The Ironical Chronicle
"Intelligence's pretension to being objective is a hoax because those parts of it that do not reconfirm the power structure's interests and predetermined policies are ignored and discarded. To expect the U.S. to behave other than it has is to cultivate serious illusions and to delude oneself. The system, in a word, is irrational. We saw it in Vietnam and we are seeing it today in Iraq." Gabriel Kolko.

March 31, 2005

Managed Democracy Plays Its Last Card

June 8, 2003: A month later and he's still got his foot in it.
Next up: CIA takes a "fall" and congress
posted to 6/8/03

The effort America's elite makes to conceal reality is truly amazing. Is there anyone left who doesn't know that US foreign policy is formulated among a small elite and that everything necessary to carry out that policy, once it is decided, from the military force to public opinion, is managed to support that decision? I don't think so. Then why this painfully formal process of denying what everyone, absolutely everyone, knows?

One possibility is that an authoritatively framed party line is being disseminated to the government, where the government, in the sense that I'm using it, inludes everyone from the kindergarten teacher in Butte, MT to Bush in the Whitehouse. In less media-saturated cultures, the official line would be distributed as a written document through interoffice mail which might or might not get read. In the US, the penetration of the privately-owned media is far superior to any inter-office mail system and it is quite accustomed to acting as a conduit for unclassified official documents intended for mass consumption. In fact, I doubt whether Bush has any other way of communicating with the class of government employees symbolized by the kindergarten teacher in Butte.

The authoritatively framed party line is that the WMD/al Qaeda lie, the greatest lie in history as measured by its destructive consequences and the breadth and depth of its propagation, was the result of an incompetent, hide-bound, bureaucratic intelligence apparatus.

It's fortunate that the collapse of an assumption doesn't shake the earth, because if it did we'd have a tsunami that would reach Pikes Peak. Hundreds of millions of children have been taught that the unique genius of the Founding Fathers was that they created three branches of government with a set of checks and balances built into the Constitution which guaranteed against just such colossal errors. Then we were also blessed with a free press, not beholden to the government, to guarantee an objectively informed population and to act as a watchdog on government misbehavior. And with two contending political parties. And finally, to top it off, we had secret ballot elections which made the government responsible to the people.

Gone. It's all gone. But there isn't the slightest tremor in the earth. And there won't be a tsunami either. It's just business as usual in the country with the largest number of unpunishable war criminals in the world. That's the big story which the official channels can't report.


The New York Times

March 31, 2005

Report Calls U.S. Intelligence 'Dead Wrong' on Iraq Weapons

At a meeting this morning, President Bush was flanked by the men who led the commission. At left, Charles S. Robb. At right, Laurence H. Silberman.
Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse -- Getty Images
At a meeting this morning, President Bush was flanked by the men who led the commission. At left, Charles S. Robb. At right, Laurence H. Silberman.

WASHINGTON, March 31 - The American intelligence community was "dead wrong" about Iraq's weapons arsenal in large part because of an outdated Cold War mentality and a vast, lumbering bureaucracy that continues to shackle dedicated and capable people, a presidential commission said today.

"The intelligence community must be transformed - a goal that would be difficult to meet even in the best of all possible worlds," the commission said in its report to President Bush. "And we do not live in the best of worlds."

The commission said the erroneous assumption by intelligence agencies that Saddam Hussein possessed deadly chemical and biological weapons had damaged American credibility before a world audience, and that the damage would take years to undo.

Only systemic changes in thinking and acting - changes that will surely bring discomfort to agencies and individuals - will bring the intelligence system to a point where it can cope with the dangers of the 21st century, the commission said. It said, too, that some recent attempts at change - notably the intelligence reorganization act that created the powerful position of national intelligence director - did not go far enough.

Despite some conspicuous successes, like exposing a nuclear-proliferation network run by a rogue Pakistani scientist and gathering significant data on Libya's arsenal, America's intelligence agencies are not keeping up with the deadly threats the country now faces, the panel concluded.

"There is no more important intelligence mission than understanding the worst weapons that our enemies possess, and how they intend to use them against us," the commission declared. "These are their deepest secrets, and unlocking them must be our highest priority."

President Bush said today he agreed that the intelligence bureaucracy "needs fundamental change," and he pledged to try to bring it about. "I asked these distinguished individuals to give me an unvarnished look at our intelligence community, and they have delivered," he said.

Copies of the report were distributed to members of Congress, and the lawmakers are certain to debate its findings, and what to do about them.

The false assumptions about Iraq's arsenal were not the result of deliberate distortion, nor were they influenced by pressure from outside the agencies. Rather, it said, they came about because the intelligence bureaucracy collected far too little information, "and much of what they did collect was either worthless or misleading."

Moreover, the commission concluded, intelligence officials failed to make it clear to policymakers how deficient their information was.

Describing the intelligence bureaucracy as "fragmented, loosely managed and poorly coordinated," the commission said the government's 15 intelligence organizations "are a 'community' in name only and rarely act with a unity of purpose."

The commission, headed by Laurence H. Silberman, a senior federal appeals court judge, and Charles S. Robb, a former Virginia governor and senator, echoed some of the findings of earlier inquiries into American intelligence failures.

As did the 9/11 commission and the Senate Intelligence Committee, which also studied intelligence lapses leading up to the American-led war against Iraq, the Silberman-Robb commission singled out some of the most familiar entities in the bureaucracy - the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation - as well as the huge National Security Agency, much of whose function is electronic eavesdropping and analysis.

"The C.I.A. and N.S.A. may be sleek and omniscient in the movies, but in real life they and other intelligence agencies are vast government bureaucracies," the nine-member commission told the president.

"They are bureaucracies filled with talented people and armed with sophisticated technological tools, but talent and tools do not suspend the iron laws of bureaucratic behavior," the commission said. "The intelligence community is a closed world, and many insiders admitted to us that it has an almost perfect record of resisting external recommendations."

And despite the allusion to the talented people within the bureaucracies, the commission hinted that intelligence agencies need more diversity in their ranks. "We need an intelligence community that is truly integrated, far more imaginative and willing to run risks, open to a new generation of Americans, and receptive to new technologies," the commission said.

The F.B.I. has made progress in shifting itself into an intelligence-gathering organization, but "it still has a long way to go," the commission said. Moreover, it said, the intelligence-reorganization act leaves the bureau's relationship to the new national intelligence director, John Negroponte, "especially murky."

The legislation that created Mr. Negroponte's position was fiercely debated on Capitol Hill. In the end, even though it invested the new national intelligence director with wide powers, those powers were still not as great as those envisioned by the commission that investigated the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. That panel called for a director of national intelligence who would truly deserve the title "intelligence czar," as the post is known informally in Washington, and break down resistance to change.

"The D.N.I. cannot make this work unless he takes his legal authorities over budget, programs, personnel and priorities to the limit," the commission said. "It won't be easy to provide this leadership to the intelligence components of the Defense Department, or to the C.I.A. They are some of the government's most headstrong agencies. Sooner or later, they will try to run around - or over - the D.N.I."

Mr. Negroponte, a former ambassador to the United Nations and to the new Iraq, is no stranger to the ways of Washington.

The Silberman-Robb panel sought to avoid a condemning tone. "We have been humbled by the difficult judgments that had to be made about Iraq and its weapons programs," it said at one point. "We are humbled too by the complexity of the management and technical challenges intelligence professionals face today."

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company