The Washington Post reports that Gen. David Petraeus, after reviewing an early draft of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, succeeded in altering the document’s judgments about the violence in Iraq:
The NIE, requested by the White House Iraq coordinator, Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, in preparation for the testimony, met with resistance from U.S. military officials in Baghdad, according to a senior U.S. military intelligence officer there. Presented with a draft of the conclusions, Petraeus succeeded in having the security judgments softened to reflect improvements in recent months, the official said.
The first line of the key judgments of the NIE reported that there had been “measurable but uneven improvements in Iraq’s security situation,” but cautioned that violence will remain high over the next six to 12 months. The Washington Post’s report today suggests that the intelligence community’s initial judgment about the security situation was harsher.
Petraeus and other military officials have repeatedly suggested that sectarian killings in Iraq are down, touting the decline as proof of security progress in Iraq. Media reports, however, dispute the military claims, and the military has thus far refused to provide its statistics to resolve the matter:
U.S. officials say the number of civilian casualties in the Iraqi capital is down 50 percent. But U.S. officials declined to provide specific numbers, and statistics gathered by McClatchy Newspapers don’t support the claim. [McClatchy, 8/15/07]
[T]he death toll from sectarian attacks around the country is running nearly double the pace from a year ago. … Brig. Gen. Richard Sherlock, deputy director for operational planning for the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said violence in Iraq “has continued to decline and is at the lowest level since June 2006.” He offered no statistics to back his claim. [AP, 8/25/07]
Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) suggested recently that the White House would “tweak” the upcoming “Petraeus report.” But if Petraeus is so willing to alter intelligence findings, it appears the White House may not have much tweaking to do.