Skip to comments.Paul Pillar Speaks, Again The latest CIA attack on the Bush administration is nothing new.
Posted on 02/10/2006 5:16:05 PM PST by april15Bendovr
Paul Pillar Speaks, Again The latest CIA attack on the Bush administration is nothing new. by Stephen F. Hayes 02/10/2006 4:15:00 PM
IN A BREATHLESS front-page, above-the-fold article in today's Washington Post, Walter Pincus reports that a former senior CIA official named Paul Pillar accuses the Bush administration of "misusing" intelligence to take the country to war in Iraq. According to the Post account, Pillar uses a forthcoming article in Foreign Affairs to claim that the Bush administration "politicized" the intelligence on Iraq.
Bush administration policymakers did this subtly, Pillar says, by repeatedly asking the CIA questions about Iraq, its weapons programs, and its support for terrorism. This "politicization" was apparently so subtle that it escaped the notice of both the Robb/Silberman Commission and the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report, which both found that no such politicization took place. If Pillar entertains the possibility that Bush administration officials asked tough questions because after September 11 they were genuinely concerned about the threat from Iraq, the Post article nowhere mentions it.
Pillar making claims about politicized intelligence is rich. In a column published September 27, 2004, Robert Novak identified Pillar as a speaker at a private dinner in California. Pillar's "management team" at the CIA, where he was employed as the national intelligence officer on the Near East/South Asia desk, approved the appearance. According to Novak, the ground rules for the speech were based on the "Lindley Rule," which holds that the speaker, his audience and the event are not to be disclosed, "but the substance of what he said can be reported." That substance, apparently, was a harsh assessment of the Bush administration's handling of Iraq.
Think about that: A senior, unelected CIA official--Paul Pillar--was given agency approval to anonymously attack Bush administration policies less than two months before the November 2, 2004, presidential election. That Pillar was among the most strident of these frequent critics--usually in off-the-record speeches to gatherings of foreign policy experts and business leaders--was well known to his colleagues in the intelligence community and to Bush administration policymakers. His was not an isolated case; CIA officials routinely trashed Bush administration policy decisions, often with official approval, in the months leading up to the Iraq War and again before the election. Pillar, who had complained to a CIA spokesman that someone had violated the ground rules by providing his name to Novak, simply got caught.
According to the Washington Post, Pillar's forthcoming critique will be "the first time that such a senior intelligence officer has so directly and publicly condemned the administration's handling of intelligence." Nonsense. In recent weeks, Pillar has trashed Bush administration policies to the Los Angeles Times and reporters for the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain. And before that, Pillar put many of these condemnations in a book. The relevant sections were published more than two years ago. Not exactly breaking news.
The book is called Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy, and it was originally published in 1999 by the Brookings Institution. A new edition, with an updated introduction, was published on January 1, 2004. Pillar uses the new introduction to accuse the Bush administration of misleading the U.S. public by dishonestly conflating the war in Iraq and the broader war on terror. It is exactly the kind of critique one might expect from an analyst who had long sought to downplay the role of states in terrorism. Terrorism, in Pillar's view, is something to be managed, not something to be fought and certainly not something to be defeated. From this follows Pillar's conclusion that military force is usually a counterproductive in managing terrorism. Reasonable people can agree or disagree with these views, but even as he articulated them in 1999, they are plainly odds with Bush administration policies and the global war on terror.
PILLAR USES HIS 2004 introduction to accuse the Bush administration of misleading the public to war in Iraq. The American public developed a mistaken sense about Iraq and al Qaeda, Pillar argues, through its "exposure to repeated mention of the two subjects in the same breath, to the many hints and suggestive references to links, and to the larger conceptual blurring that resulted from applying the term 'war on terrorism' to the fights against both al Qaeda and Iraq." Pillar cites polls showing that a majority of the American public believed Saddam Hussein had a role in 9/11. This misperception, he claims, was "the consequence of efforts to manipulate public perceptions to sell a policy undertaken for other purposes." Pillar does not say how President Bush's specific rejection of an Iraq-9/11 connection in the January 31, 2003, issue of Newsweek magazine--two months before the war--fit into this effort to manipulate public perception.
Pillar points to "a series of increasingly deadly vehicle bombs" in the summer of 2003 to criticize President Bush's postwar claim that Iraq was the central front in the war on terror. Pillar writes:
Such words may have more of an impact on popular perceptions than the fact that the terrorism in question was not anything the Saddam regime would have done if the United States had not gone to war, but instead something that the terrorists were doing because it had.
It is a revealing passage. Pillar confuses his analysis with "facts" and proffers a stunningly categorical claim about Iraqi intentions. How does Paul Pillar know what Saddam Hussein would or would not have done without a U.S. invasion of Iraq? For a conclusion as definitive as the one Pillar offers--a "fact" he calls it--Pillar must have had a lot of confidence in the quality of the intelligence he was seeing. This confidence was misplaced, according to the conclusions of the bipartisan Senate Select Intelligence Committee's report on pre-war intelligence on Iraq, which concluded:
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) did not have a focused human intelligence (HUMINT) collection strategy targeting Iraq's links to terrorism until 2002. The CIA had no [redacted] sources on the ground in Iraq reporting specifically on terrorism.
(It is worth pointing out that Iraq's 1993 attempt to assassinate President George H.W. Bush included plans to use vehicle bombs. When Jabir Salim, the Iraqi ambassador to the Czech Republic, defected in December 1998, he told British intelligence that the Iraqi regime had provided $150,000 so that he might recruit and Islamic terrorist to detonate a truck bomb at Radio Free Europe headquarters in Prague.)
THE POST ARTICLE also tells us that Pillar accuses the Bush administration of "cherry-picking" intelligence to make its case. Others have made similar claims, not entirely without justification. Still, it is an especially odd charge coming from Pillar.
In his book, Pillar explores the U.S. missile strikes against the al Shifa pharmaceutical plant near Khartoum, Sudan. The Clinton administration attacked the plant on August 20, 1998, in response to the bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa on August 7, 1998. In one lengthy paragraph, Pillar lays out the evidence:
Certain aspects of the security of the plant and public information about it suggested that it was engaged in more sensitive activity than just the production of pharmaceuticals; that a sample of soil collected outside the plant--unlike samples collected at other suspicious sites in Sudan--contained a chemical that is a precursor to the nerve agent VX (there are other conceivable reasons for the chemical to exist, but none that was a plausible explanation for it to be present at this location in Sudan); that there were reasons to believe the al Shifa plant was part of Sudan's larger Military Industrial Corporation, the center of Sudanese work on the development of weapons, including unconventional weapons; that bin Laden contributed financially to this corporation (part of his substantial ties with the Sudanese regime dominated by Hasan al Turabi's National Islamic Front); that there were other, more direct links between bin Laden and the management of the al Shifa plant; and that there were other intelligence reports that bin Laden's organization was attempting to acquire a chemical weapons capability (not to mention bin Laden's public statements suggesting the same thing).
Pillar omits several significant facts: the U.S. intelligence community had evidence that suggested the VX precursor (known as EMPTA) was of Iraqi provenance; the U.S. government had intercepted phone calls between administrators of that plant and an Iraqi chemical weapons expert named Emad al Ani; the CIA had intelligence that Iraqis had worked with the Sudanese, and through them bin Laden, to develop chemical weapons at several sites throughout Sudan.
Consider: In a January 23, 1999, article in the Washington Post, then-National Security Council counterterrorism director Richard Clarke, no friend of the Bush administration, defended the Clinton administration strikes on al Shifa and said that "intelligence exists linking bin Laden to al Shifa's current and past operators, the Iraqi nerve gas experts and the National Islamic Front in Sudan." In an email he sent on November 4, 1998, to National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and made public by the 9/11 Commission, Clarke concluded that the presence of Iraqi chemical experts in Sudan was "probably a direct result of the Iraq-Al Qaeda agreement," whereby bin Laden promised not to agitate against the Iraqi regime and Saddam Hussein pledged assistance on weapons development.
Senior Clinton administration and intelligence officials defend the strikes to this day by citing Iraqi connections to the plant. President Clinton's secretary of Defense, William Cohen, testified before the 9/11 Commission that there were "multiple, reinforcing elements of information ranging from links that the organization that built the facility [al Shifa] had both with bin Laden and with the leadership of the Iraqi chemical weapons program." Said Cohen: "The owner of the plant had traveled to Baghdad to meet with the father of the VX program."
In an interview with THE WEEKLY STANDARD in October 2004, former chairman of the National Intelligence Council, John Gannon said: "The consistent stream of intelligence at that time said it wasn't just al Shifa. There were three different [chemical weapons] structures in the Sudan. There was the hiring of Iraqis. There was no question that the Iraqis were there."
9/11 Commission co-chairman Tom Kean made the same points in a separate interview with THE WEEKLY STANDARD. "Top officials--Bill Clinton, Sandy Berger, and others--told us with absolute certainty that there were chemical weapons of mass destruction at that factory, and that's why we sent missiles." Kean added: "We still can't say for certain that the chemicals were there. If they're right and there was stuff there, then it had to come from Iraq. They're the ones who had the stuff, who had this technology."
How is it that Paul Pillar could write about the al Shifa attacks without making mention of the facts of Iraqi involvement with the plant? Simple: They are inconvenient to his theories about the relationships between states and terrorists.
Paul Pillar's political attacks on the Bush administration's use of intelligence are not particularly surprising. They are not entirely accurate and, given that he has leveled the same charges for years--both in private and in public--they hardly qualify as news.
Stephen F. Hayes is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard.
Good Job Stephen
I think one of Bush's biggest mistakes was not firing Tennet and cleaning house at the CIA the day after he took office in 2001. These Pillar and Valerie Plame types should have been shown the door by a new CIA director the same year. Now these traders are jepordizing our national security and our troops in the field.
The real scary part about how POLITICS is running our country in Washington, is exactly that. We cannot have confidence in three-letter agencies that are riddled with anti-American activists. I agree these agencies should have been cleaned out on Bush's first day in office --- and now, we are still suffering from the "Mr. Niceguy" approach...with our future at stake, no more BS politics.
Stepping on a few toes at the CIA? It's about time.
No liberals for example. Their Loyalty seems to be a detriment to our National Security.
The creep belongs in prison.
I saw Pillar on tv earlier today. He has a very pronounced facial tic.
"Bush administration policymakers did this subtly, Pillar says, by repeatedly asking the CIA questions about Iraq, its weapons programs, and its support for terrorism"
How dare they!
Until the leftist holdouts at the C.I.A. are purged, our nation will be in constant jeopardy from Islamic attack.
Firing federal employees is ten times harder than dismissing bad teachers.
From reading some of the transcripts of this guy off the web I take him as a United Nations one world type of idiot like John Kerry.
This is kinda long, but I think it needs to be pointed out anytime liberals question the wisdom of removing Saddam:
It's past time that Republicans start reminding people of the threat Saddam posed regardless of WMDs. It's also time to point out that Iraq didn't just become a terorist state as a result of the Iraq War; it already was. In fact, the war in Afghanistan...all by itself, pretty much guranteed that Iraq would eventually become an even greater threat, regardless of what we did to Saddam. What many liberals and Democrats ignore is that even "before" 9/11, Al Qaeda and Al-Zarqawi were courting the Arabs and Kurds in N. Iraq in an effort to create AQs new affilate...Ansar Al-Islam.
In August of 2001, leaders of several Kurdish Islamist factions reportedly visited the al-Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan with the goal of creating an alternate base for the organization in northern Iraq. It was shortly after this that Ansar al-Islam was created using $600,000 in al-Qaeda seed money, with even perhaps as much as $35,000 donated directly from the Mukhabarat branch of Iraqi Intelligence Service. In other words, before the Iraq War, before the Afghanistan War...and even before 9/11, certain groups of Arabs and Kurds were colluding with Al-Qaeda in an attempt to establish a new AQ affiliate in N. Iraq.
This colaboration was further substantiated during the Afghanistan War, when a document found in an al-Qaeda guest house by the NY Times discussed the creation of an "Iraqi Kurdistan Islamic Brigade" which vowed to "expel those Jews and Christians from Kurdistan and join the way of Jihad, [and] rule every piece of land...with the Islamic Shari'a rule." For the learning impaired, this alliance meant the creation of another Taliban-like organization...with similar ties to AQ that the Taliban had in Afghainstan.
As the Afghanistan War wore on, it wasn't a conicidence that many remnants from the Taliban and AQ were finding themselves within this newly created "affiliate." Human Rights Watch even confirmed this when they visited the region and reported that hundreds of foreign fighters from Afghanistan were joining up with Ansar...some from as early as September 2001 (long before the Afghanistan War). Adding further evidence to this colaboration was HRW's own interviews of Ansar al-Islam members in PUK custody, who according to them, "described in credible detail training in al-Qa'ida camps in Afghanistan."
Heck, after Zarqawi was injured in the Afghanistan War...and even before the war in Iraq began, he found himself being treated in a Baghdad hospital owned by one of Saddam's son...only to leave with his Egyptian Islamic Jihad brethren who accompanied him, and later meet up with Ansar. This action completely contradicts the claims of those who said Saddam would never ally himself with these "radical" Islamic groups for fear of being overthrown. If that were true, AZ woud've never left Baghdad alive.
In fact, this Saddam/Ansar alliance was quite reasonable...not just because of their shared hatred of America, but because Ansar itself was doing something for Saddam that Saddam could no longer do for himself; Ansar was attacking the two largest Kurdish factions (PUK and KDP) in N. Iraq...which had long been the biggest thorn in his side. Evidence suggests that the very creation of Ansar Al-Islam may have been as a secondary base of operation should America succeed in ousting the Taliban and AQ. And this is important because after the destruction of the terrorists camps in Afghanistan, the sancturaries for these terrorists were running thin.
In fact, over the last decade, AQ and their more radical elements had been getting kicked out of their own homelands and host countries. From Saudi Arabia to Egypt to Lebanon to Jordan...and even terrorists supporters like Syria and Libya, these countries no longer wanted these groups operating from within their borders. With Sudan offering up UBL and even Musharif in Pakistan joining the WOT, there were little places left for AQ to coalesce, especially after 9/11 and the retribution America was seeking. No one wanted these groups for fear the US would make their state the next target in the WOT. Even Iran supposedly expelled Zarqawi after it was learned he may hiding there....which is when he made his way to Baghdad.
The simple fact is the war in Afghanistan made Iraq a natural choice for these groups...even well before the war in Iraq began. Before GW Bush was even President, ABC News and other media outlets were reporting that Saddam offered santuary to UBL. This is supported by the fact that Saddam already had the propencity for harboring wanted terrorists; he had already offered safe-havens to both Abu Abass and Abu Nidal...two of the world's most wanted terrorists. A brief history of Nidal shows that he and his group were responsible for the killings of over 900 people in over 20 countries. Nidal was a leader in the PLO...and after leaving them, formed his own group, the Abu Nidal Organization, which operated at an even more violent level.
Nidal was once America's most wanted terrorist and a 1989 State Department report called his organization the most dangerous terrorist group in the world. In a headline from Jan. 8, 1999, Reuters reported that the "Guerrilla Abu Nidal Flees to Iraq." This wasn't necessarily a secret since intelligence had reported that Nidal may have entered Iraq 10 days before Bill Clinton's Dec 16, 1998 bombing of Iraq. Since the 9/11 attack, it was learned that two of the hijackers...Mohamed Atta and Ziad Jarrah, had very close relations with Abu Nidal...which may explain his untimely death in Iraq.
Further confirmation of these alliances may be found in the fact that after the first 1993 WTC attack, Abdul Rahman Yasin, the man who mixed the chemicals for the World Trade Center attack in 1993, subsequently sought and found refuge in Baghdad. Coincidence? Not if you believe this and what others have said about Ramsey Yousif being a former Iraqi Intelligence officer. The same was also true for Abu Abass. This "convicted" Palestinian terrorist...and the mastermind behind the Achille Lauro hijacking, had been calling Baghdad his home since 1994...under Saddam's personal protection.
Abbas was the leader of another Palestinian terror organization (PLF) that, after leaving Tunisia, set up shop in Iraq. Saddam's relationship with Abass (and Nidal) was very convenient, as Saddam became one of the largest providers of finanical and material support to Palestinian suicide bombers, offering up to $25,000 to the families of these killers. Abbas became an intermediary between Saddam and the Palestinians, were both financal and material support flowed directly from Saddam to the blood-filled streets of Israel...with the PLF setting up terrorist training camps directly in Iraq.
Between the two Abu's...and the material support flowing between them from Saddam...and Hamas and Hezbullah, Iraq was already one of the largest terrorist havens in the world, complete with a terrorist training center at Salman Pak. For those who truly seek peace in the ME...especially between Israel and the Palestinians, that peace would've never had a chance with Saddam in power financing these organizations. This reason alone, makes the ouster of Saddam a legitimate cause, especially since Saddam's harboring of any terrorists was prohibited by the Gulf War Cease Fire and following UN resolutions.
The idea that Saddam and Iraq were some how disconnected from terrorists and terrorism before the Iraq War is one of the greatest frauds being perpetrated on the American people. Ansar's cooperative relationship with Al-Qaeda began "before" 9/11...and was only growing stronger. With the collapse of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan as a result of that war, Iraq was guaranteed to become an even greater threat. In fact, unlike Afghanistan and the Taliban, what made Iraq even more dangerous is that you had a Saddam with unlimited resources to continue funding these groups at a more significant level than Afghanistan could've ever done.
Putting aside the WMD argument, these terrorist connections were the most significant reason that Saddam had to be removed. And for those who still aren't convinced of this alliance, you don't have to look any further than Clinton's own DOJ that unveiled a sealed indictment of UBL in 1998. The indictment, unsealed later that same year, stated that "Al Qaeda reached an agreement with Iraq not to work against the regime of Saddam Hussein and that they would work cooperatively with Iraq, particularly in weapons development."
When you consider the fraud that was the Oil for Food Program...which only continued to enrich Saddam, and the attempts by several nations to totally remove the sanctions, Saddam in no way was ever "contained"...nor would he be. It's also as if these people never even read the Kay and Duelfer Reports...which while admitting that they may not have found stockpiles of WMDs, did acknowledge the infrastructure, expertise and willingness that Saddam still retained to reconstitute these programs. This, combined with the terrorist haven that Saddam allowed Iraq to become, made his removal an immediate priority...even moreso as a result of the Afghanistan War. One only has to look at the political landscape in the ME today...after the elections of radicals in both Iran and Palestine, to realize just how lucky we were to get Saddam out when we did.
The CIA isnt an intelligence agency , its a nest of liberal vipers.
Maybe Paul Pillar should take a trip with Stephen Hayes to Doha Qatar and check out the Docex Project.
Or interview members of Operation Able Danger.
Born in Brooklyn, Walter Pincus worked as a copyboy at the New York Times after graduating from Yale University. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1955 and served in the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Corps in Washington from 1955-1957. After his discharge, he worked on the copy desk of The Wall Street Journal's Washington edition. He left in 1959 to become Washington correspondent for three North Carolina newspapers. In 1963, he moved to the Washington Star before joining The Washington Post, where he worked from 1966 to 1969. From 1972 to 1975, he was executive editor of The New Republic. He covered the Watergate Senate hearings, the House impeachment hearings and the Watergate trial, writing articles for the magazine and op-ed pieces for The Washington Post. In 1975, he returned to The Washington Post to write for the national staff of the newspaper.
When he resumed writing for the newspaper, he also was permitted to work as a part time consultant to NBC News and later CBS News, developing, writing or producing television segments for network evening news, magazine shows and hour documentaries.
Pincus has taken two 18-month sabbaticals from journalism. Both were spent directing investigations for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee under its then-chairman, Sen. J. William Fulbright. The first was into foreign government lobbying (1962-63) and the second into U.S. military and security commitments abroad and their effect on U.S. foreign policy (1969-70). Both investigations led to legislation. The first in a revision of the Foreign Agents Registration Act; the second in a series of limiting amendments on defense appropriations bills that culminated in the Hatfield-McGovern legislation to end the Vietnam War.
At The Washington Post, Pincus has written about a variety of national news subjects ranging from nuclear weapons and arms control to political campaigns to the American hostages in Iran to investigations of Congress and the Executive Branch. For six years he covered the Iran-contra affair. He covered the intelligence community and its problems arising out of the case of confessed spy Aldrich H. Ames, allegations of Chinese espionage at the nuclear weapons laboratories.
Pincus has won several newspaper prizes including the George Polk Award in 1977 for stories in The Washington Post exposing the neutron warhead; the 1961 Page One award for magazine reporting in The Reporter, and a television Emmy for writing on the 1981 CBS News documentary series, Defense of the United States. In 1999 he was awarded the first Stewart Alsop Award given by the Association of Foreign Intelligence Officers for his coverage of national security affairs. In 2002 he was one of six Post reporters who won a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting.
Look at the reporters background! SIX YEARS on Iran-Contra? Wrote the legislation that turned free Vietnam over to the Communists. Gee, that's really something to be proud of! Pincus is a useful idiot of the first order. One expects nothing except agit-prop, Republican bashing and service on bended knee to the Socialist Elite that run the Washington Post and NBC and CBS, his recent employers.
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