Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Monday, April 24, 2006

  The White House promoted intelligence it liked and ignored intelligence it didn’t

So said the report about the manipulation of intelligence before the invasion of Iraq on 60 Minutes yesterday. In part, the CBS report covers the well-known story of the fake documents allegedly from Niger, and how the White House clung to the yellowcake allegation long after it had been discredited. It also describes how, even months after the invasion of Iraq, the White House was leaking misleading information to reporters, trying to buttress allegations it knew to be false.

The main interest in the 60 Minutes segment, however, is the first-hand account, provided by a high-ranking CIA official, of how the White House cherry-picked intelligence to promote the Iraq war. The official is Tyler Drumheller.

"It just sticks in my craw every time I hear them say it’s an intelligence failure. It’s an intelligence failure. This was a policy failure," Drumheller tells Bradley.

Drumheller was the CIA's top man in Europe, the head of covert operations there, until he retired a year ago. He says he saw firsthand how the White House promoted intelligence it liked and ignored intelligence it didn’t:

"The idea of going after Iraq was U.S. policy. It was going to happen one way or the other," says Drumheller.

Drumheller says he doesn't think it mattered very much to the administration what the intelligence community had to say. "I think it mattered it if verified. This basic belief that had taken hold in the U.S. government that now is the time, we had the means, all we needed was the will," he says.

Later in the interview, Drumheller repeated and expanded upon allegations that had already been reported by NBC last month. (The sources for the NBC report were anonymous, but may have included Drumheller.)

A key allegation is that in September, 2002 the CIA convinced Iraq's foreign minister, Naji Sabri, to feed information secretly to the U.S. about Iraq's WMD capabilities. The White House was delighted initially with the breakthrough.

According to Drumheller, CIA Director George Tenet delivered the news about the Iraqi foreign minister at a high-level meeting at the White House, including the president, the vice president and Secretary of State Rice.

At that meeting, Drumheller says, "They were enthusiastic because they said, they were excited that we had a high-level penetration of Iraqis."

But as it turned out, Sabri told the CIA the truth, that Hussein did not have active weapons of mass destruction programs.

"The policy was set," Drumheller says. "The war in Iraq was coming. And they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy, to justify the policy."

Drumheller expected the White House to ask for more information from the Iraqi foreign minister.

But he says he was taken aback by what happened. "The group that was dealing with preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they're no longer interested," Drumheller recalls. "And we said, 'Well, what about the intel?' And they said, 'Well, this isn't about intel anymore. This is about regime change.'"

The NBC report adds considerable detail, including the information that the CIA pressured Sabri to defect to the U.S., and then broke off contacts with him when he refused.

The White House refused to comment to CBS about this report, though Condoleezza Rice has dismissed the revelation about Sabri. She argues that he was just one source and therefore unreliable. Drumheller, however, points out that the White House was more than ready to use a single source when it seemed to strengthen the case for war.

He also put his finger on one of the central problems we face today. Many Americans simply are unwilling to believe the evidence that has been documented over and over again. To believe it is to be forced to confront an awkward question: What do we do about a President who conspired to deceive the nation?

"The American people want to believe the president. I have relatives who I've tried to talk to about this who say, 'Well, no, you can’t tell me the president had this information and just ignored it,'" says Drumheller. "But I think over time, people will look back on this and see this is going to be one of the great, I think, policy mistakes of all time."


  • I never heard of that NBC report at the time. Why don't the rest of the media report on these things?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:22 PM  

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