Sunday, November 20, 2005

Former Senator Bob Graham Weighs In

In the administration's scheme to cover-up their cherry picking of the pre-war intelligence, one tactic (of many) has been grating on the nerves of knowledgeable people.

This is the "everyone saw the same intelligence" lie. The Bush apologists claim that Senators, Congressmen, even foreign intelligence agencies all had access to the same reports and concluded that Saddam had WMDs. In "The Elephant In The Room", I mentioned how several of our allies had better intelligence about Iraq than the U.S. and provided no proof of any ongoing WMD programs.

Today former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), finishes demolishing the "everyone saw the same intelligence" fiction.

Graham details in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post how, as the former chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, he saw reports that were not as clearly incriminating against Saddam as the administration was portraying publicly.

During Bush's stampede towards war, Graham makes known that the CIA had not even produced a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) until Graham instructed them to do so. This is shocking on the face of it. NIEs are the basic intelligence community product, their stock in trade. NIEs are classified reports produced on every conceivable subject that may be viewed as a threat to U.S. national security; such as epidemic diseases (West Nile Virus was one example), international drug cartels, weapons proliferation, political developments in various countries, etc.

DCI Tenet hastily threw together the Iraq weapons NIE in three weeks (they typically take several months). There were numerous dissents from community members about the existence of various weapons programs. Dissents are usually included in NIEs as footnotes indicating which agency was disputing which assertions, this is a common occurrence.

Graham was disquieted by the way the administration was ignoring the dissenting intelligence data, and requested a unclassified version of the NIE that could be released to the public. I will allow former Senator Graham explain what came next:

On Oct. 4, Tenet presented a 25-page document titled "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs." It represented an unqualified case that Hussein possessed them, avoided a discussion of whether he had the will to use them and omitted the dissenting opinions contained in the classified version. Its conclusions, such as "If Baghdad acquired sufficient weapons-grade fissile material from abroad, it could make a nuclear weapon within a year," underscored the White House's claim that exactly such material was being provided from Africa to Iraq.

From my advantaged position, I had earlier concluded that a war with Iraq would be a distraction from the successful and expeditious completion of our aims in Afghanistan. Now I had come to question whether the White House was telling the truth -- or even had an interest in knowing the truth.

On Oct. 11, I voted no on the resolution to give the president authority to go to war against Iraq. I was able to apply caveat emptor. Most of my colleagues could not.

I must finish with the following note. I have been told that the classified NIE was made available to be read by any Senator or Congressman who wished to see it. Only a few took the trouble, but the majority's willful ignorance did not stop them from deciding that the war sounded like a good idea. Dumbshits.


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