It's Hard To Keep Secrets
911 Investigative panel is part of the cover up, nevertheless, it's hard to keep outrageous secrets.
Learn the code
The Senate's report is very revealing about Bush and his apostles - but the clues are buried deep
Thursday July 15, 2004
The Senate intelligence committee report is the Da Vinci code of the Iraq war. Some of the clues are in plain sight but unless one knows how to read them they remain cryptic. Deletions, covering one-fifth of the report, and omissions, stretching endlessly, are as significant as what's included. The storyline is jumbled into incoherence, the main characters are often spectral and it's all extremely dangerous.
By virtue of a deal struck before the committee investigated, the belligerent Republican majority got timorous Democrats to separate the inquiry into halves, leaving the question of the Bush administration's culpability for a second report, almost certainly to be filed after the election, if at all. This unholy arrangement enabled the report to put the burden of blame on the CIA. For months, Bush and his national security team escalated its rhetoric about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. But there was no national intelligence estimate (NIE) until demands by Democratic senators on the intelligence committee forced its writing.
Most take months to assemble, but this one was slapped together in about three weeks. "Most of the major key judgments in the intelligence community's October 2002 NIE, Iraq's Continuing Programmes for Weapons of Mass Destruction, were either overstated, or were not supported by the underlying intelligence reporting," the report states.
The freakish cognitive dissonance at the NIE's core should have been detected at the start. It broke down its judgments into levels of confidence from high to moder ate to low. Utter absence of proof, however, did not deter the conclusion from being stamped "high confidence".
What the report does not note is the name or background of the NIE's director: Robert Walpole, a former national intelligence officer on nuclear weapons, a factotum of the secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld. Walpole had demonstrated his bona fides in an incident that prefigures the WMD debacle, the writing of the alarmist report of the Rumsfeld commission in 1998, which asserted the ballistic missile threat from "rogue states" was imminent. That claim, used to bolster the case for a Star Wars programme, had been rejected by a similar commission two years earlier.
The report also does not deal with the creation of an alternative intelligence operation inside the Pentagon, the Office of Special Plans, which bypassed regular channels to send fabricated material originating mostly in Ahmed Chalabi's disinformation factory.
But buried in the appendix, Senator John D Rockefeller, Democrat of West Virginia, included an account of an internal operation against the CIA conducted by the under-secretary of defence, Douglas Feith, an entrenched neo-conservative.
While the CIA composed a report on the Iraq-al-Qaida connection, which the administration still trumpets, and for which the intelligence community could never find proof, Feith held briefings trashing the CIA on its impending report. Then, without informing the CIA, Feith's version was presented to the deputy national security adviser and vice-president.
Colin Powell put himself in the hands of people he hoped would protect him. Predictably, he was betrayed. Before his February 5 2002 speech to the United Nations, making the case for WMD, Powell spent days at the CIA. He was given disinformation about mobile biological weapons laboratories, which came from Iraqi exile sources that the CIA didn't trust. The day before Powell's speech, one CIA official wanted to warn him. Another replied, "As I said last night, let's keep in mind the fact that this war's going to happen regardless of what [the source] said or didn't say, and the Powers That Be probably aren't terribly interested in whether [the source] knows what he's talking about." Powell was sent before the world to speak the falsehoods with CIA director George Tenet sitting behind him. Never before has a secretary of state, the highest ranking cabinet officer, been treated with such contemptuous manipulation by his own administration.
The NIE was condensed to a one-page document and sent to the White House, which still refuses to release it to the committee. The full classified version contains dissenting caveats in its footnotes. But were those included in the one-page summary? And did Bush read the NIE in any form? On July 18 2003, in an overlooked briefing to the White House press corps, "a senior administration official" explained: "I don't think he sat down over a long weekend and read every word of it. But he's familiar, intimately familiar with the case."
In the bestselling thriller The Da Vinci Code, paintings and signs contain the keys to the code. The Senate report, despite missing crucial information, still helps crack the code about Bush and his apostles. Bush is revealed as having a blithe disregard for anything that might interfere with his articles of absolute belief - a man of faith.
· Sidney Blumenthal is former senior adviser to President Clinton and Washington bureau chief of salon.com
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