Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Thursday, February 01, 2007

  Tyler Drumheller again on the manipulation of pre-war intelligence

The former head of CIA operations in Europe, Tyler Drumheller, continues to spill the beans about the Bush administration's determination to attack Iraq notwithstanding the evidence. You may recall that last October Newsweek had this short article:

The CIA won't say so, but the U.K. initially opposed war in Iraq. A new book by Tyler Drumheller, former chief of the CIA's European ops, describes how, the day after 9/11, a "powerful delegation from a very close European ally" visited CIA Director George Tenet at HQ. In his book "On the Brink," Drumheller says the foreign-team leader said "his government stood by us ... and that we could count on it for any and all support." But the foreign rep cautioned, "I hope we can all agree that we should concentrate on Afghanistan and not be tempted to launch any attacks on Iraq." In Drumheller's account, Tenet replied, "Absolutely, we all agree on that."


That delegation on Sept. 12, 2001 was from Britain and included Richard Dearlove – who nearly two years later presented Tony Blair with the caustic report preserved in the Downing Street memo, to the effect that the Bush administration was fixing the facts around the policy of attacking Iraq.

Drumheller also made an appearance last April on CBS's 60 Minutes in which he commented:

"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.


In the same interview, which I commented on here, Drumheller also discussed the allegation 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 initially was keen to get Sabri's testimony, said Drumheller, but when it became clear that the information coming from Sabri contradicted the position taken by the Bush administration – Sabri told the CIA that Hussein did not have an active WMD program – then contact deliberately was broken off with him.

"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.'"


Drumheller discusses the Sabri episode again in a new interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel. He also returns to the topic of the Bush administration's misuse of the "evidence" provided to German intelligence by the notorious liar "Curveball". Drumheller has spoken before on the topic, but here his comments are particularly pointed about how stunned he was to see that Colin Powell's UN speech was heavily based upon "Curveball's" ridiculous allegations.

Drumheller: ...never before have I seen the manipulation of intelligence that has played out since Bush took office. As chief of Europe I had a front-row seat from which to observe the unprecedented drive for intelligence justifying the Iraq war....

SPIEGEL: There are more than a few critics in Washington who claim that the Germans, because of Curveball, bear a large part of the repsonsibility for the intelligence mess.

Drumheller: There was no effort by the Germans to influence anybody from the beginning. Very senior officials in the BND expressed their doubts, that there may be problems with this guy. They were very professional. I know that there are people at the CIA who think the Germans could have set stronger caveats. But nobody says: "Here's a great intel report, but we don't believe it." There were also questions inside the CIA's analytical section, but as it went forward, this information was seized without caveats. The administration wanted to make the case for war with Iraq. They needed a tangible thing, they needed the German stuff. They couldn't go to war based just on the fact that they wanted to change the Middle East. They needed to have something threatening to which they were reacting.

SPIEGEL: The German government was convinced that "Curveball" would not be used in the now famous presentation that then US Secretary of State Colin Powell gave in 2003 before the United Nations Security Council.

Drumheller: I had assured my German friends that it wouldn't be in the speech. I really thought that I had put it to bed. I had warned the CIA deputy John McLaughlin that this case could be fabricated. The night before the speech, then CIA director George Tenet called me at home. I said: "Hey Boss, be careful with that German report. It's supposed to be taken out. There are a lot of problems with that." He said: "Yeah, yeah. Right. Don't worry about that."

SPIEGEL: But it turned out to be the centerpiece in Powell's presentation -- and nobody had told him about the doubts.

Drumheller: I turned on the TV in my office, and there it was. So the first thing I thought, having worked in the government all my life, was that we probably gave Powell the wrong speech. We checked our files and found out that they had just ignored it.

SPIEGEL: So the White House just ignored the fact that the whole story might have been untrue?

Drumheller: The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy. Right before the war, I said to a very senior CIA officer: "You guys must have something else," because you always think it's the CIA. "There is some secret thing I don't know." He said: "No. But when we get to Baghdad, we are going to find warehouses full of stuff. Nobody is going to remember all of this."


I don't count myself as an admirer of Drumheller. His willingness to make excuses for the Bush administration's policies of "extraordinary rendition", and his own complicity in carrying out renditions, is repulsive in the extreme.

Yet he's an important eyewitness to wrong-doing, and here he has put his finger on one of the basic principles by which the Bush administration has operated: They say any damned thing they want, in the expectation that people will forget soon enough.

That's also why I blog; I don't plan to forget.

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