The Kay Report. What Is Everyone's Take On This?

I’ve read the excerpts in the papers this morning. In a political sense it seems damaging to both Pro-Bush and Anti-Bush sides. From a scientific perspective, it seems very cautiously middle-of-the-road. Therefore, I’m middle of the road.

What is everyone’s take on this report yesterday?

What Kay report? The one released last October? That’s the Kay report.

You seem to think that there was another one, “damaging to both Pro-Bush and Anti-Bush sides”

Care to link to this hypothetical “Kay report”?

Or were you simply referring to various remarks that Kay made subsequent to his recent resignation, and pretending that those remarks constituted a “report”?

Wow. We’re cranky this morning.

The quote/unquote report I’m referring to is actually the remarks he made yesterday.

Any thoughts?

A report doesn’t have to be on paper.

I have to wonder what Kay’s motives are.

The very fact that Colin Powell was sent to the UN Security Council to make a case using data that was recycled from the 90’s (and clearly no longer relevant), or even plaigiarized from Ibrahim al-Mirashi’s graduate thesis (based on documents seized circa 1991), leads one to the inescabable conclusion that the “intelligence failures” go right up to the top. I mean, when making the case for war, did no one in the Bush cabinate care to do a background check, a simple literature search, anything? Did they rely so blindly on underlings to inform them that they would spend hundreds of American lives and billions of dollars on a mirage?

This strains belief.

In light of the above, the most salient event leading up to the war, Kay’s mea culpas and finger pointing seem crafted to deflect any and all blame from Bush et al., except perhaps to hint that they were all too easily duped (the same thing Kay “blames” himself for). It does not seem to occur to Kay that in chewing up and regurgitating the reams of obsolete and faulty intelligence used to justify invasion (based on the patently absurd assertion that Iraq posed an “imminent threat” to Western Civilization), Bush and his cabinate might be cherry-picking information that supported, however tenuously, a long pre-formed, but erstwhile untenable, plan to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

It seems to me Kay only reiterates the obvious, and distributes blame unevenly. His calls for an independant investigation are, in my mind, disingenuous, as, with a Republican-controlled Congress, there’s little chance that a truly objective inquiry could ever be carried out. You first have to designate the investigator(s), and we all know how the selection process works in Congress these days.

It seems to me that we’ve found ourselves in another credibility hole as a result of conservative paranoia (But where did the missile gap go?). We needed new leadership in Washington to get out of that hole last time:

The same strategy will probably work this time as well.

First of all, the idea that intelligence agencies took a grad student’s thesis, stamped TOP SECRET on it, and called that an intelligence report is just silly. That guy’s paper was used in a declassified pamphlet that was explicitly intended for public consumption (and what a mistake that turned out to be!).

The simple truth is that smart folks at intelligence agencies – many of whom have a wealth of expertise in scientific matters – have dumped in their laps a huge pile of satellite photos, recordings of telephone conversations, and a few interviews with defectors, and maybe a few other kinds of reports, and they’re expected to recreate a picture of what is going on in a country. That’s tough work. Like working with blinders on.

Well, their picture was off. Not just off, it was wrong. Dr. Kay - who has experience in those ranks - understands how tough it can be to recreate a panorama by looking through a soda straw. He has a good point, as are his points about the need to look at the biases and the processes that led up to getting Iraq so damned wrong.

Nonetheless, there’s two outstanding issues. First, it takes a remarkable lack of character for the folks in the White House to pass the buck to the CIA in terms of having things wrong. Last time I checked, the President is in charge of the Executive Branch, and he is ultimately responsible for the actions of the agencies under him.

I have often thought that, in many ways, Bush is the Republican analog of Truman: not too bright, goes with his instincts, each relying on his character as his appeal to the public (for better or for worse). Well, Truman had the guts to proclaim that “the buck stops here.” Bush’s finger-pointing for his misjudgments in the foreign policy arena (ie, CIA to blame for WMD estimates, speechwriters to blame for that uranium thing in the SOTU) is just childish and irresponsible. “Restore honor and integrity to the White House?” Please.

The second is that, for all the recent proclamations of how great it is to be rid of Saddam, this country was sent to war based upon intelligence reports. Or, to refer once more to the analogy, by the guesses made by folks locked up in secure buildings trying to create a panorama by looking through a soda straw. Well, that is just irresponsible. Folks may disagree – and have valid points in their corner – but I have a very hard time to see how its wise to go on the offensive, shedding the blood of American soldiers, based upon some satellite photos.

(And before anyone starts to argue that this was a war of self-defense, and not unprovoked offense, I defy you to explain how a country who has not been attacked can charge 300 miles into another country in order to seize its capital city, and not define that as an offensive war.)

Wrapping it back together, I think Dr. Kay is basically right on the money.

You’re leaving out a salient detail, namely that the CIA never said that their pile of intelligence amounted to a justification for invading Iraq; in fact, they said explicitly, first privately and then publicly, that it didn’t. That’s why the Bush Administration created the OSP, to cherry pick from the same raw data and come to different conclusions.

That Kay ignores that detail shows him to be as much of a partisan hack as the rest of the Bush Adminstration. As a Bush partisan, he certainly tried his damndest to find something exonerating the warhawks, and his failure just reinforces for me that there never was sufficient justification. His subsequent weaseling is simply unseemly.

There was an intelligence failure here, and it wasn’t gathering it or interpreting it. It was the presidency overriding it’s own intelligence organs to justify something it wanted to do, and then blaming them when it all goes wrong.

You’re saying that the CIA said “Don’t go to war based on this intelligence?” Please show me that.

It’s not the CIA’s job to evaluate US policies, only to estimate what potential outcomes may be. They’re supposed to provide the information that is used by the folks who make the policies. If you have evidence that the CIA advocated one approach or another toward Iraq, I’d be thrilled to see it.

I keep coming back to the fact that Kay says intel agencies had reasonable basis for believing that there were WMDs in Iraq. For a long time, I’d figured this was simply a conclusion the Administration wrenched from the intel agencies, who were more dubious about it. The reason I’ve believed this is that (as I’ve said in other threads at much greater length) the war plan was designed with Baghdad and Saddam as the objective, with securing Iraq’s WMDs as a very, very secondary objective, rather than with the latter as primary objective. And I don’t see how Rumsfeld could possibly live with himself for constructing such a war plan, unless he really and truly believed, going in, that the WMDs were a hoax, because they were his hoax.

My problem with basing a war on this intel picture is that there are varying degrees of certainty. I just won a bet on Kerry winning the NH primary. I was pretty sure Kerry would win, sure enough to bet nearly $50 on the outcome. But I wasn’t sure enough of it to bet $5000 on the outcome, or even $500.

Same deal here. You can be sure enough of your intel to speechify about the danger that Saddam represents, without having to be very sure of the details. You have to be a little bit more sure of that, to advocate a policy of ‘regime change’ in Iraq, where the term means being ready to back any homegrown opposition to Saddam. (Unfortunately, Bush 41 kinda screwed up that option back in 1991.) You don’t have to be a lot more certain, since Saddam’s clearly pretty nasty to his own people, and that’s a good justification for backing a homegrown opposition, just the way we helped nudge Marcos out of office in the Philippines in favor of Cory Aquino back in 1985 or so.

You don’t have to be more sure to institute no-fly zones, since their purpose was basically humanitarian, even though it helped keep Saddam more boxed up than he would otherwise have been.

But you have to be a lot more certain to use the intelligence to justify an invasion and occupation, because that’s serious business, even when it’s Saddam you’re deposing. The Administration, over and over, told us that the intel left absolutely no doubt. The intel guys themselves undoubtedly knew better; there are always doubts when you’re dealing with the sort of picture Ravenman describes.

I listened to most of the Kay interview by the Armed Services Committee of the Senate (or at least most of what was broadcast). I found his statements thoughtful and non-partisan. He answered questions when he had factual answers, and didn’t get tricked into coming down on one political side or the other. In particular, I remember Kennedy trying to get him to say whether the (pre-war) intelligence reports were sufficient to warrent an invasion, and Kay simply turned the question around saying that was a judgement for the Congress to make, and not him.

His call for a bipartisan review of the intelligence community is pretty much right on, if overly simplistic. It would be great if something like that could be done in an objective manner during an election year.

This whole song and dance both disgusts and amazes me. Remind me again which party is it that likes to try to claim the mantle of “personal responsibility” and “personal accountability.”

The idea proposed by Kay that there should be an investigation of intelligence that specifically excludes those who used the intelligence is astounding and ridiculous. However, I welcome it at least, because at some point the intelligence community is going to get tired of having their collective jersey pulled up over their head and will drop the gloves and start swinging. They, in part, are already plenty pissed at the Valerie Plame outing.

The idea that Bush was a simpleton who was beguiled by the mistakes of the intelligence community is laughable (the latter part, anyway). Remember, we were already told that Bush shouldn’t be responsible for having been cognizant of the contrary points of view that were presented to him because he “is not a fact checker.” And did the intelligence community out Valerie Plame because her husband did not go along with the program? Bullshit! They specifically formed a separate intel agency on their own, the OSP. How can anyone but the President be held accountable for the data they selected and the actions they took as a result?

The 16 words themselves already illustrated that the administration was ready to ride roughshod over the warnings and misgivings of the CIA. Repeatedly. And the intelligence community apparently did not make Iraq priority number one right out of the gate, as was described by O’Neill.

These people are shuckin and jivin like nobody’s business over this matter, and there are some who would believe that they should not be subject to investigation. I guess you can fool some of the people all of the time.

And RTFirefly, I was thinking of you when I just read this gem, from Condoleezza Rice:

From ; bolding is mine.

So, we went in believing that there were WMD’s, but won’t find any because they were looted. And the armed forces are to blame for that. Holy shit. I guess blaming the intel people just wasn’t good enough.

If I gave that impression, then I mis-wrote. What the CIA said was “our intelligence does not support the conclusion that Iraq is an imminent threat”. That’s why the Bush Administration set up the OSP to “review” the raw data so they could cherry-pick the stuff that would look most damning to support their case. The most obvious example is the Niger uranium purchase story: the CIA refused to sign off on that line until the Bush Administration browbeat them into it, and when George Tenet apologized, his apology was essentially “we’re sorry that we didn’t fight harder to keep that line out of the State of the Union.”

SimonX had a great thread here following the OSP and it’s sordid tale: how it was designed to bypass all the normal controls by the intelligence agencies on putting forth a conclusion that’s supported by the data.

I’m sorry, but the idea that Bush was somehow duped into invading Iraq is just preposterous. What about the whole “uranium” flap? First they tried to get George Tenet to be the fall guy for including the dubious info in Bush’s State of the Union address, but that fell apart quick when Tenet admitted that he had warned Bush not to use that info the previous October. The spin the White House tried to put on that one was just preposterous. It’s patently obvious who was pulling the strings.

Oops - on preview I see that this has been covered. Oh well, I think it bears repeating.

I don’t think Kay was as much even-handed as he was polite to the folks who hired him and tried to avoid seeming partisan. But what he said boils down to that the allegations made against Iraq to justify the war lacked a solid fundament of facts. As such, as the Dayton Daily News puts it, the “Kay report makes French look good”.

But precisely because of that fact, I think his putting the blame on the intelligence community can be dismissed as not wanting to fall afoul with the Bush administration. That the data was anything but solid was well-known prior to the war. The “evidence” presented by Powell in the Security Council was shredded not the least by Blix himself. It was well-known that the claims could not be proven with solid evidence, and as was already pointed out, the CIA always emphasized that they did not, in fact, present the White House with certainties, but with possibilities. Not the least, however, an administration that despite some of their evidence being debunked, still maintains a totally uncritical attitude towards the material is presents as justification, instead of requesting further research on the issue, is still responsible for th

…is still responsible for the data it presents to the public and foreign authorities, though their local constituents should maybe consider whether they are fit for the responsibilities their offices come with…

Dunno why it suddenly started to submit my post

I see a flotilla of trial balloons, setting out a bunch of possible defensive lines to see which is the most viable.

First, we have the SOTU, with its delightful syntax conflating “program-related activities” with heinous skullduggery. Coupled with the bare-faced assertion that more time is needed to be certain of the facts. I figure this is offered more in hope than anything else: if the people will buy this sack o’ shit, no further embarrassment need be suffered.

Then there is the Kay ploy. I think Kay was allowed, perhaps even encouraged, to be harshly critical in order to establish his bona fides and erase the image of him grinning and eager to begin his mission, promising “surprises”. In order to use him, they must first erase the image of him as a Bushivik “team player.”

He then proceeds to criticize the intelligence community, a move in the direction of dumping this all on the CIA. At the same instance, we have GeeDubya expressing his faith in the “intelligence community”, appearing loyal to his embattled minions. Depending on how well Kay’s criticism goes over, he can move ahead or back off without much cost. His call for Congressional investigation looks and sounds stern, but he knows as well as we who runs Congress. This would be like calling for a thorough investigation of Enron by Arthur Anderson’s accountants.

The we have Condi’s ploy: fog of war, looters destroyed all the evidence. But this buggers the question. Did the looters know they were destroying such vital evidence? How did they find it? Or did they just destroy everything? And why? Looters act for profit, no? Why waste your time destroying documents? And if they did know they had incriminating documents, wouldn’t they know as well that such were pure gold, that the Americans would shower them with green cards, money, and lap dances from J Lo if they could turn them over?

Then, of course, looming in the background is taking the “hang-out route”: yes, we were totally wrong, but wrong for the right reason. If you do something totally wrong and it works out, its because you are brilliant. This is like drawing one card to an inside straight after betting all your money and your ass as well. If you are lucky enough to draw the card, you are lucky. But drawing to an inside straight is stupid. They have a special name for people like that, they are called “losers”.

Then, of course, there is the “take no prisoners” approach used by Cheney, when he insisted against all evidence that the Dreaded Trailers of Doom were just what he said they were. Its not likely that the public at large will buy such blatant crapola, but what can it hurt? Its just another quote from Cheney, we’ve already got baskets full of BS.

They will watch closely, run a few polls, and see which of these party lines will prove least damaging. And then that will become the Truth.

So these are all feelers, trying to gauge which will result in the least damage.


You could well be right, but I think Bush is going to have to come around to the Kay line of reasoning at some point. Probably emphasizing the part where Kay clearly said he had evidence that S.H. was not in compliance with 1441.

After all, the main reason for the war was to prevent WMDs from getting into the wrong hands. If S.H. had WMDs and we haven’t found them, aren’t they almost certainly now “in the wrong hands”? So the war caused exaclty was it was supposed to prevent.

So Bush might say: Well, the stockpiles aren’t there as we thought they were, but it’s clear S.H. would’ve developed these stockpiles as soon as we averted our gaze.

Did you accidentally hit the dreaded <tab>, <enter> keystroke sequence of mass destruction?

I don’t recall seeing that before, but so what? Bush never claimed that Iraq was an imminent threat. He certainly implied it, but never did say it. Seems like Bush and the CIA were on the same page there, for what it’s worth.