The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Tuesday, February 03, 2004  

Or Libby, or the Pentagon “Hawks,” or “Mushroom Cloud”

There are several particularly slippery people in the Bush administration, an outfit that has raised untrustworthiness to an art form. For that reason, it’s good to see early pressure, taking the customary Washington form of leaks to the media, for the upcoming inquiry into purported intelligence failures surrounding Iraq’s alleged development of weapons of mass destruction to extend beyond the Central Intelligence Agency and to include the two rogue intelligence operations that apparently operated out of the Office of the Vice President and the Department of Defense.

Cheney Key to Iraq Probe, Critics Say,” by Jonathan S. Landay, Warren P. Strobel, and Joseph L. Galloway in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer offers an early look. The reporters write:

What went wrong with intelligence on Iraq may never be known unless the inquiry proposed by President George Bush examines secret intelligence efforts led by Vice President Richard Cheney and Pentagon hawks, current and former U.S. officials said yesterday.

The critics said Bush may limit the inquiry’s scope to the CIA and other agencies, and ignore the key role the officials said the administration’s own internal intelligence efforts played in making the case for war.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, did not dispute that the CIA failed to accurately assess the state of Iraq’s weapons programs. But they said intelligence efforts led by Cheney magnified the errors through exaggeration, oversights and mistaken deductions. [Emphasis added.]

Those efforts bypassed normal channels, used Iraqi exiles and defectors of questionable reliability, and produced findings on former dictator Saddam Hussein’s links to al-Qaeda and his illicit arms programs that were disputed by analysts at the CIA, the State Department and other agencies, the officials said.

“There were more agencies than CIA providing intelligence . . . that are worth scrutiny, including the [Pentagon’s now-disbanded] Office of Special Plans and the office of the vice president,” said a former senior military official who was involved in planning the Iraq invasion. […]

Senior officials yesterday revealed new details of how Cheney’s office pressed Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to use large amounts of disputed intelligence in a February 2003 presentation to the U.N. Security Council that laid out the U.S. case for an invasion.

A senior administration official said that during a three-day pre-speech review, Powell rejected more than half of a 45-page assessment on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction compiled by Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, and based on materials assembled by pro-invasion hard-liners in the Pentagon and the White House.

Powell also jettisoned 75 percent of a separate report on al-Qaeda, said the official.

Still, he said, Libby continued pressing Powell unsuccessfully right up until a few minutes before the speech to include dubious information purportedly linking Hussein to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

And while we’re at it, let’s not forget National Security Adviser Condoleezza “Mushroom Cloud” Rice.

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