March 20, 2013

Rare view of CIA Analysts - Cheney Short-circuiting Iraq Intel Process

Above is Figure 3, Parliament of Canada Social Affairs Division's, Intelligence: Definitions, Concepts and Governance, 21 December 2009

The article provides a rare insider's view of when the intelligence process goes wrong. As the article indicates attempts to manipulate the intelligence process, to fit a pre-arranged political agenda, often leads to adverse outcomes - including Iraq's non-existent connections with al Qaida partly justifying the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Secrecy laws in most countries would prevent publication of material of the type appearing in this American article - particularly as its only a decade after the event.

While the article identifies a Republican political agenda in the push for war - the publication of the article owes much to the political agenda of Obama's Democrat Administration. Put simply the Obama Administration cleared the article for publication to further discredit Cheney, because he is still a vocal Republican critic of the Democrat's national security efforts.

The article in Wired's Danger Room, March 18, 2013. Some key paragraphs of it reads:

"I Tried to Make the Intelligence Behind the Iraq War Less Bogus" by Nada Bakos

"Ten years ago this week, the U.S. invaded Iraq, citing intelligence that turned out to be bogus. I had to work on some of it — and I also had to work on keeping the really, really terrible versions of it out of our analysis.

Specifically, I was a CIA analyst working in the Counterterrorism Center in the overburdened days after 9/11. As analysts, we spend most of our time identifying burgeoning issues based on communications intercepts, reports from CIA case officers, imagery from satellites, accounts from other governments, and piecing together a story.

...[In November 2002] Vice President Cheney scheduled a meeting with our Branch to discuss our assessment of Iraq’s relationship with al-Qaida and 9/11. It was his second visit to the Branch; there always seemed to be more questions. The Branch Chief called us together for a practice session in a bland conference room a few days before their arrival. At this so-called “murderboard” session, we weren’t stripping down our analysis to find data we’d missed. We were practicing how to defend our perspective when questioned by the Vice President of the United States.

...We needed to poke holes in our analysis, to be sure we were right. If not, we could rest assured Cheney would. Already, Cheney’s Pentagon ally, Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith, had put together an alternative analysis faulting our own and asserting instead that “multiple areas of cooperation” existed between al-Qaida and Saddam. The ongoing questions and briefings became a labyrinth.

How far down a rabbit hole should we go in answering questions? Will it be misconstrued as an actual answer based on a made-up scenario? It was an unorthodox practice. But we were unused to a senior political figure being willing to dig down into the details of our analysis.

...On Sunday, March 16, 2003, I watched Cheney on “Meet The Press” contradict our assessment publicly. “We know that he [Saddam] has a long-standing relationship with various terrorist groups,” Cheney said, “including the al-Qaeda organization.” I was basically watching Cheney field-test arguments that we would have to anticipate — and rebut — at CIA. Except instead of asking us questions behind closed doors, Cheney was asserting to the public as fact something that we found to be anything but. I found myself yelling at the TV like I was contesting a ref’s blown call in a football game.

...After leaving the CIA, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on this sorry absurd role in intelligence history, and my bit role in it. No intelligence analyst should have to deal with policymakers delving into intelligence work. It sounds bureaucratic and boring, but the distinction matters: CIA doesn’t have a policy agenda, it seeks to inform those agendas. Politicians and appointees have ideas for shaping the world. Mingling the two is a recipe for self-delusion and, as we saw in Iraq, failure."

Whole Article

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