November 15, 2003

The Defense Department Does Not Like the Weekly Standard

The Defense Department does not like the Weekly Standard:

DoD News: DoD Statement on News Reports of al-Qaida and Iraq ConnectionsDefenseLINK Template: News reports that the Defense Department recently confirmed new information with respect to contacts between al-Qaida and Iraq in a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee are inaccurate. A letter was sent to the Senate Intelligence Committee on October 27, 2003 from Douglas J. Feith, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, in response to follow-up questions from his July 10 testimony. One of the questions posed by the committee asked the Department to provide the reports from the Intelligence Community to which he referred in his testimony before the Committee. These reports dealt with the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida.

The letter to the committee included a classified annex containing a list and description of the requested reports, so that the Committee could obtain the reports from the relevant members of the Intelligence Community. The items listed in the classified annex were either raw reports or products of the CIA, the NSA, or, in one case, the DIA. The provision of the classified annex to the Intelligence Committee was cleared by other agencies and done with the permission of the Intelligence Community. The selection of the documents was made by DOD to respond to the Committee's question. The classified annex was not an analysis of the substantive issue of the relationship between Iraq and al Qaida, and it drew no conclusions.

Individuals who leak or purport to leak classified information are doing serious harm to national security; such activity is deplorable and may be illegal.

The reference is to this.

Posted by DeLong at November 15, 2003 07:52 PM | TrackBack

Comments

Saturday is traditionally a slow news day and this story has (apparently) played out in the scope of a single Saturday, basically.

When I first read the Standard piece on Little Green Footballs, I was not surprised to see lots of references to the work of Laurie Mylroie, the #1 true believer in a bin Laden-Iraq link.

I've been working on an article documenting just how much free press she received from 9/11 through the anthrax attacks.

Of course, she's been almost completely discredited now.

Anyway, back to the memo. That last sentence is strongly worded. Maybe some within DoD (not the neocons like Feith, obviously) are becoming angry at the selective leaking.

Whatever happened to that Valerie Plame affair, anyway?

Posted by: Rodger on November 15, 2003 08:32 PM

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I'm convinced that there's a battle within the administration to choose a scapegoat. I think that in part the Plame incident was a counter-attack by the CIA against attempts to hang Tenet out to dry. Rove wants to put together an electoral package for 2004, and everyone else is trying to save their own skin. I don't think that it's ideological any more.

Posted by: Zizka on November 15, 2003 09:03 PM

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In other words, there was nothing in the Feith letter that he hadn't testified about in July, right?

Posted by: Tyrone Slothrop on November 15, 2003 09:04 PM

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As the Pentagon memo implied, the Feith letter was simply all of the dubious raw intelligence that the Office of Special Plans had strung together to argue the need for war. There are a few legitimate items. Some items are unknown; they could represent real intelligence, but coming in the form of an illegal leak, one rather doubts it. Some that The Standard presented with scorn-reddened face are obvious laughers, things that were debunked months ago.

The strategy seems to be to take manure, label it intelligence, ascribe it to "generally reliable sources", make a half-curtsy to corroboration and call it a job well done.

Posted by: Charles on November 15, 2003 09:28 PM

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"Individuals who leak or purport to leak classified information are doing serious harm to national security; such activity is deplorable and may be illegal. " e.g. as in the disclosure that Wilson's wife is a CIA agent?

Posted by: BobNJ on November 16, 2003 09:54 AM

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BobNJ, if you weren't an Evul PC Liberal America-Hating servant of the Islamofascist Saddama Bin Hussein, you'd know that that is an *entirely different matter*. Not to mention (a) that it never happened, (b) if it did happen then it happened in the past and therefore shouldn't be used against Republicans, and (c) was done (by Unknowable Personas) for the purpose of showing that Wilson was an Evul Librul, who shouldn't be trusted.

Indeed.

Heh.

And only idiotarians think otherwise.

Posted by: Barry on November 16, 2003 03:39 PM

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Having read the Stephen Hayes piece and the DoD reply, I could not imagine anyone taking the words of Mr. Hayes seriously. But I watched Fox News this afternoon when they had Hayes's colleague Fred Barnes on with Tony Snow and Brit Hume (with the two token liberals they just talk over). Yep - the audience of this show likely got the impression that Hayes leaked reliable news. Unbelievable.

Posted by: Harold McClure on November 16, 2003 05:07 PM

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That's why the nickname 'Faux News'
was coined.

Posted by: Barry on November 17, 2003 04:07 AM

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Not one weapons since 1991, folks.

Posted by: Josh Narins on November 17, 2003 04:37 AM

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I don't want to sound like Andrew Sullivan, but THIS DOESN'T STRIKE YOU AS BIG NEWS?! Don't tell me everybody knew; the official left line was that there were no contacts between Al Qaida and Saddam. Don't tell me it's not true; with all due respect, there is too much smoke here. Least of all, don't tell me it doesn't matter: Even having a primitive country of Afghanistan at their disposal turned out to be a big problem; having access to a much more sophisticated Iraqi resources couldn't but matter. Have you all lost any sense of balance and proportion?

Posted by: maciej on November 17, 2003 07:16 AM

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I don't want to sound like Andrew Sullivan, but THIS DOESN'T STRIKE YOU AS BIG NEWS?! Don't tell me everybody knew; the official left line was that there were no contacts between Al Qaida and Saddam. Don't tell me it's not true; with all due respect, there is too much smoke here. Least of all, don't tell me it doesn't matter: Even having a primitive country of Afghanistan at their disposal turned out to be a big problem; having access to a much more sophisticated Iraqi resources couldn't but matter. Have you all lost any sense of balance and proportion?

Posted by: maciej on November 17, 2003 07:18 AM

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maciej,

I believe the point is, that none of this is new. None of the sources Feith cites can actually be cited as a fact. That was the DOD letter is saying. This is just Feith restating his argument and his reasons why. But DOD, and presumably the rest of the intelligence community, apparently think Feith's sources are bogus and that Feith is trying to snow the public who don't know better. A index of raw intelligence means nothing. The raw intelligence can just be what somebody said to another person. That person could be Feith, Chalabi, Mylorie, anybody. I could say that I told Oswald that the Book Depository was the best place to take the shot. But how much faith would you put in that if you could later verify that I was born in 1965?

Posted by: KevinNYC on November 17, 2003 09:08 AM

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maciej,

Of course there were contacts. They live in the same neighborhood, hate the same people (US, Saudia Arabia, Iran, each other), and have to keep an eye on each other, because both are willing to kill over differences in world view. I would say that it's a fine old tradition in the Mideast to keep an eye on, and often contact with, anybody you aren't actively seeking to wipe out (sometimes even them), but that is actually a truism just about everywhere. Saddam gave money to lots of unsavory groups, often not very much money, as I understand it, but some. That, too, is a fine old Mideast tradition also practices by Washington lobbyists and major corporations. The logic is something like "hey, ya never know." Worth pointing out is that the US government does pretty much the same thing. Any legitimate assessment of whether Saddam was a threat to US security would go further and ask what behavior could be expected from each group, toward each other and jointly toward the US, as a result of those contacts and exchanges of gifts.

"The classified annex was not an analysis of the substantive issue of the relationship between Iraq and al Qaida, and it drew no conclusions" is what DoD said. The reason we had to be told that is that the Weekly Standard refused to stand idly by and allow the DoD to pull the pacifist wool over our eyes by not reaching a conclusion that supported war.

Posted by: K Harris on November 17, 2003 09:10 AM

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KevinNYC,

This may not be new to few, but it is new to most. Where you get your conclusion that DoD (and others) think the Feith's sources are bogus I don't know; certainly not from their website. As to your point about reliability, do you REALLY think it's all bogus? Even K Harris doesn't think so.

K Harris,

I can only take your attempt to minimize the significance of this whole story as an attempt to disparage anything that may make people think that perhaps the war was not a bad idea (and that goes for other posts). In a way, this approach makes an assumption it wants to disprove. Well, Saddam had Al Qaida contacts, but what can you expect from someone who is hostile to the US anyway? So was he hostile or not?

Your last point is particularly unpersuasive. What behavior can be expected from some of those groups was answered on Sep 11. I don't need further clarification.

Posted by: maciej on November 17, 2003 11:11 AM

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KevinNYC,

This may not be new to few, but it is new to most. Where you get your conclusion that DoD (and others) think the Feith's sources are bogus I don't know; certainly not from their website. As to your point about reliability, do you REALLY think it's all bogus? Even K Harris doesn't think so.

K Harris,

I can only take your attempt to minimize the significance of this whole story as an attempt to disparage anything that may make people think that perhaps the war was not a bad idea (and that goes for other posts). In a way, this approach makes an assumption it wants to disprove. Well, Saddam had Al Qaida contacts, but what can you expect from someone who is hostile to the US anyway? So was he hostile or not?

Your last point is particularly unpersuasive. What behavior can be expected from some of those groups was answered on Sep 11. I don't need further clarification.

Posted by: maciej on November 17, 2003 11:13 AM

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maciej,
Have you not noticed that the adminstration and the hawks have now disparaged the opinions of:
the State Department
the CIA
and now the Department of Defense

All we have left are the amateurs like Feith, playing with the raw data, sending up whatever fits the boss's preconceptions without any validation or filtering.

If you do not understand that the DOD letter is a critique of Feith's data, then you should reread it more carefully. They are clearly disassociating themselves from the conclusions, and make it abundantly clear that data are "raw data", not processed. Just because they didn't write "Doug Feith is a big liar" doesn't mean that it's not between the lines.

If you would familiarize yourself with the history of this matter, you will learn that the OSP has been putting out raw data for some time now, while the professional intel community complains that these data are not necessarily reliable. As one poster pointed out above, 'raw data' could be from a completely discredited source, and could conflict with other, more credible data. In fact, this sort of behavior has been shown to have occurred.

That last little bit sounded cute, but in the real world of foreign policy, we aren't, and shouldn't, going to go to war with any nation who had contact with OBL. Maybe that's the core of your conprehension problem (and the admin's)- you want a foreign policy that can be summed up in a sound bite.

Wu

Posted by: Carleton Wu on November 17, 2003 01:11 PM

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maciej,

Let's pose a few questions.
Why was this to leaked to a small magazine that is aligned with the AEI/neoconservative point of view? Why hasn't it been picked up by reputable new organizations?

Wouldn't it have had more power if it was leaked to a major national newspaper? The NY Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, LA Times, Washington Times, or the Wall Street Journal? Or the Associated Press?

Why did the Department of Defense feel compelled to issue a press release at all? Let alone one disassociating themselves from "evidence" in the memo.

If the White House had good solid intelligence that linked Iraq and Al Qaeda, evidence that would help to regain the trust they have lost in the last few months, evidence that would hurt their political enemies, why would they sit on it? This is a White House that has trumpeted canvas covered trailers as proof of weapon labs. A White House that has trumpeted a part for a centrifuge buried for over ten years in an Iraqi's backyard as evidence of a concealed nuclear weapons program

Finally, can you believe anything Douglas Feith says?
http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/week_2003_11_16.html#002206
"These are the folks, remember, who had the most outlandish reads on the extent of Iraq's WMD capacities and the most roseate predictions about the ease of the post-war reconstruction. So their record of interpreting raw intelligence is, shall we say, objectively poor."

Posted by: KevinNYC on November 17, 2003 03:01 PM

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