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Monday, September 29, 2003

While this shouldn't be news to folks who follow U.S. intelligence operations generally, the New York Times writes about a Defense Intelligence Agency report which faults intelligence on Iraq from defectors. Defectors never have been a completely reliable source of information; they often have political agendas that color their preceptions and are willing to say whatever is necessary to get what they want. We'd hoped the U.S. had learned this lesson after the Cold War, where there was ample evidence and numerous cases to support the idea.

Now, the U.S. is in a position to undo some of the harm its doing in Iraq by replacing the Iraqi National Congress people with well-qualified Iraqis who aren't part of that group. The INC obviously had its own skin in mind when giving the U.S. intelligence over the years and there's no guarantee that an INC government in Iraq will be democratic.

The next question is, who was responsible for this "intelligence":

'The partnership between the Iraqi exiles and the American government was initially run by the State Department, with millions of dollars provided to the Iraqi National Congress under the Iraq Liberation Act, whose declared purpose was to promote a transition to democracy in Iraq. One element was intended to collect information about Iraq in order to promote public awareness about the failings of Mr. Hussein's government.'

'Instead, State Department officials involved in the program said, the Iraqi exiles used most of the money to recruit defectors who claimed to have sensitive intelligence information. Until 2002, the State Department handed over those defectors to the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for debriefing. Federal officials said that very few of them had been judged to be credible, but that they knew of no specific assessment of their credibility.'

'After internal State Department reviews in 2001 and 2002 concluded that much of the $4 million allocated for the program had not been properly accounted for and that the intelligence-gathering program was not part of the department's mission, oversight was transferred to the Defense Department in 2002.'

And that's where the article stops in the timeline, which leads me to believe that the Pentagon took over some aspects from the DIA and thus "re-evaluated" the intelligence (if it can be called that) that the other agencies had gleaned from the INC-provided exiles. We know from several reports that the Pentagon actively reviewed intelligence on Iraq in an attempt at thinking outside the box -- later this week we'll post some links to various articles about this -- as part of the Pentagon's plan to be more active in intelligence analysis.

We hope that the U.S. a.) stops trusting defectors for all its information (this is, perhaps, the source of the silly claim that Cuba has biological weapons), b.) stops propping up "dissident" groups whose motives are obviously political, and c.) stops these reviews of intelligence by the Pentagon, which is quite ready to believe everything it hears from defectors and is thus ill-suited for intelligence analysis.

Andrew 8:03 AM : |


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