Intel & Analysis on Iraq: Issues for the Intel Community

A Q&A w/ the recently publicly released Kerr Report:
Intelligence and analysis on Iraq: Issues for the Intelligence Community
(scanned image pdf)* (c&p-able) text pdf)** (html)**

Q: Why was the Iraq WMD intel not as good as it shopuld have been?
A: Iraq didn’t get enough attention because the CIA was busy combating terrorism and WMD proliferation.

from the Kerr Report, p5:Iraq was not the only significant intelligence problem facing the Community in the years immediately preceding the war. Counter terrorism and counter proliferation were given higher priority
Bureaucratic drollery no doubt.
Least ways, I’m roflmao.

Q: What about the Saddam Hussein - al-Qa’ida linkage?
A: The report says that despite the US Intelligence Community’s purposely aggressive, exhaustive and repetitive searches for such a relationship, their assessment was and still is that no operational or collaborative relationship existed.

from the Kerr Report, p11:In the case of al-Qa’ida, the constant stream of questions aimed at finding links between Saddam and the terrorist network caused analysts take what they termed a “purposely aggressive approach” in conducting exhaustive and repetitive searches for such links. Despite the pressure, however, the Intelligence Community remained firm in its assessment that no operational or collaborative relationship existed.
All of Team Bush’s cacophonous din to the contrary was made in spite of the Best Information Available at the Time.

Q: Is irony really dead?
A: No. As matter of fact, irony still abounds and is as plentiful as ever.

from the Kerr Report, p2:In an ironic twist, the policy community was receptive to technical intelligence (the weapons program), where the analysis was wrong, but apparently paid little attention to intelligence on cultural and political issues (post-Saddam Iraq), where the analysis was right.

The story’s not very leggy yet; yet, …

Report: Intel analysts pressured to find al-Qaida, Saddam links
October 14, 2005
Intelligence analysts were under heavy administration pressure before the Iraq war to find links between Saddam Hussein’s government and al-Qaida, causing them to take a “purposely aggressive approach” to the issue, according to a newly declassified CIA report.
The analysts never found such ties and remained firm in their conviction that “no operational or collaborative relationship existed,” the report said.
[RIGHT]Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.[/RIGHT]
White House Ignored CIA Warnings on Iraq
The White House disregarded intelligence projections on post-Saddam Iraq according to a newly-declassified CIA report …
The report, from July 2004, is the third of three prepared by a group of intelligence experts led by Richard J. Kerr, a former deputy director of central intelligence, to examine the U.S. Intelligence Community’s assessments in the months before the U.S. invasion. The first two reports remain classified …
… first reported by USA Today on October 12 and is featured in an article by Douglas Jehl in [10-13’s] New York Times. The text of the report was published this month with an edited introduction in the CIA’s Studies in Intelligence journal (Vol. 49, No. 3). The complete, unedited version of the report was declassified in response to a Freedom of Information Act request and appeal by National Security Archive senior fellow Jeffrey Richelson.
*via GWU’s NatlSecArchive
**via Irrrationally Informed

So, what’s the debate? I mean, all this sounds like old news.

Well one’d have to disagree for their to be a debate.

This is the most plain spoken official declaration of some of these things. I’ve not been to the Dope much lately, but surely there’re still some Saddama bin Laden folks, yes?

or ‘there’ even

It’s amazuing what powers of proofreading the ‘submit reply’ button confers upon one.

Yeah, it shows.

So, how does this “statement” help us deal with the fact that we’re there (or thier)?

I’d like to take a stab at this. Understanding the run-up to war is important for two reasons. First and foremost, because if the electorate was mislead and the trust they placed in their elected officials was abused. If a small cadre of individuals manipulated the facts and the data to decieve the electorate then they should be identified and have to face the consequences. With great power comes great responsibility and abuse of great power should carry great consequences. Politicians misleading their constituents, acting in bad faith, abusing the trust placed in them, these things should not be tolerated. War-making power is too important to allow it to be directed by those willing to decieve their own constituents as to the necessity of war or the goals thereof. To continue to allow such abusers of power to remain in office is to turn a democracy into a dictatorship built on denying the citizens that most crucial aspect of democracy. The right to make an informed choice. If there are politicians

Secondly, and more directly related to the Iraq war, because it would allow us to be more honest and forthright with our dealings internationally. Instead of a handful of powerful individuals running the show and running roughshod over long-time allies to follow their own vision, we could build a true consensus. Right now many Americans have the impression the US is fighting a noble fight for truth and justice. Many other countries, including many allies, are seen as weak or cowardly because the electorate has been told they lack the courage to fight in Iraq. If the justification for war were revealed to be something baser, such as the ambitions of a handful of decievers and manipulators, then a sense of persepective could be restored. Instead of the US as a big-brother figure, we could become a partner with Iraq and Afghanistan in building their nations. Instead of claiming the rights of conquerers(military justice, martial law, deciding rebuilding contracts, etc.) we could shift into a role of facilitators and financial backers. Build a real coalition with the UN, on a more equal footing. As long as the US refuses to admit error there can be little reconciliation with our neighbors on this tiny sphere. They chafe at being called cowards and the US, wrapped up in our self-righteousness, refuse to allow them any sort of equal status in rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan. Demonstrating the causus belli of the war to be the ambitions of a handful of individuals versus a true threat to the US could deflate this aura of self-righteousness which is creating the “us versus them” mentality.

No matter what else anyone might say, the absolute least which could be said of the US pre-war was that we were wrong. When you are wrong you should apologize and attempt to make reparations. Continuing to claim the perogatives of a conqueror instead of accepting legitimate chastisement for the consequences of your mistake, well intentioned or not, is folly.


I seem to have an incomplete thought at the end of the first paragraph. It should read “If there are politicians deceiving the electorate, especially to the point of waging aggressive war, they should be identified and house-cleaning should take place.”


They won’t be reading this thread; the OP is too long for their attention spans. :wink:

I’m not sure of how much more ‘official’ some of these points can get.
Well, if anyone needs to use this reference, there it is. And, it increases and improves (howevre slightly) the depository of knowledge that is The Dope.

It’s a great read and I encourage everyone to read it. Perhaps someone will be able to use it in a debate even if no one wants to debate these points in this thread.

Ah well.

If you’d like, I could merge this thread onto the end of the My disgust with politics thread which was debating the honesty of the administration in the run up to the war.

[ /Mod mode ]

From the Third Kerr Report (p. 2):

Notice that the Kerr Report blames the intelligence community itself, not the Bush Administration, for faulty analysis on the issue of WMD. Nowhere does the Third Kerr Report claim that the president, vice president, or anyone in the White House put pressure on the intelligence community to change its analysis.

If we’re going to take the Kerr Report as gospel, and not pick and choose which sections match our prejudices, then keep that in mind.

Actually, it doesn’t quite say that.
The Kerr Report does claim that Team Bush put pressure on the intelligence community to change its analyses.
from p11

" Some in the Intelligence Community and elsewhere hold the view that intense policymaker demands in the run-up to the war constituted inappropriate pressure on intelligence analysts. Although viewed in that context as a problem, serious pressure from policymakers almost always accompanies serious issues. The more relevant issue is how the Intelligence Community responded to the climate of policy-level pressure and expectations. Whether or not this climate contributed to the problem of inconsistent analytic performance, however, remains an open question.

The cases of WMD and Iraq’s links to al-Qa’ida illustrate two different responses to policy pressure. In the case of al-Qa’ida, the constant stream of questions aimed at finding links between Saddam and the terrorist network caused analysts take what they termed a “purposely aggressive approach” in conducting exhaustive and repetitive searches for such links. Despite the pressure, however, the Intelligence Community remained firm in its assessment that no operational or collaborative relationship existed. In the case of Iraq’s possession of WMD, on the other hand, analytic judgments and policy views were in accord, so that the impact of pressure, if any, was more nuanced and may have been considered reinforcing. Although it is possible that in the absence of strong policy interests, analysts would have been more inclined to examine their underlying assumptions, it is unlikely that such examination would have changed judgments that were long-standing and firmly held."

It’s not so much that they absolve Team Bush of asserting pressure as it that they take responsibility for their own actions.
It (most likely) intentionally does not address the impact of Team Bush on the analyses except in passing.

I’ll take a look and a wait-see for the moment.

Thanks for the thoughtful and thorough reply. Yours is an interesting and completely valid perspective, one that I certainly wouldn’t argue with, but I would point out one issue that bothers me, and in doing so, hope that 1) we’re not drifting too far afield, and 2) you might tell me why I shouldn’t be concerned.

Your juxtaposition of us versus them, vis-à-vis our European allies, seems to assume that only America’s motives for going to war were questionable, or possibly even criminal, without allowing for the possibility that the motives for the allies’ refusal to participate were just as questionable, if not more so.

Would that make any difference whatsoever in your argument?

Indeed, it is, and thank you for that Mtgmn.

I suspect that the questionability of the motives of others has little if any bearing on the questionability of the motives of the Pro-War party. The Pro-War patry’s motives could conceivably be saintly or treasonous w/o regard to the motives of other countries.

A few thoughts about this. Firstly, as PatriotX points out, it doesn’t matter how honest or dishonest others are about their actions or motives. Ultimately I am responsible for my own decisions. If I(pretending I’m a politician) deny my constituents an honest picture of the data by hiding parts of it and exaggerating others, then I’ve abused their trust. I have denied them the information they need to use their political power(the vote) in an informed manner. At that point, before my evidence ever even gets presented to my allies as part of a plea for support, I have proven an unfaithful representative.

I can understand the temptation to try and strengthen a case in the face of what is percieved as unreasonable or unfair criticism. If you present what you believe is a fair, balanced, and compelling case and you feel it is being unfairly evaluated because of ulterior motives on the part of others, then temptation to spin your data to be even more resilient to unfair criticism is completely understandable. The right way to handle this is to address the criticism as if it were legitimate and show why it doesn’t invalidate the case for war. If the case for war is solid then no amount of nitpicking can make it fall apart. If the case for war is a house of cards held together by the sheer spin-power of ideologues, then it deserves to be picked apart and I don’t care about the motives of the nitpickers. They may be assholes, but they did the world an unintentional favor by preventing an unnecessary war.

In the specific case pre-war the “nits” were anything but unimportant. Some of the evidence which most damaged the case for war was coming from the UN weapons inspectors on the ground in Iraq. If the case for war was solid then they should have been Washington’s greatest allies because they could PROVE it. Instead they became enemies and Hans Blix et. al. were villified. People with decades of honorable service in disarming and policing rogue states were slandered because they were telling the truth about what they found when they followed up on leads. Jaques Chirac said France would not vote for war because of the disparity between what the US/UK were claiming and what the field reports from the inspectors were showing. This was an accurate and defensible judgement. Maybe he had private reasons for rendering it which were not honorable, maybe his lacy underpants were chafing him and making him grumpy so he was disagreeable. Maybe he was controlled by Broccoloids from the planet of Broccoli. It doesn’t really matter because he was right and the US/UK were wrong.

In the world of aggressive war, it is better to be right for the wrong reasons than to be wrong for the right reasons. No matter how good your motives or intentions, no one can be brought back from the dead after you start a shooting war.

Bush and the US/UK were wrong. I have no doubt they thought they were doing the right, or at least the necessary, thing. Chirac and Schröder were right. I have no idea if they were working from honorable motives or not.

I have no respect for those who subjugate honest and transparent representation of their constituents to their own ideologies or judgement. Individuals who behave in this manner should not hold office in a democracy.


Again, Steven, I have to thank you for your response. Not only is it comprehensive and on point, it is quite persuasive as well. I say that as one who, to this day, has supported this president and this war for reasons that I now find myself questioning in ways I frankly never considered. I have been content, if that could ever be the right word when speaking of such things, to allow for what I’ve characterized as “honest mistakes”, with particular regard to the failure to uncover WMDs. Were I a betting man, I would have lost the farm, as it now appears the president is in danger of doing himself. Furthermore, as the sordid details of the Oil-for-Food scandal came out in dribbles and drabs, I began to use these events to justify, after the fact, all of the contested actions taken by our government.

I’ve consider myself a conservative for many years, since my stint with the federal government during Reagan II, but hardened more recently by twenty years of exposure to the private sector, and by the disgust I continue to feel over Bill Clinton’s treatment of women, the Democrat Party’s universal “shrug” over his misogyny, and the willingness of virtually every liberal activist group, feminists included, to look the other way, despite the facts, simply for perceived political gain. In all honesty, I couldn’t understand how they could do it then, and I will not do it now, no matter the stakes, no matter the consequences. That, I believe, is one difference between the parties, if there are no others.

There’s still a part of me, maybe the naïve part, that says “Wait for the bright light of history… it’s not over yet… stay the course,” but it’s getting harder by the day. You should know that your astoundingly cogent remarks haven’t made it any easier.

It ain’t easy for any of us. Let me give you a quick breakdown of how I view my responsibility as a US citizen.

"[By 2012, approximately 6,000 warheads of seven types will remain in the U.S. stockpile (see “Projected Nuclear Stockpile, 2012”).

This will reduce the size of the stockpile to the early 1958 level, with a total yield of 1,800 megatons–less than one-tenth the historic high in 1960.](Article Commentary: A Sustained Reaction - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)"

US Eligible Voter estimates for 2004 - 202,674,771. Nationwide voter turnout was 123,535,883.

The US has 1,800 megatons of TNT worth of nuclear explosives. A megaton of TNT releases 4.184 x 10^15 joules of energy. 1,800 X 4.184 x 10^15 joules = 7,531,200,000,000,000,000 joules of energy in the US nuclear stockpile. This is actually an underestimate because the number by 2012 will be smaller than it is today due to arms reduction treaties. Still, this is a well-documented number.

So 7,531,200,000,000,000,000 joules / 202,674,771 voters ~= 37,159,040,382 joules per eligible voter. 7,531,200,000,000,000,000 joules / 123,535,883 actual voters ~= 60,963,663,489 joules per eligible voter. 60,963,663,489 (joules/voter)/ 4.184 x 10^9 (joules/metric ton of TNT) =~ 14.6 metric tons of TNT per voter. This is about a 4.0 on the Richter Scale for Earthquake Intensity.

Each voter in the US is a 4.0 earthquake waiting to happen. At least. These calculations do not account for the many, many tons of conventional arms the US maintains. The destructive power the government stores and stands ready to wield on our behalf is staggering. With this power, accumulated on our behalf, comes the responsibility to ensure it is used wisely.

I don’t know about you, but if I’m trusting my 4.0 earthquake power to a representative, I’m going to be damn sure I can trust that representative. A breech of trust WILL cost that representative my vote. If I believe I am deliberately being mislead I will actively work against said representative to get them away from the trigger as soon as possible. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself otherwise.


Wow… you could not have chosen a more apt illustration. My wife and I lost two homes and a business to a 7.3 in SoCal in '92. Given that there were two of us in the house at the time, by your calculations, it seems we got off easy.

Nevertheless, I have to wait. I have to suspend judgment. We’ll know soon enough, and I’m simply not ready yet to believe he would mislead us all… most particularly the troops. We, at least, have the option of correcting our mistakes.