I’ve written several times about the flawed report by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence as to “whether public statements regarding Iraq by U.S. government officials were substantiated by intelligence.” Regrettably, the same Committee has also issued a flawed (and bizarre) report on intelligence “relating to Iraq” conducted by a unit “within the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy.” That Undersecretary of Defense happens to have been Douglas Feith.
Readers may recall that the Defense Department’s Inspector General (IG) issued a report on the Department of Defense’s effort, led by Feith, to provide its own analysis of intelligence reports, an analysis that caused DoD to challenge the CIA’s dogmatic conviction that Saddam’s “secular” Iraq could never cooperate with Islamic militants. The IG concluded that the DoD’s efforts were neither illegal nor unauthorized, but somehow were “improper.” John showed here, here, and here how ridiculous, and flatly inaccurate, the Inspector General’s work was.
Not surprisingly, though, the IG’s report was much celebrated by Democrats on Capitol Hill. Following its issuance, the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Rockefeller, stated that it appeared the activities of Feith’s office were “not in compliance with the law.” Previously, he had accused Feith of “running a private intelligence [operation].” The press reported that Rockefeller had vowed to pursue in his Committee the issues raised by the IG. Rockefeller himself announced that the IG’s work was no substitute for an investigation by that Committee. In a sense, this was an understatement – the IG admitted to Sen. Warner that he had failed to interview key individuals.
Astonishingly, however, the Committee’s report on the intelligence conducted by Feith’s office steers clear of the issue raised by the IG – namely, the Defense Department’s independent analysis of the data gathered by the intelligence agencies and its disagreement with some of the CIA’s conclusions. In fact, according to the minority views of Senators Bond, Chambliss, Hatch, and Burr, Rockefeller elected not to pursue the IG’s allegations.
Considering the absurdity of the IG’s premise that recommendations by a policy office like Feith’s can be described as “intelligence activities,” Rockefeller’s decision not to investigate this matter seems commendable. But unfortunately, in their pursuit of Feith, Rockefeller and his fellow Democrats on the Committee chose an even less roadworthy vehicle — an investigation into “the Rome meetings.”
The term “Rome meetings” conjures up images of Popes and Holy Roman Emperors deciding the fate of Europe or, at a minimum, images from The Godfather Part Three. The meetings in question here were somewhat less portentous. In this case, our friend Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute and two DoD employees met with a few Iranian exiles and an Iranian intelligence officer who expressed an interest in defecting. The purpose of the meetings from the U.S. standpoint was to obtain accurate information about what was going on in Iran. The CIA was not involved because the defector said he did not want to deal with it.
You have probably noticed that, even though the Committee says its report is “on intelligence activities relating to Iraq,” the Rome meetings related instead to Iran. In addition, although the Committee purports to be reporting on intelligence activities “by the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group (PCTEG) and the Office of Special Plans (OSP) within the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (OOUDP),” the Rome meetings had basically nothing to do with these organizations. OSP did not even exist when the Rome meetings took place. The PCTEG existed, but was a two person operation involved in other work, and neither of its employees participated in Rome. Of the two DoD employees who did participate, one never worked in the OOUDP. The other did join OSP (and therefore the OOUDP), but only after his involvement in the Rome meetings had ended.
You would think that, having strayed so far off-topic, the Intelligence Committee must have been pursuing real wrongdoing. You would be wrong. The Committee’s report concluded that there was nothing unlawful about DoD’s role in, or conduct during, the Rome meetings. For example, the Committee found that “Deputy National Security Advisor Hadley and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz acted within their authorities in directing DoD personnel to attend the Rome meeting.
The Committee majority does conclude that certain actions associated with the Rome meetings were “inappropriate.” As Senators Bond, Chambliss, Hatch, and Burr state: “After four years of making unsubstantiated allegations of unlawful activities, the calculus appears to be that proclamations of ‘inappropriate’ behavior will generate the desired headlines” and obscure “the lack of substance or lack of evidence behind them.”
If anything, the four dissenting Senators are being kind. The flaws in the majority’s report include the following:
The Committee finds that Steve Hadley “failed” to provide Deputy Secretary of State Armitage with “significant details” regarding the Rome meetings. But the Committee never bothered to interview Armitage or Hadley (it also failed to interview one of the two DoD employees who actually participated in the Rome meetings). Hadley’s position, apparently, is that he told Armitage and CIA Director Tenet what he knew, but didn’t know much because the meetings were merely exploratory.
The Committee accuses Ledeen of fabricating the claim that the Iranians didn’t want the CIA involved. The Committee’s only evidence in support of this charge is that the issue of CIA involvement didn’t come up during the Rome meetings. But of course (and as the DoD explained to the Committee) the fact that it didn’t come up during the meetings themselves hardly proves that the Iranians hadn’t previously voiced this concern. The intellectual dishonesty of the Committtee majority here is apparent.
The Committee finds that the information obtained at the Rome meetings was never processed or placed into proper intelligence channels. But the body of its report shows this conclusion to be untrue. The information was referred to the DIA which, in turn, referred it to the CIA. The CIA determined that no further contact was warranted or advisable.
Whatever the wisdom of that determination, it’s clear that the Senate Intelligence Committee’s decision to spend taxpayer dollars to produce its shoddy report about, at best, a footnote to a footnote was neither warranted nor advisable.
JOHN adds: This is the kind of nonsense the Democrats have been obsessed with, while the price of gasoline has risen to $4 a gallon on their watch.
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