A newly-declassified (but redacted) 400-page Senate Intelligence Committee analysis of pre-war Iraq reports no evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. It concludes that Hussein "distrusted" al Qaeda and "viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime."
It includes a CIA determination that prior to March 2003, Saddam Hussein ''did not have a relationship, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward [Abu Musab al Zarqawi] and his associates.'' Instead, he "attempted, unsuccessfully, to locate and capture al Zarqawi." A US airstrike killed al Zarqawi this summer.
The document is a scathing indictment of the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), the document which presents a unified (some say political) front, reconciling or brushing over difference of opinion among various intelligence agencies. The NIE was used to justify attacking Iraq in March 2003.
Both post-war and pre-war intelligence show "no credible information that Iraq was complicit in or had foreknowledge of the September 11 attacks or any other al Qaeda strikes." Nevertheless, Iraq is the most visible -- and costly -- US action since 9-11. In the name of protecting the US against terrorism, far more money is going to Iraq than to this nation's infrastructure.
Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) says pre-war assessment was ''a tragic intelligence failure'' but that there's no news in the report.
Minority Leader Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-WV) accuses the Administration of ''[exploiting] the deep sense of insecurity among Americans in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, leading a large majority of Americans to believe -- contrary to the intelligence assessments at the time -- that Iraq had a role in the 9/11 attacks.''
From The Report
Other conclusions from the report:
- "Postwar findings do not support the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate judgment that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Information obtained after the war supports the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research's (INR) assessment in the NIE that the Intelligence Community lacked persuasive evidence that Baghdad had launched a coherent effort to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program." (p 52)
- "Postwar findings do not support the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate judgment that Iraq's acquisition of high strength aluminum tubes was intended for an Iraqi nuclear program. The findings do support the assessments in the NIE of the Department of Engergy's Office of Intelligence and the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research's (INR) that the aluminum tubes were likely intended for a conventional rocket program." (p 52)
- "Postwar findings do not support the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate judgment that Iraq was 'vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake' from Africa. Postwar findings support the assessment in the NIE of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research's (INR) that claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are 'highly dubious.'" (p 53)
- "No postwar information indicates that Iraq intended to use al Qaeda or any other terrorist group to strike the United States homeland before or during Operation Iraqi Freedom." The 2002 NIE, however, asserted that Iraq would "probably attempt clandestine attacks" if Hussein felt threatened. (p 111)
The NIE is prepared by the Executive Branch -- all agencies are under the direct control of the President. However, Congress is supposed to provide oversight. Was the 2002 NIE flawed? That's obvious. Was it intentionally misleading ... did it intentionally overstate questionable intelligence? And is the current system for preparing the NIE any better?
Those are the 64-dollar questions that voters should consider this fall, and again in 2008.
See AP, Senate Intelligence Committee, Postwar Findings about Iraq's WMD Programs and Links to Terrorism and How they Compare with Prewar Assessments (pdf) , The Use by the Intelligence Community of Information Provided by the Iraqi National Congress (pdf)