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Goodman: U.S. intelligence used for propaganda


The worst intelligence scandal in U.S. history has shaken the Bush administration's credibility and promises to complicate U.S. foreign policy. A full accounting is required, but the congressional oversight process isn't responding to the challenge. Earlier this month, U.S. military forces quietly released nearly all the Iraqi scientists and technicians who had any connection with Iraq's programs for weapons of mass destruction. This move indicated that the United States believes that there is nothing to gain from interrogating these individuals and that there are no such programs in Iraq.

Several months ago, weapons inspector David Kay acknowledged the presence of no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, thus discrediting the U.S. case for war. Kay is CIA Director George Tenet's personal emissary. His report documents the CIA's intelligence failures.

Evidence of further corruption within the policy and intelligence communities that marked the run-up to war against Iraq is mounting. The White House campaign to compromise a CIA operative's work and credentials to punish her husband, a war critic, and to intimidate others, reflects the desperation within the administration.

The only institutions chartered to investigate these matters -- the Senate and House intelligence committees -- need to get to the bottom of the intelligence failures that allowed the 9/11 attacks, led the country into war with Iraq, and the compromised the CIA agent. The president's case to go to war was based in part upon a forged document, but the chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees, Pat Roberts (R-KS) and former CIA agent Porter Goss (R-FL), haven't demanded a counter-intelligence investigation of the forgery and oppose an investigation of the White House's misuse of sensitive intelligence information.

The committees also haven't explored the dubious intelligence that the Pentagon produced for the White House to make the case for war. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld created an undersecretary of defense for intelligence and used this position to shape intelligence to support the case for war. The secretary also established an Office of Special Plans that collected its own intelligence from Iraqi exiles in order to bolster the case, and distributed this intelligence to the policy community. This office was quietly disbanded in August, but the committees have not sought testimony from its senior members.

The Pentagon continues to circulate specious intelligence on Iraq. The Office of Special Plans' former director supplied the Senate intelligence committee with a memorandum describing so-called contacts between Iraq and al Qaida. The memorandum, which was immediately leaked, compromised sensitive sources of the National Security Agency, a violation of Federal law, and contained no new authoritative intelligence.

Meanwhile, the independent Kean Commission, which the Bush administration initially opposed, has had no more success in getting sensitive intelligence from the White House. The only member challenging the White House, former Senator Max Cleland, suddenly resigned to take a position with the Export-Import Bank.

These events have serious consequences for U.S. interests. The distortion of evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction makes it more difficult to gain international cooperation in the war against terrorism and the campaign to prevent the spread of such weapons. Any success in stopping the strategic weapons programs of Iran and North Korea, as well as in capturing al Qaida operatives, requires international support.

At the very least, the policy and intelligence communities are facing a situation comparable to that of 55 years ago, before President Harry S. Truman created the National Security Council, the Department of Defense, and the CIA. As in the late 1940s, the international environment has been recast, the threats have been altered, and the role of credible intelligence has never been more important.

If steps are not taken to redesign the institutions for national security, particularly within the intelligence community, we will face more "preemptive" war and even more terrorist operations within the United States. At the very worst, we may be confronting a subversion of the constitutional limits on executive power and a campaign of deceit aimed at the Congress and the American people.

Melvin A. Goodman, a senior fellow at Center for International Policy -- www.ips-dc.org -- and a Foreign Policy In Focus analyst, is co-author of the forthcoming "Bush League Diplomacy: How the Neoconservatives are Putting the World at Risk" (Prometheus Books, 2004).

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