Battleland

Iraq: How the CIA Says It Blew It on Saddam’s WMD

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DAVID FURST / AFP / Getty Images

Saddam Hussein stands trial in Baghdad on Jan. 29, 2006. He was hanged later that year

Now that we’re out of Iraq, the CIA has come clean on how it came to be bamboozled about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) ferrets over at the National Security Archive (NSA) petitioned for, and got, the CIA’s equivalent of the dog-ate-my-homework. (Technically, the NSA obtained this document under a mandatory-declassification-review request it made in 2006, which can be faster [It still took six years!] than an FOIA request if the requester has sufficient details on a specific document.)

Bottom line, from the CIA’s point of view: Saddam used to lie about possessing WMD, so we believed he still was.

Unfortunately, the U.S. went to war based largely on that false intelligence. And 4,486 U.S. troops, 318 allies and untold thousands of Iraqis died in the ensuing conflict.

While much of the CIA explanation has been redacted, these surviving passages stand out:

— When the [U.N. and International Atomic Energy Agency] inspections proved more intrusive than expected, the Iraqi leadership appears to have panicked and made a fateful decision to secretly destroy much of the remaining nondeclared items and eliminate the evidence.

— Clumsy but genuine Iraqi moves toward transparency — significant alterations in their “cheat and retreat” pattern — not only went undetected but instead seemed to confirm that Iraq could and would conceal evidence of proscribed programs.

— We now judge that the Iraqis feared that [Saddam’s son-in-law and Iraqi weapons expert Hussein Kamel Hassan al-Majid] — a critical figure in Iraq’s WMD and [denial and deception] activities — would reveal additional undisclosed information. Iraq decided that further widespread deception and attempts to hold onto extensive WMD programs while under U.N. sanctions was untenable and changed strategic direction by adopting a policy of disclosure and improved cooperation.

— Iraq’s firmly established “cheat and retreat” pattern made it difficult for U.N. inspectors and Western analysts to accept new Iraqi assertions at face value.

— A liability of intelligence analysis is that once a party has been proven to be an effective deceiver, that knowledge becomes a heavy factor in the calculation of the analytical observer.

Tom Blanton, director of the nonprofit NSA, called the document a “remarkable CIA mea culpa.” To which Battleland adds only: mea maxima culpa.

73 comments
goodfellafor
goodfellafor

Bottom line: Can't prove a negative. We knew for a fact Hussein had WMDs. Sometime after war was declared in Kuwait, people said the WMDs were gone. There was NO PROOF, only claims by presumably informed people. We had probable cause to believe the weapons were still there after Saddam surrendered in 1991, and the only way the matter could be settled was to physically check every possible location, and THEN determine that there were no WMDs. This is fundamental law. Either we check every spot on OUR list - or not - and then have a definitive answer. We find them, or we don't. Hussein blocked the searching beginning in 1996; therefore it was inconclusive. THEREFORE, all claims of lies and crimes are meaningless. I'm not saying that because I like Bush, but because I respect the letter of the law.

Talendria
Talendria

I could almost believe that if Dick Cheney's Halliburton hadn't made out like bandits as a result of this "oopsie."

Scotty_A
Scotty_A

Fear is a powerful motivator. Bush made a rash decision. His father had declared a early victory and he felt haunted by it. Saddam had used used chemical weapons. If he had weapons, he would of tried to use them against American troops during the invasion. Bush would later be revealed as incompetent in Afghanistan and with leading the world economy into a massive recession.

dontbainmetoo
dontbainmetoo

Cheney wanted two things:  1.  to have a war to make it easier to re-elect Bush as the "warrior president".

2.  Cheney knew he would make a fortune on his Haliburton stock and he did.  He quadrupled his net worth during the 8 years under Bush jr.

We paid the price in lost lives which continue in Afghanistan and the two expensive wars we could not pay for so we had to borrow to pay for them while Bush\Cheney lowered taxes and had less money coming in to pay for those wars.

Ben IncaHutz
Ben IncaHutz

G.W. Bush, Ms. Rice. Karl Rove, Mr. Powell are all bold faced liars.

Period.

 

goodfellafor
goodfellafor

@Ben IncaHutz There is no PROOF that they lied. 

 Period.

Cefi
Cefi

Sounded more like massive hypocrisy and massive deception to me even at the time. And those are the people we delegate full powers to. Saddam was a bad guy, but Gadaffi was ok in spite of Lockerbie ? Oh, until recently anyhow....Hey, I'm goin' fishin'...s c r e w politics s c r e w  politicians, liars and cheats all of them.

goodfellafor
goodfellafor

@Cefi SOUNDED more like massive..." Okay. Where's the PROOF? Fact is, there is none. Not the kind that would hold up in court, and that's why no one was prosecuted. Opinions are trumped by fact.

formerlyjamesm
formerlyjamesm

I don't accept this document as being a comprehensive reflection of everything the CIA knew, didn't know, did or didn't do, nor of all analysis produced and presumably available.

What I know is the President Cheney and his neocon punks didn't care in the least what the CIA or the military leaders, or any agency or person thought or advised. They knew it all above all and if the truth was not convenient, or there were questions to be resolved, they would fill in the blanks and lie, cheat, and steal their way to the war they wanted at the beginning.

John Hoslett
John Hoslett

Why do reporters keep perpetuating the claim that we went to war because of WMD's? Wolfowitz and others made it clear within a few months of the invasion that the decision to go to war had been made long before for other reasons (the NeoCon premise that the US as the lone superpower had the opportunity to plant the seeds of democracy in the Middle East - a naive and dangerous concept, in my opinion) and that WMD's were arbitrarily chosen from several possible justifications as one that would likely resonate. 

owl905
owl905

If there is no claim or audit trail that would have been believed, it reflects even worse on the Bush Administration.  The CIA was restricted to giving the answer the White House wanted - the alternative was to be branded with dereliction of duty.  The real judgment against the CIA comes from a different direction.

Absent from the CIA disbelief with the Iraqi Government is the corroboration of that denial, in the public domain, at the time, from Steve Ritter and the Inspection Teams.   The curious twist there was Ritter's reliance on Mossad Intelligence to successfully bust hidden Iraqi WMD sites.   If the CIA had been more focused on the issue instead of their sore toes, they might have altered the course of events to a less bloody solution ... might have ...

tiwadad
tiwadad

Is it not strange to you Saddam had no WMD's.  Yet Kadafi turned his in. Iraq was thought to have and didn't. Kadafi was thought not to have and did. What would have happened with Kadafi had he not given up all the WMD's. The world went against Kadafi. Would they have if he had WMD's or would there be no world left. The Iraq war acomplished much even if not its intended purpose. We, the people are so clueless about what really goes on. Right or wrong its over move on. If there was really evidence President Bush was so bad the Democrats would have hung him years ago. Most of what President Bush was doing, and criticized for by President Obama.Pesident Obama is still doing. Just a buch of noise on the surface and then do the same. I am not crying about President Obama,but show me the difference. 

HDS26234
HDS26234

The more is published about the Bush-Cheney lies, the more it proves that the blood of Saddam will forever be on the hands of America. Yes, Saddam the one that Rumsfeld shook hands with, and encouraged him to keep after the Iranian government who had kicked out from Iran the American oil boy that of the Sha. And yes, making America look almost as evil as some of the evil regimes, like the Soviets, Hitler etc., etc., etc. And yes, making the Founding Fathers shake in their graves. Now that both Conventions are over, it is my opinion that America will continue on the road to hell like all previous Empires, who all self-destructed. This, especially if Romney takes over in as much as he already promised to start another war! Yes, getting after Iran instead of doing what one of the Founding Fathers said: "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none". By Thomas Jefferson. Some may challenge me for saying that America is an Empire! If the American brutal military machine circles the globe and has been the case for decades what does that mean? "Overgrown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty". By George Washington. I rest my case!

Muhammad Khizir Farooqi
Muhammad Khizir Farooqi

It is not new. Every one  weak in physique and poor in resources always boost up for his ability to over power the opponent .This phenomena is prevailing even in the animal kingdom and is well known to a biology student. What to talk of human beings. Saddam's claims ( A hoax) for possessing WMD was justified by all means of norm amp; morality when he found his country under threat  from all the Small amp; big  powers including the only super power of the present day world.  Now CIA to hide its inability, incapability misinformation and wrong doings in Iraq put the blame on Saddam Hussein. The  CIA Chief must be taken to task for misguiding the world as well as US government with fabricated intelligence which resulted in loss of hundreds and thousands of innocent lives of both sides for nothing. The  economic losses  derailed the world economy. More over this war made tyrant Saddam Husein a hero for his country. If he had been lived, his fate sould had not been different from Husnie Mubarak, ZainulAbedin, Qadafi. It is the time for Barrack Obama or his future successor to learn a lesson and change the policy that the oil was the only WMD that the war was fought about. thousands of life's

perished on either side based on a lie. the American presidents over the

years knew this lie but reacted like mad warlords only as it is practiced in remote African countries or Afghanistan, to ensure the

free flow of Iraqi oil to the American markets. Their approach should not only be realistic but also trust worthy and be a torch light to others.

Read more: http://nation.time.com/2012/09...

 

wurman
wurman

To some extent, the CIA was taken over by Deadeye Dick Cheney. He placed 5 of his operatives in positions of control over the analysts who were supposed to be reading and assessing the data and information. http://www.informationclearing... 

The next problem was Cheney force-feeding the fabrications offered by Ahmed Chalibi to every resource (CIA, NSA, DIA, and IEAA) and the Bush admin. "plan" to help this conman become the new strongman in Iraq. For the gang of zombies that Bush xliii/Cheney dragged out of their tombs and put in charge of "stuff," there was some old 1940s and 50s "von Clausewitz" based planning to establish and maintain an occupying military force in the Middle East--sort of Lawrence of Arabia type krapola on NeoCon steroids. The net effect was to fiddle the facts, diddle the Pentagon, and really screw up Iraq. Yup, "Mission Accomplished."

wesvvv
wesvvv

WMDs, yellow cake, whatever, we went to war because W had an Oedipus Complex and had to show up daddy. 

Millions of lives destroyed, $3 Trillion wasted, but remember everyone it's the dems that are wasteful spenders and ungodly. 

Buy Steroids UK
Buy Steroids UK

isn't the whole point of intelligence to see through lies :-(

ReDQLulz
ReDQLulz

So there were no WMDs? Well imagine that!

And all those tiny little Republicans with big fat lies in their mouths, pretending the slaughter of innocent Iraqis was the 'moral' choice.

Palladia
Palladia

WMDs were an excuse, not a reality: a "saleable story"

Sort of like the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, which didn't happen, regarding the incursion into Viet Nam.

peterrawlins
peterrawlins

Bush and Cheyney did not invade Iraq.

The American military invaded Iraq. The first invasion was  not  to  line  anyone's  pocket,  it was to protect Saudi Arabia, and to secure cheap oil for the US . To lose Middle East oil would have sent the USA down the drain. Middle East oil has been the overriding priority of the US government since WW2, for without it the country would have come to a standstill. The second invasion was too tempting to resist, for it could further secure US oil supplies.

The second invasion, as was the first, was for the benefit of the country. 

Abe Lincoln
Abe Lincoln

What do they mean "blew it"?  They just flat out lied.

Talendria
Talendria

When you say "they," whom are you accusing?  I doubt the CIA falsified intelligence.  It's much more likely that they analyzed all the available data and simply drew the wrong conclusion.  I wonder how many attacks they've thwarted in the intervening years using the same methods.  You win some; you lose some.

Cheney, on the other hand, stood to gain quite a lot financially and politically by pursuing a war on false pretenses.  If I were going to accuse anyone, it would be him.

jkaravidas
jkaravidas

oil was the only WMD that the war was fought about. thousands of lifes perished on either side based on a lie. the american presidents over the years knew this lie but reacted like mad warlords only to ensure the free flow of iraqi oil to the americxan markets

frankblank
frankblank

It was the CIA leadership that blew it, the guys with the patronage jobs from GWBushit.

During the runup to the war, reporters from the McClatchy chain (whom I read in the philly inquirer) were interviewing CIA employees who said repeatedly that the intelligence they were getting on Iraq was untrustworthy.  The implication was "worthless," but as we all know, direct speech in both government and media is deader than the dodo.  

WarrenMetzler
WarrenMetzler

The level of deceit in our government, which I believe is reflective of the level of deceit in most of our citizens, is truly amazing. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to know that if nary a wmd was found after we  scoured the country, after our invasion, that there never were any, and the CIA and all our other "intelligence" agencies had to know this. You can't have the intelligence gathering capacity we do and not know this. So it is obvious the intelligence was fabricated. And that would only occur if Cheney and Bush gave specific instructions it be so. 

Now Dr. Kidd below says this was for oil. I propose a different theory. I propose that the Bush family, being historically quite deficient in assessment skills, concluded that Daddy lost the re-election because Sadam was still around; totally avoiding the more accurate phenomenon that most Americans thought Daddy Bush was seriously incompetent. And since Sadam was the cause, it was decided that as soon as one of them won the presidency, if Sadam was still there an invasion would be implemented at the earliest possible cause. 9/11 was a gift to this cause. And within 24 hours they lied it was Al Queda, so they could go into Afghanistan, assuming (correctly it turned out) that once in Afghanistan it would be a cake walk to get the American people to associate Iraq with Al Queda, and get popular support for invading Iraq. 

And so began one of the many misadventures foisted on us Americans by the Bush crime family. Every time a person believes an obvious fabrication, that person's capacity for accurate assessing diminishes. And since during Bush jr.'s 8 years we were given many many fabrications, over that time the American people became quite stupid. Which is greatly evidenced by so many believing the multitude of lies told at the Republican and Democratic conventions in the past 2 weeks. Imagine Biden having the total lack of shame as he told the big whopper that Barack is interesting in justice: no high level bankers indicted, no major figure in the Bush administration indicted, no intelligence person indicted; and yet more whistleblowers indicted than all previous administrations combined. 

I am amazed this country has become what it has become.

frankblank
frankblank

I sort of agree, but discounting oil is probably a mistake.  But oil is merely a synecdoche, standing in for classic US imperialism.  Why do I say that?  Two main reasons.  One, the size of the our Embassy in Iraq, which strongly suggests we expected to put in a puppet regime and quietly run the place from our shadow palace.  Being stupid, the neo-cons probably thought this could work, for, after all, it worked for a hundred and some years in Latin America.  And for a few months in Vietnam, something the neo-cons somehow didn't notice. 

And two, a lecture from a prof. from the Naval War College whose name I have forgot.  He was discussing the effort in Iraq in terms of projection of force and *long term forward projection of power.*   In order to do this successfully, he argued, we needed to reconfigure the DOD into two branches.   One, the one we have, would continue with business as usual, being concerned with conquest.  The other, which should be added, said he, would be concerned with nation building and education.   

Of course, this long term projection of power was not intended merely to run Iraq.  It was intended to make the US the dominant military presence in the middle east for the foreseeable future. 

I agree with the stupidity part.  That these morons thought they could pull this off, and started by ignoring  the advice of and then firing the only honest general (Schinsecki ? IIRC) in the military, that we would need 300-400,000 troops from the get-go, is, to my mind, absolute proof of their idiocy and their corruption.  From that day on, I've felt sick to my stomach every time these fools say we should heed the advice of the generals in the theater, and even sicker when I hear American citizens repeat it.  

Palladia
Palladia

I think oil played a big part.  Halliburton, after all, was heavily involved in the oil industry, and it was thought that we could just waltz in, unseat Saddam Hussein, and have the oil industry more or less land in our laps. 

Didn't work out that way, though.

RoyShastid
RoyShastid

Childlike Bush hated Saddam for trying to kill his daddy...good enough reason to spend American lives, treasure and standing. It was his version of a tantrum. A single bullet for that monster would have been a better plan.

scottindallas
scottindallas

 but that whole story is bull-oney.  It never happened.  So, it was probably all about oil.

steve13565
steve13565

I have a better explanation that was obvious at the time.

Saddam felt threatened by his neighbors, so he could not make it too obvious how much of his armaments were really gone.  He needed enough ambiguity to satisfy the Americans and keep his neighbors guessing.  He obviously failed badly on the first part.  Nothing he could say or do  would satisfy the Americans.  If they found things, then it would be proof that he had them.  If they didn't find things, that was proof that he was hiding them.  Those were the only two possibilities.  They both led to "He had WMD."

rusty cheeks
rusty cheeks

yes what about the pallets full of one hundred dollar bills sent to iraq never accounted for. what a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars. cheney was in a fever to invade facts be damned. go visit a va hospital, dick.

Jim Heaton
Jim Heaton

I guess the fact the Iraq had and used WMD's in the past does not count for anything at all nor does the fact that Saddam said he would cooperate with the UN and then refused to and then said he would and then refused to not to mention all the active blocking of the inspectors activities that he did also counts for nothing.

Saddam made himself look extremely guilty in regards to having WMD's in the months prior to the US going into Iraq. As much as people want to lynch Bush and the CIA perhaps it would do some good to remember that. It might also be wise to remember all of the innocent Iraqi's Saddam and his thugs tortured and murdered over the years.

Regardless of the WMD issue the people of Iraq now have a chance to actually live their lives as they want instead of having their every breath controlled by a power mad dictator. 

frankblank
frankblank

No, it counts not for nothing but for next to nothing.  The truth behind statements like Saddam's is precisely what intelligence agencies are supposed to discover.  And the CIA, as I have noted, pretty much did discover the truth.  It was the CIA leadership, under obligation to the white house, that helped Georgie Porgie cherry pick the intelligence.  CIA personnel had very strong suspicions that the sources were lying.  And said so to the few reporters who bothered to ask. 

Brad Holman
Brad Holman

America sees itself as the victim in this whole sick, sad scenario....such

BS! 'Murrika, in my opinion, needs to get off it's high horse and

accept that it's been the villain the whole time. If anything,

"spreading freedom" is just another code phrase for waging perpetual war for the profits of so few at the expense of so many.

If this was any other nation that did what we did, we'd be foaming at

the mouth for a war crimes tribunal. I think those who profiteered from

this wretched mess should be put on trial publicly and executed publicly as a warning to any of our "leaders" who even think of pulling this crap again.

Oh, and we should disband the CIA due to it acting like it's answerable to no one for decades.

SSGjughead
SSGjughead

quick history lesson from an old fart. Carter cleaned house on the CIA when he learned that we got our human intelligence from humans in the businesses of :gun running, dope running, human running, etc. Now we get our intelligence from satellites. So, our hands are tied when it comes to obtaining accurate intelligence. 

Palladia
Palladia

One of the problems of acquiring intelligence is that the people from whom it is gathered are often less than squeaky clean.  But the upside is that they're probably native to the area, speak the local language, and are part of the environment. 

Introducing an "outsider" into xenophobic societies can be quite a trick.  Acquiring an "insider" as an asset if more easily accomplished, but risker: one can never know where his real loyalties lie.

scottindallas
scottindallas

 and the Vietnam fiasco, MK ULTRA, the Church Committee's findings... a quick bit of historical context.

55bess55
55bess55

they - bush and cheney were tried in a world court and found guilty of violating human rights according to torture violations. They can STILL be prosecuted - at any time. Obama didn't follow the band wagon as it would take more time than was prudent for him, or the American people. The economy was and is a mjor priority. Yeah, we'd all like to see the two of them tarred and feathered, burned at the stake, or dragged behing a pick-up truck, as is favored in Texas. But - "hate" is time comsuming. We have more important issues at this moment.

CurlyMoeLarry
CurlyMoeLarry

So the importance of the largest most expensive spy organization on the planet is reduced to the excuse "Saddam's cheat and retreat" lying system made it difficult for us! DUH!

CIA blunder... thousands of American soldiers dead and wounded, hundreds of thousands Iraqians dead, hundreds of billions dollars lost, economy ruined...WMD PRICELESS?!

CurlyMoeLarry
CurlyMoeLarry

When truth becomes no more than a re-written history of the past, humanity dies. The CIA is not in the business of protecting us, it's business is politically self-center.

Ben IncaHutz
Ben IncaHutz

G.W. Bush wanted to get Saddam because, as he said "Saddam tried to kill my daddy". 

G.W. Bush put "yes men" everywhere he could so that his goals would be met. Former CIA Director G. H. Bush taught his son well which is why a C-grade student who failed at any business he touched become President and got us into two different wars on false pretenses.

G.W. Bush is a bold faced liar. Period.

johnston1212
johnston1212

Just like Obama c grade student with no background for president.

Palladia
Palladia

"C" grade students don't usually end up as professors teaching constitutional law.

"C" grade students who were legacy students, do, however, sometimes end up as presidents - witness Bush II.

wurman
wurman

Mr. Obama graduated from Harvard Law School "magna cum laude." If you and your sources in the rightwingnutjobz blogoverse of mental defectives think that's a "C" average, I've got a Doctor of Divinity degree we can sell you from the Fox College of Unknowable Knowledge for $49.95 and your e-mail address. But wait, there's more . . . for just another $9.95 you too can have a framed print-out of Obama's birth certificate notarized and postmarked from the Honolulu, Hawaii, General Postal Facility.

Tim Rand
Tim Rand

Obama graduated Magna Cum Laude, which, according to the Harvard Law School website, is awarded to the top 10% of the school's students. He was also elected President of the Law Review, an honor that the school says is given to a student seen to have great potential for the legal field.Read more: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What...

rory2012
rory2012

Don't kid yourself. You think the world will buy the Americans story.The naked true is USA right from the beginning want to get rid of Saddam by any means to pile up the untruth evidence.

akpat
akpat

Sadly the burden of the great mistake has fallen on our service men and women many of whom have problems at home financial and social.

Yet again the little guy takes the brunt of it while the big guy gets away.

Time to bring them home and put them along the border.

Dr. Billy Kidd
Dr. Billy Kidd

Total nonsense. This is a document filed as a cover up, knowing documents would be released years later. The U.S. knew there were no weapons of mass distruction and no method of delivery. There were U.S. Tiger Teams in Iraq monitoring government computers. The US knew it all.

The war plan against Iraq was hatched back in the 1990s. And Cheney met with the representatives of the major oil companies to chart what section of the Iraq they would get once their country went to war. This all happened before 9/11.

No difference than the war that Mitt Romney and Ehud Barak have planned for Iran. They were partners at Bain Capital (maybe still are) so I'm sure it's an interesting strategy.... "The sky is falling ... must bomb Tehran ..." The Iranians are well aware of this and plan to hit Saudi Arabia's oil refineries first when the war starts.

worleyeoe
worleyeoe

Billy, please cite evidence supporting your hypothesis. I mean solid intelligence unlike the stuff the CIA / NSA was pimping in 2002/3.

scottindallas
scottindallas

 there's evidence of the Cheney meeting, though we don't have the details.

Futureinjeopardy
Futureinjeopardy

Back right before the Gulf War, Saddam offered the United States oil at $10.00 a barrel for the length of Saddam's life, if the United States would let Iraq go through with its plan.  George H. W. Bush said NO.


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