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Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Sunday | February 02, 2003

FBI, CIA both reject Iraq-Al Qaeda link

Not that this hasn't been reported before, but it's good that it's being rehashed. While Bush continues to insist there's a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, both the CIA and FBI think otherwise (and these are the guys that should know best):

Some analysts at the Central Intelligence Agency have complained that senior administration officials have exaggerated the significance of some intelligence reports about Iraq, particularly about its possible links to terrorism, in order to strengthen their political argument for war, government officials said.

At the Federal Bureau of Investigation, some investigators said they were baffled by the Bush administration's insistence on a solid link between Iraq and Osama bin Laden's network. "We've been looking at this hard for more than a year and you know what, we just don't think it's there," a government official said.


Interviews with administration officials revealed divisions between, on one side, the Pentagon and the National Security Council, which has become a clearinghouse for the evidence being prepared for Mr. Powell, and, on the other, the C.I.A. and, to some degree, the State Department and agencies like the F.B.I.

The reference to the Pentagon as a clearinghouse for intelligence is particularly interesting. Remember this? It's from the October 25 edition of the Washington Post:
The Pentagon's civilian leadership has ordered a small team of defense officials outside regular intelligence channels to focus on unearthing details about Iraqi ties with al Qaeda and other terrorist networks, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday.


At a news conference yesterday, Rumsfeld denied suggestions that the initiative was meant to compete with the CIA or other intelligence agencies. He said it was intended simply to assist policymakers in assessing the intelligence they receive.

"Any suggestion that it's an intelligence-gathering activity or an intelligence unit of some sort, I think would be a misunderstanding of it," Rumsfeld said.

But the effort comes against a backdrop of persistent differences between the Pentagon and CIA over assessments of Iraq. Rumsfeld and senior aides have argued that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has strong links to international terrorism, poses an imminent threat and cannot be constrained from eventually unleashing weapons of mass destruction. The CIA's publicly released reports have painted a murkier view of Iraq's links to al Qaeda, its weapons capabilities and the likelihood that Hussein would use chemical or biological weapons unless attacked.

"The Pentagon is setting up the capability to assess information on Iraq in areas that in the past might have been the realm of the agency," said Reuel Gerecht, a former CIA case officer who has met with the people in the new Pentagon office. "They don't think the product they receive from the agency is always what it should be."

"They are politicizing intelligence, no question about it," said Vincent M. Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism chief. "And they are undertaking a campaign to get George Tenet [the director of central intelligence] fired because they can't get him to say what they want on Iraq."

So while the Pentagon's propaganda (er, I mean "intelligence") wing continues to spew unsupported allegations of links between Saddam and Al Qaeda, our real intelligence agencies, trying to do an honest job, are finding otherwise.

Posted February 02, 2003 06:34 PM | Comments (37)


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