Democrats Charge Feith Misrepresented Intelligence

Pentagon Reportedly Skewed C.I.A.’s View of Qaeda Tie [RSS] (Douglas Jehl, NYT)
Pentagon official distorted intelligence, report says (IHT)

As recently as January 2004, a top Defense Department official misrepresented to Congress the view of American intelligence agencies about the relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda, according to classified documents described in a new report by a Senate Democrat. The report said that a classified document prepared by Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy, did not accurately reflect the intelligence agencies’ assessment of the relationship, despite a Pentagon claim that it did.

In issuing the report, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that he would ask the panel to take “appropriate action” against Feith. Levin described the Jan. 15 communication from Feith as part of a pattern in which the Defense Department official, in briefings for Congress and the White House, repeatedly described the ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda as far more significant and extensive than the intelligence agencies had assessed.

The broad outlines of the role played by Feith as a champion of the view that Iraq and Al Qaeda were closely linked have been disclosed previously. The view, a staple of the Bush administration’s public statements before the Iraq invasion in March 2003, has since been discredited by the Sept. 11 commission, which concluded that Iraq and Al Qaeda had “no close collaborative relationship.” Bush administration officials have defended Feith’s prewar efforts as reflecting a legitimate effort to develop an alternative analysis of the relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda. But the report by Levin includes new details showing that Feith’s accounts to the White House and Congress through early 2004 deviated from the intelligence agencies’ assessments to a degree that the Pentagon official did not acknowledge.

I’d be interested in seeing the evidence put forth in the report. However, the fact that this is a separate investigation by Senate Democrats, under the highly partisan Carl Levin, put out a few days before a presidential election makes me very skeptical of the objectivity of the investigation. We’ve gotten rather critical assessments in bipartisan reports and those put out by the full committee; the only rationale for having a separate investigation by Democrats is to reach a foregone conclusion. For the NYT to present this otherwise is dubious indeed.

Update (1241): Wizbang’s Paul has some other questions about Jehl’s report.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.