Thursday, December 04, 2003[posted by jaed at 4:24 PM]
Those ol' debbil WMDs
Stuart Cohen was actiing chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the time the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's WMDs was issued. The NIC website publishes a followup analysis and description. The document at times has an understandably testy tone:
We do not know whether the ISG ultimately will be able to find physical evidence of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons or confirm the status of its WMD programs and its nuclear ambitions. The purposeful, apparently regime-directed, destruction of evidence pertaining to WMD from one end of Iraq to the other, which began even before the Coalition occupied Baghdad, and has continued since then, already has affected the ISG's work. Moreover, Iraqis who have been willing to talk to US intelligence officers are in great danger. Many have been threatened; some have been killed. The denial and deception efforts directed by the extraordinarily brutal, but very competent Iraqi Intelligence Services, which matured through ten years of inspections by various UN agencies, remain a formidable challenge. And finally, finding physically small but extraordinarily lethal weapons in a country that is larger than the state of California would be a daunting task even under far more hospitable circumstances.(emphasis in original)
He also makes a couple of points that he shouldn't have to - because those points and their implications should be obvious, and chanting "Bush lied!!!" (or the polite journalistic equivalent) doesn't address them:
Allegations about the quality of the US intelligence performance and the need to confront these charges have forced senior intelligence officials throughout US Intelligence to spend much of their time looking backwards. I worry about the opportunity costs of this sort of preoccupation, but I also worry that analysts laboring under a barrage of allegations will become more and more disinclined to make judgments that go beyond ironclad evidence [...] the Intelligence Community increasingly will be in danger of not connecting the dots until the dots have become a straight line.
We must keep in mind that the search for WMD cannot and should not be about the reputation of US Intelligence or even just about finding weapons. At its core, men and women from across the Intelligence Community continue to focus on this issue because understanding the extent of Iraq's WMD efforts and finding and securing weapons and all of the key elements that make up Baghdad's WMD programs— before they fall into the wrong hands—is vital to our national security.