Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Being cooked by intelligence

Michael Rubin writes in this week's Weekly Standard ("Unintelligence on Iran's Nukes: Appalling gamesmanship at the CIA") that the December 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which gave Iran what President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared its "greatest victory during the past one hundred years," was a crude assault on the Bush administration's Iran policy. Rubin gives several illustrations of how the CIA has involved itself in policy initiatives since the fall of Baghdad to coalition forces in 2003. Here are two:
It was not uncommon, for example, to see false or exaggerated intelligence attributed to the Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi when it had actually come from Kurdish officials. This was never more clear than in a July 17, 2004, New York Times correction. The paper was retracting three stories which alleged a connection between Chalabi and an Iraqi source code-named Curveball, whose information later turned out to be bogus. The editors explained that their correspondent had "attribute[d] that account to American intelligence officials who spoke on condition of anonymity." They continued: "Those officials now say that there was no such established relationship." In other words, intelligence officials lied to a reporter to achieve a policy aim.

Such behavior is not limited to debates over policies impacting countries thousands of miles away. W. Patrick Lang, a former Defense Intelligence Agency official, told the American Prospect in 2005 that his intelligence community colleagues used leaks to try to influence the 2004 presidential election. "Of course they were leaking. They told me about it at the time. They thought it was funny. They'd say things like, 'This last thing that came out, surely people will pay attention to that. They won't reelect this man.'"

Administration critics have long maintained that the White House has sought to politicize the intelligence community and cook the evidence to advance geopolitical aims. Rubin maintains that the direction of influence has been in the opposite direction. It is the CIA that has unabashedly sought to influence policy.

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|| headland, 5:32 PM

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