March 31, 2005

What did the U.S. government know about Iraq before the invasion?

Damn little that bore any relationship to reality, says the report of a presidential commission on intelligence gathering.

After a year of investigation, the commission found that US intelligence on Iraq was 'dead wrong' — a mistake that will hurt US credibility for years. The commission also warned that US intelligence agencies know relatively little about the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea, despite the Dubya administration's public pronouncements.

The commission's bluntly written report ... offered a damning assessment of the intelligence that President Bush used to launch the Iraq war two years ago and warned that flaws are still all too common throughout spy agencies.

"We conclude that the intelligence community was dead wrong in almost all of its prewar judgments about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction," the commissioners wrote.

And at a time when the United States is accusing Iran of nuclear ambitions and pressuring North Korea on its nuclear programs, the report said: "Across the board, the intelligence community knows disturbingly little about the nuclear programs of many of the world's most dangerous actors."

The presidential commission, led by appeals court judge Laurence Silberman and former Virginia Democratic Sen. Charles Robb, called for a broad overhaul in the spy community to increase information-sharing and foster dissenting views.

"The flaws we found in the intelligence community's Iraq performance are still all too common," they wrote...

The report had harsh words for the performance of the CIA in the months before the invasion of Iraq, but shied off from direct blame when talking about Dubya and Cheney's acceptance of bad intelligence:

In what amounted to a direct assault on George Tenet, who was CIA director in the run-up to the Iraq war and gave the president his daily intelligence briefing, the commission found that "the daily reports sent to the president and senior policymakers discussing Iraq over many months proved to be disastrously one-sided."

Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, accused of hyping the intelligence on Iraq in order to pursue a costly war with a deadly aftermath, escaped direct blame.

"The analysts who worked Iraqi weapons issues universally agreed that in no instance did political pressure cause them to skew or alter any of their analytical judgments," the report said.

But it added: "It is hard to deny the conclusion that intelligence analysts worked in an environment that did not encourage skepticism about the conventional wisdom."

So far, the White House reaction to the report has been to issue the usual lie:

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the president agreed the intelligence community needs fundamental change. He said its recommendations would be reviewed and acted on "in a fairly quick period of time."

We're sure Dubya's administration will give the recommendations of this new report all the careful attention that it gave to, say, the recommendations of the 9/11 commission.

Via Reuters.

Posted by Magpie at March 31, 2005 09:13 AM | Iraq | Technorati links |