The WMD Debate


The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction

April - December 2005

Materials presented chronologically.

Linzer, Dafna, and Barton Gellman. "Doubts on Weapons Were Dismissed." Washington Post, 1 Apr. 2005, A1. []

The report of the Presidential Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction cites "many examples ... of fruitless dissent on the accuracy of claims against Iraq. Up until the days before U.S. troops entered Iraqi territory..., the intelligence community was inundated with evidence that undermined virtually all charges it had made against Iraq."

Milbank, Dana. "After 14-Month Inquiry, Many Questions Remain." Washington Post, 1 Apr. 2005, A7. []

The report of the WMD commission "is plenty tough, but it directs its fire at the intelligence professionals -- the same ones already beaten up by the Sept. 11 commission and congressional reports -- and gives the political figures a pass.... Asked whether there was political pressure on the CIA, [Commission co-chairman Charles S.] Robb was categorical in denial."

Pincus, Walter, and Peter Baker. "Data on Iraqi Arms Flawed, Panel Says: Intelligence Commission Outlines 74 Fixes for Bureaucracy." Washington Post, 1 Apr. 2005, A1. []

The WMD commission has reported that "U.S. intelligence agencies were 'dead wrong' in their prewar assessments of Iraq's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and today know 'disturbingly little' about the capabilities and intentions of other potential adversaries such as Iran and North Korea.... The nine-member panel ... blamed intelligence agencies for overselling their knowledge and not disclosing conflicting information to policymakers. At the same time, it exonerated [President] Bush and Vice President Cheney from allegations of pressuring analysts to conclude that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction."

Priest, Dana. "Panel Warns of 'Headstrong Agencies': Bush Is Urged to Intervene to Break Adherence to 'Irrelevant' Status Quo." Washington Post, 1 Apr. 2005, A7. []

According to the report of the WMD commission, "one of the toughest obstacles" U.S. policymakers face as they "search for ways to improve U.S. intelligence ... is the hardened psychological attitude against change, born of the spy business's secretive, insular nature.... Former and current intelligence officials said the [commission's] report echoed previous criticism by the Sept. 11 commission and a Senate panel's inquiry into prewar intelligence on Iraq, and that it gave too little credit to the changes the intelligence agencies have already undertaken."

Purdum, Todd S. "A Final Verdict on Prewar Intelligence Is Still Elusive." New York Times, 1 Apr. 2005. []

The WMD commission "found no evidence that intelligence had been politically twisted to suit preconceptions about Iraq's unconventional weapons programs, and made no formal judgments about how top policy makers had used that intelligence to justify war.... So the latest and presumably the last official review of such questions leaves unresolved what may be the biggest question of all: Who was accountable, and will they ever be held to account....

"The old C.I.A. leadership is portrayed by the commission as either troublingly unaware or disturbingly dismissive of deep concerns within the agency that the principal source of prewar intelligence about Mr. Hussein's chemical and biological weapons programs was reported to have problems with drinking, reliability and truthfulness. At the same time, warnings by unnamed analysts within the agency who questioned this information before the war were disregarded."

Shane, Scott, and David E. Sanger. "Bush Panel Finds Big Flaws Remain in U.S. Spy Efforts." New York Times, 1 Apr. 2005. []

"In a scorching assessment of chronic dysfunction inside American intelligence agencies," the WMD commission told President Bush on [31 March 2005] that the underlying causes of the failure to have understood Iraq's weapons programs 'are still all too common.' It also warned that the United States 'knows disturbingly little about the nuclear programs of many of the world's most dangerous actors.'...

"The breadth and detail of the indictment, written in vivid, colloquial language rare in Washington, went beyond previous critiques. The report was particularly blistering about the low quality of the 'President's Daily Brief.'" Scott Shane and David E. Sanger, "Daily Intelligence Briefings Are Vague, Officials Say," New York Times, 3 Apr. 2005, add that according to WMD commission co-chairs Charles S. Robb and Laurence H. Silberman, "[t]he small group of top government officials who read the President's Daily Brief" told the commission "that they find the highly classified document of little value."

Shane, Scott. "C.I.A. Answers Criticism With Pledge to Do Better." New York Times, 2 Apr. 2005. []

A day after the WMD commission "harshly criticized" the CIA's "erroneous assessment of Iraqi weapons and weak reporting on other subjects," CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said on 1 Aprul 2005 that the CIA "was trying to give policy makers a more candid account of the reliability of intelligence it passed on."

Shane, Scott. "Ex-C.I.A. Chief Denies Knowing of Doubt About Defector's Word." New York Times, 2 Apr. 2005. []

Former DCI George J. Tenet said on 1 April 2005 "that he had never been told of a foreign intelligence service's grave doubts about the reliability of an important source of information on Iraq's purported biological weapons program, an Iraqi defector code-named Curveball." The WMD commission "wrote in its report ... that an unnamed subordinate of Mr. Tenet's had been told in 2002 by a foreign intelligence contact not to trust Curveball." According to an Associated Press report, "John McLaughlin, who was Mr. Tenet's deputy and then acting director after he stepped down, issued his own statement, saying he, too, was not told of the doubts about Curveball."

Washington Post. "[Editorial:] Intelligence Gaps." 3 Apr. 2005, B6. []

The report of the WMD commission is "a wake-up call" to President Bush: "he should respond quickly."

Pincus, Walter. "FBI, CIA Proposals To Retool Called 'Business as Usual': Panel Says Plans Do Not Meet Goals." Washington Post, 15 Apr. 2005, A6. []

In a letter to President Bush dated 29 March 2005, the WMD commission "said it had reviewed the FBI's proposal to integrate and upgrade its intelligence programs, and the CIA's plan to increase by 50 percent its corps of analysts and operations officers. 'We do not believe that either response is entirely adequate,' the commission's letter said."

Shane, Scott. "Panel Rebukes C.I.A. and F.B.I. for Shortcomings in Overhauls." New York Times, 16 Apr. 2005. []

In a letter to President Bush, the WMD commission "has sharply criticized reform plans drafted by the C.I.A. and F.B.I. at the request of President Bush, saying that glaring shortcomings of both proposals illustrate 'the difficulty of bringing about real change' in the nation's spy agencies.... The panel's letter was posted on its Web site" on 31 March 2005."

Shrader, Katherine. "U.S. Weapons Inspector Finishes Iraq Work." Associated Press, 25 Apr. 2005. []

In an addendum to the final report he issued last fall, Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group, said on 25 April 2005 "that the hunt for weapons of mass destruction has 'gone as far as feasible' and has found nothing." Duelfer "said a small team still operates under the U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq, although the survey group officially disbanded earlier this month. Those staying on continue to examine documents and follow up on any reports of weapons of mass destruction."

Isenberg, David. 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. Special Report 2005.1. London and Washington, DC: British American Security Information Council, Oct. 2005. []

"Overall, the Commission's recommendations are not particularly impressive. Most involve initiatives that were already in the works before the Commission released its report, and doubts remain about how effective they will be. More significantly, however, the recommendations completely ignore arguably the most important aspect of the problem. Intelligence is inevitably murky and uncertain. Rather than simply focusing upon changes to the hierarchy, the Commission could have explored how to encourage dissenting voices and diverse opinions within the intelligence community, in order to prevent bias and distortion, or what some have referred to as 'groupthink' within the intelligence community."

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