Monday, May 22, 2006

Another Nail in Their Coffin

I would like to return to a favorite topic of mine: How the Administration misused intelligence to justify the Iraq invasion.

Below is verbatim exchange between Carl Levin, Democratic senator form Michigan, and the President’s nominee for Director of Central Intelligence Agency, General Michael V. Hayden. General Hayden was being questioned as to whether the intelligence community was pressured by the administration to find information to support the invasion of Iraq. Hayden, had to be careful not to reveal intelligence information in open session and also not to politicize his answers. Nevertheless, his answers are very revealing if you know what to look for.

LEVIN: An independent review for the CIA, conducted by a panel led by Richard Kerr, former deputy director of the CIA, said the following -- and this relates to the intelligence prior to the Iraq war -- "Requests for reporting and analysis of Iraq's links to Al Qaida were steady and heavy in the period leading up to the war, creating significant pressure on the intelligence community to find evidence that supported a connection."
Do you agree with Mr. Kerr?

HAYDEN: Sir, I -- as director of NSA, we did have a series of inquiries about this potential connection between Al Qaida and the Iraqi government. Yes, sir.

LEVIN: Now, prior to the war, the undersecretary of defense for policy, Mr. Feith, established an intelligence analysis cell within his policy office at the Defense Department.

LEVIN: While the intelligence community was consistently dubious about links between Iraq and Al Qaida, Mr. Feith produced an alternative analysis, asserting that there was a strong connection.
Were you comfortable with Mr. Feith's office's approach to intelligence analysis?

HAYDEN: No, sir, I wasn't. I wasn't aware of a lot of the activity going on, you know, when it was contemporaneous with running up to the war. No, sir, I wasn't comfortable.

LEVIN: In our meeting in our office, you indicated -- well, what were you uncomfortable about? Let me...

HAYDEN: Well, there were a couple of things. And thank you for the opportunity to elaborate, because these aren't simple issues.
As I tried to say in my statement, there are a lot of things that animate and inform a policy-maker's judgment, and intelligence is one of them, and, you know, world view, and there are a whole bunch of other things that are very legitimate.
The role of intelligence, I try to say it here by metaphor because it's the best way I can describe it, is you've got to draw the left- and the right-hand boundaries. The tether to your analysis can't be so long, so stretched that it gets out of those left- and right-hand boundaries.
Now, with regard to this particular case, it is possible, Senator, if you want to drill down on an issue and just get laser beam focused, and exhaust every possible -- every possible ounce of evidence, you can build up a pretty strong body of data, right? But you have to know what you're doing, all right?
I got three great kids, but if you tell me go out and find all the bad things they've done, Hayden, I can build you a pretty good dossier, and you'd think they were pretty bad people, because that was I was looking for and that's what I'd build up.
That would be very wrong. That would be inaccurate. That would be misleading.
It's one thing to drill down, and it's legitimate to drill down. And that was a real big and real important question. But at the end of the day, when you draw your analysis, you have to recognize that you've really laser beam focused on one particular data set. And you have to put that factor into the equation before you start drawing macro judgments.

LEVIN: You in my office discussed, I think, a very interesting approach, which is the difference between starting with a conclusion and trying to prove it and instead starting with digging into all the facts and seeing where they take you.
Would you just describe for us that difference and why you feel, I think, that that related to the difference between what intelligence should be and what some people were doing, including that Feith office.

HAYDEN: Yes, sir. And I actually think I prefaced that with both of these are legitimate forms of reasoning, that you've got deductive -- and the product of, you know, 18 years of Catholic education, I know a lot about deductive reasoning here.

HAYDEN: There's an approach to the world in which you begin with, first, principles and then you work your way down the specifics.
And then there's an inductive approach to the world in which you start out there with all the data and work yourself up to general principles. They are both legitimate. But the only one I'm allowed to do is induction.

LEVIN: Allowed to do as an intelligence...

HAYDEN: As an intelligence officer is induction.
And so, now, what happens when induction meets deduction, Senator? Well, that's my left- and right-hand boundaries metaphor.

LEVIN: Now, I believe that you actually placed a disclaimer on NSA reporting relative to any links between Al Qaida and Saddam Hussein. And it was apparently following the repeated inquiries from the Feith office. Would you just tell us what that disclaimer was?

HAYDEN: Yes, sir.
SIGINT neither confirms nor denies -- and let me stop at that point in the sentence so we can stay safely on the side of unclassified.
SIGINT neither confirms nor denies, and then we finished the sentence based upon the question that was asked. And then we provided the data, sir." Hayden Transcript
The "mainstream media" are doing a great job of ignoring this exchange in the Hayden CIA hearing, but what Hayden did here is repudiate altogether the Administration assertion (supported by various bogus commissions and the SSCI under Roberts) that intelligence analysts were not "pressured" by abusive repetitions of "requests" for information into backing away from what they knew to be true about Iraq before the war.

Look at what Hayden said:
- There was pressure from Feith's Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon pushing the analysts towards judgments that were desired by Feith and company.

- That he was aware at the time of the pressure that it existed.

- That the "World View" of parties un-named in the Administration "informed" their judgment as much as the opinions of the intelligence community. This is important because the administration is now claiming that it is innocent of "original sin" in this matter and that the colossal errors in understanding Iraq were altogether the fault of the intelligence community.

- That the Feith/neocon crowd went outside the "boundaries" of what the intelligence community thought might be the situation in Iraq and were incompetent in the attempt.

- That the Feith/neocon crowd ignored evidence contrary to their views.

- That the Feith/neocon group committed the ultimate "sin" for an intelligence analyst, i.e., they used "deductive" rather than "inductive" reasoning in reaching their conclusions about Iraq. "Deductive" thinking is poison injected into the bloodstream of the government's decision process.

- That when "pressed" by the Feith/neocon crowd about NSA's conclusions concerning the AQ/Iraqi connection, he caused NSA to respond that "SIGINT neither confirms nor denies.." This was an appropriate and important.response for NSA which is a COLLECTION arm of the intelligence community and which does not perform analysis in the sense that the term is properly used.

In an earlier blog I stated that The Office of Special Plans was used by the White House to provide phony intelligesnce and to provide cover if no WMD were found in Iraq and if no Al-Quida connection could be established. If you combine this testimony with the Downing Street Memo, which stated the following about the Iraq war and the use of intelligence, “ the intelligence was going to fixed around the policy,” it is clear that we were lied to about the war, there was no intelligence failure, and the President will have to answer to the country for his impeachable offense.

David M Goldberg