Former Intelligence Official Faults U.S. Policy-Makers on Iraqi WMD Claims

A recently retired U.S. intelligence official said yesterday that the Bush administration must share blame with the intelligence community for failing to strike down erroneous allegations that prewar Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, Dec. 8).

"I learned something a long time ago in this town. There are only two possibilities: policy success and intelligence failure," said former Deputy National Intelligence Director Thomas Fingar, who left his position this month.

Prior to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Fingar's State Department office questioned a 2002 intelligence conclusion that Iraq was operating nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs, AP reported. Fingar said his analysts "got it less wrong."

The incorrect premise, he said, slipped through partly because the Bush administration gave agencies less than two weeks to prepare the findings although such assessments could take months or years to produce.

"It's my observation that it's very hard to dislodge a mistaken interpretation once it gets into the head of a decision-maker who has used it in a speech, built it into a policy, conveyed it to colleagues around the world," he said. "That puts to me an awfully high premium on taking the time to get it right."

Addressing the reasons that intelligence officials did not call the administration out on statements they considered incorrect, Fingar said: "I did not think that was part of my professional responsibility. ... That would imply excessive belief that one view is right and another view is wrong."

"At some point you have to try to make the system work, holding elected officials accountable, insisting that the oversight committee do their jobs ... not using the court of public opinion," he said (Pamela Hess, Associated Press/Google News, Dec. 9).

December 10, 2008
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A recently retired U.S. intelligence official said yesterday that the Bush administration must share blame with the intelligence community for failing to strike down erroneous allegations that prewar Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, Dec. 8).

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