“An exercise in alternative thinking” (Updated)

Posted on Friday 9 February 2007

Update:  It seems that WaPo’s article managed to confuse who said what in which report.  I only quote one of the problematic paragraphs (Ahem.  Well done, WaPo) — the first quoted in the post — so here’s the relevant correction:

A Feb. 9 front-page article about the Pentagon inspector general’s report regarding the office of former undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith incorrectly attributed quotations to that report. References to Feith’s office producing “reporting of dubious quality or reliability” and that the office “was predisposed to finding a significant relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda” were from a report issued by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) in Oct. 2004.

The WaPo link now leads with the full correction.

h/t  AllahPundit at HotAir.  I can’t say I agree with his assessment, though, that it radically changes the gist of the story.

*  *  *  *  *

This isn’t going to catch anybody by surprise (from WaPo)

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.


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.


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.”

Shorter Feith: “I told them what they wanted to hear.”

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.

The administration wasn’t getting what it needed from the CIA or the intelligence community.

Feith obliged.

We went to war.

Did I miss a step? From the AP (via BREITBART):

At the center of the prewar intelligence controversy was the work of a small number of Pentagon officials from Feith’s office and the office of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz who reviewed CIA intelligence analyses and put together their own report. When they briefed Rumsfeld on their report in August 2002 _ a period when Vice President Dick Cheney and other administration officials were ratcheting up their warnings about the gravity of the Iraq threat _ Rumsfeld directed them to also brief CIA Director George Tenet.

Their presentation, which included assertions about links between al- Qaida and the Iraqi government, contained a criticism that the intelligence community was ignoring or underplaying its own raw reports on such potential links.

But apparently the presentation to the CIA left that slide out. That bit kind of bothered me, until I realized that they were just engaging in a bit of intellectual stimulation — you know… to keep their minds limber and all that.

In a response last month to a draft of the IG’s report, Feith’s successor as undersecretary of defense for policy, Eric Edelman, wrote that the activity deemed by the IG to be “inappropriate” was actually “an exercise in alternative thinking” conducted at Wolfowitz’s direction.

Edelman wrote that the IG had misinterpreted “what the (Pentagon’s) work actually was _ namely, a critical assessment by OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense) for policy purposes of IC (Intelligence Community) reporting and finished IC products on contacts between Iraq and al-Qaida.”

An exercise in alternative thinking. For policy purposes.

Nope. Nothing to see here. Move along…

* * * * *

Some reactions from the blogosphere (via memeorandum):

Ed Morrissey at Captain’s Quarters:

None of this has anything to do with the war or its intel analysis. Feith and Wolfowitz have served as targets for Democrats for years, and now that they have returned to power, they want to use whatever they can to finish them politically. Carl Levin and Jay Rockefeller can’t wait to start holding hearings on the matter, even though the IG explicitly states that no laws were broken and the effort was properly revealed to Congress. This is just another venue for political payback, and nothing more.

Sean Aqui at Donklephant:

You gotta love it when the opposition takes over Congress. Suddenly we’re getting hearings into things we should have had hearings on years ago, and answers are starting to pop out. This goes a long way toward filling the gap left by the Republican Congressional leadership, which never got around to conducting Part II of its analysis of intelligence failures — the part that was supposed to investigate whether the White House misused intelligence to justify the war.

2 Comments for '“An exercise in alternative thinking” (Updated)'

    February 9, 2007 | 8:12 am

    [...] If you don’t like these facts, we can always order new ones. *Sob* Pity the poor SOBs “Feith and Wolfowitz [who] have served as targets for Democrats for year .” [...]

    February 9, 2007 | 1:02 pm

    The Office of Special Plans was Cheney’s PR campaign to provide “intelligence” to support the war. An analyst at the Pentagon who retired in the middle of it says it was an open secret it was to cherry-pick pro-war intelligence and discredit anti-war.

    The GOP plan on these leaks has always been to smear the writer and not debate the substance. Some details of this are in her wiki-bio. Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski is now running for the nomination of the Libertarian Party for Vice President.

    “This was not “alternative intelligence assessment.” It was from the start a criticism of the consensus of the intelligence community, and in presenting it I was not endorsing its substance.” – Doug Feith today.

    Ha, Ha. Stop it Feith, you’re killing me. Have you tried that routine out on the families of those who died in Iraq?


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