Yesterday, the Washington Post reported on a declassified Pentagon Inspector General report which said that captured Iraqi documents and intelligence interrogations have “all confirmed” that Saddam was not directly cooperating with al Qaeda before the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The report provided further evidence of the manipulation of intelligence by the Bush administration and then-Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith.
Feith has responded on his personal website, claiming the Pentagon Inspector General was “poorly informed and illogical.” Feith reacts to the claims that he exaggerated a relationship between Saddam and al Qaeda by hiding behind CIA Director George Tenet. Feith notes that Tenet wrote a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Oct. 7, 2002 suggesting such a relationship.
But in his incoherent and rambling response, Feith acknowledges that the CIA largely tended to “deny or downplay” Iraq-al Qaeda connections before the war:
“Tenet’s account was influential in the Bush administration. Officials from every agency – including myself – accepted it. It had special credibility – at least as far as it went – because CIA and DIA analysts tended to deny or downplay information about Iraq-al Qaida connections. They favored a theory that the secular Baathists of the Saddam Hussein regime would not want links of any kind with the religious extremists of al Qaida. They would not acknowledge such links if they could possibly find a way to dismiss the underlying information. So the Tenet letter was seen as a grudging admission by those CIA and DIA analysts.”
The CIA reported in June 2002 that there were “no conclusive signs of cooperation on specific terrorist operations” between Iraq and al Qaeda. Why Tenet deviated from this analysis is not known. Recall, Tenet was awarded a medal of freedom by President Bush months later.
It’s ironic that Feith claims he was duped by Tenet’s letter. After all, Feith has been suggesting that the intelligence stovepipes he set up in the Defense Department were part of an effort to question the CIA’s judgments. It appears Feith only questioned the CIA when they were putting out analyses that didn’t match his imaginary theories of an al Qaeda-Iraq relationship.
Feith concludes his rebuttal by noting he is happy that the Pentagon IG report is declassified. He writes, “The public can now view the whole argument in all its naked incoherence.” Indeed.