The Bush administration disregarded the expertise of the intelligence community, politicized the intelligence process and used unrepresentative data in making the case for war, a former CIA senior analyst alleged.
In an article published on Friday in the journal Foreign Affairs, Paul R. Pillar, the CIA's national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005, called the relationship between U.S. intelligence and policymaking "broken."
"In the wake of the Iraq war, it has become clear that official intelligence analysis was not relied on in making even the most significant national security decisions, that intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made," Pillar wrote.
Although the Clinton administration and other countries' governments also believed that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was amassing weapons of mass destruction, they supported sanctions and weapons inspections as means to contain the threat, he said.
The Bush administration's decision to go to war indicates other motivations, Pillar wrote, namely a power shake-up in the Middle East and a hastened "spread of more liberal politics and economics in the region."
The Bush administration "used intelligence not to inform decision-making, but to justify a decision already made," Pillar wrote. "It went to war without requesting -- and evidently without being influenced by -- any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq."
Though Pillar himself was responsible for coordinating intelligence assessments on Iraq, "the first request I received from any administration policymaker for any such assessment was not until a year into the war," he wrote.
Pillar: Intelligence was right
Pillar said much of the intelligence on Iraq proved to have been correct.
Prior to the March 2003 invasion, the intelligence community concluded that the road to democracy in Iraq would be "long, difficult and turbulent" and forecast power struggles between Shiites and Sunnis, Pillar said.
Intelligence experts also predicted that an occupying force would be attacked "unless it established security and put Iraq on the road to prosperity" immediately after the fall of Hussein, he wrote.
As to whether Iraq pursued nuclear weapons, intelligence reports had concluded Iraq was years away from developing them and was unlikely to use such weapons against the United States unless cornered, Pillar said.
The biggest discrepancy between public statements by the Bush administration and judgments by the intelligence community centered on the relationship between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, he said.
"The enormous attention devoted to this subject did not reflect any judgment by intelligence officials that there was or was likely to be anything like the 'alliance' the administration said existed."
Rather, "the administration wanted to hitch the Iraq expedition to the 'war on terror' and the threat the American public feared most, thereby capitalizing on the country's militant post-9/11 mood," Pillar wrote.
White House at odds with intelligence
Pillar cited an August 2002 speech by Vice President Dick Cheney that said "intelligence is an uncertain business" and that intelligence analysts had underestimated how close Iraq was to developing a nuclear weapon before the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
"His conclusion -- at odds with that of the intelligence community -- was that 'many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon.'"
After such remarks, the intelligence community was left "to register varying degrees of private protest," he said.
Pillar also cited President Bush's claim, made in his 2003 State of the Union address, that Iraq was purchasing uranium ore from an African country.
"U.S. intelligence analysts had questioned the credibility of the report making this claim, had kept it out of their own unclassified products, and had advised the White House not to use it publicly," Pillar said.
"But the administration put the claim into the speech anyway, referring to it as information from British sources in order to make the point without explicitly vouching for the intelligence."
Pillar described a "poisonous atmosphere" in which intelligence officers, including himself, were accused by administration officials of trying to sabotage the president's policies.
"This poisonous atmosphere reinforced the disinclination within the intelligence community to challenge the consensus view about Iraqi WMD programs; any such challenge would have served merely to reaffirm the presumptions of the accusers."
Pillar also criticized the December 2004 reorganization of the intelligence community that made intelligence leaders serve at the pleasure of the president, saying they need more independence.
Congress and the American people must get serious about "fixing intelligence," he said. "At stake are the soundness of U.S. foreign policymaking and the right of Americans to know the basis for decisions taken in the name of their security."
Pillar, now on the faculty of Georgetown University's Security Studies Program, called for experienced intelligence officers to lead nonpartisan oversight of U.S. intelligence efforts as well as inquiries at the request of members of Congress.
He also called for public discussion on how to improve the relationship between intelligence officials and policymakers, but said there is no clear fix.
"The current ill will may not be reparable, and the perception of the intelligence community on the part of some policymakers -- that Langley is enemy territory -- is unlikely to change," Pillar wrote, referring to CIA headquarters.
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