Despite the shrill rhetoric emanating from the Democratic primaries and certain broadsheets, two Congressional investigations have concluded that no one pressured intelligence agencies to slant their data to support the Administration’s casus belli:
Congressional and CIA investigations into the prewar intelligence on Iraq’s weapons and links to terrorism have found no evidence that CIA analysts colored their judgment because of perceived or actual political pressure from White House officials, according to intelligence officials and congressional officials from both parties. Richard J. Kerr, a former deputy CIA director who is leading the CIA’s review of its prewar Iraq assessment, said an examination of the secret analytical work done by CIA analysts showed that it remained consistent over many years.
“There was pressure and a lot of debate, and people should have a lot of debate, that’s quite legitimate,” Kerr said. “But the bottom line is, over a period of several years,” the analysts’ assessments “were very consistent. They didn’t change their views.”
In other words, both investigations have confirmed the obvious. If you read the newspapers from 1991 forward, the intelligence data on WMDs has remained consistent, and in fact the UN and all of its Security Council members have operated from the same understanding of Saddam’s weapons programs. Not only has there been no change in the intelligence, there was no change in the conclusions between the Clinton and Bush II administrations: regime change was the only way the WMD question (and Saddam’s oppression and aggression) could be resolved. The only difference was in strategy, and that didn’t change until after 9/11. Just before that, Bush and Powell were about to roll out a new plan for “smart sanctions” that would more effectively target Saddam’s personal and military interests.
Democratic insistence that some unholy cooking of intelligence occurred when the exact same allegations, figures, and conclusions were operative during the Clinton administration makes them look extremely desperate and not terribly honest. The real question should be how the American and international intelligence communities could have been so far off, if indeed we never find WMDs, which may still be an open question. Two changes in American intelligence strategies contributed to the problem: the Carter administration’s insistence on curtailing human intelligence assets and the Clinton administration’s order to refuse association with field assets that don’t support our human-rights values, as if the people who present a danger to us only associate with Boy Scouts. On top of that, Senator John Kerry led the fight to cut CIA funding in the 1990s as part of the so-called “peace dividend” (see this for an interesting perspective). You can’t tie blinders onto a horse and then beat him for wandering off the road.
If Americans want their intelligence services operating correctly, it seems to me that the solution isn’t to let the people who caused the problems dictate the solutions. Instead of making ludicrous claims that the Bush administration twisted intelligence so much that it was identical to what Clinton produced, Democrats should be addressing their plans to reinvest in humint and taking the shackles off of the CIA. Their rhetoric demonstrates that they do not intend on fixing the problem and instead want nothing more than to score political cheap shots.
UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers, and a big thanks to Glenn! I hope you take a look around and make Captain’s Quarters a regular read.