What we learned from Seymour Hersh 7.

During 2002 and early 2003, OSP took on CIA and the State Department. W. Patrick Lang[1] summed up what he saw of the arguments within the Bush Administration over intelligence: the people at OSP “banded together to dominate the government’s foreign policy, and they’ve pulled it off. They’re running Chalabi. The D.I.A. [Defense Intelligence Agency] has been intimidated and beaten to a pulp. And there’s no guts at all in the C.I.A.” (p. 208.)   One source told Hersh in early 2002 that “if it became known that Rummy[2] wanted [D.I.A.] to link the government of Tonga to 9/11, within a few months they would come up with sources who’d do it.” One former CIA officer told Hersh that “George [Tenet] knows he’s being beaten up, and his analysts are terrified. George used to protect his people, but he’s been forced to do things their way.” Another told Hersh that the “analysts at the C.I.A. were beaten down defending their assessments. I’ve never seen a government like this.” (Quotes from p. 224.) CIA analysts working on Iraq and briefing senior officials “got pounded on, day after day,” according to one Bush administration official. Without any substantial support from George Tenet in response to the criticism, “Pretty soon you say ‘Fuck it.’” (Quoted, p. 228.)

In late February 2002, the State Department sent former ambassador Joe Wilson[3] to Niger to investigate the “yellow cake” uranium story floated by the Italians. Wilson came back by early March 2002 and wrote a report discrediting the story. What he found was that all of Niger’s “yellow cake” uranium came from only two mines. Both were operated by a single French company. The entire output of the mines was sold by prior contract to power companies in France, Spain, and Japan. “Five hundred tons can’t be siphoned off without anyone noticing,” an IAEA official told Hersh. (p. 237.) So, that was the end of that. Except that it wasn’t.

On 24 September 2002, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet[4] and others briefed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Iraq’s WMD.   Tenet told the senators that a) a shipment of aluminum tubes, suitable for use in constructing uranium-enriching centrifuges, had recently been intercepted, and b) reports had been received that Iraq had sought to purchase “yellow cake” uranium from Niger between 1999 and 2001. That same day the British made public a similar report about the “yellow cake” uranium. On 26 September 2002, Secretary of State Powell repeated the assertion about the attempt to purchase “yellow cake” uranium before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In early October 2002, an Italian journalist who served as the conduit for an Italian businessman with political connections (who had been a proven source for an earlier story), contacted the American embassy. She transmitted what appeared to be documents from Niger about Iraq’s attempts to purchase uranium. She turned over the documents on 9 October 2002. (pp. 231-232.) Soon afterward, the Italian journalist investigated the story in Niger and concluded—like Joe Wilson back in March—that the story was bogus. Hersh reports that the CIA officers who examined the documents regarded them a fake from the get-go. (p. 233.)

Nevertheless, on 23 January 2003, in an op-ed piece in the NYT, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice[5] affirmed “Iraq’s efforts to get uranium from abroad.” On 26 January 2003, Secretary of State Powell asked, in a public forum, “why is Iraq still trying to procure uranium?” On 28 January 2003, President Bush repeated the assertions about the aluminum tubes and the “yellow cake” uranium in his State of the Union address. On 5 February 2003, Powell made the American case for war against Iraq in a speech to the UN Security Council.

On 5 or 6 February 2003, IAEA officials concluded that the documents from Niger—which they only received from the Americans on 4 February 2003, were obvious forgeries. (p. 237.) IAEA informed the Americans and the British, then waited for a response. No response came. (p. 237.) A month later, on 7 March 2003, Mohammed ElBaradei[6] informed the UN Security Council that the documents upon which the accusations about “yellow cake” were based were forgeries.

On 19 March 2003, the United States and a “coalition of the willing” attacked Iraq.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._Patrick_Lang

[2] Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_C._Wilson

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Tenet

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Condoleezza_Rice

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohamed_ElBaradei

What we learned from Seymour Hersh 3.

Between the end of the Cold War and 9/11, the C.I.A. had declined in some areas while growing stronger in other areas. The areas of its strength did not match well with the immediate needs of counter-terrorism. The areas of its weakness were just those areas where competence was in high demand. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld[1] knew very well the weaknesses of the C.I.A. because he had served on several task forces on intelligence during the previous Bush and Clinton administrations. It would take several years to bring the C.I.A. back to full strength. The terrorists were not going to wait in a neutral corner until the Americans got back on their feet and the referee allowed the fight to continue. If the C.I.A. could not fill the leadership role, then some other organization would have to lead.

Very soon, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld began to press for “the civilian leadership in the Pentagon, and not the C.I.A., [to get] the lead in fighting terrorism.” (p. 17.) What Rumsfeld wanted was “to get the U.S. Special Forces community into the business of what he called…”manhunts,”…” (p. 16.)

Immediately following 9/11, Rumsfeld ordered General Charles Holland[2], commander of Special Operations, to come up with a list of known terrorist targets for immediate attack. (p. 265.) In October 2001, numerous cases occurred where either Air Force pilots or Special Forces teams were prevented from striking at suspected Al Qaeda targets by various bureaucratic and/or legalistic restrictions. (pp. 48-49.) At about the same time, Holland provided a list, but warned that there was a dearth of “actionable intelligence” to support any rapid attack. (p. 266.) Rumsfeld suggested that Special Operations be made a “global command” directly under the command of the Secretary of Defense, with responsibility for all military operations against terrorists. (p. 271.)

In late 2001 or early 2002, President George W. Bush signed a legally required “finding” that authorized the Department of Defense to create a special unit to attack Al Qaeda. Henceforth, Hersh identifies this program as the SAP (for “special access program”).[3] (p. 16.) This “highly secret program….was given blanket advance approval to kill or capture and, if possible, interrogate high-value targets…..The program would recruit operatives and acquire the necessary equipment, including aircraft, and would keep its activities under wraps.” (p. 49.) “In theory, the operation enabled the Bush Administration to respond immediately to time-sensitive intelligence: commandos crossed borders without visas and could interrogate terrorism suspects deemed too important to for transfer to the military’s facilities at Guantanamo. They carried out instant interrogations, often with the help of foreign intelligence services—using force if necessary—at secret C.I.A. detention centers scattered around the world. [4] The intelligence would be relayed to the SAP command center in the Pentagon in real time, and sifted for those pieces of information critical to the “white,” or overt world.” (p. 50.) In July 2002 Rumsfeld ordered General Holland, commander of Special Operations, “to develop a plan to find and deal with members of terrorist organizations…The objective is to capture terrorists for interrogations or, if necessary, to kill them, not simply to arrest them in a law-enforcement exercise.” (p. 265.)

The Defense Department was going to collect and analyze intelligence on terrorism.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Rumsfeld

[2] See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_R._Holland

[3] See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_access_program The Wikipedia entry illustrates some of Hersh’s problems. There are a host of “Special Access Programs.”

[4] On the “black sites,” see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_site