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During the Cold War, Soviet intelligence agencies sometimes provided us “disinformation” – false information, intended to obscure the truth. Hence, there were frequently sharp differences of opinion within our own intelligence community as to whether or not information provided to us by Soviet “traitors-in-place” and/or “defectors” was genuine intelligence or disinformation.
Now, anyone who provides disinformation to Congress has committed a felony. If the provider is a U.S. government official intent on starting a war, it could amount to treason. So, wouldn’t the director of Central Intelligence make every effort to see that disinformation is never presented to Congress?
In particular, DCI George Tenet would never have told Congress that he had “slam-dunk” intelligence that Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction” if there were any chance that intelligence was disinformation.
In fact, the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraqi WMD he provided Congress in September 2002 was replete with caveats, qualifications and contrary interpretations. Even though Tenet may have attempted to persuade Congress there was a consensus within the intelligence community, it should have been obvious to the most casual observer that there was anything but.
By 1997, U.N. inspectors had confirmed that Gen. Hussein Kamel – Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law – had told them and the CIA the truth. He was not an agent of disinformation. He was a genuine defector. In charge of Iran-Iraq War WMD programs, he had ordered all WMD destroyed on the eve of the Gulf War. By 1995, when he defected, “nothing remained.”
Perversely, some analysts within the intelligence community chose to disbelieve Kamel and the U.N. inspectors. They chose to believe Khidir Hamza – the man Kamel had labeled a “professional liar” – and other “little birds.” They began compiling a list of sites wherein Saddam was alleged to have hidden chem-bio weapons or to have begun reconstructing WMD production facilities.
Consequently, Tenet’s NIE of September 2002 began:
Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction (WMD)programs in defiance of U.N. resolutions and restrictions. Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of U.N. restrictions; if left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade.
Alas, in the months immediately following, the chem-bio weapons inspectors under Hans Blix and the nuke inspectors under Mohammed ElBaradei visited all the “suspect” sites at the top of the little birds’ list and found nothing.
Hamza’s response? Blix and ElBaradei were incompetent. The United States would have to invade and occupy Iraq in order to uncover and destroy the well-hidden WMD production facilities.
So, on the basis of Tenet’s “slam-dunk” intelligence, we invaded Iraq and have searched high and low for more than a year and have yet to find any of the WMD “everyone” believed were there.
Why bring that up now? Well, Tenet is still presenting to Congress “intelligence” that is regarded in some sectors of the intelligence community as disinformation.
For example, here is what the director of Central Intelligence recently told Congress about Iran’s “nuclear” programs:
The United States remains convinced that Tehran has been pursuing a clandestine nuclear weapons program, in violation of its obligations as a party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). To bolster its efforts to establish domestic nuclear fuel-cycle capabilities, Iran sought technology that can support fissile material production for a nuclear weapons program.
“The United States remains convinced”? Even after IAEA inspectors had been accorded unprecedented access to any and all Iranian “suspect” facilities and had found no “indication” – much less “evidence” – of a clandestine nuclear weapons program or of any NPT “violation”?
And here is what DCI Tenet told Congress about North Korea:
In late April 2003, North Korea told U.S. officials that it possessed nuclear weapons, and signaled its intent to reprocess the 1994 canned spent fuel for more nuclear weapons.
North Korean officials vigorously deny having told U.S. officials anything of the kind. And even if they are lying, how can we be sure now what they are alleged to have said last April was not “disinformation.”
Nevertheless, Tenet is reportedly readying an estimate that North Korea now has 8-10 plutonium nukes and will soon have the capacity to produce a half-dozen uranium nukes per year, even though there is no “hard” evidence whatsoever that North Korea is capable of producing either.
In particular, IAEA inspectors visited the site where the Koreans were alleged to be developing a high-explosive implosion system for nukes and found nothing sinister.
Perhaps they ought to have checked out Ryongchon. North Korea likened last Thursday’s train blast in Ryongchon, a town of 130,000 near the Chinese border, to “100 bombs, each weighing one ton” going off at the same time.