In his commencement speech at the Coast Guard Academy this week, President Bush discussed “2-year-old information, declassified by the White House a day earlier,” which asserted that Osama bin Laden had instructed al Qaeda in Iraq to attack the United States. Using the intel to stoke fears of terrorism, Bush argued for the continuation of his stay-the-course policy in Iraq, claiming “Al Qaeda’s leaders inside and outside of Iraq have not given up on their objective of attacking America again.”
As ThinkProgress noted, President Bush has a history of selectively declassifying intelligence that works to his political advantage. Counterterrorism experts now tell Newsweek that “the president’s characterization of the intelligence may have been incomplete” and that he appears to have “ignored contradictory reporting about what actually happened.”
Here are a few examples of Bush’s “incomplete” intelligence:
1) BUSH MYTH: Zarqawi was a top al Qaeda operative before the war. A Senate Intelligence Committee report published last September said that the CIA learned “‘from a senior Al Qaeda detainee’ that before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Zarqawi had actually ‘rebuffed several efforts by bin Laden’ to recruit Zaqawi to work with Al Qaeda.” But in reality, it was only “after the U.S. invasion of Iraq that Zarqawi permanently set up operations inside the country and then formed much closer ties between his Iraqi insurgent organization and the central leadership of Al Qaeda.”
2) BUSH MYTH: Zarqawi “welcomed” bin Laden’s orders. “A U.S. counterterrorism official familiar with the original intelligence told Newsweek that some of the intel showed that Zarqawi actually resisted bin Laden’s instructions at the time, sending word back to the Al Qaeda leader that he had his hands full orchestrating attacks against U.S. forces inside Iraq.”
3) BUSH MYTH: Bin Laden wants to use Iraq to launch attacks against the West. Rand Beers, a former national-security aide who served under both Clinton and Bush, pointed out that “most of the recent intelligence reporting on terror plots aimed at the U.S. shows that the plans were hatched in Pakistan, not Iraq, and were initiated during the same time frame (in 2005) that bin Laden was ordering Zarqawi to open up a cell.”
Once again, President Bush has been caught fixing intelligence around his policies instead of shaping his policies around intelligence.