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Context of 'May 4, 2006: Former US Intelligence Official Says Bush Administration’s Prewar Allegations Were Part of an ‘Organized Campaign of Manipulation’'

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Paul Pillar.Paul Pillar. [Source: PBS]Deputy Director of the CIA John McLaughlin asks veteran CIA analyst Paul Pillar to prepare a declassified version of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq. A public version of the document was requested by senators Bob Graham and Carl Levin (see October 2, 2002) who want the dissenting opinions expressed in the document to be aired in public. Pillar is told to use a white paper that had been commissioned by the White House in May as his starting point, and then update it with material from the NIE. (Isikoff and Corn 2006, pp. 138-139)

Senior CIA analyst Paul Pillar produces a high-level report on the potential challenges US forces will experience in post-Hussein Iraq. Pillar’s paper argues that imposing democracy on Iraq will not be easy. He warns that the country may fracture along ethnic and religious lines and explode into violence. He also says that the US will not be able to finance reconstruction with Iraq’s oil revenue. The report is sent to the office of CIA Director George Tenet and forwarded to the White House and Pentagon. An administration official tells him that his paper is “too negative.” “You guys just don’t see the possibilities,” Pillar later recalls the official saying. (Isikoff and Corn 2006, pp. 198)

In an article published in Foreign Affairs magazine, former CIA senior analyst Paul Pillar says that prewar-intelligence was misused by the administration to support its case for war. Pillar, the CIA’s national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005, writes: “In the wake of the Iraq war, it has become clear that official intelligence analysis was not relied on in making even the most significant national security decisions, that intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made.” The administration “went to war without requesting—and evidently without being influenced by—any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq.” According to Pillar, it was not until a year after the invasion that he first received a request for such an assessment. He also says that there was pressure on intelligence analysts to make their assessments conform to the administration’s policy, a claim that several others have made as well (see September 11, 2001-March 17, 2003; September 11, 2001-March 17, 2003). He describes a “poisonous atmosphere,” which “reinforced the disinclination within the intelligence community to challenge the consensus view about Iraqi WMD programs; any such challenge would have served merely to reaffirm the presumptions of the accusers.” Pillar also rejects the view that the administration went to war because of Iraq’s presumed ties to al-Qaeda. Rather the White House “hitch[ed] the Iraq expedition to the ‘war on terror’ and the threat the American public feared most, thereby capitalizing on the country’s militant post-9/11 mood.” Pillar suggests that the decision to go to war was instead driven by the idea that shaking up the Middle East would hasten the “spread of more liberal politics and economics in the region.” (CNN 2/10/2006; Pillar 3/2006)

In an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais, former CIA senior analyst Paul Pillar says the Bush administration’s prewar allegations concerning Iraq were part of an “organized campaign of manipulation.” This was especially the case with the administration’s claims that Iraq was working with al-Qaeda, he says. “It was this that most strongly affected public opinion in the United States, and which would keep alive the images of September 11, 2001. The administration’s voracious appetite to obtain material about this non-existent alliance cost a great deal of time and work to senior intelligence staff and the most highly experienced analysts in the CIA.” Pillars also tells the newspaper the decision to invade Iraq was made “for other reasons and did not depend on weapons of mass destruction or the results of United Nations inspections.” (Agence France-Presse 5/4/2006; Pillar 5/4/2006)


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