Report Says Pentagon Manipulated Intel
Friday, February 9, 2007; 9:20 PM
WASHINGTON -- Pentagon officials undercut the intelligence community in the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq by insisting in briefings to the White House that there was a clear relationship between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida, the Defense Department's inspector general said Friday.
Acting Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the office headed by former Pentagon policy chief Douglas J. Feith took "inappropriate" actions in advancing conclusions on al-Qaida connections not backed up by the nation's intelligence agencies.
Gimble said that while the actions of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy "were not illegal or unauthorized," they "did not provide the most accurate analysis of intelligence to senior decision makers" at a time when the White House was moving toward war with Iraq.
"I can't think of a more devastating commentary," said Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.
He cited Gimble's findings that Feith's office was, despite doubts expressed by the intelligence community, pushing conclusions that Sept. 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta had met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague five months before the attack, and that there were "multiple areas of cooperation" between Iraq and al-Qaida, including shared pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.
"That was the argument that was used to make the sale to the American people about the need to go to war," Levin said in an interview Thursday. He said the Pentagon's work, "which was wrong, which was distorted, which was inappropriate ... is something which is highly disturbing."
Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said Friday the report "clearly shows that Doug Feith and others in that office exercised extremely poor judgment for which our nation, and our service members in particular, are paying a terrible price."
Republicans on the panel disagreed. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said the "probing questions" raised by Feith's policy group improved the intelligence process.
"I'm trying to figure out why we are here," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., saying the office was doing its job of analyzing intelligence that had been gathered by the CIA and other intelligence agencies.
Gimble responded that at issue was that the information supplied by Feith's office in briefings to the National Security Council and the office of Vice President Dick Cheney was "provided without caveats" that there were varying opinions on its reliability.
Gimble's report said Feith's office had made assertions "that were inconsistent with the consensus of the intelligence community."
At the White House, spokesman Dana Perino said President Bush has revamped the U.S. spy community to try avoiding a repeat of flawed intelligence affecting policy decisions by creating a director of national intelligence and making other changes.