(Update3)Pre-War Intelligence Acts `Inappropriate,' U.S. FindsFri Feb 9, 2007 12:23
Pre-War Intelligence Acts `Inappropriate,' U.S. Finds (Update3)
By Tony Capaccio
Feb. 9 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Defense Department officials prepared pre-war intelligence reports that may have exaggerated links between Iraq and al-Qaeda, the Pentagon inspector general said today.
Two offices set up under then-Undersecretary for Policy Douglas Feith before the March, 2003 invasion of Iraq produced reports that formed the basis for the administration's key pre- war claim that Saddam Hussein might provide weapons of mass destruction to the terrorist group.
``While such actions were not illegal or unauthorized, the actions in our opinion were inappropriate'' because they didn't ``clearly show the variance with the consensus of the intelligence community,'' Inspector General Thomas Gimble told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Feith's operation produced what amounted to ``an alternative analysis,'' prepared ``without the knowledge of the intelligence community,'' that was used ``to back a decision to go to war,'' said committee chairman Carl Levin. ``This is devastating.''
The committee today released only the two-page executive summary of Gimble's review, which was prepared at the request of Levin, Democrat of Michigan, and Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Levin and other critics contend that assessments produced by the Pentagon office were skewed to portray an active pre-war relationship between Hussein and the al-Qaeda terrorist organization, while the intelligence community saw virtually none. Following the U.S.-led invasion, al-Qaeda operatives did become active in Iraq, targeting U.S. forces and helping to foment sectarian violence.
``The Feith office is the one that produced the key alternative analysis which provided that material,'' Levin said in an interview. ``It was key, it was vital, it was what the White House used to make the linkage to terrorist groups.''
The summary said that, in future, the Pentagon's closer relationship with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, set up in 2005, will ``significantly reduce the opportunity for inappropriate conduct of intelligence activities outside of intelligence channels.''
One finding, Levin said, was that Feith's office in September 2002 presented a briefing without Central Intelligence Agency approval to the White House purporting a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda that ``was not supported by the available intelligence.''
Levin said Gimble's report said the ``inappropriate'' activities were authorized by then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz.
Gimble's report said the policy office ``developed, produced and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq-al-Qaeda relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the of the intelligence community.''
As a result, the Pentagon's policy office ``did not provide the most accurate analysis of intelligence to senior policy makers,'' according to the report's summary.
``This condition occurred because of an expanded role and mission'' of the policy office from ``policy formulation to alternative intelligence analysis and dissemination,'' it said.
Feith, now a professor of national security policy at Georgetown University in Washington who's writing a book on the Iraq war, said the report shows ``everything we did was lawful and authorized and we did not mislead Congress.''
``The issue of the appropriate process for policy people to use to criticize intelligence work is minor compared to the key conclusions,'' Feith said in a written statement.
Levin said he hasn't decided whether to call Feith to testify before his committee.
Senator Christopher Bond of Missouri, the committee's senior Republican, rejected the inspector general's conclusions.
``I strongly disagree,'' Bond said in a statement issued early today. ``How can something that is `authorized' and `legal' also be `inappropriate.' That doesn't pass the common sense test.''
White House spokesman Dana Perino told reporters today she couldn't describe the relationship between Feith and President George W. Bush but that Bush ``has long acknowledged that the intelligence leading up to the war in Iraq was inaccurate.''
Pentagon officials had no immediate comment on the report, said Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Karen Finn, a spokeswoman.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in his confirmation hearing in December, responded ``I have a problem with that,'' when Levin asked his views on the Feith operation.
Levin said the report is valuable because it casts new light on the material the administration used to justify the war.
``If we are not going to repeat the mistakes of the past, there has got to be accountability,'' Levin said. ``You just repeat mistakes if there is no looking back and trying to find out what the facts were and holding people accountable the best way we can.''
To contact the reporter on this story: Tony Capaccio at firstname.lastname@example.org
Last Updated: February 9, 2007 10:59 EST
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