Water Man Spouts

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Cheney Gospels

"There had been a number of anonymous leaks to reporters from the intelligence community during the late spring and early summer of 2003, claiming that Vice President Cheney, his chief of staff, Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby, and even former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich had pressured analysts to skew intelligence analysts to back up the administration’s preconceived political intentions." – The Politics of Truth; Joseph Wilson; page 6.

Yesterday’s testimony in the Libby trial featured Robert Grenier, a former top CIA official involved in overseeing the Agencies’ Iraqi operations, and Craig Schmall, the CIA briefer who worked with both Libby and Cheney. The testimony from both men, as well as the harsh questioning from Team Libby, served as a reminder of the tensions between the Office of the Vice President and the CIA.

In chapter 13 of "A Pretext for War," James Bamford told about the intense pressure the Bush administration was putting on the Agency to find "evidence" that supported the administration’s position that Iraq had an extensive WMD program, and an operational relationship with al-Qaeda. "And the pressure was not just subtle, it was blatant. At one point, (a) boss called a meeting and gave them their marching orders. ‘And he said, "You know what – if Bush wants to go to war, it’s your job to give him a reason to do so",’ according to the official. It was the first time the official had ever heard anyone order employees to slant their analysis for political purposes." (pages 333-334)

Bamford was told that Cheney "had also made very unusual visits to the agency to pressure analysts to come up with something to justify the war. " The CIA analysts told of being pressured "to find something nuclear" in November -December, 2002. They were also told to find "proof" that Saddam was supporting al-Qaeda.

In a 6-12-03 article in the Washington Post, Walter Pincus quoted a senior CIA official as saying, "Information not consistent with the administration agenda was discarded." Pincus noted, " intelligence officials have accused senior administration policymakers of pressuring the CIA or exaggerating intelligence information to make the case for war."

Bamford also quotes Larry Johnson, the former CIA official who later served as deputy director of the State Department’s Office of Counter Terrorism: "In an e-mail exchange with a friend, I raised the possibility that ‘the Bush administration had bought into a lie.’ My friend, who works within the intelligence community, challenged me on the use of the word, ‘bought,’ and suggested instead that the Bush administration had created the lie…" (page 335)

It would require a book-length article to detail the extent of the lies coming from the Bush administration. Several books do just that, including Woodward’s "State of Denial" and Isikoff & Corn’s "Hubris." As I have noted in previous essays, the Office of the Vice President had a large degree of control over the White House Iraq Group (WHIG) and the Office of Special Plans (OSP). The WHIG did "perception management" operations, while the OSP, headed by Douglas Feith, did intelligence. On page 335 of "Hubris," the authors note "the CIA sent Feith a list of corrections that needed to be made to his memo – and disputed the reliability of several of the alarming reports he had cited."

The CIA analysts were aware that the OVP/WHIG/OSP were lying. There is no polite way to say that. Nor is there a need to be polite. Dick Cheney & Co, were purposely lying to the country to justify an attack on Iraq. And the OVP was furious when people at the CIA didn’t agree with them. In written testimony to congress, former CIA Counterterrorism chief Vince Cannistraro stated that Cheney and Libby made visits to the Agency to pressure analysts. Cheney "insisted that desk analysts were not looking hard enough for the evidence," according to Cannistraro. (Bamford; page 336)

" ‘I know the analyst who was subjected to withering questioning on the Iraq – al-Qaeda links by Libby with the Vice President sitting there,’ says a CIA analyst. ‘So I think there was an anger at the CIA for not getting it and being on board. The political side of the Administration was pissed at the CIA. So I can see how they responded to that…." (Time; 7-25-05; page 29)

As the OVP/WHIG/OSP became increasingly angry with the CIA, Dick Cheney became more involved in a high-profile attempt to sell the war. Bamford, as well as Corn & Isikoff, write about the number of times Cheney appeared on news programs to say that there was no doubt about Iraq’s WMD programs. More, Corn and Isikoff note that, "Just as he had done with the New York Times’ story on the aluminum tubes more than a year earlier, Cheney (who usually deplored leaks) was touting a leak of classified information to buttress the administration’s case for war – a leak that yet again rested on dubious intelligence.

"Cheney would go even further than the Feith memo. In an interview with NPR, he would claim that ‘there’s overwhelming evidence’ of an Iraq – al-Qaeda connection …He would also say the trailers found in Iraq were definitely mobile bioweapons labs." (page 336)

When Joseph Wilson challenged the Bush administration on VP Cheney’s outright lies, Cheney and Scooter freaked. Their lack of boundries was revealed in Grenier’s testimony yesterday, when he told of Libby ordering him out of a meeting with CIA director George Tenet. The contempt that Cheney and Libby felt for the Agency was expressed by the Team Libby attorney in the cross-examination.

Today, Cathy Martin is going to be on the witness stand. She will be important, because she will detail the conversations with Cheney and Libby on AF2, when Cheney directed Libby on how to deal with journalists on the Plame problem.


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