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"As Mr. Tenet develops his arguments, supposedly helping the Bush administration well along in its damage control operations, he offers the usual expected smoke that intelligence is an art, not a precise exacting science.”

Posted February 7, 2004 thepeoplesvoice.org

By: Ted Lang

You would think that anyone as distinguished as CIA Director George Tenet, speaking to what is increasingly morphing into a crisis, would leave even the most critical and accomplished analyst hanging on each and every brilliant word uttered.  Thankfully, the New York Times, in a February 5th posting, as well as some other sites, provided America with his recitation at a news conference at Georgetown, which was originally recorded by e-Media.

A response to America was indeed in order for the quickly sinking Bush administration in an election year that is beginning to get away from them.  And what better venue than this?  There was no swearing in of the witness and cross-examination was both cordial and casual.  No evidence was presented, and no penalty for perjury was utilized to ensure truth.  What was offered as a “press conference” was nothing more than a pep rally usually reserved for new spook recruits.

The need for this “thirty seconds over Georgetown” retaliatory strike was to prove to the American people that an administration, whose entire operational survival is based upon secrecy, can really “open up” when it has to.  Of course, the issue never was, nor will it ever be, the operational mission statement or philosophy of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The issue was, and continues to be, the selective use by the Bush administration of intelligence they chose to ignore, and which proved 100 percent correct regarding the 9-11 terrorist acts, versus intelligence cherry-picked and manufactured to convince Congress and the American people to empower President George Bush to launch an unprovoked invasion of Iraq.  The statements of both former Secretary Paul O’Neill and Chief weapons inspector David Kay must be taken together before considering any remarks made in defense of the Bush administration’s actions.

O’Neill offered that the Bush administration targeted Iraq from the time of the president’s inauguration, giving validity to the charges that the Project for the New American Century had secretly conspired against Iraq to favor Israel.  And not only has the Bush administration heavily intimated that Iraq was responsible in part for 9-11, the “white paper” promised by Secretary of State Colin Powell proving al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden’s complicity has never been produced.  Why offer to provide evidence and then pretend such an offer was never made?

And considering the false accusations against Iraq concerning 9-11, and the number one priority of the Bush administration to topple Saddam and invade Iraq, why has the Bush administration fought so hard to sabotage the efforts of the 9-11 Kean commission, and to keep its findings secret?  Taking all these things together, how can Director Tenet’s speech present any case defending the Bush administration without first addressing these basics?  A more poignant assessment may disclose that perhaps Mr. Tenet was really defending his agency, and not at all giving aid and comfort to Mr. Bush.  Let’s consider some of the insightful candor in statements made during his speech.

He begins with, “I have come here today to talk to you and to the American people about something important to our nation and central to our future: how the United States intelligence community evaluated Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs over the past decade, leading to a national intelligence estimate in October of 2002. I want to tell you about our information and how we reached our judgments. I want to tell you what I think, honestly and directly.”

When considering the forgoing indictments of Bush administration prevarications and obfuscations, what does the philosophy of our intelligence community have to do with any of that?  Who cares how the intelligence community evaluated Iraq?  This is a moot point!  The United States Constitution was violated via President George Bush’s aggressively insisting that Iraq presented a clear and present danger, which it did not.  It is not the job of the American people to evaluate and filter intelligence – that’s the president’s job.

It is redundant to point out the Bush administration’s selective use of intelligence, but the same selective use of intelligence is now likewise presenting a major problem for the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom.  And it has already been determined that the same selectivity was employed by Blair and his government as is the case with Bush and his administration.  But Tenet feels the American people “deserve to know, because intelligence has never been more important to the security of our country.”  What he wants us to know is how intelligence works, but again, that’s not the issue.  The issue is the dishonesty and secrecy of the Bush administration! Tenet evades that completely and offers, “Before talking about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, I want to set the stage with a few words about intelligence collection and analysis, how they actually happen in a real world. This context is completely missing from the current debate.”  As stated, it has no relevance!

As Mr. Tenet develops his arguments, supposedly helping the Bush administration well along in its damage control operations, he offers the usual expected smoke that intelligence is an art, not a precise exacting science.  Of course, it would have served America better had President Bush prefaced his arguments for war in the same manner.  He proceeds, “Let me be clear: Analysts differed on several important aspects of these programs and those debates were spelled out in the estimate.  They never said there was an imminent threat. [Emphasis added].

But President Bush led the nation to believe there was an imminent threat, irrespective of whether or not he actually used that precise term.  Tenet then goes through three scenarios upon which the threat assessment was based, it being obvious that these were indeed “estimates,” “hypothesis,” and “judgments.”  But these are used to throw up the smoke screen President Bush will, in all likelihood, use later in the week on a Sunday morning talk show, to camouflage his and his PNAC neoconservative cabal’s continuing intentions.  Tenet states, “But before we start, let me be direct about an important fact.  As we meet here today, the [David Kay] Iraq Survey Group is continuing its important search for people and data.  And despite some public statements, we are nowhere near 85 percent finished.”

Having correctly assessed Rush Limbaugh’s assistance, I listened to the beginning of his show, and it is this segment in Mr. Tenet’s speech where the Large One shouts: “Stop the tape!  Stop the tape!  Did you hear that?!”  What Mr. Limbaugh was so excited about, was the utterance of an accurate and precise number, coming from the director of an agency that just went through a complete dissertation on the imprecise and judgmental nature of its efforts.  Unquestionably, the number 85 is a definite number, and a high one when considering a base of 100 representing complete accuracy.  But Tenet offered they were “nowhere near that number.”  Then what is the real number, and of what value is “85?”  Why offer any number at all?

Mr. Kay’s findings coincide with the “estimates” and judgmental considerations of the U.N. as well, which President Bush and Tony Blair chose to ignore.  Yet Tenet offers, “Our community said with high confidence that Saddam was continuing and expanding his missile programs, contrary to U.N. resolutions. He had missiles and other systems with ranges in excess of U.N. restrictions and he was seeking missiles with even longer ranges.”  Why is regard for the violation of U.N. restrictions so important now when Bush and Blair summarily ignored U.N. pleas for patience to allow their own inspectors time to search?

When further referring to David Kay’s ISG, Tenet says, “In fact, David Kay just last fall said that the Iraq Survey Group, quote, ‘discovered sufficient evidence to date to conclude that the Iraqi regime was committed to delivery system improvements that would have, if Operation Iraqi Freedom had not occurred, dramatically breached U.N. restrictions placed on Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War.’”  Again, why now such great concern for U.N.?  And notice the indefinite terms, “conclude,” “was committed,” “system improvements,” and “would have?

Again Tenet: We have also found that Iraq had plans and advanced design work for a liquid-propellant missile with ranges of up to 1,000 kilometers; activity that Iraq did not report to the U.N. and which could have placed large portions of the Middle East in jeopardy.

More concern for the United Nations: “We have confirmed that Iraq had new work under way on prohibited solid-propellant missiles that were also concealed from the United Nations.”  Was this actual work, or are we discussing drawings and schematics?

What is easily discernible in Tenet’s effort is an attempt to sound out seemingly solid explanations that most Americans find too tiring to examine in depth.  That is precisely the intent.  It is all smoke, leaving lots of comfortable room to not only twist and boogie out of any tight spots, but to take the whole issue of PNAC, Iraqi oil, Israeli supremacy, and the Bush administrations lies, falsehoods and propaganda issues completely off the table.  And later in his dissertation, Tenet alludes to the complicity of Bush’s predecessor in restricting the intelligence community such that the Bush administration became an innocent victim.

But the real issues are not being discussed.  The American people are not questioning intelligence methods or philosophy – they are questioning politicians’ methods and lack of honesty and integrity.  And the polls are beginning to reflect this.  Let’s hope the pressure can be maintained.  Let’s see if we can all follow Vice President Dick Cheney’s advice to President Bush.  Let’s all see if “we can stay on focus.”


© Copyright THEODORE E. LANG 2/5/04 All rights reserved. Ted Lang is a political analyst and a freelance writer.



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