WASHINGTON - The CIA bowed to Bush administration
pressure to hype the threat of Saddam Hussein's weapons
programs ahead of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, a leading national
security historian concluded in a detailed study of the spy
agency's public pronouncements.
"What is clear from intelligence reporting is that until
about 1998 the CIA was fairly comfortable with its assessments
on Iraq," John Prados wrote in the current issue of the
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
The CIA bowed to Bush administration pressure to hype the threat of Saddam Hussein 's weapons programs ahead of the U.S.-led war in Iraq , John Prados, a leading national security historian concluded in a detailed study of the spy agency's public pronouncements. A CIA spokesman dismissed the conclusions written in the current issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. President Bush is shown receiving an update on the status of military action in Iraq March 20, with Vice President Dick Cheney and CIA Director George Tenet. (Eric Draper/White House via Reuters)
"But from that time on the agency gradually buckled under
the weight of pressure to adopt alarmist views," he said.
"After mid-2001, the rush to judgment on Iraq became a
A CIA spokesman, Mark Mansfield, dismissed Prados'
conclusion, saying "The notion that we buckled under and
adopted alarmist views is utter nonsense."
The supposedly imminent threat from Iraq's feared chemical,
biological and nuclear weapons programs was cited by U.S. and
British leaders as the chief justification for going to war in
March. Eight weeks after Saddam's ouster, U.S. forces have yet
to find any chemical or biological weapons in Iraq.
Prados is author of 11 books, including "Presidents' Secret
Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations from World War II
through the Persian Gulf." His biography of the late CIA chief
William Colby has been praised as "meticulously researched" by
Thomas B. Allen, co-author of "Spy Book: The Encyclopedia of
In his study of unclassified Iraq intelligence judgments,
Prados said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had no need for a
specially created intelligence team at the Pentagon to search
for terrorist links with Iraq and other countries -- "George
Tenet's CIA had already been hounded" into building the case
Tenet, the director of central intelligence, denied last
week a rising tide of charges, including from insiders who
spoke on condition of anonymity, that intelligence on Iraq had
been slanted to buttress President Bush's approach to Saddam.
"The integrity of our process was maintained throughout,
and any suggestion to the contrary is simply wrong," Tenet said
ahead of a report by a CIA review team examining prewar
In an Oct. 7, 2002, letter to Senate Intelligence Committee
Chairman Bob Graham, Tenet said that in response to a
U.S.-initiated attack that put Saddam in danger of defeat, the
chances of his use of weapons of mass destruction were "pretty
high, in my view."
Much of U.S. prewar intelligence findings on Iraq's weapons
of mass destruction was flimsy but policymakers' goals were
clear, said Mel Goodman, a professor at the Pentagon's National
War College and director of the Intelligence Reform Project at
the Center for International Policy in Washington.
"To deny that there was any pressure on the intelligence
community is just absurd," said Goodman, who quit in 1990 as a
CIA analyst over alleged skewing of intelligence.
The Defense Intelligence Agency, in a classified September
2002 report, said it lacked enough "reliable information" to
conclude Iraq was amassing chemical weapons, even as the
administration was pushing for war, an official said on Friday.
Copyright 2003 Reuters Ltd