Vital Signs

No Political Pressure?

That the intelligence community (IC) misrepresented evidence suggesting that Iraq was harboring WMD’s cannot be denied.  To what extent was this misrepresentation politically motivated?  “The Committee found no evidence that the IC’s mischaracterization or exaggeration of the intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capabilities was the result of political pressure.”

In this statement, the Senate Intelligence Committee implies that the CIA’s failures were its own fault and not the result of pressure from the Bush administration.  The second conclusion is false.

Take the story floating around that Iraq had attempted to buy tons of yellowcake (unenriched uranium) from the African nation of Niger.  This story led to former ambassador Joseph Wilson’s trip to Niger, his subsequent criticisms of the administration, pundit Robert Novak’s outing of Wilson’s wife as a CIA operative, and current investigations into the leak, with Novak and George W. Bush among those hiring lawyers.

The IC says that it first saw reporting on the alleged Niger-Iraq deal on October 15, 2001, and considered the report very limited and lacking in detail.  Only the CIA wrote up a report about it, three days later, in a Senior Executive Intelligence Brief.  On November 20, 2001, the U.S. embassy in Niger cabled that Niger’s French-led mining...

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