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United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: report on pre-Iraq war intelligence
CBC News Online | July 09, 2004
The report is a 500-page document with more than 100 conclusions most of them highly critical of U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq. It concludes that intelligence estimates of Iraqi weapons programs were "either overstated or were not supported by the underlying intelligence reporting.''
It was the intelligence that CIA director George Tenet cited in December 2002 when he told U.S. President George W. Bush it was a "slam-dunk" that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. A few months later, the invasion that toppled Saddam was underway.
The report released a month after Tenet announced his resignation repeatedly blasts the intelligence boss, accusing him of skewing advice to top policy-makers with the CIA's view. And it criticizes him for not personally reviewing Bush's 2003 state of the union address, which contained references to Iraq's attempts to purchase uranium in Africa since discredited.
Committee chairman Pat Roberts a Republican from Kansas said the intelligence community suffered from "collective group think'' in reaching the unwarranted conclusion that Iraq was actively pursuing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs.
"This 'group think' caused the community to interpret ambiguous evidence, such as the procurement of dual-use technology, as conclusive evidence of the existence of WMD programs,'' he said.
The ranking Democrat on the committee, West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller, said the report leaves the United States weaker in the eyes of the world.
"Our credibility is diminished. Our standing in the world has never been lower,'' he said. "We have fostered a deep hatred of Americans in the Muslim world, and that will grow. As a direct consequence, our nation is more vulnerable today than ever before.''
The report faults American intelligence for relying too heavily on United Nations weapons inspectors before 1998 and for not having credible sources on the ground after 1998, when the inspectors pulled out of Iraq. The report found that U.S. agencies relied too heavily on Iraqi exiles and dissidents, who were keen on seeing American forces invade.
"It's an effort to blame the debacle in Iraq on poor intelligence," Ray McGovern, a former intelligence analyst with the CIA told CBC News. "The decision to make war on Iraq pre-dated the intelligence. It was made at the latest in the spring of 2002 intelligence had not yet spoken [at that point]."
The document, entitled "Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Assessment of Prewar Intelligence on Iraq,'' clears the Bush administration of charges it pressured analysts to make the evidence fit its own war policy. It's the first of two reports on intelligence gathering and the war in Iraq.
The second report on whether senior Bush administration officials misrepresented the analysis presented by the intelligence agencies is not expected to be released until after the presidential election on Nov. 2, 2004.
Here are some of the key conclusions from the Senate report on pre-Iraq war intelligence:
Most of the major key judgments in the Intelligence Community's October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction, either overstated, or were not supported by, the underlying intelligence reporting. A series of failures, particularly in analytic trade craft, led to the mischaracterization of the intelligence�The assessment that Iraq "is reconstituting its nuclear program" was not supported by the intelligence provided to the Committee.
The Intelligence Community (IC) suffered from a collective presumption that Iraq had an active and growing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program. This "group think" dynamic led Intelligence Community analysts, collectors and managers to both interpret ambiguous evidence as conclusively indicative of a WMD program as well as ignore or minimize evidence that Iraq did not have active and expanding weapons of mass destruction programs. This presumption was so strong that formalized IC mechanisms established to challenge assumptions and group think were not utilized.
In each instance where the Committee found an analytic or collection failure, it resulted in part from a failure of Intelligence Community managers throughout their leadership chains to adequately supervise the work of their analysts and collectors. They did not encourage analysts to challenge their assumptions, fully consider alternative arguments, accurately characterize the intelligence reporting, or counsel analysts who lost their objectivity.
The Committee found significant shortcomings in almost every aspect of the Intelligence Community's human intelligence collection efforts against Iraq's weapons of mass destruction activities, in particular that the Community had no sources collecting against weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after 1998. Most, if not all, of these problems stem from a broken corporate culture and poor management, and will not be solved by additional funding and personnel�Because the United States lacked an official presence inside Iraq, the Intelligence Community depended too heavily on defectors and foreign government services to obtain HUMINT [human intelligence] information on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction activities. While these sources had the potential to provide some valuable information, they had a limited ability to provide the kind of detailed intelligence about current Iraqi weapons of mass destruction efforts sought by U.S. policymakers.
Intelligence Community analysts lack a consistent post-September 11 approach to analysing and reporting on terrorist threats.