<$BlogRSDUrl$> "Their failures are public, their successes must remain secret."

Wednesday, December 31, 2003



From Talking Points Memo:

...But there's another possibility: that is, that this decision isn't the result of the general progress of the investigation or the accumulation of evidence, but something specific. Or more to the point, a specific person. And that something has just taken place.

Obviously these are general scenarios, which may, in reality, overlap quite a bit. But what strikes me about this announcement today was its timing. And the timing leads me to think the third scenario is the most likely.

Here's why.

The other news developments from the administration on the Plame case have come at what you might call press-appropriate times. As in, late on Friday afternoons. Stuff like that -- the times guaranteed to get you as little press notice as possible.

This was early afternoon on a Tuesday, albeit, yes, the day before New Year's Eve. If this was just a matter of a slow accumulation of evidence, tomorrow afternoon would have been just as good, and would have gotten the story buried. Same goes for Friday.

Now a third point.

It's always been more or less an open secret who the perps are in this case. And they're very high-level folks -- people with deep influence of the formulation and implementation of policy. And the wrong-doing here is directly related to the execution of policy. So if a crime was committed, and if an indictment is forthcoming, it will bring under scrutiny a whole complex range of wrong-doing (though not necessarily criminal wrongdoing) relating to administration war policy and intelligence manipulation and other stuff we can go into at a later date.

The Washington Post this evening has an article quoting "Republican legal sources who have discussed the case with the White House and the Justice Department" who say that this will give the administration cover and 'depoliticize' the case.

Not likely.

If the real perps are indicted, the political implications will be obvious and undeniable. And the fall-out will be rapid.

Monday, December 29, 2003



The state of play on Plame

From Needlenose:

Many weblogs seek to be your indispensable resource for information about the Valerie Plame Wilson controversy. Alex Parker has his chronology of important links, Mark A.R. Kleiman has his Plamesville Diaries, and Calpundit has adopted it as a pet topic for his sensible commentary.

But the sad fact is, if you really want to understand what's going on -- about this as with so many other subjects -- you gotta come to the 'Nose. I explained more than two months ago that the only word of progress in the investigation would likely come from the team of Washington Post writers who broke the story open in late September, and sure enough they step forward this morning with a long-awaited update:

The Justice Department has added a fourth prosecutor to the team investigating the leak of an undercover CIA officer's identity, while the FBI has said a grand jury may be called to take testimony from administration officials, sources close to the case said.

Administration and CIA officials said they have seen signs in the past few weeks that the investigation continues intensively behind closed doors, even though little about the investigation has been publicly said or seen for months.

. . . Agents investigating the matter have been increasingly apparent at CIA headquarters in Langley over the past three weeks, officials said. "They are still active," a senior official said.
Perhaps as important as the simple news that the investigation is alive (as Joshua Marshall seemed to be hinting a couple of weeks ago) is that the institutional anger which sparked it is still burning as well:

. . . sources said the CIA believes that people in the administration continue to release classified information to damage the figures at the center of the controversy, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV and his wife, Valerie Plame, who was exposed as a CIA officer by unidentified senior administration officials for a July 14 column by Robert D. Novak.

. . . Sources said the CIA is angry about the circulation of a still-classified document to conservative news outlets suggesting Plame had a role in arranging her husband's trip to Africa for the CIA. The document, written by a State Department official who works for its Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), describes a meeting at the CIA where the Niger trip by Wilson was discussed, said a senior administration official who has seen it.

CIA officials have challenged the accuracy of the INR document, the official said, because the agency officer identified as talking about Plame's alleged role in arranging Wilson's trip could not have attended the meeting.
To quibble respectfully with some other commenters, I disagree with Alex Parker that the actual damage done by the Plame leak matters, with Mark Kleiman that noise from Congress will be the next step (or even relevant) if the investigation is stymied by John Ashcroft, and with Matt Yglesias that CIA director "George Tenet is ultimately more interested in protecting his job than in securing justice."

Here's my take: The war between the CIA and the White House over Iraq intelligence has been richly documented. When the intentionally damaging and/or insulting Plame leak happened, the CIA vowed revenge at all costs -- and if Tenet didn't personally feel this rage, he has been forced to endorse it or face a rebellion himself. Thus the CIA (as well as a possible White House mole who feels a moral line has been crossed) will not let this die quietly, no matter what Ashcroft tries.

The CIA et al. (and specifically the Post's sources, whoever they may be) are committed to making someone pay for this. They will wait patiently -- as they have so far -- to give the investigation a chance to proceed. But if there are signs of stonewalling, they will eventually step forward again to give the scandal a push.

Posted by: Swopa
on Dec 26, 03 | 4:21 pm | Profile

Sunday, December 28, 2003


Italians ignored Intel that Could Have Prevented Attack



Italian military headquarters in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah were blown up November 12 by terrorists who drove a truck through the main entrance to the former chamber of commerce compound bearing more than 800 pounds of explosives. An unusual feature of this worst attack on US allies in Iraq, 30 Italians and Iraqis were killed, was the fact that the Italian leadership had been warned three times by their intelligence officers of an imminent attack on the country's contingent in the city.

The main Italian building was located less than ten yards from the headquarters entrance, which had been modified to slow down any entering suicide vehicle, but post-attack visitors to the site said the passageway was not sufficiently narrow to force a vehicle to go slowly. No huge concrete barriers were in place, nor were perimeter areas (the headquarters sits on a main thoroughfare) closed to traffic. Six days after the attack, the head of Italian military intelligence (Sismi), told an oversight committee that as early as July his organization warned of the danger in the south of Iraq. The Defense Minister quickly dismissed the remarks, saying that Sismi's intelligence officers had issued nothing precise, that Sismi had passed information to the chain of command but, "this does not mean that intelligence had foreseen that there would be attacks."

Italian intelligence documents ["examined by The Washington Post"] contradict the Defense Minister. On 6 October, Italian intelligence warned of an "imminent attack," possibly by mortars, against either Italy's military force in Nasiriyah or Polish troops in southern Iraq. Two days later, intelligence predicted that an attack, organized by members of the Fedayeen, would take place "against the Italian contingent in Nasiriyah" and named two of the organizers. The next day, the Italian intelligence named two more Fedayeen believed to be planning an attack on Italians. The defenses of the headquarters were never increased despite the warnings; the Italian army chief of staff stated three days after the attack that isolating the Italian contingent would have interfered with its desire to work with the Iraqi public. The Italian intelligence reports in Nasiriyah reported cooperation between former Iraqi officers and the Fedayeen and also detailed a role in the attack by Ansar al-Islam, the violent fundamentalist organizations with ties to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda and the Taliban of Afghanistan.

The tragedy has several aspects worth noting: to demand who, what, where, when specifics in terrorist intelligence is a stupid dream; [conversely, the lack of specifics in warnings on terrorist attacks always affords politicians an easy excuse and potential fall-guys]; considering they were strangers to the area, the Italian intelligence people developed quite good data; the good data leads to the inference there are friendly Iraqis cooperating in Nasiriyeh; the desire to work with the Iraqi public is well and good, but protect your bases adequately; Rome politicians should realize that one needs to pay at least some attention to the facts when dumping on intelligence types [a passing familiarity with the Washington ebb-and-flow could have taught Rome that much]; and finally, intelligence liaison between friendly intelligence services is worth the effort for more than the exchange of data [it is unlikely the Sismi would have leaked their documents to the Post directly but probably could find a liaison buddy to handle it]. (Harvey) (WashPost 8Dec03, pA20 by Daniel Williams, Baghdad)

Tuesday, December 23, 2003



From FAS:


"The [Bush] administration has been unusually successful keeping
its policy deliberations out of public view, and millions of
government documents -- including many historical records
previously available -- have been removed from the public
domain," observes Dana Milbank in the Washington Post today.

See "Under Bush, Expanding Secrecy":



BUSH Admin is scrubbing the Net

from FAS:


The Bush Administration has repeatedly altered government web sites to eliminate items that it considers politically or ideologically distasteful.

In a gem of a news story, Dana Milbank of the Washington Post reported that the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) had deleted the transcript of an ABC Nightline interview with AID
administrator Andrew S. Natsios last April in which he said the reconstruction of Iraq would cost taxpayers no more than $1.7 billion, a gross underestimate.

See "White House Web Scrubbing," Washington Post, December 18:


AID officials told the Post that the page was removed because ABC News was going to charge for it.

But the exemplary Milbank contacted ABC News, which said that wasn't true.

A copy of the web page containing the Natsios interview that was deleted from the US AID web site is here:


Other instances of "political" modifications to official web sites were cited recently in the House Government Reform Minority report on "Politics and Science in the Bush Administration" available here:


Friday, December 19, 2003



'Gold Mine'

Saddam Hussein’s Loyalists Infiltrated U.S. Operations in Iraq

By Martha Raddatz, Dec. 18, ABCNEWS

— Agents for deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein have penetrated the U.S.
command in Iraq, ABCNEWS has learned. As a result, they have the potential to undermine U.S. authority.

Among the documents found in Saddam's briefcase when he was captured last weekend was a list of names of Iraqis who have been working with the
United States — either in the Iraqi security forces or the Coalition Provisional Authority — and are feeding information to the insurgents, a U.S. official told

"We were badly infiltrated," said the official, adding that finding the list of names is a "gold mine." LINK

- I've said for 3 months that Iraq had moles inside the PRC, but this news is not to be taken at face value. Saddam having a briefcase full of names of all Iraqi agents violates the most elementary notions of "need to know" operational security. More likely it is a disinformation attempt to get Iraqi moles to quit and discover who they are that way or at least to get them to pause in their activity for a while, while they try to figure out if this information is true.

Monday, December 15, 2003




After a decade of concerted effort to streamline and rationalize
the procedures for granting security clearances, there are
still major defects in security clearance policy, particularly
when it comes to industrial contractors doing classified work
for the government, according to a new report.

First and foremost, the system is plagued by delays in handling
of clearance applications, which sometimes take several years
to be processed, according to the 2002 report of the National
Industrial Security Program (NISP).

"According to those interviewed, the delays cost industry
countless millions of dollars per year," the NISP report
stated. "Often individuals left the company before they
actually worked in the position they were hired for, due to
delays in the clearance process."

Another major problem concerns the erosion in "reciprocity,"
i.e. the growing unwillingness of one agency to accept the
clearances issued by another agency without conducting a
separate, independent investigation.

"Based upon the responses given, it is difficult to recognize
that the entire executive branch is supposed to be operating
under uniform investigative standards and adjudicative
guidelines for security clearances," the report said.

"Overall, this report reveals that items identified as progress
points in our January 1999 NISP report are no longer
progressing," it said.

A copy of the 2002 NISP report, published last month by the
Information Security Oversight Office, is available here (1.7
MB PDF file):


Saturday, December 13, 2003



Former CIA agent was hung out to dry

By ERIC MARGOLIS -- Contributing Foreign Editor, TORONTO SUN

The case of former Central Intelligence Agency officer Edwin P. Wilson recalls the words of the great American thinker, H.L. Mencken: "Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under."

The Wilson case has outraged me for 20 years.

In 1982 and 1983, the federal court in northern Virginia - the same hang-'em-high court the feds now use to try terrorism cases - along with courts in New York and Texas, sentenced Wilson to a total of 52 years in prison for selling arms, including 22 tons of explosives, to Libya. He was also convicted on shaky charges of attempted murder.

Wilson, now 75 years old, has served 20 years in a maximum security prison.

I always believed Wilson innocent and spoke to him many times in prison.

"I was framed by the government," Wilson told me. "They want me to disappear. I know too much."

His words shake me to this day.

"They buried him alive in prison," a former CIA official confided to me.

Last week, Houston Federal District Judge Lynn Hughes threw out Wilson's two-decades old conviction. She wrote: "Government knowingly used false evidence against him," concluding "honesty comes hard to government."

Wilson, a veteran, tough-as-nails CIA field agent who specialized in running arms and mounting coups, was one of the agency's old-time "cowboys." In 1971, Wilson officially "retired" from the CIA and went into business on his own. In reality, the CIA used Wilson for potentially explosive clandestine deals it wanted to keep "deniable." ...

PS: New Blogs to Check out:

#1- Clone cone's: What is the Point?
#2 - KIck the Leftist's: Big Corporate vs. 13 y/o girl

Thursday, December 11, 2003



If they prevent ANY presidential briefs being released it helps them protect them Aug 8, 2001 PDB that might implicate Bush in foreknowledge of 9-11:


Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet has
intervened to prevent the partial declassification of a
1968 issue of the President's Daily Brief, overruling for
the first time an interagency panel that had ordered
release of the document.

DCI Tenet invoked the authority that was granted by a March
2003 Bush executive order which permits him to block the
declassification decisions of the Interagency Security
Classification Appeals Panel.

Independent historian Peter Pesavento had requested
declassification of the President's Daily Brief (PDB) dated
November 26, 1968 because it reportedly discusses the
status and implications of the Soviet manned lunar program,
a subject of his current research interest.

Remarkably, the Interagency Security Classification Appeals
Panel (ISCAP), an executive branch body composed of
representatives of five member agencies that considers
declassification appeals, sided with Pesavento and voted in
favor of partial declassification of the requested PDB.
That is, a majority of the panel rejected the CIA's
position and said the document could be safely disclosed in

But then DCI Tenet stepped in to block disclosure.
Exercising the new secrecy powers granted him by President
Bush for the first time, he vetoed the ISCAP decision.

Pesavento said that, pursuant to the provisions of the
executive order, the National Archivist, an ISCAP member,
has appealed the DCI's veto to the White House. But to
date, no response to the appeal has been received from the
White House. Under existing bylaws and orders, there is no
deadline for response, ever.

J. William Leonard, director of the Information Security
Oversight Office and ISCAP executive secretary, today
confirmed Pesavento's general account but said he could not
discuss it in detail because "it is a subject of pending

Trying to imagine CIA's rationale for blocking release of
the document, Pesavento speculated that "If this PDB gets
okayed for declassification, then this will be the 'opening
of the floodgates' it is feared to all PDBs now in the LBJ
archives...and beyond...."

In fact, CIA has consistently treated PDBs as sacrosanct and
beyond the purview of ordinary mortals. Regardless of
their specific contents, the fact that the PDBs served as
their intelligence conduit to the President should render
them permanently beyond legal access and independent
review, the CIA seems to believe.

The CIA approach is far from the ideal of a threat-based
information security policy, in which classification is
strictly limited to sensitive information that could damage
national security. It represents instead a kind of
fetishism on the part of CIA officials.

Most recently, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks
that is investigating September 11 clashed with the White
House over access to PDBs, finally reaching an arrangement
for limited access by a subset of Commissioners.

President Bush this year weakened the ISCAP by giving the
DCI veto authority over the Panel's decisions to declassify
CIA records. See executive order 13292, section 5.3(f):


The CIA had challenged ISCAP in the past, but in a 1999
opinion the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel
(OLC) determined that ISCAP was authorized by the President
to declassify CIA records over CIA objections. That
authority has been drastically curtailed by President Bush,
leaving CIA free to classify, and over-classify, at will.
See the 1999 OLC opinion here:



The mindless, reflexive secrecy surrounding the President's
Daily Brief (PDB) is also evident in an internal CIA memo
discussing how to respond to a request for PDBs and other
intelligence materials that were sought by requester
Michael Ravnitzky.

"I don't believe we can get away with an NRL on the subject
case," the May 2002 memo states with startling candor. NRL
here stands for "no records located."

Following some impudent commentary on Ravnitzky's motives
and intentions, the CIA memo concludes by proposing
redaction and release of "specified NID/CIBs" [referring to
the National Intelligence Daily and the Central
Intelligence Bulletin] while recommending that the Agency
"deny the PDBs in accordance with out current policy."

Another CIA official concurs. "We may be in a stronger
posture to defend the PDBs if we have made a reasonable
accommodation on the CIBs."

A copy of the CIA memo on the Ravnitzky Case, marked
"Administrative - Internal Use Only," was obtained by
Secrecy News and is posted here:


Mr. Ravnitzky expressed surprise at the memo, pointing out
that he had filed his request in good faith, seeking only a
small number of specifically identified documents.

"Such intelligence briefings should be released unless their
release would cause harm to national security, or would
disclose sources and methods, or would cause some
articulable harm," he told Secrecy News.

"The CIA is handling these ... requests in such an unusual
manner because they cannot articulate any harm that would
be caused by the release of portions of these ancient and
historically invaluable daily briefings," Ravnitzky said.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003




The discovery three years ago that Iraq was seeking to procure thousands of aluminum tubes was promptly interpreted by the Central Intelligence Agency as a sign that Saddam Hussein was pursuing uranium enrichment centrifuge technology for a reconstituted Iraqi nuclear weapons program.

That assessment, leaked to the press and uncritically reported, helped bolster the Bush Administration case for war against Iraq.

But now all indications are that the CIA assessment was wrong, according to David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), who
has authored a detailed review of the aluminum tube controversy.

"Since the fall of Baghdad last spring, no evidence has emerged that Iraq planned to use the aluminum tubes in centrifuges. Despite months of searching, the Iraqi Survey Group (ISG) has not found any link between the tubes and a gas centrifuge program," Albright wrote.

Albright traces the development of the aluminum tube story from its earliest beginnings to the latest equivocations on the matter by David Kay of the CIA's Iraq Survey Group.

Among other lessons learned, Albright notes that the National Intelligence Estimate process proved to be a poor instrument for adjudicating the significance of the aluminum tubes.

Crucially, of the ten or so intelligence agencies that each had one vote on the Estimate, those with technical expertise in centrifuge technology were outnumbered by those without such expertise.

At a time when intelligence oversight has moved entirely behind closed doors and is effectively dormant, Albright's review significantly enriches the public record on this
controversial matter.

See "Iraq's Aluminum Tubes: Separating Fact from Fiction" by David Albright, Institute for Science and International Security, December 5:


The most damning thing one could say about an intelligence agency is not that it sometimes makes mistakes in analysis, which is inevitable, but that it refuses to admit its
mistakes. When an agency cannot admit error, it cannot learn from its own missteps and is doomed to mediocrity.

In a recent publication, Stuart Cohen, Vice Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, finds no reason to acknowledge a single flaw in U.S. intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. It is the critics, he says, who have it wrong.

See "Iraq's WMD Programs: Culling Hard Facts from Soft Myths" by Stuart Cohen, November 28:


But whether CIA admits it or not, the Agency is already paying a price in credibility for having acquiesced in overstating the threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

So when the CIA issues an assessment on North Korea's nuclear weapons program, for example, it is now roundly met with skepticism by national security experts, as the Los Angeles Times reported today.

See "N. Korea's Nuclear Success Is Doubted" by Douglas Frantz, Los Angeles Times, December 9:


Monday, December 08, 2003



Ex-Government Officials Recommend Intelligence Overhaul


WASHINGTON, Dec. 8 — In the two years since the Sept. 11 attacks, a group of veterans of the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Pentagon has been quietly trying to figure out how to help shape the debate over intelligence reform in the wake of the attacks. They say the place to start is a drastic realignment of the way the United States conducts intelligence and counterterrorism operations within its borders.

And, in the best spirit of media-drenched modern-day Washington, they are taking their case public.

On Monday, two members of this private group testified before the independent commission on the 9/11 attacks to urge an overhaul of domestic intelligence.

John MacGaffin, a former senior C.I.A. official, and John Hamre, a deputy defense secretary in the Clinton administration, recommended that a new domestic intelligence service be created within the F.B.I., but that it be managed by the director of central intelligence.

Their proposal falls short of calling for a new domestic spy agency like Britain's MI-5. That is a result of sharp divisions within the group over whether the F.B.I. should be given another chance to prove that it can handle domestic intelligence.

"Our group was divided on the question of whether or not we felt the F.B.I. could make this transition," Mr. Hamre told the commission.

The group is made up of former officials from intelligence and law enforcement, and consists of Robert Bryant, former deputy director of the F.B.I.; Mr. MacGaffin, former associate deputy director for operations at the C.I.A.; Paul Redmond, former chief of counterintelligence at the C.I.A.; Jeffrey Smith, former general counsel of the C.I.A.; Howard Shapiro, former general counsel of the F.B.I.; Jack Lawn, a former senior F.B.I. official; and Mr. Hamre.

They have decided to focus on domestic intelligence in part because it is an issue that is still up for grabs in Washington. The Bush administration has so far rejected proposals to create a new domestic intelligence agency, and instead has taken a series of measures short of that, including the creation of a terrorist threat analysis organization jointly run by the C.I.A. and F.B.I. But there is strong interest in Congress in more comprehensive reforms, and the Sept. 11 commission seems likely to recommend creating an independent domestic intelligence agency.

"The domestic collection piece is the one where there is the most room for improvement, because so little is being done," Mr. MacGaffin said....


Sunday, December 07, 2003



CYBERSUMMIT SET HERE TODAY: Computer security in focus

By Elise Ackerman, Mercury News

As George Bush makes national security the watchword of his presidency, some Silicon Valley leaders worry cybersecurity seems to have slipped off the administration's radar screen.

Implementation of a highly touted ``national strategy to secure cyberspace'' has been delayed almost a year. Billions of dollars intended for cybersecurity programs -- to protect everything from federal networks to home computer users from everyone from adolescent hackers to cyberterrorists -- have not been spent. Two presidential advisers for cybersecurity have left the government, one after only two months.

Today, a group of lobbyists, business leaders, elected representatives and security experts hope to refocus the administration's attention on the risks of vulnerable computer systems at a ``National Cyber Security Summit'' in Silicon Valley. Among those expected to be listening at the Santa Clara Marriott are Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge and Robert Liscouski, the Department of Homeland Security's assistant secretary of infrastructure protection.

``I think everyone is frustrated by the lack of forward movement,'' said 3Com Chairman Eric Benhamou...

Friday, December 05, 2003




The FBI this week commenced operation of a new Terrorist
Screening Center (TSC) to aid law enforcement officials in the
identification of suspected terrorists.

"When a patrol officer runs a name check query on a subject
through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), the
system will now include a check for any known or suspected
links to terrorism," according to a November 28 FBI message
circulated through the National Law Enforcement
Telecommunications System (NLETS). A copy was obtained by
Secrecy News.

Initial operation of the TSC will be "limited -- records will be
phased in to ensure the identities of subjects are in fact
terrorists," the memo said. See:


Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) criticized the delay in fully
activating the new name check system. Democrats in the House
Select Committee on Homeland Security spelled out a list of ten
essential requirements they said the system must fulfill. See:


Elsewhere, the prospect of integrating intelligence and criminal
databases was already raising eyebrows and anxieties.

A news story about Washington State's LINX database reports that
"The LINX system's unprecedented power to catch criminals and
thwart terrorists also carries a serious potential for abuse of
civil rights, law enforcement observers say."

See "'Nobody is safe from' scrutiny of program" by Paul
Shukovsky and Mike Barber, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November


A sober assessment of the benefits and challenges of harnessing
information technology to prevent terrorism and protect civil
liberties was offered this week by the Markle Foundation here:



NEW BLOG to check out: Bark bark woof woof


from Mudshark

Atrios and his regular commenters have been busy thinking up variations on Old Fashioned Patriot's "miserable failure" project of a couple months ago...this time the search terms are unelectable and vast right wing conspiracy.

Now, no offense to these fine people -- because, hey, I love the idea myself, as I've posted before -- but after giving this a bit of thought, I'm thinking there just might be an even better way to do it. The conclusion the ol' Mudshark has come to is: if ya wanna spread what some folks call memes (yeah, I know, I said I wouldn't use that word) about Shrub, then ya gotta use search terms that people will actually search for -- say, when doing research for a term paper or whatever. I mean, yeah, he may well be unelectable (without the aid of Diebold, at least), and he's indisputably a miserable failure, but how many people are actually gonna type those phrases into a Google searchbox?

Here's the way you do it, y'all:









Tuesday, December 02, 2003



US intelligence under the microscope

By David Isenberg, ASIA TIMES

...The reappraisal is being conducted in two classified reviews by the National Intelligence Council, which reports to Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director George Tenet...

...In September, former Clinton administration deputy secretary of defense John Hamre wrote in Aviation Week and Space Technology: "In relationship to this quest for certainty, I noticed that fragments of information gained greater certainty the farther away they were from the intelligence professional. The intelligence analyst is usually careful to note the reliability and timeliness of the intelligence 'fact', but the qualifiers are often summarized and dropped as the intelligence briefing moves up the decision-making ladder. Alternative hypotheses are often omitted. A data element of questionable reliability can gain credibility as it rises through the intelligence hierarchy until it becomes authoritative evidence. " ...

...Another frequent problem is that intelligence customers, ie, policymakers, simply ignore facts that don't suit their preferred conclusions. For example, back in July, the White House released a portion of the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq that said intelligence agencies concluded Iraq probably will have a nuclear weapon within this decade if it pursued a weapons program unchecked. But the report also included a footnote, a rarely used means of formal dissent from the State Department's intelligence agency that referred to Iraq's attempt to buy uranium tubes. Such efforts are not clearly linked to a nuclear end use, the footnote said. It added that the claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are, in the agency's assessment, highly dubious.

Asked by reporters at a news conference in July whether the president was aware of the State Department's dissent from the group, a senior White House official said that President George W Bush hadn't read the full 90-page report, adding, "The president of the United States is not a fact checker."

And, if unpleasant facts get in the way they can simply be bypassed. An article by veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh in the October 27 New Yorker provides an example. He cites Kenneth Pollack, a former National Security Council expert on Iraq who supported the war, "what the Bush people did was 'dismantle the existing filtering process that for 50 years had been preventing the policymakers from getting bad information. They created stovepipes to get the information they wanted directly to the top leadership'."

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