Saturday :: Oct 25, 2003

Has The Intelligence Community Declared War Against the Administration?

by Steve

To follow up on Mary’s earlier post and summarize what has transpired over the last 36 hours, I want to put forward a simple observation: the CIA has declared war on the White House. Let’s review the recent events.

Yesterday, Dana Priest of the Washington Post reported that congressional sources, ostensibly the majority Senate Intelligence Committee staff of GOP Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, were preparing to issue a report that was critical of the CIA and George Tenet for intelligence failures leading up to the Iraqi invasion. According to Priest’s story, Roberts said the report was already “95 percent done”, even though the committee had yet to hear directly from Tenet or a “comprehensive explanation of how and why (the agency) reached its conclusions.” Yet Roberts, without talking to Tenet, was already telling the Post that "the executive was ill-served by the intelligence community," and that the intelligence was “sloppy” and inclusive, and that he was worried “about the credibility of the intelligence community.”

We now know that from another story by William Douglas of the Knight Ridder Washington bureau that Roberts was “encouraged” to come out with his statements to the Post and shift blame to the CIA by none other than Vice President Dick Cheney. And how do we know this? Because someone high up inside the Administration is freely admitting that Cheney is behind this smear job of the CIA and Tenet.

A senior administration official, who agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity, said Roberts' CIA comments were issued with Cheney's encouragement. The official said Cheney is trying to shift the blame for the lack of progress in Iraq, which is becoming an issue in next year's presidential and congressional elections, from the White House to the CIA.

And that one official isn’t alone. A second “senior official” took issue with Cheney’s smear of the Agency.

Added a second senior official, also speaking on the condition of anonymity: "It's a little bit of a dangerous game to say intelligence is the first line of defense in the war against terrorism - which it is - then go out and publicly tear down your intelligence service."

Christ, these guys have declared open season on each other! And they all work for the same guy, who just told them last week to stop leaking. Yet less than a week after that, his Number Two “encouraged” a smear job against their own intelligence agency, for which two “senior officials” have tagged him for.

Roberts began backpedaling away from his original comments to Priest right away, once he sensed that he had been used and walked into a range war. According to the piece by Douglas,

The Roberts aide denied that “Cheney’s office encouraged Roberts to criticize the CIA.”

But since Cheney’s office is telling Douglas that they did in fact push Roberts to do this, the credibility of Roberts and his staff from this point on are zero.

Moreover, having seen Roberts do Cheney’s bidding and come out with his comments, the Agency, as if it knew in advance that Roberts and Cheney were doing this, quickly launched a counteroffensive. First, at the same time Priest went with her Page One “blame the CIA, not the White House story” that was egged on by Cheney through Roberts, the CIA’s man at the Post Walter Pincus already had a story ready to go on the same day that had the Agency’s initial defense. Pincus reported that the Agency was saying their October 2002 NIE was a rushed “cut and paste” job, apparently prepared hastily at the request of Senate Democrats, and not the administration.

Then, later Friday according to the New York Times, “four senior intelligence officials” went on the offensive at a special briefing for the media and “responded angrily” to Roberts’ Cheney-encouraged criticism. The four senior intelligence officials, all speaking on the condition of anonymity, reiterated what Agency spokesman Bill Harlow had said at Tenet’s direction in response to Priest’s initial Post report.

Over the course of two hours, the senior intelligence officials sought to rebut comments by Senator Roberts and others claiming that the intelligence agencies' conclusions in an October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate had been based on incomplete and circumstantial evidence.

"When you get all done parsing this, what you find is a compelling case that no reasonable person could have concluded anything other than what we have" about Iraq's weapons program, based on the information available at the time, a second senior intelligence officials said.

Note the qualifier “based on the information available at the time” in October 2002.

Roberts, seeing that the Agency and committee Democrats were responding with full fire, kept retreating from what he told Priest earlier.

(B)y late afternoon, after the C.I.A. and the ranking Democrat on the committee, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, issued statements on Friday questioning how the panel could have reached such a conclusion, Senator Roberts said that his statements had been mischaracterized.

"The committee has not finished its review of the intelligence and has not reached any final conclusions or finished a report," Senator Roberts said. He said he had agreed that Mr. Tenet "should have an opportunity" to speak to the committee "before the report is finalized."

Yet he just told Priest earlier in the week that they were “95 percent done.” So Roberts, seeing his credibility in the toilet after having been used by Cheney, is left with a Senate full of Democrats knowing that he is nothing but a whore for the White House. It has even gotten so bad for Roberts that today he told home state reporters and editors that members of Congress may not have voted for the war resolution if the existing lack of Iraqi WMD evidence was known last fall.

But the Agency wasn’t done yesterday. In a separate hearing before Senate Democrats yesterday, former Agency officials said that the outing of Valerie Plame by the White House wasn’t just to get back at her husband, but was intended as payback to the whole intelligence community for not supporting White House intelligence claims.

The Bush administration's exposure of a clandestine Central Intelligence Agency operative was part of a campaign aimed at discrediting US intelligence agencies for not supporting White House claims that Saddam Hussein was reconstituting Iraq's nuclear weapons programme, former agency officials said yesterday.

In a rare hearing called by Senate Democratic leaders, the officials said the White House engaged in pressure and intimidation aimed at generating intelligence evidence to support the decision to make war on Iraq.

Vince Cannistraro, former CIA operations chief, charged yesterday: "She was outed as a vindictive act because the agency was not providing support for policy statements that Saddam Hussein was reviving his nuclear programme."

The leak was a way to "demonstrate an underlying contempt for the intelligence community, the CIA in particular".

He said that in the run-up to the Iraq war, the White House had exerted unprecedented pressure on the CIA and other intelligence agencies to find evidence that Iraq had links to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda and that Baghdad was trying to build a nuclear bomb.

In written testimony, he said that Vice-President Dick Cheney and his top aide Lewis Libby went to CIA headquarters to press mid-level analysts to provide support for the claim. Mr Cheney, he said, "insisted that desk analysts were not looking hard enough for the evidence". Mr Cannistraro said his information came from current agency analysts.

Other agency officials, who said they had been colleagues of Ms Plame when she was trained as a CIA agent, said the leak could do severe damage to the morale of the intelligence agencies. "The US government has never before released the name of a clandestine officer," said Jim Marcinkowski, a former CIA case officer. "My classmates and I have been betrayed."

If Cannistraro is correct, and he has bipartisan contacts within the government, then the White House declared war not only on Joe Wilson, but its own intelligence community. The same man who thought he could smear George Tenet for the WMD intelligence failings and direct attention from himself it seems set out to send a message to the entire community that the price to pay for not going along with doctored intelligence is to see a covert operative endangered. Unfortunately for Dick Cheney, it appears what he has in fact done is to unleash the intelligence community in war against him and George W. Bush.

Steve :: 4:03 PM :: Comments (8) :: Digg It!