Intelligence Reform Commission: Intelligence Needs Reform

The commission appointed by President Bush to study flaws in U.S. intelligence system has found that there are many flaws in the U.S. intelligence system.

Report Finds U.S. Intelligence Flaws Too Common (Reuters)

U.S. intelligence flaws that occurred in Iraq are “still all too common” throughout an American spy community that knows disturbingly little about nuclear programs elsewhere, a presidential commission reported on Thursday. The report, ordered by President Bush to get to the bottom of Iraq intelligence failures, said the harm done to American credibility by flaws in intelligence on the extent of Iraq’s weapons programs “will take years to undo.” “The flaws we found in the intelligence community’s Iraq performance are still all too common,” said the report’s authors. “Across the board, the intelligence community knows disturbingly little about the nuclear programs of many of the world’s most dangerous actors.”

The presidential commission, led by appeals court judge Laurence Silberman and former Virginia Sen. Charles Robb, a Republican, called for broad and deep change in the intelligence community to make it capable of developing long-term plans for “penetrating today’s difficult targets.” The report took aim at the intelligence-gathering on Iraq by the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency and other agencies before a war fought over claims that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, none of which were found. “In the end, those agencies collected precious little intelligence for the analysts to analyze, and much of what they did collect was either worthless or misleading,” it said.

The commission said it found no evidence that the White House or the Pentagon put political pressure on analysts to color the intelligence to back up their claims. “The analysts who worked Iraqi weapons issues universally agreed that in no instance did political pressure cause them to skew or alter any of their analytical judgments,” the report said. But it added: “It is hard to deny the conclusion that intelligence analysts worked in an environment that did not encourage skepticism about the conventional wisdom.”

Oddly, the 9/11 Commission found exactly the same thing. And, for that matter, we pretty much knew this on 9/11. Indeed, anyone who even remotely follows foreign policy and military affairs knows that intelligence failure has been with us since at least the Peloponnesian War.

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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.


  1. Brian J. says:

    Also, the corollary to the human political condition that bodies tasked with finding something will often find it, particularly if it leads to budget.