Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only shake you down once a year, but when we do we really mean it. It costs a lot to keep the site afloat, and our growing audience, well over TWO million unique viewers a month, eats up a lot of bandwidth — and bandwidth isn’t free. We aren’t supported by corporate donors, advertisers or big foundations. We survive solely on your support.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Cooked Intelligence

by DAVID ISENBERG

In November, the US Senate erupted into rancor over a Democratic tactic to force the body into a secret, closed door session. Despite bitter complaints from Republicans, the stratagem worked, and now a long deferred investigation of White House influence on the U.S. intelligence community will commence.

This event and the furor earlier over the indictment of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby for leaking a CIA agent’s name to columnist Robert Novak have a common theme: the damage to the U.S. intelligence community’s ability to gather and report accurately information on threats to the nation.

Reports of these events have thus far ignored the source of the problem: an intelligence establishment made dysfunctional by efforts to cow and politicize it from the White House. This is, to borrow from Sherlock Holmes, the dog that didn’t bark.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Back in 2003 when it became clear that there were no “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, there were investigations into how U.S. intelligence got it so wrong. In 2004, two of them, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and former UN inspector David Kay’s Iraq Survey Group, issued their reports. Both contained scathing criticism but also carefully avoided any examination of political interference. The Senate committee chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said he would look into it after the 2004 elections but later decided it wasn’t worth the bother. More recently, under duress and in the spotlight, he changed his mind again.

The new inquiry should not have been necessary; it could have been resolved by the bipartisan Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, known as the Silberman-Robb Commission. The Commission’s report initially looked promising. It unmistakably laid out that the United States has a dysfunctional and inadequate intelligence-gathering and analysis system. It noted:

“We conclude that the Intelligence Community was dead wrong in almost all of its pre-war judgments about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. This was a major intelligence failure. Its principal causes were the Intelligence Community’s inability to collect good information about Iraq’s WMD programs, serious errors in analyzing what information it could gather, and a failure to make clear just how much of its analysis was based on assumptions, rather than good evidence.”

However, the Commission chose to overlook the painfully obvious political influence. It did not address the climate of policy-level expectations that indirectly demanded one type of answer when, for example, a secretary of defense declared one piece of dubious evidence “bullet proof,” and the impact of repeated searches for analysis when someone of the Vice President’s stature repeatedly went to intelligence facilities to ask the same question, again and again. And, the Commission chose not to examine what was done with intelligence products in response.

Perhaps one of the report’s most extraordinary omissions was the failure to acknowledge the existence of the highly political Office of Special Plans within the Pentagon that sought to discredit any intelligence that did not support a neo-conservative agenda.

Put another way, the crux of the issue is the relationship between the producer and consumer. While the precise dimensions of the relationship vary from one administration to another, one thing is clear. For it to work properly there must be a clear division between production and consumption.

Sadly, that is not the case today. Currently, the intelligence community appears to suffer from a specific form of ‘group-think:’ analysis characterized by uncritical acceptance of a prevailing point of view imposed from above. Contradictory evidence is discarded; policies are rationalized collectively, and dissenters and those seeking more inquiry are to be attacked.

Judging by George Tenet’s famous remark to President Bush that “it’s a slam dunk case” that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, group think is at its worst at the very top. However, it is not as apparent whether yet another inquiry, even one demanded by political opponents, will awaken a sleeping dog that no politician from any party will want to be too alert.

DAVID ISENBERG is a senior research analyst at the British American Security Information Council and is an Adviser to the Straus Military Reform Project of the Center for Defense Information in Washington. He is the author of “See, Speak, and Hear No Incompetence: An Analysis of the Findings of The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction” from BASIC.

 

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
Michael J. Sainato
How the Payday Loan Industry is Obstructing Reform
Robert Fantina
You Can’t Have War Without Racism
Gregory Barrett
Bad Theater at the United Nations (Starring Kerry, Power, and Obama
James A Haught
The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality
Thomas Knapp
US Military Aid: Thai-ed to Torture
Jack Smith
Must They be Enemies? Russia, Putin and the US
Gilbert Mercier
Clinton vs Trump: Lesser of Two Evils or the Devil You Know
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyons
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
Gareth Porter
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]