Democrats & Liberals Archives

Poor Judgement

Well, it’s official. Again. While the Bush-appointed Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction unsurprisingly cleared President Bush of actively manipulating intelligence in the run up to the Iraq invasion, it makes clear that the White House expected intelligence officials to find evidence of Iraqi WMD whether it was there or not, “…it is hard to deny the conclusion that intelligence analysts worked in an environment that did not encourage skepticism about the conventional wisdom.”

The Bush administration's conclusion that Iraq had WMD and was a threat to the United States and its allies was a result of incestuous amplification within the intelligence community and the administration "in an environment that did not encourage skepticism." The Washington Post describes it as "a kind of echo chamber in which plausible hypotheses hardened into firm assertions of fact, eventually becoming immune to evidence."

As one example, the commission notes that, while Secretary of State Colin Powell was preparing his now infamous presentation to the UN, leading CIA analysts were making frantic phone calls to CIA director George Tenet telling him they had grave doubts about the credibility of one of their sources,

According to the division chief, Mr. Tenet replied with words to the effect of "yeah, yeah," and that he was "exhausted." The division chief said that when he listened to the speech the next day, he was surprised that the information from Curveball had been included.

That's important to note, because many of our allies at the UN were looking at the same intelligence. If you ever wondered why they didn't believe us, it's because the administration was spewing garbage that our own intelligence services didn't even believe.

Powell had his doubts, too. As he gave his UN presentation on Iraqi WMD, he knew it was probably bogus, "At one point during the rehearsal, Powell tossed several pages in the air. "I'm not reading this," he declared. "This is bullshit."

Hell, even President Bush didn't think the intelligence was solid. Drawing on interviews with Bush and others in the administration, Bob Woodward describes Tenet's "Slam Dunk" presentation in his book, "Plan of Attack",

"Nice try," Bush said. "I don't think this is quite - it's not something that Joe Public would understand or would gain a lot of confidence from."

Card was also underwhelmed. The presentation was a flop.... Bush turned to Tenet. "I've been told all this intelligence about having WMD and this is the best we've got?"

From the end of one of the couches in the Oval Office, Tenet rose up, threw his arms in the air. "It's a slam dunk case!" the DCI said.

Bush pressed. "George, how confident are you?"

..."Don't worry, it's a slam dunk!"

...The president later recalled that McLaughlin's presentation "wouldn't have stood the test of time." But, said Bush, Tenet's reassurance - "That was very important."

"Needs a lot more work," Bush told Card and Rice. "Let's get some people who've actually put together a case for a jury." He wanted some lawyers, prosecutors if need be. They were going to have to go public with something.

One of the main recommendations made by the commission to keep future administrations from cherry-picking data to fit a pre-ordained conclusion is to encourage the dissemination of dissenting opinions - especially to Congressional oversight committees. I have an alternate solution: Americans should stop electing (and re-electing) leaders who consistently exhibit poor judgment.

Posted by American Pundit at April 1, 2005 3:31 AM