In a Washington Post op-ed today, former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith defends himself against the Pentagon inspector general’s assessment that his office conducted “inappropriate” intelligence work in the lead-up to the Iraq war. It turns out, in Feith’s view, that he’s been vindicated after all.
As Feith tells it, his analysts were conducting no more than an academic critique of intelligence work, and to find fault with their effort is to accept the absurdity that policymakers must uncritically endorse the CIA’s product. He goes so far to say that since now, after the invasion of Iraq, al-Qaeda and former Baathists have colluded in attacks on U.S. forces, the CIA was wrong and he was right — even though what the CIA actually said was that there was no evidence of collusion before the war, and that the only thing that might bring on such cooperation was … a U.S. attack.Then there’s Feith’s description of what the 2004 Senate intelligence committee report said:
A 2004 Senate intelligence committee report praised the quality of the Pentagon’s Iraq-al-Qaeda work — the critical briefing and the related Pentagon-CIA dialogue. The policy officials “played by [intelligence community] rules” and asked questions that “actually improved the Central Intelligence Agency’s products,” it said.
Unfortunately for Feith, the report also concluded that the CIA’s intelligence product on the “murky relationship” between Iraq and al-Qaeda that Feith found so unacceptable was ultimately correct. Starting on page 345 of the report are these conclusions:
Conclusion 90: The Central Intelligence Agency’s assessment that Saddam Hussein was most likely to use his own intelligence service operatives to conduct attacks was reasonable, and turned out to be accurate. …
Conclusion 92: The Central Intelligence Agency’s examination of contacts, training, safehaven and operation cooperation as indicators of a possible Iraq-al-Qaida relationship was a reasonable and objective approach to the question. …
Conclusion 93: The Central Intelligence Agency reasonably assessed that there were likely several instances of contacts between Iraq and al-Qaida throughout the 1990s, but that these contacts did not add up to an established formal relationship. …
Conclusion 94. The Central Intelligence Agency reasonably and objectively assessed in Iraqi Support for Terrorism that the most problematic area of contact between Iraq and al-Qaida were the reports of training in the use of non-conventional weapons, specifically chemical and biological weapons.
Just as a footnote here: those claims were later recanted by their source, an al-Qaeda detainee, Ibn Shaikh al-Libi, who was likely tortured into making them. But anyway.
Conclusion 95: The Central Intelligence Agency’s assessment on safehaven — that al-Qaida or associated operatives were present in Baghdad and in northeastern Iraq in an area under Kurdish control — was reasonable.
Conclusion 96: The Central Intelligence Agency’s assessment that to date there was no evidence proving Iraqi complicity or assistance in an al-Qaida attack was reasonable and objective. No additional information has emerged to suggest otherwise.
Conclusion 97: The Central Intelligence Agency’s judgment that Saddam Hussein, if sufficiently desperate, might employ terrorists with a global reach — al-Qaida — to conduct terrorist attacks in the event of war, was reasonable. No information has emerged thus far to suggest that Saddam did try to employ al-Qaida in conducting terrorist attacks.