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Fired CIA Official Files Lawsuit “A federal judge has ruled that a CIA agent identified only as ‘Doe,’ allegedly fired after he gathered prewar intelligence showing that Iraq was not developing weapons of mass destruction, can proceed with his lawsuit against the CIA. The judge has ordered both parties to submit discovery requests–evidence they want for their case–to be completed by March 15, according to the CIA agent's lawyer and a spokesman for the Justice Department, which is defending the CIA in court.” (U.S. News & World Report)

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We've just added yesterday's briefing on Iranian EFPs in Iraq to our Document Collection. This is a 16-page brief presented to reporters, and not the transcript of the press conference itself, since the anonymous military briefers in Baghdad did not allow voice or video recordings into the room.

Two things to pay attention to: first, notice that the briefing just refers to Iranian support of generic "extremists," without specifying Sunni or Shiite, or who is allied to whom. Second, notice that there also isn't specificity about where in Iraq these EFP attacks on U.S. forces have occurred -- which might provide a sectarian hint as to who in Iraq is behind them.

Even now that the Explosively Formed Penetrators have been laid on the table in Baghdad, several questions remain unanswered. For instance: Why now, given that officials up to and including Donald Rumsfeld, have laid this particular charge at Iran's doorstep for years; and whether the influx of Iranian EFPs represents a deliberate attack by the Iranian government on U.S. forces.

On the second question, let me pass on something I heard in Iraqi Kurdistan last year from a knowledgeable source I'll call M. M has numerous contacts all throughout Kurdish and Arab Iraq and isn't beholden to any political faction. I can't vouch for the accuracy of the claim below, but for a year I've found it intriguing if elusive -- and, at the very least, not implausible. Take what follows with those caveats in mind: in the intelligence world, this is what's known as RUMINT, or "rumor intelligence."

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Finally, after weeks of delay, and presumably after it was made to "focus on the facts" and scrubbed once again by intelligence analysts, the administration's big slideshow on Iran's military ties to Iraqi insurgents was unveiled Sunday in Baghdad.

The PowerPoint presentation had a central purpose -- to prove that the most dangerous form of explosive being used against U.S. troops in Iraq, called explosively formed penetrators or E.F.P.s, were of Iranian manufacture. Roughly 170 (of the more than 3105) American casualities in Iraq were caused by EFPs, the briefers said. Serial numbers on the explosives were cited as the main piece of evidence linking the explosives to Iran.

The briefing took off from there:

The officials also asserted, without providing direct evidence, that Iranian leaders had authorized smuggling those weapons into Iraq for use against the Americans.... “We have been able to determine that this material, especially on the E.F.P. level, is coming from the I.R.G.C. - Quds Force,” said the senior defense analyst. That, the analyst said, meant direction for the operation was “coming from the highest levels of the Iranian government.”

And who gave the briefing?

The officials were repeatedly pressed on why they insisted on anonymity in such an important matter affecting the security of American and Iraqi troops. A senior United States military official gave a partial answer, saying that without anonymity, a senior Defense Department analyst who participated in the briefing could not have contributed.

And why now?

“The reason we’re talking about this right now is the vast increase in the number of E.F.P.s being found,” one official said. American-led forces in Iraq, the official said, “are not trying to hype this up to be more than it is.”

Just F.Y.I. And just another day of what Vice President Cheney's national security advisor John Hannah has dubbed “the year of Iran."

Note: The Washington Post reports today that the Army is scrambling to equip Humvees with the necessary armor to withstand EFPs.

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 he’s 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 CIA’s 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: That’s not what he’s saying. He’s 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; it’s pretty much discredited now. FEITH: No, that’s absolutely not true. I mean, what you’re saying – there are about a dozen factual errors in your question there. It’s just not true. First of all, I didn’t brief them. I mean, that’s part of it. But there were some people from my office and people from elsewhere in the Pentagon who were challenging the CIA’s 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 Ba’athists 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 CIA’s theory.

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Just because the Pentagon IG report has been completed doesn't mean the Office of Special Plans matter is closed.

According to Wendy Morigi, spokeswoman for Senate intelligence committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), committee staff reviewed the inspector general's report and identified "additional documents and interview transcripts" that the committee doesn't yet have related to the OSP. Today the committee asked for that information from the Pentagon IG's office.

Before determining whether or not the intelligence committee's "Phase II" investigation -- scheduled for completion around the spring or early summer -- needs to go over the question of OSP's role, Morigi said, the staff wants to have the newly-identified material. Morigi wouldn't describe what that material is, but she described it as "foundational" to the IG's judgments.

Yesterday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that she doesn't remember if she saw a fax detailing an Iranian diplomatic overture in 2003. Today, Michael Hirsch of Newsweek has something that should jog her memory: the fax itself.

Through a Swiss intermediary, the Iranian regime proposed the basis for comprehensive discussions. If accepted, it would have meant the Iranians would have put on the table ending its support for Palestinian terrorist groups; "action" on transforming Hezbollah into a "mere political organization within Lebanon"; "transparency" that Iran isn't trying to develop WMD; and "enhanced action against Al Qaida members in Iran." In return, the U.S. would ultimately lift all sanctions on Iran; ensure "full access" to nuclear technology (!); and provide, in general, a "halt in hostile U.S. behavior," to include action against "anti-Iranian" terrorist groups.

It's of course worth noting that the sincerity of the offer is not something to accept at face value. But that would have been the point: to create a diplomatic mechanism to find out how serious the Iranians actually were about reaching a modus vivendi with the U.S., and to determine if the price for that was acceptable. (Giving Iran access to nuclear technology, for instance, sounds like a pretty bad idea.) The alternative path, however, appears to be clear: an escalating series of tensions with an Iran that's only grown more anti-American in the intervening three and a half years. If yesterday's hearing is any indication, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee intends to explore this question in the days ahead -- and maybe now Secretary Rice will have a clearer memory.

With the Pentagon's Inspector General condemning the Office of Special Plans' activities as "inappropriate" and Senators openly calling them illegal, we thought we'd put in a call to Rep. Chris Carney (D-PA).

Carney was an analyst in Doug Feith's shop, even contributing to the infamous briefing to members of the administration that claimed a far more conclusive link between Al Qaeda and Iraq than other intelligence estmates. So what does Carney, who still nurses a belief that there was a connection between the two (sub. req.), think about all this? It's an answer the nearly echoes the one from his old boss, Doug Feith:

"I read the inspector general's report with interest. As the inspector general found, this activity was authorized and lawful. I trust this answers the questions raised by the Senate Armed Services Committee."

Unfortunately for Carney, the report only begins to answer questions raised by Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), as he and Senate intelligence committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) have both said that they will press on to find answers about the administration's handling of intelligence.

It's easy to forget, but in November 2003, after the Weekly Standard published a leaked summary of the Office of Special Plans's analysis of the Iraq-al-Qaeda question, the Pentagon immediately released an official statement distancing itself from the OSP's controversial findings. The central contention of the statement tracks with the positions taken in Douglas Feith and Eric Edelman's rebuttals -- that whatever OSP did, it wasn't intelligence analysis.

The items listed in the classified annex were either raw reports or products of the CIA, the National Security Agency or, in one case, the Defense Intelligence Agency. The provision of the classified annex to the Intelligence Committee was cleared by other agencies and done with the permission of the intelligence community. The selection of the documents was made by DoD to respond to the committee’s question. The classified annex was not an analysis of the substantive issue of the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, and it drew no conclusions.

Of course, digging through such raw reports to criticize the intelligence community was exactly what the OSP* was charged with doing. And after the Pentagon released its statement, the Standard shot back its disbelief: "But make no mistake--contrary to what Defense now says--these are conclusions and this is analysis."

At the time, the Defense Department's statement merely seemed bizarre. Now, however, it appears to have had a subtler purpose than simply distancing the Pentagon from the OSP. By stating that OSP didn't perform analysis and "drew no conclusions," it's likely that the Pentagon was trying to forestall criticism of illegally performing intelligence work. Curiouser and curiouser...

* By the way, we're using the term "OSP" here as the inspector general's report does: as "generic terminology" for Iraq and al-Qaeda-related program activities that occurred in 2001 and 2002 in the office of the undersecretary of defense for policy.

Word from the Senate, where Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) has been presiding over a Armed Services Committee hearing on the Inspector General's report.

Levin says that, dividing the work with the Senate intelligence committee, they will seriously pursue the issue and plan to interview members of the administration who received briefings from Doug Feith, including National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and former chief of staff to VP Cheney (and current criminal defendant) Scooter Libby.

Update: It turns out that Levin is pursuing these interviews after Hadley refused to speak with the Inspector General while he was compiling his report.