George Tenet, the director of the CIA, testified
before the Senate Intelligence Committee last
week about dubious intelligence data on the
Iraqi threat that made it into President Bush's
State of the Union address in January, he
said an ad-hoc committee called the Office
of Special Plans, set up Deputy Secretary
of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Assistant Secretary
of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith and other
high-profile hawks rewrote the intelligence
information on Iraq that the CIA gathered
and gave it to White House officials to help
Bush build a case for war, according to three
Senators on the intelligence committee.
told the Intelligence Committee that his own
spies at the CIA determined that much of the
intelligence information they collected on
Iraq could not prove that the country was
an imminent threat nor could they find any
concrete evidence that Iraq was stockpiling
a cache of chemical and biological weapons.
But the Office of Special Plans, using Iraqi
defectors from the Iraqi National Congress
as their main source, rewrote some of the
CIA's intelligence to say, undeniably, that
Iraq was hiding some of the world's most lethal
weapons. Once the intelligence was rewritten,
it was delivered to the office of National
Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, where it
found its way into various public speeches
given by Vice President Dick Cheney, Deputy
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Bush,
the Senators said.
these Senators allege that the office of the
Vice President and the National Security Council
were fully aware that the intelligence Wolfowitz's
committee collected may not have been reliable.
The Senators said they are discussing privately
whether to ask Wolfowitz to testify before
a Senate hearing in the near future to determine
how large of a role his Special Plans committee
played in providing the President with intelligence
data on Iraq and whether that information
was reliable or beefed up to help build a
case for war.
week ago, Tenet claimed responsibilty for
allowing the White House to use the now disputed
claim that Iraq was trying to purchase uranium
from Niger to build an atomic bomb in Bush's
State of the Union address. Last week, these
Senators and a CIA intelligence official said
the Office of Special Plans urged the White
House to use the uranium claim in Bush's speech.
Democrats in the Senate are now asking what
role the secret committee set up by Wolfowitz
played in hyping the intelligence on Iraq's
of State Colin Powell appears to be the only
White House official who questioned the accuracy
of the intelligence information coming out
of the Office of Special Plans. A day before
he was set to appear before the United Nations
Feb. 5 to argue about the Iraqi threat and
to urge the Council to support military action
against the country, Powell omitted numerous
claims provided to him by the Office of Special
Plans about Iraq's weapons program because
the information was unreliable, according
to an early February report in U.S. News and
was so disturbed about the questionable intelligence
on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction
that he put together a team of experts to
review the information he was given before
his speech to the U.N.
of the information Powell's speech was provided
by Wolfowitz's Office of Special Plans, the
magazine reported, to counter the uncertainty
of the CIA's intelligence on Iraq.
team removed dozens of pages of alleged evidence
about Iraq's banned weapons and ties to terrorists
from a draft of his speech, the magazine said.
At one point, he became so infuriated at the
lack of adequate sourcing by the Office of
Special Plans to intelligence claims he said,
"I'm not reading this. This is bullshit,"
according to the magazine.
for Wolfowitz, Rice and the Vice President
all denied the accusations, saying it was
the CIA who provided the White House with
the bulk of intelligence on Iraq and that
there is no reason to believe the information
isn't accurate. Tenet's spokespeople would
not return several calls for comment.
the CIA, earlier this year, brought back four
retired officials, led by former CIA deputy
director Richard Kerr, to examine the agency's
pre-war intelligence and reporting on the
Iraqi threat. Brent Scowcroft, chairman of
the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory
Board is also probing the issue, but whether
any of the investigations include the Office
of Special Plans is still undecided.
Hersh, the investigative reporter for the
New Yorker, wrote an expose on the Office
of Special Plans in May. In his story, he
claims a Pentagon adviser told him that the
committee "was created in order to find
evidence of what Wolfowitz and his boss, Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, believed to be
true_that Saddam Hussein had close ties to
Al Qaeda, and that Iraq had an enormous arsenal
of chemical, biological, and possibly even
nuclear weapons that threatened the region
and, potentially, the United States."
in a rare Pentagon briefing in May, denied
that the Office of Special Plans was cherry-picking
intelligence information to build a case for
war in Iraq.
Office of Special Plans "was not involved
in intelligence collection," Feith said.
"Rather, it relied on reporting from
the CIA and other parts of the intelligence
community. Its job was to review this intelligence
to help digest it for me and other policymakers,
to help us develop Defense Department strategy
for the war on terrorism... in the course
of its work, this team, in reviewing the intelligence
that was provided to us by the CIA and the
intelligence community, came up with some
interesting observations about the linkages
between Iraq and al Qaeda."
date, however, the Pentagon has failed to
provide any proof of a link between Iraq and
the OSP or "The Cabal," as the group
calls itself, according to the New Yorker
story, played a significant role in convincing
the White House that Iraq was a threat to
its neighbors in the Middle East and to the
United States. But the intelligence information
and the Iraqi defectors the group relied heavily
upon to prove its case were widely off the
mark. For example, according to one CIA intelligence
official in charge of weapons of mass destruction
for the agency, the OSP is responsible for
providing thee White House with the information
that thousands of high-strength aluminum tubes
sought by Iraq were intended for a secret
nuclear weapons program.
said last September in a speech that attempts
by Iraq to acquire the tubes point to a clandestine
program to make enriched uranium for nuclear
bombs. But experts contradicted Bush, saying
that the evidence is ambiguous at best. It
was later determined by the International
Atomic Energy Agency that the tubes were designed
to was to build rockets rather than for centrifuges
to enrich uranium.
the Iraqi defectors feeding the OSP with information
about the locations of Iraq's alleged weapons
of mass destruction were said to be unreliable
and responsible for sending U.S. military
forces on a "wild goose chase,"
according to another CIA intelligence official.
in point: In 2001, an Iraqi defector, Adnan
Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, told the OSP he had
visited twenty secret facilities for chemical,
biological and nuclear weapons. Saeed, a civil
engineer, supported his claims with stacks
of Iraqi government contracts, complete with
technical specifications. Saeed said Iraq
used companies to purchase equipment with
the blessing of the United Nations - and then
secretly used the equipment for their weapons
programs. He claimed that chemical and biological
weapons labs could be found in hospitals and
presidential palaces, which turned out to
be completely untrue, when the locations were
OSP provided the National Security Council
with Saeed's findings last year and the information
found its way into a White House report in
December called, "Iraq: A Decade of Deception
and Defiance" <http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/iraq/decade/sect3.html>
the information never held up and turned out
to be another big intelligence failure for
the Bush administration. Judith Miller first
brought the existence of Saeed to light in
a New York Times story in December 2001 and
again in January. The White House, in September
2002, cited the information provided by Saeed
in a fact sheet.
a bipartisan probe into the OSP is convened
remain to be seen, but one thing is certain,
the committee of pseudo spies wields an enormous
amount of power.
C. Johnson, a former counter-terrorism expert
at the CIA and the State Department, says
he's spoken to his colleagues working for
both agencies and its clear that the OSP has
politicized the intelligence process.
they're experiencing now is the worst political
pressure. Anyone who attempted to challenge
or rebut OSP was accused of rocking the boat.
OSP came in with an agenda that they were
predisposed to believe," he said.
Cannistrano, who worked for the CIA for 27
years, told the National Journal last month
that the OSP "incorporated a lot of debatable
intelligence, and it was not coordinated with
the intelligence community."
Leopold can be reached at: email@example.com
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