Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Sept 21, 2001 PDB: No Iraq/Al Qaeda link

Murray Waas of the National Journal reports that US President Bush knew that there were no "significant ties with Al Qaeda" and Saddam Hussein on September 21, 2001. This intelligence came to Bush in the form of his "President's Daily Brief" or "PDB." The PDB also included the assessment that Saddam was, in fact, monitoring Al Qaeda himself, and wanted to infiltrate the ranks of Al Qaeda with Iraqi operatives (out of fear for his own regime). So...who else may have been briefed on the contents of this particular PDB?:
The highly classified CIA assessment was distributed to President Bush, Vice President Cheney, the president's national security adviser and deputy national security adviser, the secretaries and undersecretaries of State and Defense, and various other senior Bush administration policy makers, according to government records.
But surely the Senate Intel Cmte. has seen the exact same intelligence that the President saw. Right? Well, funny story:
The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked the White House for the CIA assessment, the PDB of September 21, 2001, and dozens of other PDBs as part of the committee's ongoing investigation into whether the Bush administration misrepresented intelligence information in the run-up to war with Iraq. The Bush administration has refused to turn over these documents.
This must be the "Phase II" of the Senate investigation on pre-war intelligence (you know, the one that was rained-out due to Republican control; Phase I was completed last summer, back when Republican Senators were in full CYA (and CYB'sA) mode. Anyway...back to Waas' findings:
Indeed, the existence of the September 21 PDB was not disclosed to the Intelligence Committee until the summer of 2004, according to congressional sources. Both Republicans and Democrats requested then that it be turned over. The administration has refused to provide it, even on a classified basis, and won't say anything more about it other than to acknowledge that it exists.

[click "Read on, MacDuff!" to continue reading]
Sen. Kennedy (D-Mass.) is trying to get an amendment passed so that they can see the PDB. While we're waiting for hell to freeze over, can the Gentlemen & Ladies of the Senate at least press the CIA to cough up the goods, independently? Uh...
The conclusions drawn in the lengthier CIA assessment-which has also been denied to the committee-were strikingly similar to those provided to President Bush in the September 21 PDB, according to records and sources. In the four years since Bush received the briefing, according to highly placed government officials, little evidence has come to light to contradict the CIA's original conclusion that no collaborative relationship existed between Iraq and Al Qaeda. "What the President was told on September 21," said one former high-level official, "was consistent with everything he has been told since-that the evidence was just not there."
Needless to say, the CIA dudes must be pissed! If I were getting blamed for this, I know I'd feel like leaking. *nudge* Hey, how 'bout it guys! A l'il ol leak? A bit of sumpin-sumpin? Let's not forget how aggressively these ridiculous Al Qaeda/Saddam "links" were trumpetted to a frightened American citizenry. Cheney was by far the worst offender in this regard. Waas remembers:
The most explosive of allegations came from Cheney, who said that September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta, the pilot of the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center, had met in Prague, in the Czech Republic, with a senior Iraqi intelligence agent, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, five months before the attacks. On December 9, 2001, Cheney said on NBC's Meet the Press: "[I]t's pretty well confirmed that [Atta] did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in [the Czech Republic] last April, several months before the attack." Cheney continued to make the charge, even after he was briefed, according to government records and officials, that both the CIA and the FBI discounted the possibility of such a meeting. {emphasis mine}
And the 9/11 commission--for all of its whitewash--did point out this grievous error. Waas continues:
Regarding the alleged meeting in Prague, the commission concluded: "We do not believe that such a meeting occurred." Still, Cheney did not concede the point. "We have never been able to prove that there was a connection to 9/11," Cheney said after the commission announced it could not find significant links between Al Qaeda and Iraq. But the vice president again pointed out the existence of a Czech intelligence service report that Atta and the Iraqi agent had met in Prague. "That's never been proved. But it's never been disproved," Cheney said.
Libby Waas goes on to describe how Libby Cheney, Rumsfeld et al. bypassed the CIA to get the "goods" about Al Qaeda/Hussein. The intelligence stovepipe took the form of the Office of Special Plans, run by Douglas Feith. So...um...Waas reminds us that we're gonna need another investigation:
Earlier this month, on November 14, the Pentagon's inspector general announced an investigation into whether Feith and others associated with the covert intelligence unit engaged in "unauthorized, unlawful, or inappropriate intelligence activities." In a statement, Feith said he is "confident" that investigators will conclude that his "office worked properly and in fact improved the intelligence product by asking good questions."
Remember Wolfowitz? What was that guy up to?! Well, turns out Wolfowitz was working with Cheney et al. to actively discredit or devalue the CIA:
On July 22, 2002, as the run-up to war with Iraq was underway, one of the Naval Reserve officers detailed to the unit sent Feith an e-mail saying that he had just heard that then-Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz wanted "the Iraqi intelligence cell … to prepare an intel briefing on Iraq and links to al-Qaida for the SecDef" and that he was not to tell anyone about it. After that briefing was delivered, Wolfowitz sent Feith and other officials a note saying: "This was an excellent briefing. The Secretary was very impressed. He asked us to think about possible next steps to see if we can illuminate the differences between us and CIA. The goal was not to produce a consensus product, but rather to scrub one another's arguments." [...] The Pentagon unit also routinely second-guessed the CIA's highly classified assessments. Regarding one report titled "Iraq and al-Qaeda: Interpreting a Murky Relationship," one of the Naval Reserve officers wrote: "The report provides evidence from numerous intelligence sources over the course of a decade on interactions between Iraq and al-Qaida. In this regard, the report is excellent. Then in its interpretation of this information, CIA attempts to discredit, dismiss, or downgrade much of this reporting, resulting in inconsistent conclusions in many instances. Therefore, the CIA report should be read for content only-and CIA's interpretation ought to be ignored."
Again, you have active efforts to discredit/devalue the CIA. Now that's balls! Hey: you don't suppose this'll have any bearing on the CIA leak investigation? You know, that "perverted war" Libby complained about to Judy Miller: Libby believed that the CIA was trying to pin the bad WMD intel on the White House and wanted them punished. Waas reports:
This same antipathy toward the CIA led to the events that are the basis of Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity, according to several former and current senior officials. [...] They viewed Wilson's outspoken criticism of the Bush administration as an indirect attack by the spy agency. Those grievances were also perhaps illustrated by comments that Vice President Cheney himself wrote on one of Feith's reports detailing purported evidence of links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. In barely legible handwriting, Cheney wrote in the margin of the report:
"This is very good indeed … Encouraging … Not like the crap we are all so used to getting out of CIA."

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