Friday, April 06, 2007

THE MOST FLIMSY INTEL: Doug Feith's, naturally

Today, your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow patiently downloaded the "declassified" Inspector General report and slide exhibit pdfs from Senator Carl Levin's .gov website. Expecting little, we were furnished with even less.

In particular, I've long been interested in exactly where the information on ricin plots in London and their alleged linkage to al Qaeda and Iraq came from.

If you're unfamiliar, these claims constituted one of the many discredited planks in Colin Powell's speech to the UN Security Council prior to the mustering of enthusiasm for war with Iraq.

These beliefs were shattered during the trial of the London ricin ring, as reported by me, here.

Conspicuously absent from that case were American claims.

The outcome of that trial contributed greatly to the disillusionment with the war in the UK and the early adoption of the conviction there that the Bush administration had fabricated evidence for it. This nexus of events hurt the Blair government, which was perceived as toady to the Bush administration.

But in the United States, no one has seen fit to spill the beans on where this information came from. One has to dig through reports for fine print adn even then the trail is unusually dim.

Part of it, unsurprisingly, leads back to a tortured prisoner. It's described here. These traces were revealed in a part of the Senate Intelligence Select Committee's report on Iraq, released in September of last year.

With Levin's release of Feith's slide show on intelligence allegedly linking al Qaeda and Iraq, there is a very brief part entitled "Al Qaida Seeks Chem-Bio Weapons."

Most of it is redacted, one might reason nonsensically so. But even if one lets the ink go for a minute and imagines the slide without blackouts, the information is astonishingly thin, constituting -- at best -- two paragraphs.



One of the fragments in the clear -- "Unconfirmed reports of Iraqis assisting al Qaida in establishment of microbial laboratories in Afghanistan" -- appears to be absolute rubbish.

There simply is no indication anywhere in the public record to support it.

DD assumes it was entirely made up, something someone wanted to believe because it was convenient.

"...[C]ouriers transporting an alleged poison were intercepted" most probably refers to the arrest of members of the alleged London ricin ring in Operation Springbourne, a sweep conducted by British anti-terror forces in the months before the war in Iraq.

During this period, Colin Powell and others talked about ricin of al Qaeda origin being chased around Europe, ricin which was presumed to have been made in Iraq.

"The ricin that is bouncing around Europe now originated in Iraq -- not in the part of Iraq that is under Saddam Hussein's control, but his security forces know all about it," said Powell in one newspaper report.

The trial of the alleged ricin ring in London, being absent of anything that might be relevant to this assumption, showed it to be imaginary.

"The Feith office alternative intelligence assessments concluded that Iraq and al Qaeda were cooperating and had a 'mature, symbiotic' relationship, a view that was not supported by the available intelligence, and was contrary to the consensus view of the Intelligence Community," reads the germane press release on levin.senate.gov.

"These alternative assessments were used by the Administration to support its public arguments in its case for war. As the DOD IG report confirms, the Intelligence Community never found an operational relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda; the report specifically states that,'the CIA and DIA disavowed any mature, symbiotic relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida.'”

"The very title of the Feith briefing slides contradicts his claim on February 16 that 'we didn’t do intelligence assessments,'" it adds.

One expects to see substantive work when one reads of intelligence purporting to show a danger. And it remains shocking to see how flimsy such actual material is when the cat is finally out of the bag.

The Levin page and pdfs are here.

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