The CIA's intelligence questioned
Washington investigates the failure (so far) to locate Iraq's WMDs: an intelligence failure or the result of political pressure?
Today's Gordon Corera in Washington D.C. gets two contrasting views from the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, plus Joe Wilson, the man sent to Niger to investigate Uranium claims which he later rejected.
It has taken a while, but the issue of what happened to the weapons of mass destruction is now on the front burner in Washington.
David Kay’s stunning testimony before the Senate at the end of January where he candidly held up his hands to say “we were almost all wrong” has forced the White House to deal with a question that had been festering, but which never before had reached the critical mass that it had in Britain.
After a few days of intense pressure, President Bush was forced to concede a major independent commission to investigate just what went wrong.
It will not report until 2005, which the President hopes will mean it will not affect the presidential campaign. But the issue seems unlikely to go away.
Democrats are focusing on the notion that hawks in the administration put analysts under pressure to bend their estimates to support a war that was already decided upon. Supporters of the President say that the problem was that the CIA (and everyone else) simply got it wrong.
Porter Goss is one man who understands US intelligence intimately. As Chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, he oversees the work of America’s vast intelligence bureaucracy. Before becoming a Congressman he worked inside the CIA as a member of its clandestine service, recruiting agents around the world to spy for Americans.
His committee, along with its counterpart in the Senate and an internal CIA group, has already been investigating what went wrong with the Iraq intelligence estimates and why the US was so convinced there were weapons of mass destruction in the country.
Goss has interviewed CIA analysts and asked them whether they felt under pressure from the White House and what assumptions they were operating under. He has also been trying to understand why the US didn’t have more information (and more spies) inside Iraq.
Whilst Goss sees the problem as an intelligence failure, there's a contrasting view from someone who has also investigated the evidence.
Joe Wilson, a former acting ambassador to Iraq, was given the job by the CIA in March 2002 to check out a story that Iraq had tried to buy Uranium from Niger for a nuclear bomb.
He went to Niger and found no evidence at all, which he reported back to his masters. Yet in January 2003, President Bush used the Niger example in his State of the Union address to make the case for war.
Wilson blew the whistle and in revenge the White House is alleged to have exposed his wife as an undercover CIA agent (this is being investigated by the Justice Department and indictments of people in the White House could occur).
Wilson believes the problem was political pressure on the intelligence community and that the Bush administration deliberately ignored dissenting opinions over subjects like Uranium purchases and mobile biological labs, instead only using evidence to support its policy.
Click here for an extended version of Gordon’s interview with Porter Goss, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, responding to David Kay’s claims “we were almost all wrong” (05/02/04).
Hear also Gordon’s interview with Ambassador Joe Wilson, who rejected Niger / Iraq uranium claim from British intelligence (03/02/04).
Gordon reports that David Kay has welcomed the White House's announcement of a commission to look into WMD intelligence (02/02/04).
The blame game begins in America over intelligence failures ... but could much of it be blamed on Britain's Secret Intelligence Service? Click here for Gordon's report (31/01/04).
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