FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

John Lehman on the War Path

Blame the CIA. That’s a political agenda that has found bipartisan support in Congress. Both the right and the left saw the departure of CIA chief George Tenet as a first step toward improving U.S. intelligence capabilities.

This month two bipartisan committees the independent 9/11 commission and the Senate Intelligence Committee reviewing U.S. counterterrorism policy and the administration’s response to 9/11 have fingered the CIA as having led the U.S. government astray. This assessment conflicts with the mounting evidence that right-wing politics and ideology have driven all decisions by the Bush administration, including the war on Iraq. But rather than blaming the politicization of intelligence, the congressional bodies scapegoated the CIA.

One of the most vocal critics of the CIA’s performance has been John F. Lehman Jr., former Navy secretary under President Reagan and member of the independent 9/11 commission, which will release its final report later this month. Lehman is also a leading candidate to replace Tenet as director of central intelligence.

Common Knowledge about Iraq

Although the two congressional committees on the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent U.S. response concluded that U.S. intelligence agencies got their facts wrong, Lehman himself persists in supporting the administration’s claim that Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda were in cahoots.

Lehman told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on June 20 that the commission had documents captured in Iraq that “indicate that there is at least one officer of Saddam’s Fedayeen, a lieutenant colonel, who was a very prominent member of al Qaeda.” Lehman succeeded in giving new life to the administration’s claims, although the CIA quickly dismissed the assertion, saying that the documents did not support Lehman’s allegation. In fact, the CIA had investigated this alleged link “a long time ago” and concluded that one officer in Hussein’s militia merely had a name that was similar to that of an al Qaeda operative. However, Lehman claimed on national television that it was new information, as yet unexamined by the commission or other government entities.

Bad Intelligence

Lehman has long charged that the CIA has dismissed dissenting points of views. He has faulted the CIA for not giving adequate attention to theories that Iraq was behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 9/11 attacks, and even the anthrax attacks of the fall of 2001. And Lehman continues to parrot the arguments of the neoconservatives, regularly appearing in the Weekly Standard, that al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were close collaborators.

That John Lehman has even been considered as capable of directing the overhaul of the badly flawed U.S. intelligence system underscores the degree to which right-wing ideologues and agendas continue to shape U.S. national security strategy. The main lesson for intelligence reform that should be drawn from recent U.S. foreign policy misadventures is that politicized intelligence is bad intelligence.

Certainly the CIA fell short in providing fact-based intelligence about the al Qaeda threat and the alleged Iraqi threat. But, as it has done in the past, notably under pressure from Team B and the Committee on the Present Danger in the late 1970s, the CIA reworked its own intelligence estimates to reflect the ideological convictions of the administration. But John Lehman along with the neoconservatives, the trigger-happy militarists like Rumsfeld and Cheney, and the liberal hawks in the Democratic Party also got it very wrong. Conveniently, they all join together again in blaming the CIA for its faulty fact-checking.

TOM BARRY is policy director of the Interhemispheric Resource Center and author of numerous books on international relations. He can be contacted at: tom@irc-online.org.

More articles by:

Tom Barry directs the Transborder Program at the Center for International Policy and is a contributor to the Americas Program www.cipamericas.org.

December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Jasmine Aguilera
Lessons From South of the Border
Manuel García, Jr.
A Formula for U.S. Election Outcomes
Sam Pizzigati
Drug Company Execs Make Millions Misleading Cancer Patients. Here’s One Way to Stop Them
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Agriculture as Wrong Turn
James McEnteer
And That’s The Way It Is: Essential Journalism Books of 2018
Chris Gilbert
Biplav’s Communist Party of Nepal on the Move: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian
Judith Deutsch
Siloed Thinking, Climate, and Disposable People: COP 24 and Our Discontent
Jill Richardson
Republicans Don’t Want Your Vote to Count
John Feffer
‘Get Me Outta Here’: Trump Turns the G20 into the G19
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail