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Pressure

I've been trying to think of a clever way to say this, but my failure to do so should not prevent the obvious from being pointed out. When the President of the United States orders a review of intelligence regarding a country and then, while that process is underway, proceeds to have himself, his subordinates in the administration, and his administration's allies in the press repeatedly make a public case for invading that country, that is political pressure on the intelligence analysts all by itself. You don't need to call up John Doe in Langley and say, "look, the president really thinks it's important that we invade Iraq, so analyses that tend to support his view will be rewarded, whereas those that would tend to embarass him will not." The CIA isn't populated by idiots.

And that's leaving all the shenanigans by Feith, Scooter, et. al. out of things. And it isn't to say that the CIA should be absolved of blame, either. They're not supposed to give in to that sort of pressure, and it now looks clear that some of their WMD work had been off-base for years.

July 11, 2004 | Permalink

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Comments

Is this an MTP reference?

I thought Tim was dangerously close to spitting out the Howlerian point that you're making here: all that "no doubt" stuff started well before the NIE or the slam dunk moment.

He still seemed to want to grossly oversimplify matters. I mean, was Pat Roberts really going to give him a direct answer?

Posted by: praktike | Jul 11, 2004 12:09:21 PM

Well going back to the Bay of Pigs, and even further than that really, the CIA has often given in to that pressure and been part of forming it.

There are two houses to the CIA, the analysts and the operatives, right? And what do you think the operatives want to do...? And what do you think say 50% of the analysts want to do? So add it up and there's a bit of an institutional bias there.

Disclaimer: I get my knowledge of CIA operations from novels.

Posted by: jerry | Jul 11, 2004 12:14:22 PM

I just love it how the Left constantly impugns the CIA for causing coup after coup throughout the world, and has taken significent steps to hinder the CIA's effectiveness over the years by limiting funds and methods. Yet now you are upset that the CIA doesn't always get it right. The CIA has a tough job. Its failures are public and its successes are secret, yet you persist in bashing the very agency that represents our best hope against terrorists. Disgusting.

Posted by: dellis | Jul 11, 2004 12:14:27 PM

I just love it how the Left constantly impugns the CIA for causing coup after coup throughout the world, and has taken significent steps to hinder the CIA's effectiveness over the years by limiting funds and methods. Yet now you are upset that the CIA doesn't always get it right.

What the Left wants the CIA to do: stop us from being killed by crazies.

What the Left doesn't want the CIA to do: give money and training to nun-raping death squads.

Call me a hopeless idealist, but I'd like to believe you can achieve the first without the second...

Posted by: john b | Jul 11, 2004 12:22:03 PM

I just love it how the Right constantly impugns the CIA for misreading threats, and has taken significent steps to hinder the CIA's effectiveness over the years by attempting to change its intelligence doctrine. Yet now you are upset that the CIA doesn't always get it right, even though you were griping that the CIA was underestimating the threat. The CIA has a tough job. Its failures are public and its successes are secret, yet you persist in bashing the very agency that represents our best hope against terrorists. Disgusting

Posted by: praktike | Jul 11, 2004 12:23:09 PM

Exactly, but one-half. The other half, that you've mentioned ("leaving all the shenanigans") shouldn't be dismissed so easily: Cheney's repeated visits, Feith's 'intelligence' shop (located in the 'policy' wing of the DoD), Bush's repeated probles to Clark after 9/11 about Saddam, etc,

Bush/Cheney should be help responsible for both real and climatical pressure on the intelligence community - not just the CIA.

The pattern of BushCo foreign policy pathology:

- Make public claims (disguised as facts);
- Pressure agencies to support claims/facts;
- Use the agencies' findings to support the public claims/facts.

In saner times, the use of this pathology to move the country to war would be impeachment material.

Now, BushCo just lies about it, and the media rolls over.

Democrats should not roll over, nor should the country at large.


Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jul 11, 2004 12:23:19 PM

I just love it how the Left constantly impugns the CIA for causing coup after coup throughout the world

Dellis, it's more than that. This is too generous a frame. The left opposes the fact that the CIA was fighting communists all over the world. They honestly believe that we should have just let Soviet-supported communists take over control of various countries without lifting a finger in return.

That said, this WMD intelligence failure and the 9/11 failure *are* genuine, major black eyes. There has to be some external feedback on the CIA, as it is even less accountable than most government agencies due to its secretive budget, etc.

Posted by: gc | Jul 11, 2004 12:24:27 PM

Well, correct me if I am wrong, but the main focus of the investigation wasn't to find out if the intelligence was manipulated for political reasons. It was, I believe, to find out of things were pretty much accurate. Does that sound right?

On a similar note, I can't remember despising people like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity more than on Friday, the day that this report came out.

Posted by: Brian | Jul 11, 2004 12:32:01 PM

Let me make that a little more clear: it wasn't to find out if Bush pressured people, but to find out that the claims had any connection to reality at all.

Posted by: Brian | Jul 11, 2004 12:33:12 PM

Mmmm.... trolls. Just came by for my dellis fix.

Posted by: Zizka | Jul 11, 2004 2:40:31 PM

Matt,

I'm sorry you couldn't think of a clever way to say that, instead reverting to a tired, partisan hack way of saying it.

Kudos.

f

Posted by: Fred Schoeneman | Jul 11, 2004 2:42:26 PM

Did we ever get it straight why the CIA was telling us what a big threat the USSR was up to the day they collapsed?

I remember an old book about the CIA told an (off the record) story about the cuban missile crisis. A low-level CIA guy watching soviet shipping saw missile stuff on ships to cuba. He reported it and asked for an overflight to watch the things getting set up. His superiors didn't do the overflight and sat on his report. He kept seeing more evidence and reporting it and they kept hiding it. Then when the missiles were almost ready to be used *finally* they did the overflights. After all the confrontations etc, the guy's boss got a bonus, his boss's boss got a raise, the boss's boss's boss got a promotion. The guy who found the missiles got drunk.

Regardless whether there is something outsiders can do to improve the CIA analysts, it sure looks like Bush has them for enemies. If it wasn't CIA analysts leaking the stories about getting pressured, who was it? Did the reporters make up those stories themselves? And now the analysts are getting blamed for Bush's public stand.

Bush wouldn't dare do that sort of thing to the CIA ops guys, would he? But the ops guys traditionally don't have a lot of sympathy for the analysts. If they took out Cheney it would help Bush's election. If they took out Bush then Cheney would be president. If they took out both of them and made it look like al Qaeda did it, people would think that Bush was right after all....

Would the CIA analysts have their own October Surprise? Would it even matter if they did? People have pretty much decided what they think, Bush supporters discount everything that makes him look bad, his opponents discount the propaganda that tries to spin it otherwise, anybody who isn't decided at this point is trying not to pay attention.

Posted by: J Thomas | Jul 11, 2004 5:25:19 PM

Dellis:

CIA, love it or leave it alone. The CIA is our best hope for fighting terrorists if you are FRENCH and think this is about intelligence. This is about WAR and we don't need no stinking intelligence. Damn pointy-headed intellectuals.

A few decades ago, Dellis was in support of the CIA's efforts to depose Allende's democracy and put a dictator in place. But the war in Iraq is good, not because of WMD's or Saddam-al Qaeda link, but because our interests are best served by freedom and democracy reigning throughout the world. That wasn't the case a few years back, 9/11 changed everything.

Support your CIA, right or wrong.

Posted by: epistemology | Jul 11, 2004 5:41:10 PM

gc:

The CIA of course is more immune to oversite than any other agency for obvious reasons. We must hold their boss, George W. Bush, responsible. Bush cynically manipulated the data regarding Iraq to justify war, and now is trying to pin the blame on the CIA. Plenty of blame to go around, but where does the buck stop? Cheney?

And Bush's stance that intelligence was bad or inadequate, is not going to wash. This was the same excuse he have 2 years ago after 9/11 and NOBODY was fired or disciplined. He must take full responsibility for the intelligence failures himself, and does not get to use the same excuse twice.

As Bush likes to try to say, "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me."

Posted by: epistemology | Jul 11, 2004 5:47:24 PM

And while whether Bush or the CIA was more to blame for us being in Iraq is not addressed in the 9/11 Commission report, the analysis seems to make clear that the interests of the US have been hurt, not helped, by the war.

Why does Bush keep saying otherwise?

Posted by: epistemology | Jul 11, 2004 5:51:53 PM

Pressure? What pressure?

What a complete crock of shit that is.

You wanna talk about pressure -- how 'bout insisting on a government led by duplicitous bastards like Ahmed Chalabi for the better part of a year, then once the insurgency takes solid root, you get the bright idea to start arbitrarily abusing and torturing Iraqi prisoners (who just so happen to be mostly innocent, that's the topper) to try to find out why, exactly, they think we're so completely full of shit about bringing democracry to the Middle East.

But that's not pressure, my friend. That's just leadership, Bush-style.

Bold, decisive, invariably wrong.

Posted by: David Richey | Jul 11, 2004 6:31:20 PM

David Richey:

Maybe "invariably wrong" but at least he is not varying like that flip-flopper Kerry.

Posted by: epistemology | Jul 11, 2004 7:27:11 PM

Supposedly the best evidence of no pressure is 200 some CIA employees testifying "no pressure." But they had two motives to deny it--first, as you say, they scarcely want to admit they said what they said because of pressure since they have a duty to tell it straight, and second, you don't want to accuse your boss of applying pressure.
And after all, taking it all literally, with childish naivete, it's true to say that there was no pressure, i.e., those pressing didn't SAY "we want you to find WMDs and other casi belli."
It's as if when I ask my wife ten times in five minutes if she's ready to go I then maintain I was just seeking information.

Posted by: Anti-Literalist | Jul 11, 2004 7:53:52 PM

CIA's conclusions about Iraq were basically the same when Clinton was President. Did Clinton also exert secret mind control?

Posted by: ronb | Jul 11, 2004 8:35:57 PM

If there was really no pressure, then why is there going to be a follow-up report on the subject of pressure? To keep the gpo busy?

epistemology, i want to thank you for encapsulating the mindset of the roughly 40% of the voters who will, under no circumstances, desert bush: you'd rather have bold and wrong than thoughtful and nuanced and willing to adjust (which is not to say that the description of kerry as a flip-flopper while bush as a determined consistent leader makes any sense whatsoever, but that's for another post at another time).

Posted by: howard | Jul 11, 2004 8:38:52 PM

well, ronb, it's certainly true that it took the distinctively shallow and easily manipulable thought processes of george bush to become convinced that the logical next move against the problem of islamic fundamentalist terrorism post-afghanistan was to invade iraq based on the available intelligence; that's not a conclusion that bill clinton would have drawn.

on the other hand, it's certainly not true, unless your definition of "basically" is that the findings were about the same subject in the same country, that there was no, how shall we call it, evolution of the cia's position after 9/11. After all, we have contemporaneous accounts (such as jim hoagland's now famous 10/02 column) that tell us just exactly this....

Posted by: howard | Jul 11, 2004 8:45:12 PM

Is it really so hard to let the "Bush Lied" meme go? I mean really folks, get over it and move on to the next attack. This one is dead.

Posted by: madmark | Jul 11, 2004 10:49:58 PM

Madmark said, "Is it really so hard to let the "Bush Lied" meme go? I mean really folks, get over it and move on to the next attack. This one is dead."

This argument ought to be dead. On the one hand trying to argue about it leads to "It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is" discussions, like how do we define lying in tiny detail, etc. Anybody who hasn't seen the hypocrisy in one side or the other by now won't see it from another rinse and spin cycle.

But where we're at with it at this point is that if Bush says the sky is blue I'm left wondering what his agenda is and I'll definitely look for an independent source before I accept it. For that matter if Michael Moore implies that Bush said the sky is blue I won't take his word for that either. But it's a whole lot more important that Bush is a liar than that Moore may also be one.

Let's just agree to disagree about it. When Bush said that he knew Saddam had WMDs it doesn't really matter whether he was lying, what mattered was that he said he knew Saddam had WMDs. When he tells us that iran has WMDs you go right ahead and believe him, it's your choice. You can even tell us we ought to believe him because he's been right so many times before. But that's a differend discussion and I hope the occasion won't arise.

Posted by: J Thomas | Jul 11, 2004 11:30:29 PM

ronb:

The assessment of Saddam by the CIA may (or may not) have been the same under Clinton as Bush, the difference then, is in the leadership. Unlike Bush, Clinton acutally DID disarm Saddam (we all agree Saddam ONCE had WMD's, just not when Bush came charging in) and did it without WAR. Rather nice dividend. No war.

Posted by: epistemology | Jul 12, 2004 12:28:16 AM

I think for most people, "Bush lied" does not actually mean "Bush stated as fact things about Iraqi WMD that he believed to be false." But this administration came to power wanting to attack Iraq, planned to do so before 9/11, wanted to do so in response to 9/11, and then did so after Afghanistan. The WMD justification came after the decision, and it included information they certainly ~shouldn't~ have believed, though I have no doubt they convinced themselves that it was credible. But forcing facts to match a predetermined conclusion, putting pressure on intelligence analysts, setting up an intelligence hack-shop in the Pentagon, using intel from forged documents, etc - I think we can say, "the Bush administration was dishonest in intent and effect." Or more briefly, "Bush lied."

Posted by: EH | Jul 12, 2004 6:51:49 AM

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