A Searing Self-Indictment

Dick Durbin accused himself of political cowardice yesterday during the Senate debate on the surrender/pork bill. The Washington Times reports:

The Senate’s No. 2 Democrat says he knew that the American public was being misled into the Iraq war but remained silent because he was sworn to secrecy as a member of the intelligence committee.
“The information we had in the intelligence committee was not the same information being given to the American people. I couldn’t believe it,” Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said Wednesday when talking on the Senate floor about the run-up to the Iraq war in 2002.
“I was angry about it. [But] frankly, I couldn’t do much about it because, in the intelligence committee, we are sworn to secrecy.”

It’s unclear what released Durbin from his supposed vow of secrecy four years after the fact, but his charge is ludicrous on its face. It gets tiresome having to point out the same facts over and over, but we know what the CIA and the other intelligence agencies told both the White House and Congress prior to the Iraq war. The consensus view of the agencies was reported in their National Intelligence Estimate in the fall of 2002. The consensus of the intelligence agencies was that, with a “high level of confidence,” Iraq possessed both chemical and biological weapons and was “expanding its chemical, biological, nuclear and missile programs contrary to UN resolutions.” As to nuclear weapons specifically, the agencies concluded, with a “moderate level of confidence,” that “Iraq does not yet have a nuclear weapon or sufficient material to make one but is likely to have a weapon by 2007 to 2009.” and with a “high level of confidence” that “Iraq could make a nuclear weapon in months to a year once it acquires sufficient weapons grade fissile material.”
The only instance Durbin cited of supposedly wrong intelligence was the issue of Iraq’s purchases of aluminum tubes, which he says was debated within the intelligence community. But, given the agencies’ conclusions about Iraq’s nuclear ambitions (not to mention its actual possession of both chemical and biological weapons) that issue was a footnote at best.
Durbin accuses himself of cowardice, but it’s hard to know what he would say about the other Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee: as the Times notes, five of the nine Democrats on the committee voted for the war, and at least two of them, Levin and Rockefeller, specifically said before the war that Saddam was pursuing nuclear weapons. Apparently they didn’t get access to the double-secret information Durbin now talks about, four years after the fact.
On balance, I would acquit Durbin of cowardice and convict him of mendacity.
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