Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Republicans! Here's your new assignment!

The American Prospect has found your next smear target. His name is Richard Kerr.
In fact, analysts were pressured, and heavily so, according to Richard Kerr. A 32-year CIA veteran, Kerr led an internal investigation of the agency’s failure to correctly analyze Iraqi weapons-of-mass-destruction capabilities, preparing a series of four reports that have not been released publicly. Kerr joined the CIA in 1960, serving in a series of senior analytic posts, including director of East Asian analysis, the unit that prepared the president’s daily intelligence brief, and finally as chief of the Directorate of Intelligence. For several months in 1991, Kerr was the acting CIA director; he retired in 1992. A highly respected analyst, Kerr received four Distinguished Intelligence Medals; in 1992, President George Bush Senior gave him the Citizen’s Medal for his work during Operation Desert Storm.

Two years ago, Kerr was summoned out of retirement to lead a four-member task force to conduct the investigation of the weapons-of-mass-destruction fiasco. His team, which included a former Near East Division chief, a former CIA deputy inspector general, and a former CIA chief Soviet analyst, spent months sorting through everything that the CIA produced on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction prior to the invasion, as well as interviewing virtually everyone at the agency who had anything to do with producing the faulty intelligence estimates. The Kerr team’s first report was an overview of what the CIA said about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction before the war compared with what Kerr calls the postwar “ground truth.” The second looked specifically at a classified version of the important October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, which the administration used to build its case for war. The third looked at the overall intelligence process, and the fourth was a think piece that considered how to reorganize the management of intelligence analysis “if you could start all over again.”

Kerr’s four reports, with a fifth now under way, were viewed as the definitive works of self-criticism inside the agency and were shared with the oversight committees in Congress, outside commissions, and the office of the secretary of defense. Unlike the outside reports that looked at the same issues, however, Kerr’s concluded that CIA analysts felt squeezed -- and hard -- by the administration. “Everybody felt pressure,” Kerr told me. “A lot of analysts believed that they were being pressured to come to certain conclusions … . I talked to a lot of people who said, ‘There was a lot of repetitive questioning. We were being asked to justify what we were saying again and again.’ There were certainly people who felt they were being pushed beyond the evidence they had.”

In particular, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other administration officials hammered at the CIA to go back time and time again to look at intelligence that had already been sifted and resifted. “It was a continuing drumbeat: ‘How do you know this? How do you know that? What about this or that report in the newspaper?’” says Kerr. Many of those questions, which began to cascade onto the CIA in 2001, were generated by the Office of Special Plans and by discredited fabricators such as Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress and a secret source code-named “Curveball.” As a result, says Kerr, the CIA reached back to old data, relied on several sources of questionable veracity, and made assumptions about current data that were unwarranted. In particular, intelligence on Iraq’s biological and chemical weapons program, much of which was based on data collected in the 1980s, early ’90s, and more spottily until the end of the United Nations inspection regime in 1998, was parsed -- and, some would argue, cherry-picked -- in order to reinforce the administration’s case.

On and off the record, other former CIA officials say that despite the pressure, dissent against the White House was rife within the agency. The strongest opposition centered in the CIA’s Near East Division, few of whose officials supported the idea of war with Iraq. They clashed often with WINPAC, the CIA division focused on weapons proliferation and the part of the agency most responsible for the heavily skewed conclusions about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. “The Near East Division people didn’t buy into what the Bush administration wanted to do in regard to Iraq, but much of WINPAC did,” says Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer who left the agency in 1989 and then served four years as deputy director of the State Department’s office of counterterrorism. “Bush, and the White House, favored WINPAC over [the Near East Division]. There were people in the agency who tried to speak out or disagree … who got fired, got transferred, got outed, or criticized. Others decided to play ball.”
Now you real go-getters should already have been working on your "oppo" research for this guy. He was mentioned in the "Additional Views" section of the Select Committee Report written by Durbin and Rockefeller.
The CIA’s independent review on U.S. intelligence on Iraq, conducted by a panel of former senior agency analysts and led by Richard Kerr, former Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, reported that:
“Requests for reporting and analysis of [Iraq’s links to a1 Qaeda] were steady and heavy in the period leading up to the war, creating significantpressure on the Intelligence Community to find evidence that supported a connection.” (Kerr Report, July 2003)
Earlier this year, Mr. Kerr publicly elaborated on how the relentless, repetitive questioning and tasking from senior policymakers in the Bush Administrationpressured Intelligence Community analysts:
“There was a lot of pressure, no question,” says Kerr-. “The White House, State, Defense, were raising questions, heavily on W.M.D. and the issue of terrorism. Why did you select this information rather than that? Why have you downplayed this particular thing?... Sure, I heard that some of the analysts felt pressure. We heard about it from friends. There are always some people in the agency who will say, ‘We’ve been pushed too hard,’ Analysts will say, ‘You’re trying to politicize it.’ There were people who felt there was too much pressure. Not that they were being asked to change their judgments, but they were being asked again and again to restate their judgments -do another paper on this, repetitive pressures. Do it again.”

Was it a case, then, of officials repeatedly asking for another paper until they got the answer they wanted? “There may have been some of that,” Kerr concedes. The requests came from “primarily people outside asking for the same paper again and again. There was a lot of repetitive tasking. Some of the analysts felt this was unnecessary pressure.” The repetitive requests, Kerr made clear, came from the C.I.A.’s “senior customers,” including “the White House, the vice president, State, Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.’’(Vanity Fair, May 2004)
The Kerr report findings were confirmed to the Committee by a second independent investigation: the CIA Ombudsman.The Kerr report findings were confirmed to the Committee by a second independent investigation: the CIA Ombudsman. According to the Ombudsman’s charter, this individual serves as an “independent, informal, and confidential counselor for those who have complaints about politicization, biased reporting, or the lack of objective analysis.”

The CIA Ombudsman interviewed about two dozen analysts and managers involved in the preparation of the CIA’S June 2002, document entitled “Iraq and al-Qaida: Interpreting a Murky Relationship.” It was in the scope note of this document that the CIA stated its approach as being “purposefully aggressive” in seeking to draw connections between Iraq and al-Qaeda.

The Ombudsman told the Committee that he felt the “hammering” by the Bush Administrationon Iraq intelligence was harder than he had previously witnessed in his 32-year career with the agency. Several analysts he spoke with mentioned pressure and gave the sense that they felt the constant questions and pressure to reexamine issues were unreasonable.

In his interview with the Committee, Director Tenet confirmed that some agency officials raised with him personally the matter of the repetitive tasking and the pressure it created during this time period. The Director’s counsel to those who raised the issue was to “relieve the pressure” by refixing to respond to repeated questions where no additional information.
Get cracking! You have to save your president by making these people look horrible! Remember, you've already lost the argument since the truth has finally begun filtering out, so you'll have to, once again, attack the man.


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