National Intelligence Estimate


Last week, former Senator Bob Graham wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post where he disclosed how the administration withheld and manipulated intelligence information from Congress in the run-up to the Iraq war:

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An NIE National Intelligence Estimate is the product of the entire intelligence community, and its most comprehensive assessment. I was stunned when Tenet said that no NIE had been requested by the White House and none had been prepared. Invoking our rarely used senatorial authority, I directed the completion of an NIE.

… While slanted toward the conclusion that Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction stored or produced at 550 sites, it contained vigorous dissents on key parts of the information, especially by the departments of State and Energy. Particular skepticism was raised about aluminum tubes that were offered as evidence Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program. As to Hussein’s will to use whatever weapons he might have, the estimate indicated he would not do so unless he was first attacked.

Under questioning, Tenet added that the information in the NIE had not been independently verified by an operative responsible to the United States. In fact, no such person was inside Iraq. Most of the alleged intelligence came from Iraqi exiles or third countries, all of which had an interest in the United States’ removing Hussein, by force if necessary.

The American people needed to know these reservations, and I requested that an unclassified, public version of the NIE be prepared. On Oct. 4, Tenet presented a 25-page document titled Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs.” It represented an unqualified case that Hussein possessed them, avoided a discussion of whether he had the will to use them and omitted the dissenting opinions contained in the classified version. Its conclusions, such as If Baghdad acquired sufficient weapons-grade fissile material from abroad, it could make a nuclear weapon within a year,” underscored the White House’s claim that exactly such material was being provided from Africa to Iraq.

Kevin Drum has been compiling a comprehensive list of misleading intelligence claims where dissent from the administrations position was kept under wraps. As of now the list addresses seven key claims. Because this is so important, I’ve taken the liberty of copying the entire list. (Note: because of the length and formatting I’ve not enclosed it in a blockquote as I normally do.) I suggest checking in with Kevin’s original post for the latest information, as he is constantly updating it.

Kevin’s list:

  1. The Claim: Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, an al-Qaeda prisoner captured in 2001, was the source of intelligence that Saddam Hussein had trained al-Qaeda members to use biological and chemical weapons. This information was used extensively by Colin Powell in his February 2003 speech to the UN.
**What We Know Now:** As early as February 2002, the Defense Intelligence Agency circulated a report, labeled DITSUM No. 044-02, saying that it was &#8220;likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers.&#8221; <a href=";en=5a216116a0310ce1&#038;ei=5090&#038;partner=rssuserland&#038;emc=rss" onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'outbound-article', '', 'Link.']);" >Link.</a> This assessment was hidden from the public until after the war.

  * **The Claim:** An Iraqi defector codenamed &#8220;Curveball&#8221; was the source of reporting that Saddam Hussein had built a fleet of mobile biowarfare labs. Curveball&#8217;s claims of mobile bio labs were repeated by many administration figures during the runup to war.
    **What We Know Now:** The German intelligence officials who handled Curveball told the CIA that he was not &#8220;psychologically stable&#8221; and that his allegations of mobile bio labs were second hand and unverified. <a href="" onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'outbound-article', '', 'Link.']);" >Link.</a> The only American agent to actually meet with Curveball before the war warned that he appeared to be an alcoholic and was unreliable. However, his superior in the CIA told him it was best to keep quiet about this: &#8220;Let&#8217;s keep in mind the fact that this war&#8217;s going to happen regardless of what Curveball said or didn&#8217;t say, and the powers that be probably aren&#8217;t terribly interested in whether Curveball knows what he&#8217;s talking about.&#8221; <a href="" onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'outbound-article', '', 'Link.']);" >Link.</a> This dissent was not made public until 2004, in a response to the <a href="" onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'outbound-article', '', 'SSCI report']);" >SSCI report</a> that was written by Senator Dianne Feinstein. <a href="" onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'outbound-article', '', 'Link.']);" >Link.</a>
      * **The Claim:** Iraq had purchased thousands of aluminum tubes to act as centrifuges for the creation of bomb grade uranium. Dick Cheney said they were &#8220;irrefutable evidence&#8221; of an Iraqi nuclear program and George Bush cited them in his 2003 State of the Union address.
        **What We Know Now:** Centrifuge experts at the Oak Ridge Office of the Department of Energy had concluded long before the war that the tubes were unsuitable for centrifuge work and were probably meant for use in artillery rockets. The State Department concurred. <a href="" onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'outbound-article', '', 'Link.']);" >Link.</a> Both of these dissents were omitted from the CIA&#8217;s declassified National Intelligence Estimate, released on October 4, 2002. <a href="" onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'outbound-article', '', 'Link.']);" >Link.</a> They were subsequently made public after the war, on July 18, 2003. <a href="" onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'outbound-article', '', 'Link.']);" >Link.</a>
          * **The Claim:** Saddam Hussein attempted to purchase uranium yellowcake from Africa as part of his attempt to reconstitute his nuclear program. President Bush cited this publicly in his 2003 State of the Union address.
            **What We Know Now:** The primary piece of evidence for this claim was a document showing that Iraq had signed a contract to buy yellowcake from Niger. However, the CIA specifically told the White House in October 2002 that the &#8220;reporting was weak&#8221; and that they disagreed with the British about the reliability of this intelligence. <a href="" onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'outbound-article', '', 'Link.']);" >Link.</a> At the same time, the State Department wrote that the documents were &#8220;completely implausible.&#8221; <a href="" onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'outbound-article', '', 'Link.']);" >Link.</a>
            Three months later, in January 2003, Alan Foley, head of the CIA&#8217;s counterproliferation effort, tried to persuade the White House not to include the claim in the SOTU because the information wasn&#8217;t solid enough, but was overruled. <a href="" onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'outbound-article', '', 'Link.']);" >Link.</a> Five weeks later, the documents were conclusively shown to be forgeries. <a href="" onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'outbound-article', '', 'Link.']);" >Link.</a> In July 2003, after the war had ended, CIA Director George Tenet admitted publicly that that the claim should never have been made. <a href="" onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'outbound-article', '', 'Link.']);" >Link.</a>
              * **The Claim:** Saddam Hussein was developing long range aerial drones capable of attacking the continental United States with chemical or biological weapons. President Bush made this claim in a speech in October 2002 and Colin Powell repeated it during his speech to the UN in February 2003.
                **What We Know Now:** The Iraqi drones had nowhere near the range to reach the United States, and Air Force experts also doubted that they were designed to deliver WMD. However, their dissent was left out of the October 2002 NIE and wasn&#8217;t made public until July 2003. <a href=";fcategory_desc=Under%20Reported" onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'outbound-article', '', 'Link.']);" >Link.</a>
                  * **The Claim:** Administration officials repeatedly suggested that Saddam Hussein had substantial connections to al-Qaeda. Even after the war, George Bush said, &#8220;The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda [is] because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda.&#8221; Dick Cheney said the evidence of a relationship was &#8220;overwhelming.&#8221;
                    **What We Know Now:** As early as September 21, 2001, President Bush was told by the CIA that there was &#8220;scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda.&#8221; In fact, according to Murray Waas, &#8220;Bush was told during the briefing that the few credible reports of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda involved attempts by Saddam Hussein to monitor the terrorist group. Saddam viewed Al Qaeda as well as other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as a potential threat to his secular regime.&#8221; <a href="" onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'outbound-article', '', 'Link.']);" >Link.</a>
                      * **The Claim:** Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, an Iraqi defector, told the CIA that he had secretly helped Saddam Hussein&#8217;s men bury tons of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. After this information was passed to the *New York Times* by Ahmed Chalabi, it was cited in <a href="" onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'outbound-article', '', '&#8220;A Decade of Deception and Defiance&#8221;']);" >&#8220;A Decade of Deception and Defiance&#8221;</a> as evidence of Iraq&#8217;s continued WMD programs.
                        **What We Know Now:** Al-Haideri told his story while strapped to a polygraph. He failed. The CIA knew from the start that he had made up the entire account, apparently in the hopes of securing a visa. <a href=";pageregion=single7&#038;rnd=1132253345109&#038;has-player=false" onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'outbound-article', '', 'Link.']);" >Link.</a> </ol> 
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