Are You Sure?

By GotDesign
I've been listening to the news about the Duelfer Report that has been issued by the CIA. Supposedly, according to the report, Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. That's it. End of story.

Right?

Wrong. Let me tell you about intelligence reports. I spent 11 years working in U.S. Army intelligence, including working at the Defense Intelligence Agency. Reports such as the Duelfer Report -- really, all intelligence reports -- are composed by reviewing all information that comes in from a variety of sources (including spies, intercepted communications, satellite information, etc.). This information is reviewed for its content and the reliability of its source(s). Human intelligence (spies) is always the best source of information. Nothing is better than having someone on the scene who can report first-hand observations. Once all of the information is gathered and reviewed, analysts (such as I was) prepare their conclusions regarding the data and are usually questioned/grilled by their supervisors and peers to be sure the opinions expressed are well thought out and will stand scrutiny. Each portion of the report will go through a similar process in this regard. Once every portion has been reviewed, they are collected and published.

Now, let's ask some other questions. How many human intelligence assets does the CIA have in Iraq? How many of these assets have access to the cities of Najaf, Falujah, Tikrit? How well can satellites pick out the signs of WMDs and their production? How long have the CIA analysts been subjected to CIA bureaucratic culture and the institutional biases they engender?

We saw after September 11th, 2001 that even the smallest gap in intelligence can be deadly. The FBI's John O'Neillhad put together enough information about the al Qaeda plot to attack the U.S. to know such an attack was imminent. But he didn't know targets. There were a few gaps in what they could not fill. And we saw the effects of those gaps. [O'Neill died in the World Trade Center on 9/11.] Are there any gaps in the intellgence that led to the Duelfer Report? Are you sure?

Now, let's ask a couple more questions. How certain are you [analysts] that there are no WMD in Najaf, Falujah, Tikrit? How certain can you be?

Senator Kerry has been making a lot of noise about how President Bush failed diplomatically in not strengthening the sanctions against Hussein's Iraq. He says that the President should have put more pressure on the U.N. to maintain strong sanctions. But it turns out that the U.N. was actively undermining those same sanctions through the Food for Oil Program. In 1998 (according to Duefler), Iraqi weapons/defense spending began to increase rapidly. How could this be, if sanctions were preventing the Iraqis from getting oil revenues? As it turns our, Ukraine, France and Russia were already selling Iraq military hardware and were ducking the sanctions. Who were the primary international opponents of the American action in Iraq? France? Russia? Ukraine was not as vocal, but be sure they opposed American action. They didn't want to loose their place on the gravy train. Duelfer (to his credit) said that sanctions were weakening and Saddam was beginning to look into WMD again.

Now, how much faith do you put into the validity of the Duelfer Report's assertions about the presence of WMD in Iraq?

EDITORIAL COMMENTS:
I want you to know that having written this piece, I don't have any inside knowledge on the CIA. Just on the process of intelligence analysis. It is not my intention to say that the Duelfer Report is false, but to remind you that intelligence is only as good as its sources. Remember, the CIA told us 3 years ago that Saddam had WMD. Please also check out the WSJ Opinion Journal piece cited above about biases within the CIA. And if you want to debate my opinion, drop me a line.
 

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