Defense report OKs policy chief’s intelligence move
A report to be released today clears the Pentagon’s former policy chief of Democrats’ charges he acted illegally and without authorization when he set up a small team to compile intelligence reports.
The report from the Defense Department inspector general focuses on a two-man team that after the September 11, 2001, attacks was assigned the task of studying intelligence reports on terrorist networks. It especially looked at reports of contacts between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.
Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Democrat, in 2004 accused then-Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, who created the unit, of “running a private intelligence failure, which is not lawful.”
But the IG report specifically rejects that charge, the sources said, adding there was nothing illegal or unauthorized about Pentagon policy-makers looking at intelligence and writing a report. Democrats contend that such work, by law, is done only by intelligence analysts.
Mr. Feith said yesterday he feels vindicated after hearing repeated charges from Mr. Rockefeller and Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat. Both serve on the Senate intelligence committee, which failed to find any illegality when it reviewed the Feith unit in 2003-2004.
“It is good but not surprising that the inspector general found that the Pentagon policy office’s activities were all legal and authorized and that policy officials did not mislead Congress,” said Mr. Feith, who was questioned by senators.
“The policy office has been smeared for years by allegations that its pre-Iraq War work was somehow ‘unlawful’ or ‘unauthorized’ and that some information it gave to congressional committees was deceptive or misleading. The office’s accusers always couched the charges in vague language, making them difficult to refute with precision. The charges have been repeated persistently despite the lack of any substantiation. The inspector general’s report has now thoroughly repudiated the smears.”
Mr. Levin, who requested the IG report and has repeatedly referred to the “Feith group” in derogatory terms, has suggested the Democratic-controlled Senate will conduct more probes into the unit.
The Senate Armed Services chairman plans a hearing today on the IG report.
The IG found one problem in Mr. Feith’s shop, questioning the criticism some policy people leveled at CIA analysts. The Defense Department rejected that part of the IG report, saying it was healthy for policy-makers and intelligence analysts to debate findings.
In a statement yesterday, Mr. Rockefeller stuck by his charges:
“Individuals in that office produced and disseminated intelligence products outside of the regular intelligence channels. These intelligence products were inconsistent with the consensus judgments of the Intelligence Community. This office did this without coordinating with the Intelligence Community and as a result policy-makers received distorted intelligence.”