David Swanson of After Downing Street based his report on a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on an investigation of Doug Feith's Office of Special Plans, whose disinformation was used to gin up support for the Iraq war in 2002-2003, mostly on a firsthand report from Medea Benjamin.[1]  --  Unfortunately, "for much of the hearing [Sen. Carl Levin] was the only Democrat present.  --  Swanson urges readers to call Sen. Levin's office to express support, appreciation, and encouragement.  --  A Reuters article on the hearing is also posted below.[2]  --  It reported that Sen. Levin said that "The inspector general's report is a devastating condemnation.  The bottom line is that intelligence relating to the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship was manipulated by high-ranking officials in the Department of Defense." ...


1.

TRUTH EXPOSED BY SENATE ARMED SERVICES HEARING
By David Swanson

After Downing Street
February 9, 2007

http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/node/18388

The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing today at which the Inspector General of the Pentagon, Thomas Gimble, testified that -- and I'm loosely paraphrasing -- the Iraq War was launched on a pack of lies.

Gimble has produced a report [http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/node/18368] documenting the actions of the Office of Special Plans, which included the gathering of "intelligence" and the presenting of that "intelligence" to top administration officials. The Pentagon is not an agency authorized to gather intelligence, and no agency is authorized to do that sort of work without informing the Congress.

Chairman Carl Levin called the hearing, and for much of it was the only Democrat present. Most of the Democrats on the Committee never showed. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) and James Webb (D., Va.) participated briefly. Hillary Clinton (D., N.Y.) never showed, and her office said she was in New York, according to Medea Benjamin, a CoFounder of Code Pink and my main source for what happened today.

James Inhofe (R., Okl.) participated briefly, but for a long time, there were only four committee members present, according to Medea: Levin and John Warner (R., Va.), Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.), and Saxby Chambliss (R., Ga.). This lopsided attendance was reflected in the print media coverage [http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/node/18384], and will probably show up on the television reports.

"Levin was fabulous," Medea said. She and Lori Perdue, who both broke down crying during the hearing (see below), gave me an account after the committee had gone into closed session. "Levin was really tough, charged, determined. But most of the Democrats were missing in action. Three Republicans, Sessions, Warner, and Chambliss grilled Gimble." This grilling, Medea explained, was all in defense of the work of Doug Feith and the Office of Special Plans, a defense that apparently used some strangely contorted arguments. The grilling was only countered by Levin with a little help by Webb and a short assist by McCaskill.

McCaskill asked whether the intelligence agencies that legitimately gather intelligence shouldn't carry more weight than an office assigned only to analyze it. But the Republicans, Medea said, kept insisting that nothing illegal had been done, and that the Inspector General's report had been poorly conducted. He had failed to interview Stephen Hadley or Condoleezza Rice. Gimble countered that Hadley had refused to be interviewed and that as the IG for the "Defense" Department he had no authority over Rice. Levin then spoke up with the most encouraging comment of the day: We will make sure they come, he said. If there is any information that you want, we'll get it!

Let the subpoenas fly!

Medea and Dave Barrows managed to get themselves thrown out of the hearing today. Sessions was busy alleging that nothing was wrong with an alternative intelligence operation, especially considering how flawed the work of the intelligence community has been. Are you insinuating, he asked, that intelligence was misused on purpose to take us to war?

Medea said that she and Dave jumped up and said Yes, it was lies to take us to war.

Somehow, that got them thrown out, but not before Medea and Lori broke down sobbing with satisfaction when Levin [said] that nothing could be more devastating than using alternative intelligence to decide whether we go to war or not. . . . It's" as critical as anything I've seen," Levin concluded. He asked Gimble if the work of Feith's office had affected the public's understanding of why we needed to go to war. Gimble replied in the affirmative.

But, said Medea, Sessions kept insisting that the information from Feith's office had forced the intelligence community to go back and look at things and do a better job. And Gimble kept replying that, no, it had not changed the conclusions of the intelligence community. And, in a dramatic twist of revisionist history, Sessions brushed it all off by claiming that none of this had anything to do with why we'd gone to war anyway, that we'd gone because Iraq was supposedly violating U.N. resolutions and shooting down U.S. planes.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: we need a hearing on President Bush's proposal to try to get Iraq to shoot down a plane, something Iraq -- like Iran now -- was then refraining from doing: http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/whitehousememo

There was discussion in the hearing of this slideshow presentation produced by Feith and his Feith-based intelligence squad: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10652305/site/newsweek/

The first slide, the one criticizing the work of the intelligence community was removed when the presentation was made to the intelligence community. Gimble said that the CIA disagreed with half of the 28 points Feith made. Republicans latched onto that to claim that the other half must have been useful information. Gimble said that it was not, and that it amounted to a one-sided presentation with no required balance.

However, Gimble claimed that a process had been in place to prevent this sort of behavior, and that the process had been disregarded. McCaskill asked whether such a thing might not happen again, and Gimble replied that he did not think it would. Yet we know that Feith's work was authorized by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, and we have strong reason to believe Cheney was behind it. Last time I checked Cheney was still the Vice President and Levin had yet to subpoena anyof those three.

Call Senator Carl Levin's office and thank and encourage him: (202) 224-6221.

2.

PREWAR IRAQ INTEL FAULTED
By David Morgan and Jeremy Pelofsky

Reuters
February 9, 2007

Original source: Reuters

WASHINGTON -- A leading figure in the Bush administration's march to war in Iraq used questionable intelligence about Saddam Hussein's links to al Qaeda to help justify the 2003 invasion, a Pentagon watchdog agency said in a report on Friday.

The conclusion by former U.S. defense policy chief Douglas Feith's office that there was a "mature symbiotic relationship" between Iraq and al Qaeda was inconsistent with the intelligence community's view, the Pentagon inspector general's report said.

Acting inspector general Thomas Gimble, who produced the classified report after one-year investigation, concluded Feith was authorized by senior Pentagon officials to pursue alternative intelligence analyses and his actions were lawful.

But Feith's actions were sometimes "inappropriate" because they "did not clearly show the variance with the consensus of the intelligence community," an unclassified two-page executive summary of the report said.

Top administration officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, used claims of a relationship between al Qaeda and prewar Iraq to suggest that Saddam could have had a role in the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Senior officials at the time, including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, were dissatisfied that the CIA assessment did not more closely link Iraq and al Qaeda.

Feith, who left the government in 2005, said he welcomed the finding that his activities were legal and authorized, but said it was "an absurd position" to say his activities were inappropriate.

"It, of course, varied from (the) consensus. It was a criticism of that consensus. That is why it was written," he said in a statement.

Gimble said Feith's conclusions clashed with professional intelligence analysts by asserting that Saddam Hussein had "a mature symbiotic relationship" with al Qaeda and that an Iraqi spy met with September 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta in Prague.

Independent inquiries, including one by the September 11 commission, found no collaborative links between Iraq and the militant network blamed for the attacks that prompted the U.S. war on terrorism.

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, where the report was presented, bickered over its findings.

"The inspector general's report is a devastating condemnation," said Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee's Democratic chairman.

"The bottom line is that intelligence relating to the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship was manipulated by high-ranking officials in the Department of Defense," he said.

But some Republicans countered that there were widespread disagreements about prewar Iraq's capabilities across the intelligence community.

"I don't think in any way that his report can be interpreted as a devastating condemnation," said Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican who has staunchly backed the war. "You can read the same report and come to different conclusions."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who replaced Rumsfeld in December, did not comment on the substance of the report but said intelligence should to be handled through established channels.

"If intelligence is inadequate then changes need to be made in those institutions to improve intelligence," Gates told reporters while traveling in Europe.

The inspector general report, requested by the Senate Intelligence Committee in September 2005, recommended no action be taken because subsequent changes in Pentagon and intelligence leadership would prevent a recurrence.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Gray and Joanne Allen)