As the day goes on, Douglas Feith's defense gets stranger and stranger. First, according to Eric Edelman, Feith's office was merely engaged in innocuous policy work
, not (as the Pentagon IG concluded) "inappropriate" intelligence work.
Now, Feith, appearing on NPR's "Day To Day" show
, is saying that, in fact, what the Office of Special Plans did was no more than offer "criticism" of the intelligence community:
CHADWICK: Former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, thank you for agreeing to come back on Day to Day. And what would be your response to Senator Levin?
DOUGLAS FEITH: Well, what heâs saying is wrong and unsupported. The criticism that is being directed now at my former office is because my office was trying to prevent an intelligence failure. We had people in the Pentagon who thought that the CIAâs speculative assessments were not of top quality; they were not raising all the questions they should raise and considering all the information they should consider. And our people criticized the CIA. And they did not present an alternative intelligence analysis; they presented a criticism. And now, the inspector general is saying that criticizing the CIA was an intelligence activity that policy people should not have engaged in.
CHADWICK: Thatâs not what heâs saying. Heâs saying you briefed the president and the vice president, and you said that there was conclusive evidence that there was a meeting between the 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and an Iraq spy in Prague. That was doubtful then; itâs pretty much discredited now.
FEITH: No, thatâs absolutely not true. I mean, what youâre saying â there are about a dozen factual errors in your question there. Itâs just not true. First of all, I didnât brief them. I mean, thatâs part of it. But there were some people from my office and people from elsewhere in the Pentagon who were challenging the CIAâs assessment of the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship. And they were raising questions and they were not putting out their own conclusions and analysis. They were challenging the approach that the CIA took because they believed that the CIA had a theory that ideological opponents like secular Baâathists in the Iraqi government and religious extremists in al Qaeda could not cooperate for strategic purposes. And the critics in the Pentagon of the CIA said that the CIA was filtering its own intelligence and ignoring its own intelligence that was inconsistent with the CIAâs theory.
Now, remember, this isn't merely a word game that Feith's playing -- it has real legal ramifications.
But call this argumentation by stamping one's feet. First, no less an ideological ally of Feith's than the Weekly Standard straightforwardly wrote in 2003, "...make no mistake--contrary to what Defense now says--these are conclusions and this is analysis." Second, on page 311 of the Senate intelligence committee's 2004 report, there's this passage:
Though the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy stated during his July 2003 testimony to the Committee, "I asked a team to study the policy implications of relationships among terrorist groups and their sources of support," the team members interviewed by Committee staff each noted that at some point, and often predominantly, their work involved intelligence analysis. In several interviews, OUSDP staffers indicated that they reviewed both raw and finished intelligence and did undertake their own intelligence analysis after looking at (intelligence community) products and discovering that what they needed had not been produced by the (intelligence community). [my emphasis]
Maybe if Feith stamps his feet a little bit louder, his revision of history will carry the day.