- The Washington Times - Friday, February 9, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Pentagon officials undercut the intelligence community in the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq by insisting in briefings to the White House that there was a clear relationship between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, the Defense Department’s inspector general said yesterday.

Acting Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the office headed by former Pentagon policy chief Douglas J. Feith took “inappropriate” actions in advancing conclusions on al Qaeda connections not backed up by the nation’s intelligence agencies.

Mr. Gimble said that while the actions of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy “were not illegal or unauthorized,” they “did not provide the most accurate analysis of intelligence to senior decision makers” at a time when the White House was moving toward war with Iraq.

“I can’t think of a more devastating commentary,” said Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat.

He cited Mr. Gimble’s findings that Mr. Feith’s office was, despite doubts expressed by the intelligence community, pushing conclusions that September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta had met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague five months before the attack, and that there were “multiple areas of cooperation” between Iraq and al Qaeda, including shared pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

“That was the argument that was used to make the sale to the American people about the need to go to war,” Mr. Levin said Thursday. He said the Pentagon’s work, “which was wrong, which was distorted, which was inappropriate … is something which is highly disturbing.”

Republicans on the panel disagreed. Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, said the “probing questions” raised by Mr. Feith’s policy group improved the intelligence process.

“I’m trying to figure out why we are here,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republican, adding the office was doing its job of analyzing intelligence that the CIA and other intelligence agencies had gathered.

Mr. Gimble responded that at issue was that the information, supplied by Mr. Feith’s office in briefings to the National Security Council and the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, was “provided without caveats” and that there were varying opinions on its reliability.

Mr. Gimble’s report said Mr. Feith’s office had made assertions “that were inconsistent with the consensus of the intelligence community.”

At the White House, spokeswoman Dana Perino said President Bush has revamped the U.S. spy community to try avoiding a repeat of flawed intelligence affecting policy decisions by creating a director of national intelligence and making other changes.

“I think what he has said is that he took responsibility, and that the intel was wrong, and that we had to take measures to revamp the intel community to make sure that it never happened again,” Mrs. Perino said.

Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman denied that the office was producing its own intelligence products, saying they were challenging what was coming in from intelligence-gathering professionals, “looking at it with a critical eye.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide