NO, We Can’t Trust Our Intelligence


We have a very serious problem in the U.S. Do we trust our national intelligence services or don’t we? The president repeatedly has favored Vladimir Putin (a known liar) over our national intelligence services. He has openly questioned the performance of our national intelligence services. He has openly questioned the performance of our national intelligence services during the run-up to the Iraq War. In fact, he has used this as the basis for his case against our national intelligence services. Is he correct? Did our intelligence services completely botch intelligence during the run-up to the Iraq War or was it the fact that the George W. Bush administration was given mostly good intelligence but misused it in its desire to go to war.

Consider the following…

First. In an August 2002 speech, Vice President Dick Cheney asserted, “Simply stated, there’s no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.” But earlier this year, Vice Adm. Thomas Wilson, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, had told Congress that Iraq possessed only “residual” amounts of WMDs.

Second. In September 2002, Cheney insisted there was “very clear evidence” Saddam was developing nuclear weapons: Iraq’s acquisition of aluminum tubes that were to be used to enrich uranium for bombs. But Cheney and the Bush White House did not tell the public that there was a heated debate within the intelligence community about this supposed evidence. The top scientific experts in the government had concluded these tubes were not suitable for a nuclear weapons program. But one CIA analyst-who was not a scientific expert-contended the tubes were smoking-gun proof that Saddam was working to produce nuclear weapons. The Bush- Cheney White House embraced this faulty piece of evidence and ignored the more informed analysis. Bush and Cheney were cherry-picking-choosing bad intelligence over good-and not paying attention to better information that cut the other way.

There are many more examples. We will run out of room.

Finally, consider the following article in the March/April edition of the magazine “Foreign Affairs” by Paul R. Pillar titled “Policy and the War in Iraq.” I will only present the summary. “Summary: During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, writes the former senior analyst for the Middle East, the Bush administration disregarded the communities expertise, politicized the intelligence process, and selected unrepresentative raw intelligence to make it’s public case.

The conclusion is that it was not faulty intelligence from our intelligence services that got us into the Iraq War. We can trust our national intelligence services. But, we have to worry about our politicians misusing the intelligence they are given.

Robert Peterson

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