Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Pre-war intelligence: Bush Administration side-stepped CIA

Democrats leading the charge into the second phase of a bipartisan investigation into pre-war Iraq intelligence have said this week that they will spend the next month or so working with Pentagon officials who last week agreed to probe a top secret spy shop once headed by Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith that many longtime CIA and FBI officials and other intelligence analysts believe was responsible for providing the Bush administration with bogus intelligence used to justify war with Iraq.

When the probe is complete, which aides to Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) - both of whom are aggressively working to collect pre-war intelligence documents that undercut administration's claims that Iraq posed a grave threat to national security - said will likely be in early 2006, there could be some sort of "public reprimand" brought against lower-level administration officials who work or worked at the Defense Department, the National Security Council, and in the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, for "cherry-picking" questionable intelligence on Iraq and using it to win public support for the war.

Based on the way the probe is starting to shape up, it's clear the administration, particularly Feith, who resigned earlier this year, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and possibly Cheney will bear the brunt of the blame, because the three of them sidestepped the usual intelligence gathering process that historically was handled by the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency in favor of their own clandestine intelligence gathering operations in which questionable information on the so-called Iraqi threat was collected and used by administration officials to build a case for war but wasn't vetted by career intelligence analysts, said a senior aide to McCain who requested anonymity for fear of angering members of the GOP.

Last month, under pressure from Democrats and some Republicans, and with public support for war eroding, the Pentagon's Inspector General agreed to probe Feith's secret spy group, the Office of Special Plans, and whether the operation played a role in manipulating pre-war Iraq intelligence in addition to knowingly passing dubious intelligence from defectors from Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress to the White House to convince lawmakers and the American public into backing the war...

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