The battle for the hearts and minds of the intelligent people who live in Washington continues.

The president is accused of using faulty intelligence to get us into a war. He, on the other hand, insists his detractors had the same bad intelligence he had, and now they are using it to do damage to the Americans fighting over there.

This much we know: There is good intelligence and bad intelligence, and if you act on either, you wind up using military force to solve the problem.

Let us discuss how we might get into this state.

A rug dealer in Yemen reveals to a cafe owner, who is really a CIA agent, that he saw a camel caravan carrying biological weapons toward Syria.

The agent reports this raw information to the CIA station chief in Cairo. It is then sent to other stations throughout the Middle East, asking them to report any unusual camel traffic in their area.

An eyes-only message in code is sent to Langley, where it lands on the desk of an analyst on the second floor. His/her job is to decide whether the information is true or false. To do this, he/she orders up satellite pictures of all camel tracks in the area.

The analyst's report is then sent to the third floor to see if it agrees with what experts on the fourth floor already know.

But there are 16 different intelligence agencies in Defense, State, National Security Agency, FBI, etc., that have their own people sifting through the dispatches from Yemen.

So the information goes to the CIA liaison officers on the sixth floor.

All the reports of the different agencies are fed into a computer to see if anyone else has reported camels in the area.

If it isn't true, the CIA will lose face. And if it turns out to be valid, the agency wants to get all the credit with the White House.

Once it leaves the sixth floor, it goes to the Action Committee in the next building.

There, in a soundproof room, the ACTCOM, 12 men and one woman, meets to decide what to do and to whom the information should be shown.

This discussion can go on for days.

One group is for showing it to President Bush, but not to the secretary of state. Another insists Condoleezza Rice should know, but Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should be kept in the dark.

A third group wants to have more information on the Arab rug dealer before recommending that the United States invade Yemen.

Now here is where intelligence gets complicated.

The neocons (hawks) have been looking for an excuse to teach Yemen a lesson, so they decide to leak the camel story to The Washington Post.

Congress, which has not been clued in, is furious and asks the Justice Department to find out who leaked the story and threaten to send the Post reporter to jail if he won't reveal his source.

To this day the camel caravan is moving across the desert, and as far as the vice president is concerned, it is still carrying biological weapons.

(c) 2005 Tribune Media Services