate made no recommendation on whether to go to war, he says. It relied on intelligence reports not from a single source, but many.

    The article also argued that there is little substantive difference between the capability to quickly produce weapons and possessing actual weapons. So far, weapons hunters in Iraq have found no finished chemical or biological weapons, but what they interpret as possible signs of a program to ramp up production of biological weapons on short notice. They also describe an Iraqi intention to acquire prohibited long-range missiles.

    Cohen said solid evidence of Iraq's weapons programs may yet be found.

    "Finding physically small but extraordinarily lethal weapons in a country that is larger than the state of California would be a daunting task even under far more hospitable circumstances," he says.

    Cohen, a 30-year veteran of the CIA, also worries that in the face of all the criticism, intelligence analysts will become averse to reaching - and pronouncing - conclusions on a given issue unless they have "ironclad evidence," something in short supply in the murky intelligence world.

    "Fundamentally, the intelligence community increasingly will be in danger of not connecting the dots until the dots have become a straight line," he wrote.

    Still, Cohen acknowledged the possibility the prewar judgments on Iraq were inaccurate.

    "If we eventually are proven wrong - that is, that there were no weapons of mass destruction and the WMD programs were dormant or abandoned - the American people will be told the truth; we would have it no other way," he said.

    http://www.cia.gov/cia/public-affairs/press-release/2003/pr11282 0 03.html

    AP-ES-11-28-03 1713EST
     
  2. Annie
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    Annie Diamond Member

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    Lefty Wilbury, good post. Same conclusion reached by every major power's intelligence agencies, something the lefties wish to ignore in their quest to bash Bush.
     
  3. DKSuddeth
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    DKSuddeth Senior Member

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    were we not told, by president bush and the rest of his administration, about hundreds of liters and tons of bio and chem weapons?
     
  4. Annie
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    Annie Diamond Member

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    Like this? http://news.indiainfo.com/spotlight/usiraq/15iraq.html

    Iraq has been saying that it has lost some of the documentation on destruction of these two deadly agents, but wants the inspectors to judge the amount destroyed from the contamination of the areas where it was destroyed. But inspectors are not sure that such a methods would enable them to determine the quantity destroyed.

    UN estimates that Iraq had 21,000 litres of VX and 10,000 litres of anthrax at the time the last Gulf war began.

    Iraq has declared 8,445 litres of anthrax, but says VX never went beyond the experimental stage.
     
  5. jimnyc
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    jimnyc ...

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    Thanks for the post, Lefty. This is what I've been saying all along.

    This is what we were told by intel from throughout the world. Do you think GW analyzed and inspected the region by himself? And "physically small" refers to the size of the containers that they can be kept in, not the total amount. One vile full of Anthrax/Sarin/VX can wipe out an awful lot of people. Spread these out over the country and yes, they would be extremely hard to find.
     
  6. Sevendogs
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    :) If Saddam had WMD, he would certainly use them against our advancing troops. He did not use them, because he did not have them. His sons fought fierecely to defend themselves using firearms and trying to kill as many Americans as they could. They would certainly prefer some WMD, if they had a chance.
     
  7. eric
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    Look we still do know what happened to them, and probably won't for a long time, but to say that he didn't use them because they were not there is not true.

    If he had used them, the entire International Community would have been enraged, this is the last thing he wanted. He relied upon the fact that nations were split over the war, and I'm sure he hoped we would give in to internation pressure.

    Furthermore their use on the battlefield would not have changed the outcome, you can be sure of this.
     
  8. dijetlo
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    Good post, Lefty.
    Mr. Cohen was one of the author of the assesment that was used as one of the pillars of the Bush administration war on Iraq, it is not surprising he is defending it (though interestingly enough the link to the CIA comes back " page not found", which may be the CIA distancing itself from these statements or they mat have just moved the page.)
    "There is a reason that the October 2002 review of Iraq's WMD programs is called a National Intelligence ESTIMATE and not a National Intelligence FACTBOOK," he said. "On almost any issue of the day that we face, hard evidence will only take intelligence professionals so far. Our job is to fill in the gaps with informed analysis."
    If you read his statements carefully, he is not defending the administrations choice to go to war, he is defending his CIA estimate. The intell committee has interviewed him, they wanted to know why his estimate didn't jibe with the analysts who actually work in the CIA, who were reporting little or no WMD activity on the part of Iraq.
    As far as the rest of the world is concerned, no, they couldn't prove Iraq had WMDs' either. With the exception of Brittain and Italy, they acknowledged their lack of hard intelligence and opted for inspections instead of war. It has nothing to do with "Bush bashing", it has to do with incompitance on the part of the people who took and estimate and treated it as fact.
     
  9. jimnyc
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    jimnyc ...

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    Whether we had 100% proof or not doesn't matter to me. The regime needed to be removed, without question. The possibility alone that he may have had WMD was just icing on the cake.

    The WMD declarations may have been faulty intel, but this was all going to happen eventually anyway.

    And regardless of the faulty intel, I have no doubt in my mind this regime would have acquired more WMD if given ample time. I can tell you now that that possibility no longer exists.

    I understand where the anti-war people are coming from and I too would like to see how the transfer of all this intel took place. But if I held a seat in congress I would have voted to go in whether the WMD data was there or not. Who wants to vote for me? :D
     
  10. Lefty Wilbury
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    Lefty Wilbury Active Member

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    the link didn't work because the ap didn't have the address right. here's the link and the full article for everyone so everyone can read it. which they should do:

    http://www.cia.gov/cia/public_affairs/press_release/2003/pr11282003.html

    Iraq's WMD Programs: Culling Hard Facts from Soft Myths

    The October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) has been dissected like no other product in the history of the US Intelligence Community. We have reexamined every phrase, line, sentence, judgment and alternative view in this 90-page document and have traced their genesis completely. I believed at the time the Estimate was approved for publication, and still believe now, that we were on solid ground in how we reached the judgments we made.

    I remain convinced that no reasonable person could have viewed the totality of the information that the Intelligence Community had at its disposal—literally millions of pages—and reached any conclusions or alternative views that were profoundly different from those that we reached. The four National Intelligence Officers who oversaw the production of the NIE had over 100 years' collective work experience on weapons of mass destruction issues, and the hundreds of men and women from across the US Intelligence Community who supported this effort had thousands of man-years invested in studying these issues.

    Let me be clear: The NIE judged with high confidence that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of the 150 km limit imposed by the UN Security Council, and with moderate confidence that Iraq did not have nuclear weapons. These judgments were essentially the same conclusions reached by the United Nations and by a wide array of intelligence services—friendly and unfriendly alike. The only government in the world that claimed that Iraq was not working on, and did not have, biological and chemical weapons or prohibited missile systems was in Baghdad. Moreover, in those cases where US intelligence agencies disagreed, particularly regarding whether Iraq was reconstituting a uranium enrichment effort for its nuclear weapons program, the alternative views were spelled out in detail. Despite all of this, ten myths have been confused with facts in the current media frenzy. A hard look at the facts of the NIE should dispel some popular myths making the media circuit.

    Myth #1: The Estimate favored going to war: Intelligence judgments, including NIEs, are policy neutral. We do not propose policies and the Estimate in no way sought to sway policymakers toward a particular course of action. We described what we judged were Saddam's WMD programs and capabilities and how and when he might use them and left it to policymakers, as we always do, to determine the appropriate course of action.

    Myth #2: Analysts were pressured to change judgments to meet the needs of the Bush Administration: The judgments presented in the October 2002 NIE were based on data acquired and analyzed over fifteen years. Any changes in judgments over that period were based on new evidence, including clandestinely collected information that led to new analysis. Our judgments were presented to three different Administrations. And the principal participants in the production of the NIE from across the entire US Intelligence Community have sworn to Congress, under oath, that they were NOT pressured to change their views on Iraq WMD or to conform to Administration positions on this issue. In my particular case, I was able to swear under oath that not only had no one pressured me to take a particular view but that I had not pressured anyone else working on the Estimate to change or alter their reading of the intelligence information.

    Myth #3: NIE judgments were news to Congress: Over the past fifteen years our assessments on Iraq WMD issues have been presented routinely to six different congressional committees including the two oversight committees, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. To the best of my knowledge, prior to this NIE, these committees never came back to us with a concern of bias or an assertion that we had gotten it wrong.

    Myth #4: We buried divergent views and concealed uncertainties: Diverse agency views, particularly on whether Baghdad was reconstituting its uranium enrichment effort and as a subset of that, the purposes of attempted Iraqi aluminum tube purchases, were fully vetted during the coordination process. Alternative views presented by the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the Department of State, the Office of Intelligence in the Department of Energy, and by the US Air Force were showcased in the National Intelligence Estimate and were acknowledged in unclassified papers on the subject. Moreover, suggestions that their alternative views were buried as footnotes in the text are wrong. All agencies were fully exposed to these alternative views, and the heads of those organizations blessed the wording and placement of their alternative views. Uncertainties were highlighted in the Key Judgments and throughout the main text. Any reader would have had to read only as far as the second paragraph of the Key Judgments to know that as we said: "We lacked specific information on many key aspects of Iraq's WMD program."

    Myth #5: Major NIE judgments were based on single sources: Overwhelmingly, major judgments in the NIE on WMD were based on multiple sources–often from human intelligence, satellite imagery, and communications intercepts. Not only is the allegation wrong, but it is also worth noting that it is not even a valid measure of the quality of intelligence performance. A single human source with direct access to a specific program and whose judgment and performance have proven reliable can provide the "crown jewels"; in the early 1960s Colonel Oleg Penkovskiy, who was then this country's only penetration of the Soviet high command, was just such a source. His information enabled President Kennedy to stare down a Soviet threat emanating from Cuba, and his information informed US intelligence analysis for more than two decades thereafter. In short, the charge is both wrong and meaningless.
     

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