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Cheney’s Other Liars

First, a heads-up: Christy will be on Air America with Sam Seder about 9:15 a.m. EST.

Somewhere in the lead up to the Iraq war, the Bush/Cheney Administration decided they needed two strands of intelligence to convince the American people and the world that a preemptive war on Iraq was justified. The first would be evidence showing that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction that posed an imminent threat to the US and/or its allies in the region. The second would be evidence that Saddam was so linked to the terrorists who attacked the US on 9/11 that it would be foolish to wait for his agents to attack us again.

Of course, we’ve long known that both strands of “intelligence” were false and based on fabricated or misrepresented intelligence, but even that revelation did not stop the Administration, and particularly the Vice President, from arguing the same points, over and over on Tim Russert’s Meet the Press and CNN. And by the time most of the country realized they’d been scammed, the Administration had invaded Iraq and become deeply mired in aguably the worst strategic policy blunder in US history. The rest, as they say, is legacy. But first: investigations and, we hope, accountability.

We've spent the last two weeks watching the Libby trial spotlight Dick Cheney's efforts to counter Joe Wilson's claims that the Administration misled the country into thinking that Iraq posed a nuclear threat to the US. We now know how hard Mr. Cheney and his Chief of Staff worked to undermine and intimidate the CIA to keep that canard alive. Now we're about to see the other main Administration argument, that Saddam Hussein's Iraq had significant links to al-Qaeda, be exposed as a misrepresentation of the Cheney-Rumsfeld neocon minions in the Department of Defense Office of Special Plans, a rogue neocon group set up to generate “correct” intelligence because the traditional intelligence community could not be trusted to give the cabal the answers it wanted.

In today's Washington Post, Walter Pincus and R. Jeffrey Smith report on how Douglas Feith helped cook the intelligence to mislead the country into war:

Intelligence provided by former undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith to buttress the White House case for invading Iraq included "reporting of dubious quality or reliability" that supported the political views of senior administration officials rather than the conclusions of the intelligence community, according to a report by the Pentagon's inspector general.

Feith's office "was predisposed to finding a significant relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda," according to portions of the report, released yesterday by Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.). The inspector general described Feith's activities as "an alternative intelligence assessment process."

An unclassified summary of the full document is scheduled for release today in a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which Levin chairs. In that summary, a copy of which was obtained from another source by The Washington Post, the inspector general concluded that Feith's assessment in 2002 that Iraq and al-Qaeda had a "mature symbiotic relationship" was not fully supported by available intelligence but was nonetheless used by policymakers.

Remember the infamous meeting in Prague between the reputed World Trade Center terrorist Mohamad Atta and Iraqi officials — the meeting that Dick Cheney kept insisting (and on Tim Russert's show, no less) proved the link between Iraq and the terrorists responsible for 9/11? That cooked up story was misrepresented to CIA officials:

But only "some of the information" in those briefings was "supported by available intelligence," the summary said. The version of the briefing presented to senior Bush officials, it said, contained different information than a presentation to the CIA. Left out of the version for the CIA, the inspector general said, was "a slide that said there were 'fundamental problems' " with the way the intelligence community was presenting the evidence.

Once again, we see the pattern of a skeptical intelligence community being overruled by the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal:

Feith, who was defense policy chief before leaving the government in 2005, was one of the key contributors to the administration's rationale for war. His intelligence activities, authorized by then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul D. Wolfowitz, and coordinated with Vice President Cheney's office, stemmed from an administration belief that the CIA was underplaying evidence of then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's ties with al-Qaeda.

And once again we find the perpetrator in complete denial about his responsibility for misleading the country into a tragic and catastrophic war:

In a telephone interview yesterday, Feith emphasized the inspector general's conclusion that his actions, described in the report as "inappropriate," were not unlawful. "This was not 'alternative intelligence assessment,' " he said. "It was from the start a criticism of the consensus of the intelligence community, and in presenting it I was not endorsing its substance." . . .

In interviews with Pentagon investigators, the summary document said, Feith insisted that his activities did not constitute intelligence and that "even if they were, [they] would be appropriate given that they were responding to direction from the Deputy Secretary of Defense."

Senator Levin:

"The bottom line is that intelligence relating to the Iraq-al-Qaeda relationship was manipulated by high-ranking officials in the Department of Defense to support the administration's decision to invade Iraq," Levin said yesterday. "The inspector general's report is a devastating condemnation of inappropriate activities in the DOD policy office that helped take this nation to war."

The Post article is based on a summary (h/t Stephen Parrish, CPA), and more will likely come out in today's hearing. Just once, I’d like to come across one of these neocon minions who displays an ounce of remorse, any hint of regret or acknowledgment of what they've done. Why is that too much to ask?

UPDATE: Commenters City Girl and Ann in AZ found the links to assessments of the Office of Special Plans and a special tribute from Tommy Franks to Mr. Feith’s “intelligence.”

UPDATE 2: Commenter cs, art is bread finds this excellent 2003 Guardian story on the Office of Special Plans.

UPDATEs 3-4: Commenters are finding lots of related links, but this one from mui to an excellent Frontline expose is particularly worth checking out. And from Cheryl, a very readable article by Dreyfuss and Vest in Mother Jones.

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley