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join the discussion: What are your  thoughts on the struggle between Vice President Cheney and the CIA over prewar intelligence?  How do you view  CIA Director George Tenet's actions and judgment during this period?

photograph of donald rumsfeld, vice president richard cheney and president george w. bushphotograph of a soldier in afghanistanphotograph of colin powell presenting the case for war at the u.n.

Dear FRONTLINE,

Your recent program "The Dark Side", contrary to some of the viewer comments I've read, is particularly one-sided. However, I'm very happy to see the cast of characters who are no longer at CIA, with the exception of Gary Berntsen and Gary Schroen who deserve praise for their heroic efforts in Afghanistan in bringing down the Taliban and decimating Al Qaeda. These same people represent an agency which failed to predict the fall of the Shah in Iran, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the fall of the Soviet Union (they said it would be around forever), the nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs in Iraq prior to UN disarmament teams stumbling upon them, the nuclear weapons programs in North Korea and Pakistan, the rise of fundamentalist Islam and Bin Laden, the 9/11 attack, and on and on. The last failure is particularly frustrating when you consider that the CIA was created in the wake of the failure to predict the attack on Pearl Harbor and given the mission of preventing another surprise attack on the United States.

Contrary to your dark innuendo, I have not problem with the White House waging a counter-campaign against a politically motivated CIA trying to undermine the President in the middle of a reelection campaign through selected leaks of classified information.

What frightens me more, and which I think should have been investigated in your piece, is a CIA that would refuse to see links between Al Qaeda and Saddam because that analysis may be used by the President to pursue foreign policy objectives that they don't agree with. It doesn't take much intellect to connect the dots between an Iraq hosting yearly meetings of Islamic extremists calling for a Jihad against the US and attacks on American interests everywhere and American Embassies, installations and naval ships being blown up around the world. While the CIA was insisting that Saddam would make no common cause with Islamic extremists, Saddam was modifying the Iraqi flag to include the phrase `Allahu Akbar'.

Finally, the flip side to a President wanting to remove the malignant tumor on the Middle East represented by Saddam Hussein, is a group of people like those interviewed in your piece who wanted Saddam to remain in Iraq killing his own people by the thousands with Sarin gas, biding his time until the sanctions are lifted and he can again pursue WMD programs and equipping, financing and training terrorists. You might as well do a Frontline documentary on all the wonderful things Saddam Hussein did for Iraq and the many reasons to have allowed him to remain in power. I'm quite comfortable being on the side of those wanting to end Saddam's reign of terror.

Jim McCormick
San Antonio, Texas

Dear FRONTLINE,

I had to Tivo this documentary and just got to watch it today (6/22). I am still not quite recovered from the kind of putrid feeling one gets when faced with ugly truth. I was never convinced that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11 and truly believed this Administration mislead the American public into war. What FRONTLINE did was to show from the very beginning each step of this deception.

I have read every comment on this site and while I agree with many of them, the one that resonated with me more than any other was the one from, Fred N, Laramie, Wyoming. His 12 months in Baghdad as a U.S. Army Officer gives more credibility than from those who cannot bring themselves to admitting the person they support and voted for would lie to them. As Fred N so brilliantly stated, "to rebuke the defining fabric of this administration (Terror; 9/11-Ben Laden-Saddam) would be in essence a self-rebuke."

My only fear is how many more are going to have to die before our government and media stop being dominated by those protecting the "dark side" of this Administration?

I pray that Bush's comment, "We'll all be dead" does not come true before we see any kind of real justice done to this lying, war mongering Administration.

H. Scureman
Norwalk, CT

Dear FRONTLINE,

A great analysis of how some our great leaders succumb to hubris, and, in the words of David Kay, "trade integrity for access". It is shameful how this administration pressured our professional intelligence analysts to support their PR campaign to sell a war.

I would respond to the previous reader that twisting the intelligence to garner public support is indeed sinister and dishonest. And the analogy to Churchill he used is indeed telling. Notice that Churchill was overruled by more experienced military officers who had the courage to tell the truth.

Nate Andrews
Seattle , Washington

Dear FRONTLINE,

Viewers cannot and should not blame Frontline for its extensive use of inference and reliance on external sources, (largely ex-internal), to make this report. While the resulting narrative is problematically over-simplified, a deeper analysis necessitates the cooperation of highly-placed administration sources- cooperation which, as noted, was not forthcoming, (apparently Frontline is neither a credentialed sycophant nor on the payroll). As a result, the administration alone bears responsibility for any flaws in the report resulting from omission of nuance, shades of gray and mitigating circumstances, not PBS.

Despite the limitation, Dark Side's collection of anecdotes present a highly cogent portrait of many aspects of the character of this administration. Notable amongst the takeaways was the extent to which Rumsfeld, Cheney and the President interpreted circumspection from intelligence agents or military leaders as weakness; a useful guideline in a world where problems result from testosterone deficiency, not so much in one as complex as ours.

Daniel Hunt

Dear FRONTLINE,

This administration has no credibility. Rather than acknowledging mistakes, and attempting to correct them, they continue to lie and cover up.

I watched with an even more skeptical eye yesterday on C-SPAN as Sen. Rick Santorum read from "newly declassified" reports from the DOD, about how the WMD's had in fact been found in Iraq. If this were in fact true and these were in fact he WMD's that the administraton had claimed were there all along, why would they just now be "declassified" when the administraton has been attacked for the lack of WMD's for the past 3 years? Also if this is "intelligence" coming from the DOD, how can we not believe it is just more spin coming from Cheney and Rumsfeld?

Anne Osborne
St. Louis, Missouri

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was amazed. Frontline only reported enough of the Wilson/ Plame/Libby afair so as to justify the Democratic Party. This is a complex story which was simplified to only the facts negative to the Bush White House. And all of that may be true, but Frontline seemed to be so intent on showing the "shadowy side" of Cheney that significant elements of that particular story were not explored. For instance, the report implied that Mr. Libby was indicted for disclosing Ms. Plame's identity; and yet his indictment was for swearing to a different memory discussions than that of a reporter. Did that imply that the discussion itself was not a crime? Of course not necessarily, but it is an important point. Nor did Frontline cover the apparent duplicity (for apparently political purposes) of Mr. Wilson. Raising the Wilson/Plame/Libby affair (when its meaning and boundaries are in hot dispute) and apparently picking one side of that dispute, places your entire report's credibility at risk.

John Little
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Dear FRONTLINE,

Dear folks at "Frontline",

This is in regards to the response from the "Frontline" editors to a post by Victoria Clark--the "Frontline" editors response is below:

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

The phrase "the dark side" was used by Vice President Cheney when, in an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," he talked about what it will take to fight terrorism. Read the "Introduction" section of this site that gives further details.

While your choosing of the title "The Dark Side" for the program may be in fact based on Dick Cheney's "Meet the Press" remark, can you honestly say someone who doesn't see a quick shot or promo with that title along with the picture of Cheney you use isn't going to jump to the conclusion that you're making a judgement on the situation? I can't imagine that that possibility didn't occur to the producers of "Frontline"...and if it didn't, it sure should have.

I'm a big fan or Frontline, but the implication of the title is obvious (at least to me): Cheney is part of "The Dark Side." I'd bet it would be obvious to many others as well. And uncalled for if "Frontline" is truly trying to be an objective program.

Don Lee
Chicago, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,

Frontline's 'The Dark Side' was a blatantly partisan hit piece on the Vice President and the Secretary of Defense, not serious investigative journalism. Parading an array of disgruntled former CIA officers, axe-grinding politicians of the opposition party, a succession of Washington Post reporters--a newspaper known for its hostility to all things conservative--and one very discredited former ambassador does not constitute an objective appraisal of the facts.

The facts are these: Saddam Hussein attempted to assassinate George H. W. Bush, Saddam Hussein sheltered and funded Zarquawi and other members of Al Queda, Saddam Hussein bankrolled the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, Saddam Hussein ordered daily violations of the first Iraqi War ceasefire by attempting to down American aircraft in the no-fly-zone, Saddam Hussein did seek yellowcake in Niger, Saddam Hussein bribed UN countries on a heretofore unheard-of scale in order to sway Security Council policies, and so on, ad nauseum. For Heaven's sake, the man fed political opponents into industrial meat shredders and gassed whole communities. Do you really believe he was amenable to a diplomatic solution? In your heart of hearts, can you doubt he posed a very real and immediate threat?

Further, has it occurred to any on the Left that its vehement antiwar stance makes no logical sense? Does it not realize that deliberately undermining public support for a (so far successful) war against an existential threat such as radical Islam in order to gain political advantage is no advantage at all?

Lastly, do you think slanted, pseudo-journalism like 'The Dark Side' fools anyone?

I'll never watch PBS again.

Troy Riser
Indianapolis, Indiana

Dear FRONTLINE,

Whether we are democrats, republicans pro-bush or anti-Bush we take the arguments we hear from the leaders we like and we run with them. Politics is, in this country, a popularity contest, which of course is ridiculous. Bush and Cheney rushed to war because they knew the evidence was weak. If we were a stronger nation, a nation that demanded more from their leaders then we would have realized the power we have to have the government stop and listen, which is all we needed to do. With a little more time I am sure it would have become evident that there were no WMDs in Iraq and we would have a few thousand more soldiers alive today.

There were protests etc before the war but protests have become something we relate to Vietnam and left wing radicals and movie stars. What we need are more programs like the Lehrer report and Frontline to ask hard questions and demand answers and more importantly we need a population that demands programs like these. What we have now are news anchors and correspondents who strive for ratings and see themselves as quasi celebrities. If they do not get the big name politicians they do not get the ratings so they pad the Q&A list.

It takes time and a certain amount of intellectual effort to watch programs such as the Lehrer report and people in this country in for the most part do not want to do that. We are fools to believe that we are the strongest, best and brightest and that we cannot be overcome. Much of the world sees us as fat, lazy and stupid. I am not a history scholar but didn't Rome and many other civilizations follow the same historical track? A very dangerous track indeed.

Brian Sullivan
Braintree, MA

Dear FRONTLINE,

For those folks who see this documentary as a liberal biased tool, one can understand how you might come to such conclusion. After all, you voted for this administration (presumably twice), and to rebuke the defining fabric of this administration (Terror; 9/11-Ben Laden-Saddam) would be in essence a self-rebuke. No reasonable person would expect you to do such a thing.

However, once you begin to create ex post facto justifications for the war in Iraq, as some of you have suggested that "the real reason behind the war was not WMD or a Ben Laden-Saddam connection, but in fact it was a geopolitical decision to help the Middle East on the way to democratization..." now you have crossed the line from a blind supporter of an administration that you voted for into a supporter that would do and say anything (even things that are not founded in reality) to justify your blind support. This however, is a dangerous position fraught with many hidden perils. In fact, it proves that those of you who say things such as "this war is to democratize Iraq...etc" don't actually understand Iraq in specifics and certainly don't understand the Middle East in general.

No one is suggesting that Saddam was a lamb; in fact if there were a human manifestation of evil, Saddam would serve as the perfect definition. But, to suggest that Saddam, a socialist dictator, was aiding and abiding Ben Laden or his associates, would be to suggest that Saddam was volunteering his head to be placed on an Islamist altar.

After serving 12 months in Baghdad as a U.S. Army Officer I saw first hand how we (the coalition forces) were (and still are) inadvertently helping the growth of a malignant tumor called Islamic extremism. It is right there for all to see and hear; every Friday you get the joy of listening to newly energized and liberated clerics that are preaching hatred through venomous sermons against the coalition forces in general and the US forces in specific. These extremist clerics would not have survived a second under the dictatorship of Saddam, but now they get our protection and to top it all, they get to preach hatred against us.

Folks, I am sorry to say, but the invasion of Iraq did not, unfortunately, make us safer at home, in fact we are much more vulnerable today to terrorist attacks than we were on 20 March 2003. This administration, had transformed Al-Quaeda from a rag-tag group of extremists on the margins of the Arab world into an ideology that is sweeping the entire Middle East like wildfires. We now must find a way to deprive this wildfire from fuel; pouring more servicemen and servicewomen into Iraq is certainly not the answer, for this would only feed the flames.

It is perhaps academic to continue the discussion as to why we went into Iraq in the first place, but it is in our national security interest to continue discussing the "how to end it" part. We, as a society, must find a quick exit strategy from Iraq; you may not believe it now but our future depends on it.

Fred N
Laramie, Wyoming

Dear FRONTLINE,

I loved the program but I wish you had also investigated the third leg of theIraq WMD intelligence triad, the non-existent chemical weapons. It would be interesting if you had interviewed the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency ( NGA) on why they totally reversed their pre-war assessment that Iraq had a huge ongoing chemical weapons program when they "re-evaluated" the same evidence in 2004.

I have never heard this aspect of the WMD story mentioned in the news media but it is in the Congressional Report on Iraq WMD intelligence failures.

You might also interview the United Nations UNMOVIC office since many of the"chemical weapons" sites Colin Powell described on February 6, 2003 had already been analyzed by UNMOVIC and no traces of any chemical weapons found.UNMOVIC continues to monitor these sites by commercial satellite imagery andthe same software technology that NGA uses. UNMOVIC's recent reports show many locations were looted because the US troops did nothing to guard or destroy the WMD's or production equipment that supposedly existed there, which would tend to indicate that nobody really believed these chemical weapons actually existed at all.

In fact there was no planning to send in any WMD specialists with the invasion forces again indicating we knew all along that there was nothing to find.I have emails from UNMOVIC on all this so it should not be difficult to get an interview with them since they have no "classified information" restrictions and are extremely helpful and informative to anyone who shows an interest in their ongoing work.

Rob Maine

Dear FRONTLINE,

Excellent report that is comprehensive and unbiased as opposed to what other opinions suggest. If some major players who have brought us "The Dark Side" do not want to be included in the discussion I would imagine they are hiding their complicity in a failed folly. If anyone wants to see biased reporting watch FOX News,a completely biased news agency and a political arm of the GOP. A perfect example is the report that WMD's have been found in Iraq as suggested by Sen. Santorum and which Fox is headlining today. You only have to look buried within the article that those were NOT the weapons our so called invasion was based on but weapons that were not armed or workable and had been disarmed after the '91 Gulf War. They try to grab the headlines and mislead the uninformed into believing the imaginary WMD's that 2500 of our sons and have daughters have died for, were/are a reality. Say it enough and the sheeple will believe, or so they think. I sincerely hope we are getting past believing the unbelievable? Even the Pentegon is trying to defuse those remarks by a decidely desparate Senator behind in the polls as his reelection draws near. Regarding your program, it was excellent! I depend on PBS for honest reporting and quality programing. Thank you Frontline for this program and continue the great work.

Joanne Wood
Sterling, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for a great show. I work in the Department of Defense under Secretary Rumsfeld. The universal thought here is our military should have finished off Afganistan first, before taking on Iraq. Your show helps explain the thought here, for the show explains how there was a predetermined plan from Vice-President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld to invade Iraq. 9-11 was just the excuse they needed. So one main point from your show has not been addressed yet on this forum. Vice-President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld did not have the ability to adapt to the change in world conflict brought on by the Taliban. They were still fighting the Gulf War of 1990.

Brian Taylor

Dear FRONTLINE,

Overall, I really enjoyed the program, but from the title I was expecting more focus on Cheney's influence on the Bush Administrations "dark side" policies such as the suspension of habeus corpus, torture, secret prisons, and wiretapping. The show seemed to be more focused on the power struggle between Cheney and the CIA. What was presented in the program was still a great story that needed to be told but it really didnt do justice to Cheney's Dark Side Doctrine. I would like to see a second program focusing on the issues not covered.

Tim Orozco
San Francisco, CA

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

For more on the torture issue, see Producer Mike Kirk's other report, "The Torture Question," available for streaming on this site.

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am a conservative and a Bush supporter and still thoroughly enjoyed the program. I think there was some bias but that is human nature.

A couple of things did bother me...Why was it so wrong for the VP to make a personal vist to Langley? If he did not would the critics of this administration be happy. No, in fact they would accuse the administration of being out of touch.

Calculations were made to remove Iraq as a threat and create an island of reason in the Middle East. This is an aggressive and effort that may pay off and lead to a more safe and free world. For those who disagree with the policy I don't see why there has to be this whole theory that "Bush Lied".

One more thing, for Cheney and Rumsfeld to take issue with the Intelligence Community assesments is not sinister. For the last three decades CIA had been wrong on almost all there major assesments from the collapse of the USSR to the rise of the Islamists. I am glad that they questioned the findings of the CIA.

glen callanan
St. Louis, MO

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posted june 20, 2006

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