Thursday, July 15, 2004

But They Failed in Their Responsibility to Wrestle Powell to the Floor Before He Reached the Podium 

I blame the intelligence community: Colin Powell's own people told him he was making a bogus case for war in his speech before the U.N., but he went ahead and did it anyway. 38 dodgy claims in the first draft minus 28 dodgy claims removed equals 10 dodgy claims left in, including such perennial favorites as aluminum tubes and "decontamination vehicles" (i.e., water trucks). From the L.A. Times, courtesy of Zemblan patriot J.D.:
Days before Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was to present the case for war with Iraq to the United Nations, State Department analysts found dozens of factual problems in drafts of his speech, according to new documents contained in the Senate report on intelligence failures released last week.

Two memos included with the Senate report listed objections that State Department experts lodged as they reviewed successive drafts of the Powell speech. Although many of the claims considered inflated or unsupported were removed through painstaking debate by Powell and intelligence officials, the speech he ultimately presented contained material that was in dispute among State Department experts . . . .

Offering the first detailed look at claims that were stripped from the case for war advanced by Powell, a Jan. 31, 2003, memo cataloged 38 claims to which State Department analysts objected. In response, 28 were either removed from the draft or altered, according to the Senate report, which was released Friday and included scathing criticism of the CIA and other U.S. intelligence services.

The analysts, describing many of the claims as "weak" and assigning grades to arguments on a 5-star scale, warned Powell against making an array of allegations they deemed implausible. They also warned against including Iraqi communications intercepts they deemed ambiguous and against speculating that terrorists might "come through Baghdad and pick-up biological weapons" as if they were stocked on store shelves.

The documents underscore the extent to which administration and intelligence officials were culling a vast collection of thinly sourced claims as they sought to assemble the case for war. But the origin and full scope of some errors remain unclear because Senate investigators were denied access to a number of relevant documents, according to aides involved in the probe.

The CIA rejected requests for initial versions of what became the Powell presentation on the grounds that they were internal working documents and not finished products. And the Republican-controlled committee did not seek access to a 40-plus-page document that was prepared by Vice President Dick Cheney's office and submitted to State Department speechwriters detailing the case the administration wanted Powell to make.
The Times has posted the heavily-redacted Iraq Prewar Intelligence Report (in .PDF format) here.

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