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A slide from former Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation on Iraqi WMD to the United Nations in early 2003.

Questions for the new administration regarding the use and misuse of intelligence

ASK THIS | January 06, 2009

Former senior CIA official Paul Pillar thinks the public needs to hear a lot more about the Obama Administration's views of the intelligence community and its complicated but crucial relationship with policymakers, Congress and the public.

First in a series of questions for the new administration from a wide range of experts.

By Paul R. Pillar

On public use of raw intelligence:  In its selling of the Iraq war, the Bush administration did not seek the judgments of the intelligence community and rejected several of the important judgments the community offered (such as that there was no alliance between the Iraqi regime and al-Qa'ida).  Meanwhile, it aggressively used bits of raw reporting (some of which turned out to be bogus) in making its case to the public.  Was this a proper way to use intelligence?  If not, how can you assure Americans that you will not use intelligence in a similar way to win support for policy initiatives important to your administration?  What is your overall view of policymakers publicly using pieces of raw intelligence?  Is there a distinction to be made between, for example, the presentation that Adlai Stevenson made to the United Nations Security Council in 1962 about missiles in Cuba, and the one that Colin Powell made to the council in 2003 about weapons programs in Iraq?  If so, how would you define the distinction?

On public use of intelligence judgments: The intelligence community—increasingly in recent years—has released unclassified versions of its judgments on important issues.  Do you approve of this practice?  If so, how would you deal with a situation like the reactions to the release a year ago of judgments about the Iranian nuclear program, which not only took the military option off the table but also complicated diplomacy aimed at peacefully resolving the problem?  How would you react to any publicly released intelligence judgments—on any issue—that took off the table options that your administration was considering?  If you do not approve of the public release of judgments, what about the public's right to know what the large taxpayer-funded apparatus known as the intelligence community is thinking on important issues?

On Congress as consumer:  Do you believe that Congress is just as important a consumer of intelligence as the executive branch?  If not, why not, given that under the Constitution Congress is a co-equal branch of government?  If so, how will you react when intelligence officers present testimony on Capitol Hill with implications contrary to your administration's policies?

On the nature of politicization: The Senate intelligence committee and the Silberman-Robb Commission asked intelligence analysts if policymakers had twisted their arms regarding Iraqi weapons programs, the analysts said no, and both bodies concluded that there was no politicization of the intelligence community's work on that issue.  Do you agree?  If so, how do you justify such a narrow definition of politicization, given that intelligence officers become well aware of policymakers' preferences without having their arms twisted?  If you disagree, what will you do to ensure that the work of the intelligence community, whose director reports to the president, will not be politicized in your administration?

On the issue of constraint:  In general, do you view the intelligence community as primarily a partner of policymakers or as a potential constraint on them?  Much criticism of the intelligence community regarding the Iraq War holds that the community could have and should have done more to check or constrain the Bush administration's march toward war.  Do you agree?  If so, how will you react if the community acts in a way that constrains your administration's policy initiatives?  If you regard the community as more of a partner, how do you ensure that partnership does not lead to politicization?

Politization of the entire Bush Administration's actions
Posted by sailorflat
01/10/2009, 11:59 AM

It was soooo obvious that Bush operated in a politically induced bubble. He wasn't the actual winner of the 2000 election and The Ohio Secretary of State, a Bush "Pioneer" or "Ranger" who utilized his office to set up another suspicious 2004 presidential election result again smacks of the use of politics by the Bushies. The fact that everything that Bush, Cheney and Rice said regarding Iraq was a blatant lie. I personally think that Bush is criminally insane, just like Ted Bundy, with blowing up frogs with firecrackers for fun and games as a child. What kind of a mother allows her child to play with firecrackers? Then when he was an adolescent, according to his buddy, Mr. Throckmorton, in a 2004 editorial explained how Bush shot a frogs exiting a pond after a rain with his 22 rifle. Serial killers first start with killing animals. Certainly sounds like George W. Bush.

Pillar to press: Don't get fooled again
February 2006 article in Nieman Watchdog about the press's responsibility to aggressively question the use of intelligence.

What to Ask Before the Next War
Pillar's February 2007 Washington Post op-ed on not letting the people who brought us Iraq define the questions.

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