There were several different strands of policy-making that took place in late 2001 and early 2002. It brings more clarity if the strands are disentangled, rather than presenting the material in strictly chronological order.
First, in co-operation with former government officials, Chalabi worked up a plan to overthrow Saddam Hussein. In late 2001, two unpaid consultants to Chalabi worked up a new plan for getting rid of Saddam Hussein. The consultants were retired Army General and Special Forces commander Wayne Downing, and former CIA counter-terrorism chief Duane (“Dewey”) Clarridge. In October 2001, Wayne Downing was appointed as deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism. In December 2001, Chalabi presented the Bush administration with the new plan for overthrowing Saddam Hussein that had been worked up by Downing and Clarridge. A study group in the Defense Department then buffed up the Chalabi plan and sent it on to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).
Second, the Defense Department extended its role in fighting terrorism from special operations and intelligence gathering to intelligence analysis. In December 2001, a Department of Defense memorandum argued that terrorism experts had “downplayed or sought to disprove” the existence of a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq, and that the intelligence community had a bias against defector testimony. The memorandum concluded that Abram Shulsky and a couple of analysts be charged to “investigate linkages to Iraq,” and to be allowed to investigate defector testimony in this regard. (p. 211.) In the course of 2002, Rumsfeld became angry with the CIA for failing to find any evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. (p. 210.) Rumsfeld ordered or approved someone’s suggestion for creation of a special intelligence unit “to search for information on Iraq’s hostile intentions or links to terrorists.” (Quoted from NYT, October 2002.) In September 2002, an Office of Special Plans (OSP) was created in the Defense Department to house Shulsky and his analysts. Throughout 2002 OSP reports were “stovepiped” to Vice President Cheney’s office, and then on to the President. In this fashion, the reports bypassed normal intelligence agency vetting. (p. 217.)
Third, Secretary of State Colin Powell seems to have accommodated himself to the prevailing currents in the Bush Administration, rather than fighting against them. In December 2001, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) presented its report on Iraq’s WMD to Secretary of State Colin Powell. One analyst who helped write the report told Hersh that “It basically said that there was no persuasive evidence that the Iraqi nuclear program is being reconstituted.” (p. 225.) On 30 January 2002, the CIA informed Congress that “Baghdad may be attempting to acquire materials that could aid in reconstituting its nuclear weapons program.” (p. 228.) On 6 February 2002, Secretary of State Colin Powell went further than the CIA report that Iraq “may be…reconstituting its nuclear weapons program” and flatly contradicted the INR report that there was no persuasive evidence that Iraq was trying to revive its nuclear program. He stated before the House International Relations Committee that “with respect to the nuclear program, there is no doubt that the Iraqis are pursuing it.” (p. 228.)
Fourth, the President had decided on war against Iraq by early in 2002. On 29 January 2002, President George W. Bush denounced an “Axis of Evil” (Iraq, Iran, North Korea) in his State of the Union speech. In early 2002, President Bush told the various interested departments to come up with a plan to topple Saddam Hussein. The plan must be ready by 15 April 2002.