Willful self-blinding

WILLFUL SELF-BLINDING

Some questions to ponder:

How much does it weaken our operational capacity in dealing with al-Qaeda if intelligence analysts aren’t free to speak the truth about what we know, and don’t know?

How much does it weaken the capacity of our government to persuade Americans and others to support its actions if the President makes public statements based on documents known to be of dubious provenance?

Weren’t the actual reasons for going to war with Iraq strong enough, without inventing reasons?

From today’s New York Times (courtesy of the Agonist, which I’m now using as my primary source in keeping up with the war news):

C.I.A. Aides Feel Pressure in Preparing Iraqi Reports

By JAMES RISEN

The recent disclosure that reports claiming Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger were based partly on forged documents has renewed complaints among analysts at the C.I.A. about the way intelligence related to Iraq has been handled, several intelligence officials said.

Analysts at the agency said they had felt pressured to make their intelligence reports on Iraq conform to Bush administration policies.

For months, a few C.I.A. analysts have privately expressed concerns to colleagues and Congressional officials that they have faced pressure in writing intelligence reports to emphasize links between Saddam Hussein’s government and Al Qaeda.

As the White House contended that links between Mr. Hussein and Al Qaeda justified military action against Iraq, these analysts complained that reports on Iraq have attracted unusually intense scrutiny from senior policy makers within the Bush administration.

“A lot of analysts have been upset about the way the Iraq-Al Qaeda case has been handled,” said one intelligence official familiar with the debate.

That debate was renewed after the disclosure two weeks ago by Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, that the claim that Iraq sought to buy uranium from Niger was based partly on forged documents. The claim had been cited publicly by President Bush.

“The forgery heightened people’s feelings that they were being embarrassed by the way Iraqi intelligence has been handled,” said one government official who has talked with C.I.A. analysts about the issue.

The forged documents were not created by the C.I.A. or any other United States government agency, and C.I.A. officials were always suspicious of the documents, American intelligence officials said.

But the information still ended up being used in public by Mr. Bush.

Update Another story on the same theme in the Washington Post. Jack Shafer at Slate argues here that the two stories reflect efforts by the CIA to … err … decently clothe its posterior, and predicts return fire from the White House.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com