February 10, 2006

White House misused Iraq intelligence: ex-official

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON -- A former CIA official who coordinated U.S. intelligence on the Middle East during the Iraq invasion accused the White House of misusing prewar intelligence to justify its case for war.

Paul Pillar, who was national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005, also said the Senate intelligence committee and a presidential commission overlooked evidence that the Bush administration politicized the intelligence process to support White House policymakers.

"Official intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs was flawed but even with its flaws, it was not what led to the war," Pillar said in an article written for the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs and posted on the magazine's Web site on Friday.

"If the entire body of official intelligence analysis on Iraq had a policy implication, it was to avoid war -- or, if war was going to be launched, to prepare for a messy aftermath," he said.

Pillar was not immediately available for comment. A CIA spokesman said Pillar was expressing his own personal point of view and not the official views of the spy agency.

The CIA and other agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community have been widely criticized for prewar Iraq intelligence including the claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which was a main justification for the war. No such weapons have been found.


But Pillar, a widely respected intelligence analyst who spent 28 years at the CIA, said it has become clear since the 2003 invasion that the White House did not use official intelligence analysis in making even the most significant national security decisions.

Policymakers instead employed a "cherry-picking" approach that selected pieces of raw intelligence that seemed most favorable to its WMD claims and the charge of a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda.

The White House ignored intelligence reports that said Iraq was not fertile ground for democracy and warned of a long, difficult turbulent post-invasion period that would require a Marshall Plan-type effort to restore the country's economy despite its abundant oil reserves.

Reports also predicted an occupying force would be a target of resentment and attacks including guerrilla warfare.

Pillar said the Bush administration politicized Iraq intelligence by repeatedly calling for more material that would contribute to its case for war, a tactic that he said skewed intelligence resources toward topics favoring the White House.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the WMD commission have both concluded in official reports that there was no evidence of White House political pressure.

"But the method of investigation used by the panels -- essentially, asking analysts whether their arms had been twisted -- would have caught only the crudest attempts at politicization," Pillar wrote.