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Top Secret
2.03.06
Politics and Economy:
Iraq Pre-War Intelligence
More on This Story:
Documents and Debate

Journalists and politicians have been questioning the evidence used to make the case for war with Iraq. On the third anniversary of former Secretary of State Colin Powell's landmark speech to the United Nations, an administration insider who helped write it makes a startling claim: that he participated in a hoax. That insider, Lawrence Wilkerson, and former UN weapons inspectorHans Blix are among the voices in NOW's report into pre-war intelligence. Investigate some of the intelligence documents under discussion below.

  • Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction — Report to the President: March 31, 2005
    The result of the research conducted by the Commission, which was established by Executive Order to assess pre-war intelligence, is also known as the Silberman Robb Report. The report's introduction states:
    On the brink of war, and in front of the whole world, the United States government asserted that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted his nuclear weapons program, had biological weapons and mobile biological weapon production facilities, and had stockpiled and was producing chemical weapons. All of this was based on the assessments of the U.S. Intelligence Community. And not one bit of it could be confirmed when the war was over.
    Among the pre-war intelligence analyzed in the report that gathered from the informant known as "Curveball." The report states:
    One of the most painful errors, however, concerned Iraq's biological weapons programs. Virtually all of the Intelligence Community's information on Iraq's alleged mobile biological weapons facilities was supplied by a source, codenamed "Curveball," who was a fabricator. Read the section of Curveball.

  • Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD
    This report relays the findings of the Special Advisor to the Director of Central Intelligence on Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction.

  • Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Pre-War Intelligence Assessments on Iraq: Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (PDF)
    This July 2004 report's first conclusion reads:
    Conclusion 1: Most of the major key judgments in the Intelligence Community’s October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction, either overstated, or were not supported by, the underlying intelligence reporting. A series of failures, particularly in analytic trade craft, led to the mischaracterization of the intelligence.
  • Kerr Report (PDF)
    This report, from July 2004, the third of three prepared by a group of intelligence experts led by Richard J. Kerr, a former deputy director of Central Intelligence, to examine the U.S. Intelligence Community's assessments in the months before the U.S. invasion.
    In an ironic twist...the policy community was receptive to technical intelligence (the weapons program), where the analysis was wrong, but apparently paid little attention to intelligence on cultural and political issues (post-Saddam Iraq), where the analysis was right.

    Uranium Memo

    On January 18, 2006 Eric Lichtbau of THE NEW YORK TIMES reported on a 2002 document recently declassified by the State Department as a result of a Freedom of Information Act suit brought by Judicial Watch. The "high-level intelligence assessment by the Bush administration concluded in early 2002 that the sale of uranium from Niger to Iraq was 'unlikely' because of a host of economic, diplomatic and logistical obstacles." The idea that Iraq was actively seeking uranium made it into President Bush's State of the Union address on January 28, 2003. The uranium claims were publicly questioned by former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, who had been sent on a fact-finding mission to Niger in 2002. The subsequent leaking of Mr. Wilson's wife's identity as a CIA operative has now led to a criminal investigation.

    British Documents

    The public scrutiny over pre-war intelligence has probably been greater in Britain. The limelight was hottest in the battle between Prime Minister Blair and the BBC over charges that the cabinet had "sexed up" the case for war. A public inquiry cleared Prime Minister Blair and his government of any deliberate attempt to deceive the British public over the threat from Iraq mentioned in the September 2002 dossier. Follow a timeline of the case.

    According to THE ECONOMIST, "A related inquiry into intelligence failures, headed by Lord Butler, in July 2004 cleared the government of any deliberate attempt to mislead Parliament. But it did suggest that Mr Blair was prepared to exaggerate what turned out to be fairly thin evidence to bolster the case for a war." Read the report.

    On May 1 2005, the British SUNDAY TIMES newspaper published the so-called Downing Street memo, dated July 23, 2002, after it was leaked by a former UK foreign policy aide. According to the BBC, "In the memo, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is quoted as saying Mr Bush had made up his mind to take military action even if the timing had not yet been decided. A second memo, published in June 2005, says UK ministers were told that they had no choice but to find a way to make the war in Iraq legal." Despite efforts by bloggers, the memos receive little attention in the U.S. press. Read the memo.

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