Thursday, October 07, 2004

Author and intelligence specialist on Bush and the misuse and abuse of the CIA News | "A temporary coup"
...Powers, the author of "Intelligence Wars: American Secret History From Hitler to Al Qaeda," charges that the Bush administration is responsible for what is perhaps the greatest disaster in the history of U.S. intelligence. From failing to anticipate 9/11 to pressuring the CIA to produce bogus justifications for war, from abusing Iraqi prisoners to misrepresenting the nature of Iraqi insurgents, the Bush White House, the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies they corrupted, coerced or ignored have made extraordinarily grave errors which could threaten our national security for years. By manipulating intelligence and punishing dissent while pursuing an extreme foreign-policy agenda, Bush leaders have set spy against U.S. spy and deeply damaged America's intelligence capabilities.

"It's a catastrophe beyond belief. Going into Afghanistan was inevitable, and in my opinion the right thing to do. But everything since then has been a horrible mistake," Powers says. "The CIA is politicized to an extreme. It's under the control of the White House. Tenet is leaving in the middle of an unresolved political crisis -- what really amounts to a constitutional crisis."

The bitterest dispute, though not the only one, is between the CIA and the Pentagon, whose own secret intelligence unit, the Office of Special Plans, aggressively promoted the war on Iraq. While departing CIA Director George Tenet played along with the Bush administration -- a fact which Powers says reveals the urgent need for a truly independent intelligence chief -- much of the agency is enraged at the Pentagon, which put intense pressure on it to produce reports tailored to the policy goals of the Bush White House. The simmering tensions between the Pentagon, with its troika of Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith, and rank and file CIA personnel boiled over in July 2003, when the White House trashed the career of veteran CIA operative Valerie Plame by leaking her identity. The move was a crude retaliation against Plame's husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had exposed the Bush administration's specious claim that Saddam had sought "yellowcake" from Africa to build a nuclear bomb.

The struggle between the CIA and the Defense Department reached a bizarre climax a few weeks ago when Ahmed Chalabi's office was very publicly ransacked by officers working under the command of the CIA; the Iraqi exile leader was later accused of leaking vital information to Iran, among other allegations. The abrupt fall from grace of the man hand-picked by neoconservative policymakers to lead post-Saddam Iraq, says Powers, lays bare the brutal turf war between the two sides.

... Tenet was pushed out by the accumulating circumstances, not because he failed to do what Bush wanted him to do, which was essentially two things: The first was to not speak too clearly about the warnings that he'd given the White House before 9/11. You can be certain that it was not easy for Tenet to do that. Tenet has never spoken out clearly and said, "I told the president everything he needed to know to at least start responding to the threat."

... Secondly, Tenet hasn't spoken clearly on the reason why they got Iraqi WMD wrong. And it's not because people in the bowels of the agency had it all balled up, it's because in the process of writing finished intelligence -- which was required to extract a vote for war from congress -- it got turned on its head at the upper levels of the CIA. They found certainty where there wasn't any; the evidence for WMD stockpiles and programs was extremely thin. Who else could have created this situation besides the policymakers themselves?

... The agency is politicized to an extreme. It is under the control of the Bush White House. Tenet is leaving in the middle of an unresolved political crisis -- what really amounts to a constitutional crisis. It's somewhat like Iran-Contra, though on a totally different scale. The president wanted to go to war. He's supposed to have the support of the Congress. How did he get it? Well, his administration made up a scary story about imminent dangers.

... I think the truth about what happened at the policy level will eventually come out. We know, because it was on paper, that on Aug. 6, 2001 the CIA gave the president a very explicit warning. When 9/11 actually occurred, you would expect to look back and see, once the distress light was on, various U.S. intelligence and police organizations scurrying around frantically responding to the warning. But what do you find? Nothing.

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