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Context of 'September 15, 2001: State Department Audit of INC Finds Many Problems'

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The State Department begins funding the Iraqi National Congress’ “information collection” program to the tune of $150,000 per month. The program is part of the US government’s larger goal of effecting a regime change in Iraq (see October 31, 1998). According to the agreement between the State Department and the INC, the group is permitted to use the money to “implement a public information campaign to communicate with Iraqis inside and outside of Iraq and also to promulgate its message to the international community at large.” The INC is prohibited from engaging in activities “associated with, or that could appear to be associated with, attempting to influence the policies of the United States Government or Congress or propagandizing the American people.” But according to Francis Brooke, an INC spokesman, some of the State Department’s funds are used to finance the expenses of Iraqi defectors who serve as the sources for several US news stories. Brookes claims that there are “no restrictions” on the use of US federal funds to make defectors available to the media. Another Chalabi spokesman will say: “The INC paid some living and travel expenses of defectors with USG funds. None of these expenses was related to meeting journalists.” He adds that the INC “did not violate any US laws.” [Newsweek, 4/5/2004]

Entity Tags: Francis Brooke, US Department of State, Iraqi National Congress

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The US intelligence community—most notably the intelligence gatherers working in the Pentagon offices under Douglas Feith (see September 2002) —bases several of its intelligence assessments concerning Iraq on information offered by the Iraqi National Congress (INC) and by Iraqi defectors provided by the INC, despite warnings from the State Department and some CIA analysts that the lobbying group cannot be trusted. [New Yorker, 5/12/2003; Salon, 7/16/2003; Guardian, 7/17/2003; Inter Press Service, 8/7/2003; Independent, 9/30/2003; Mother Jones, 1/2004 Sources: Greg Thielmann, Unnamed administration official] The INC’s primary intelligence organization is its Information Collection Program (ICP), which conducts about 20 percent of all US intelligence’s verbal debriefings of Iraqi prisoners, insurgents, and defectors. [Bamford, 2004, pp. 336-337] Some of the INC’s intelligence on Iraq is reportedly funneled directly to the office of Vice President Dick Cheney by Francis Brooke, the DC lobbyist for the group. [Newsweek, 12/15/2003 Sources: Memo, Francis Brooke] Brooke will later acknowedge that the information provided by the INC was driven by an agenda. “I told them [the INC], as their campaign manager, ‘Go get me a terrorist and some WMD, because that’s what the Bush administration is interested in.’” [Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pp. 230] Brooke had previously worked for the Rendon Group, “a shadowy CIA-connected public-relations firm.” [Mother Jones, 1/2004]

Entity Tags: Douglas Feith, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Francis Brooke, Frank Gaffney, Office of Special Plans

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

State Department auditors discover that the Iraqi National Congress’ “information collection” program has failed to keep its books in order. According to the audit, the INC used a mixture of accounting methods (both cash and accrual); lacked adequate internal controls; lacked written accounting policies and procedures; had bank balances that exceeded FDIC insured amounts; and “did not comply with applicable regulations and agreements.” The auditors question the costs of about $2.2 million out of $4.3 million in expenditures between March 2000 and May 2001. “Of that amount, $113,794 was unallowable under terms and conditions of the agreement, and $2,107,093 was classified as unsupported because of either inadequate or a lack of documentation.” [United States Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors, 9/2001 pdf file] Examples cited by auditors include $2,070 paid for a Washington health center membership and money paid to the Burson-Marsteller public relations firm. [Washington Post, 1/25/2002] Another $101,762 was spent in undocumented expenses related to travel and badge distribution for attendees at a human rights conference. Additionally, the INC made $578,795 in undocumented cash payments. The auditors also draw attention to the INC’s shifting of funds “back and forth among several different banks into several different currencies” which they note created a potential for “fraud, waste, and abuse.” [United States Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors, 9/2001 pdf file] In a 200-page response to the audit, the INC acknowledges “the need to strengthen internal [financial] controls,” but denies any misuse of federal funds. Entifadh K. Qanbar, the INC’s Washington office director, says the US government is using the financial issues as a “smoke screen” to divert attention away from its failure to develop its own policy on Iraq. “There is a sense that the INC will make Saddam very angry if we are allowed to conduct aggressive actions inside the country,” Qanbar says. “That will drag the United States into a war. They are not prepared to go to war against Saddam. This is why the review is stalled.” [Washington Post, 1/25/2002]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, Entifadh Qanbar, Iraqi National Congress

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Entifadh Qanbar, a lobbyist for the Iraqi National Congress (INC), sends a memo to the staff of the Senate Appropriations Committee, in which he provides information about a State Department-funded intelligence program, known as the “information-collection program,” run by the INC (see September 2004-September 2006). Qanbar, who says he is the overall manager of the group, states in the memo that under the program, “defectors, reports and raw intelligence are cultivated and analyzed,” and “the results are reported through the INC newspaper (Al Mutamar), the Arabic and Western media and to appropriate governmental, nongovernmental and international agencies.” Information is also passed on to William Luti, who will later run the Office of Special Plans (see September 2002), and John Hannah, a senior national-security aide on Cheney’s staff, who Qunbar describes as the “principal point of contact.” [Newsweek, 12/15/2003; New York Times, 2/12/2004 Sources: Memo] The memo provides a description of some of the people involved in the group and their activities. It says that the analytical group includes five analysts with a background in Iraq’s military, Iraq’s intelligence services and human rights. One person, a consultant, monitors the Iraqi government’s alleged efforts to develop banned weapons. The five analysts process information and write reports, which are sent to Al Mutamar, the INC’s newspaper, as well as the US government and many mainstream news organizations. Qanbar says that the information-collection program issued 30 reports between August 2001 and June 2002, which were sent to Al Mutamar. (Al Mutamar is only available inside Iraq on the Internet; the effectiveness of other government-funded projects to disseminate propaganda inside Iraq could not be proven, and may not have ever existed.) According to the memo, the group published 28 private reports in collaboration with the INC’s headquarters in London. The memo reveals that between October 2001 and May 2002, information provided by the INC was cited in 108 articles published by a variety of English-language news publications, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, the New Yorker, CNN, Fox News, and several others. [New York Times, 2/12/2004; New Yorker, 6/7/2004; Columbia Journalism Review, 7/1/2004] New York Daily News reporter Helen Kennedy will say in 2004, “The INC’s agenda was to get us into a war.” Kennedy’s name appears on Qanbar’s list. “The really damaging stories all came from those guys, not the CIA. They did a really sophisticated job of getting it out there.” Bob Drogin of the Los Angeles Times will say, “I think something that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention is how [the INC] used the British press to plant a lot of this stuff, some of it pretty outlandish.” British journalist Jamie Dettmer points the finger the other way. “I’ve been utterly appalled by the lack of skepticism about this entire Iraq project and the war on terrorism” in the press. When Dettmer learns that his name is on the list, he shouts, “Complete bollocks!” Other journalists on the list will refuse to admit that they were duped by the INC, even though some of their stories contain extensive interviews and dramatic claims from INC sources that were later disproven. Qanbar will say, “We did not provide information. We provided defectors. We take no position on them. It’s up to you reporters to decide if they are credible or not.” [Columbia Journalism Review, 7/1/2004]

Entity Tags: Iraqi National Congress, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Entifadh Qanbar, Memo

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Domestic Propaganda

After the State Department decides it will no longer provide the Iraqi National Congress (INC) with monthly payments, funding for the INC’s “information collection” program and other covert operations is picked up by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) which begins providing Chalabi’s group with a monthly stipend of $340,000. Under the DIA’s rules, the INC is forbidden from publicly releasing any info about its intelligence program without written permission from the Pentagon. Under the State Department, the INC had been feeding stories to the media. The Defense Department tasks the INC with collecting intelligence on Iraq’s alleged ties to al-Qaeda, its presumed arsenal of WMD, and the whereabouts of Michael Scott Speicher, a US Navy pilot missing since being shot down during the first gulf war. Not withstanding its divorce with the INC, the State Department will continue supporting other INC initiatives, providing it with $8 million for its newspaper, anti-Hussein television broadcasts into Iraq, and regional offices and humanitarian relief programs. [Washington Post, 8/16/2002; Houston Chronicle, 3/11/2004; Newsweek, 4/5/2004; New Yorker, 6/7/2004]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, Defense Intelligence Agency, Iraqi National Congress

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

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