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Monday, April 24, 2006 

The White House promoted intelligence it liked and ignored intelligence it didn't

So said the report about the manipulation of intelligence before the invasion of Iraq on 60 Minutes yesterday. In part, the CBS report covers the well-known story of the fake documents allegedly from Niger, and how the White House clung to the yellowcake allegation long after it had been discredited...and how even months after the invasion of Iraq the White House was leaking misleading information to reporters, trying to buttress allegations it knew to be false.

The main interest in this show, however, is the first-hand description, provided by a high-ranking CIA official, of how the White House cherry-picked intelligence to promote the war. The official is Tyler Drumheller.

"It just sticks in my craw every time I hear them say it's an intelligence failure. It's an intelligence failure. This was a policy failure," Drumheller tells Bradley.

Drumheller was the CIA's top man in Europe, the head of covert operations there, until he retired a year ago. He says he saw firsthand how the White House promoted intelligence it liked and ignored intelligence it didn't:

"The idea of going after Iraq was U.S. policy. It was going to happen one way or the other," says Drumheller.

Drumheller says he doesn't think it mattered very much to the administration what the intelligence community had to say. "I think it mattered it if verified. This basic belief that had taken hold in the U.S. government that now is the time, we had the means, all we needed was the will," he says.

Later in the interview, he repeated and expanded upon allegations reported by NBC last month. (The sources for the NBC report were anonymous, but may have included Drumheller.)

A key allegation is that in September, 2002 the CIA convinced Iraq's foreign minister, Naji Sabri, to feed information secretly to the U.S. about Iraq's WMD capabilities. The White House was delighted initially with the breakthrough.

According to Drumheller, CIA Director George Tenet delivered the news about the Iraqi foreign minister at a high-level meeting at the White House, including the president, the vice president and Secretary of State Rice.

At that meeting, Drumheller says, "They were enthusiastic because they said, they were excited that we had a high-level penetration of Iraqis."

But as it turned out, Sabri told them the truth that Hussein did not have active weapons of mass destruction programs.

"The policy was set," Drumheller says. "The war in Iraq was coming. And they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy, to justify the policy."

Drumheller expected the White House to ask for more information from the Iraqi foreign minister.

But he says he was taken aback by what happened. "The group that was dealing with preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they're no longer interested," Drumheller recalls. "And we said, 'Well, what about the intel?' And they said, 'Well, this isn't about intel anymore. This is about regime change.'"

The NBC report adds considerable detail, including the information that the CIA pressured Sabri to defect to the U.S., and then broke off contacts with him when he refused.

The White House refused to comment to CBS about their report, though Condoleezza Rice has dismissed the revelation about Sabri by arguing that he was just one source and therefore unreliable. Drumheller, however, points out that the White House was more than ready to use a single source when it seemed to strengthen the case for war.

He also put his finger on one of the central problems we face today. Many Americans simply are unwilling to believe the evidence that has been documented over and over again. To believe it is to be forced to confront an awkward question: What do we do about a President who conspired to deceive the nation?

"The American people want to believe the president. I have relatives who I've tried to talk to about this who say, 'Well, no, you can't tell me the president had this information and just ignored it,'" says Drumheller. "But I think over time, people will look back on this and see this is going to be one of the great, I think, policy mistakes of all time."

 posted by smintheus  # 9:10 PM  
What you write here, on top of finding out that Sen. Roberts himself leaked info on getting intel from Saddam's entourage before the war is beyond the pale.

But is it yet enough to stir the public... I despair of that at times like now.

Roberts article:
Is There A Double Standard On Leak Probes?
This nation is very slow to be roused. But when it does make up its mind that something is wrong, finally, it usually cannot be shaken from that opinion.

Woodrow Wilson deceived the country in 1917, and his political eclipse in 1919 was mourned by almost nobody. It took a Great Depression to bring the Democrats back to power, after the damage Wilson did to their reputation.

Progress day by day seems slow, but just compare where we stand today to where things stood one year ago. Bush is so battered, almost nobody trusts him any longer.
Regarding the allegation that the U.S. was pressuring Iraqi diplomats such as Sabri to defect, there is this contemporary article in USA Today

Iraq's foreign minister accused the United States on Thursday of trying to lure key Iraqi diplomats negotiating the return of arms inspectors into defecting from the government of President Saddam Hussein.
"In blatant operations ... American Embassy and intelligence officials were contacting members of the Iraqi delegation in an attempt to lure them into betraying their country," Naji Sabri told the Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera.

He said he was referring to the delegations at the United Nations, where diplomats are negotiating a new resolution to send the inspectors back, and in Vienna, Austria, where U.N. nuclear weapons inspectors have their headquarters....

Western intelligence officials and Iraqi dissidents have told The Associated Press in Cairo, that British and American officials have approached Iraqi diplomats at international gatherings to talk about defecting to the Iraqi opposition. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity."

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