Thursday, November 10, 2005

When the President Tests It and Probes It

History will show that when the W "tests it and probes it" (the it being intelligence here), we are in for some deep shit. Take a look at this exchange with the press on the part of our National Security Advisor, Steve Hadley. This should give you the willies and also forshadow how the W, Rove and Co is going to spin any negative spin on WMD, Iraq Attack rationale and the like:
Q The statement you volunteered about prewar intelligence assessments speaks fine to those Democrats who supported the war. But what do you say to the Democrats who opposed the war, who said if we had not rushed into it, we would have had the benefit of better intelligence and perhaps a broader international coalition, a more substantial international coalition than the one we have now?

MR. HADLEY: That's a different issue. The issue I was addressing was an issue of the notion that somehow this administration manipulated the intelligence. And those people who have looked at that issue, some committees on the Hill in Congress, and also the Silberman-Robb Commission have concluded it did not happen. So what we are left with is a body of intelligence that was developed over a long period of time, was looked at by the prior administration. They reached the conclusions that they reached.

Congress, in 1998, authorized, in fact, the use of force based on that intelligence. And as you know, the Clinton administration took some action. It was the basis by which, as I said, over 70 senators from both parties voted in 2002, noting specifically in their resolution the presence of programs for chemical weapons, biological weapons, and an effort to reconstitute a nuclear program.

So the point I was trying to make is, we all looked at the same intelligence, and most people, on the intelligence, reached the same conclusion. And it was the basis for actions by our Congress, action by two administrations, and was concluded by intelligence services and leaders around the globe.

The issues you raised are a different issue, and we can go back to the history. I guess the point I would make is, if you recall the arrangements under which the inspectors were operating, they were very much constrained by Saddam Hussein, and they were not getting a whole lot of intelligence.

And finally, on the issue of diplomacy, this is something that was a charge raised at Tony Blair, and he answered I think very clearly, and he basically said, the diplomacy was active in Iraq over a period of over 12 years; 17 U.N. Security Council resolutions, and we were going for yet another when it became clear -- based on statements from another -- leaders who had seats on the U.N. Security Council that there would be no consequences for non-compliance with these resolutions. And the President at that point, as he said, very clearly, words of the United Nations have to have consequence.

And I would also remind people that when we talked about the rationale for going to war, it was more than just weapons of mass destruction. If you look at those 17 Security Council resolutions which reflected the judgments of the international community, they talked about weapons of mass destruction, they talked about support for terror, they talked about threats to his neighbors, they talked about his oppression of his own people, and the nature of the regime he ran, and finally, the issue of defiance of the international community over a period of 17 resolutions in 12 years. So it's a broad case, a broad case.

Q It was, however, the weapons of mass destruction that was used to justify the urgency, and that, of course, is what my question dealt with.

MR. HADLEY: The intelligence was clear in terms of the weapons of mass destruction, and after 9/11, what we learned was that the coincidence between a rogue regime that was -- supported terror and pursued weapons of mass destruction was a serious risk that the United States needed to deal with. Having tried for 12 years and 17 resolutions to address it through diplomacy, and continuing to try to address it through diplomacy, trying to maintain the international consensus, once it was clear that that international consensus had broken down, the President had no alternative. (emphasis added)


Q Do you believe now even if the intelligence was not manipulated that perhaps in the White House it was assessed with pre-conceived ideas or not enough skepticism? In hindsight looking back at that, what lessons do you draw from that? What mistakes were made?

MR. HADLEY: Well, there have been a lot of lessons from that. And you can look at the Silberman-Robb Commission. You can look at what the DNI is doing -- you can look at what the DNI is doing. And some of the things that the DNI is doing is reflecting that.

One of the reasons you have a DNI is so that when he comes into the White House, he is bringing intelligence not just from the CIA, but from other elements of the intelligence community. And the President now gets that. And he will have pieces that come from CIA, come from FBI, come from DIA, come from INR over at State. That is a good thing, and it shows a broader range.

Obviously, what comes into the Oval Office, again, is an effort to provide a consensus judgment. But I think one of the things we've all learned from that is that it is important, also, to be clear about dissenting opinions and make sure that dissenting opinions also are given visibility; that we need more competitive analysis and to have products that come to the President. This is one view; this is another view.

And we're starting to see those products as part of what we've learned from this -- these events, as part of what we've learned under the Silberman-Robb Commission, 9/11 Commission, and others. And you're beginning to see that happen in terms of how intelligence is coming to the President.

Q But Silberman-Robb didn't address how the White House used the intelligence, specifically tried to address what the intelligence community did in providing it. Do you think now, as you -- as a participant at the time, do you think now that you, for instance, looked at this, and other people looked at this, and say -- brought in your own preconceived notions?

MR. HADLEY: Preconceived notions -- you try and test intelligence. But in the end of the day, the President looks to his senior intelligence officials for their judgments on the intelligence. That's how it should be. You test it, and you probe it. The President tests it, and the President probes it. (emphasis added)

But as you know, the case that was brought to him, in terms of the NIE, and parts of which have been made public, was a very strong case..

Are you buying this line of reasoning and the notion that the President really had no other alternative? I'm not.

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