Skip to comments.Ex-Official: Evidence Distorted for War
Posted on 06/07/2003 7:15:11 AM PDT by leadpencil1
The Bush administration distorted intelligence and presented conjecture as evidence to justify a U.S. invasion of Iraq, according to a retired intelligence official who served during the months before the war.
"What disturbs me deeply is what I think are the disingenuous statements made from the very top about what the intelligence did say," said Greg Thielmann, who retired last September. "The area of distortion was greatest in the nuclear field."
Thielmann was director of the strategic, proliferation and military issues office in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. His office was privy to classified intelligence gathered by the CIA and other agencies about Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear programs.
In Thielmann's view, Iraq could have presented an immediate threat to U.S. security in two areas: Either it was about to make a nuclear weapon, or it was forming close operational ties with al-Qaida terrorists.
Evidence was lacking for both, despite claims by President Bush and others, Thielmann said in an interview this week. Suspicions were presented as fact, contrary arguments ignored, he said.
The administration's prewar portrayal of Iraq's weapons capabilities has not been validated despite weeks of searching by military experts. Alleged stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons have not turned up, nor has significant evidence of a nuclear weapons program or links to the al-Qaida network.
Bush has said administration assertions on Iraq will be verified in time. The CIA and other agencies have vigorously defended their prewar performances.
CIA Director George Tenet, responding to similar criticism last week, said in a statement: "The integrity of our process was maintained throughout, and any suggestion to the contrary is simply wrong." On Friday, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency acknowledged he had no hard evidence of Iraqi chemical weapons last fall but believed Iraq had a program in place to produce them.
Also Friday, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he was not prepared to place blame for any intelligence shortcomings until all information is in.
"There are always times when a single sentence or a single report evokes a lot of concern and some doubt," Warner told reporters after a closed hearing of his committee. "But thus far, in my own personal assessment of this situation, the intelligence community has diligently and forthrightly and with integrity produced intelligence and submitted it to this administration and to the Congress of the United States."
Thielmann suggested mistakes may have been made at points all along the chain from when intelligence is gathered, analyzed, presented to the president and then provided to the public.
The evidence of a renewed nuclear program in Iraq was far more limited than the administration contended, he said.
"When the administration did talk about specific evidence - it was basically declassified, sensitive information - it did it in a way that was also not entirely honest," Thielmann said.
In his State of the Union address, Bush said, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
The Africa claim rested on a purported letter or letters between officials in Iraq and Niger held by European intelligence agencies. The communications are now accepted as forged, and Thielmann said he believed the information on Africa was discounted months before Bush mentioned it.
"I was very surprised to hear that be announced to the United States and the entire world," he said.
Thielmann said he had presumed Iraq had supplies of chemical and probably biological weapons. He particularly expected U.S. forces to find caches of mustard agent or other chemical weapons left over from Saddam's old stockpiles.
"We appear to have been wrong," he said. "I've been genuinely surprised at that."
One example where officials took too far a leap from the facts, according to Thielmann: On Feb. 11, CIA Director Tenet told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Iraq "retains in violation of U.N. resolutions a small number of Scud missiles that it produced before the Gulf War."
Intelligence analysts supposed Iraq may have had some missiles because they couldn't account for all the Scuds it had before the first Gulf War, Thielmann said. They could have been destroyed, dismantled, miscounted or still somewhere in Saddam's inventory.
Some critics have suggested that the White House and Pentagon policy-makers pressured the CIA and military intelligence to come up with conclusions favorable to an attack-Iraq policy. The CIA and military have denied such charges. Thielmann said that generally he felt no such pressure.
Although his office did not directly handle terrorism issues, Thielmann said he was similarly unconvinced of a strong link between al-Qaida and Saddam's government.
Yet, the implication from Bush on down was that Saddam supported Osama bin Laden's network. Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks frequently were mentioned in the same sentence, even though officials have no good evidence of any link between the two.
"The down side risk was considerable as we see in the rejuvenation of Al Queda."
What? Are you saying we shouldn't go after, arrest, make war, hunt down, etc..etc... Because "they" might want to come back and hurt us..because we did what we did? Geesh, man...that line of thinking is wrong headed..and the end result is paralysis.
"Well, from the very beginning Scott Ritter, most of Europe, and the UN inspectors under Hans Blix,"
Well, yeah...I believe those guys.
"...Previously, it [Iraq/Saddam] had vehemently denied the very thing it just simply admitted once Saddam Hussein's son-in-law defected to Jordan and told the truth.
Now listen to this, what did it admit?
It admitted, among other things, an offensive biological warfare capability notably 5,000 gallons of botulinum, which causes botulism; 2,000 gallons of anthrax; 25 biological-filled Scud warheads; and 157 aerial bombs.
And I might say UNSCOM inspectors believe that Iraq has actually greatly understated its production.
As if we needed further confirmation, you all know what happened to his son-in-law when he made the untimely decision to go back to Iraq.
Next, throughout this entire process, Iraqi agents have undermined and undercut UNSCOM. ...".
June 3, 2003
Let me illustrate how easily liberals and these politically inept Democrats catch themselves in quicksand, or how easily they allow themselves to be caught. What was their big beef after the Gulf War I?
They chanted, "Bush 41 didn't finish the job." Of course, the "job" was never to remove Saddam from power, and of course they were the ones who demanded we halt the war when they saw the Highway of Death photos.
Nevertheless, now Bush 43 has "finished the job," has he not? He has - and thus they are trapped!
The mistakes the Monday Morning Quarterback Party said were made in '91 have been fixed.
"Oh, no, it was an illegitimate effort! It shouldn't have happened! There weren't any weapons of mass destruction, even if that was only one reason given for going in there and enforcing the resolutions of our beloved United Nations.
Saddam wasn't that bad of a guy!"
Yes, pretty soon they're going to be telling us that the torture chamber stuff was all made up.
They're going to have to, if they're going to remain consistent - and when they do they'll give us more proof of why they aren't to be trusted with the defense of this country.
I don't know how many of you liberals see the depth of the hole you are digging for yourselves, or how many of you realize who the architects of that hole are.
It's none other than Bill and Hillary Clinton. They're taking you people to depths you've never seen so that you don't have a prayer of getting power back in 2004, then they're going to run in 2008.
Bill Clinton is the most active ex-president in criticizing his successor that we've ever seen, even as he "sucks up all the oxygen" from nine Democratic candidates who're trying to get traction. It's a little bit more complicated than setting up Hillary's 2008 run for the White House, but not by much.
Your lust, your idolatry, your mistaken belief that Bill Clinton was the greatest politician to come down the pike because he routinely whacked and beat conservatives at every political turn, has blinded you.
You're following somebody who has no guts or principles, who doesn't care a rat's rear end about you. It's about advancing themselves and their careers, not you!
When it comes to other people, the Clinton's bumper sticker slogan is, "We Brake for Nobody." So you silly little plebes keep this stuff up, claiming that terrorist threats are made up, etc. You're only hurting yourselves - and I have no problem with that."
If there were no unconventional weapons and Saddam was not a threat to us, then why would he have to be removed?
If it is just that he was a bad guy, that is not a good reason to risk American lives, or risk inflaming the Muslim street for that matter. There are many bad guys in governments around the world, doing unspeakable things to their own people.
It is only a few months and everyone remembers that those weapons were the number one reason to go to war. None of the other reasons would have gotten the people behind the effort and none of them would have gotten congressional approval. It was the danger of weapons, particularly nuclear weapons or NO WAR. It is too soon to operate as if everyone not a history professor has forgotten.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to know the truth. It is very important. I am particularly disturbed by the forged documents that were submitted with respect to the Niger Uranium purchase. This was a strong argument in Congress and the forgery was discovered before the first missile was fired, but had no effect.
This is as if we had convicted a murderer and, before execution, found that a key piece of evidence used in his trial was false, but went ahead with the execution anyway.
Inspectors believed that Iraq could reconstitute its nuclear weapons program quickly, once sanctions were lifted. Although Iraq might need several years to recreate its enriched-uranium or plutonium programs, it might be able to acquire fissile material on the black market. In that case, it has already learned enough to be able to build a nuclear weapon in less than a year. As a result, Iraqs nuclear potential would have had to be carefully scrutinized by international inspectors for some time to come.
No Mikey, Saddam was far more than just a bad man, he was a very dangerous man. Probably along the same lines as Hitler. Are you suggesting that we should have allowed Saddam to become a Hitler and acquire nuclear weapons before dealing with him?
You sound as though you believe the documents claiming that Niger sold Saddam and Iraq uranium were forged by this administration. However, the truth is that they were supplied by a Niger diplomat who turned the letters over to Italian intelligence, which provided summaries of the information to Washington and London. Would you as President, responsible for the safety of Americans, dismiss totally these documents?
Your analogy of a criminal convicted of a crime is flawed as well, because no evidence has been secured that proves that Saddam had destroyed his WMD and thus no longer had any. You are only grasping at that theory, supported by the fact that no WMD have been found to date, as it justifies your objections to removing Saddam in the first place.
I do not know where his WMD have gone to and that scares me, but I am certain that he had them before during and after the latest round of inspections, though not necessarily within the boundaries of Iraq, because someone with Saddam's desire for power does not voluntarily destroy them, especially without getting something in return for that act, such as the lifting of sanctions.