Saturday, November 05, 2005



From Editor and Publisher, via both Atrios and Kos:

Ever since the Democrats briefly closed the U.S. Senate from view earlier this week, to protest alleged Republican foot-dragging in probing Bush administration pre-war manipulation of intelligence, the press has been asking: So what new evidence do the Democrats have in this matter? Tomorrow, The New York Times answers the question, with reporter Doug Jehl disclosing the contents of a newly declassified memo apparently passed to him by Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee. It shows that an al-Qaeda official in American custody was identified as a likely fabricator months before the Bush administration began to use his statements as the foundation for its claims that Iraq trained al-Qaeda members to use biological and chemical weapons, according to this Defense Intelligence Agency document from February 2002. It declared that it was probable that the prisoner, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, "was intentionally misleading the debriefers" in making claims about Iraqi support for al-Qaeda's work with illicit weapons, Jehl reports. “The document provides the earliest and strongest indication of doubts voiced by American intelligence agencies about Mr. Libi's credibility,” Jehl writes. “Without mentioning him by name, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Colin L. Powell, then secretary of state, and other administration officials repeatedly cited Mr. Libi's information as ‘credible’ evidence that Iraq was training Al Qaeda members in the use of explosives and illicit weapons.
Now, you've got to realize something here. As an intelligence agency, the DIA is widely considered to be a joke by the folks over at Langley and Quantico. They are not respected at all by the FBI and the CIA. An acquaintance of mine with a strong DoD background once worked for them, and reported that they managed to screw up things designed to be unscrew-up-able. And even they could spot that this guy was a fabricator. Even the DIA was trying to warn Bush and OSP away from this guy (who must be the "Curveball" of legend). But the PNAC Platoon was so desperate to justify invading Iraq that they didn't care that he was lying. To be fair to al-Libi, the misinformation he provided was obtained under torture. He very likely was saying whatever his interrogators wanted to hear. And anyone who's studied the use of torture knows that it is the worst interrogation tool in existence:
Al-Libi's capture, some sources say, was an early turning point in the government's internal debates over interrogation methods. FBI officials brought their plea to retain control over al-Libi's interrogation up to FBI Director Robert Mueller. The CIA station chief in Afghanistan, meanwhile, appealed to the agency's hawkish counterterrorism chief, Cofer Black. He in turn called CIA Director George Tenet, who went to the White House. Al-Libi was handed over to the CIA. "They duct-taped his mouth, cinched him up and sent him to Cairo" for more-fearsome Egyptian interrogations, says the ex-FBI official. "At the airport the CIA case officer goes up to him and says, 'You're going to Cairo, you know. Before you get there I'm going to find your mother and I'm going to f--- her.' So we lost that fight." (A CIA official said he had no comment.) The FBI, with its "law enforcement" mind-set, found itself more and more marginalized. The struggle extended to the Guantanamo Bay detention center in early 2002, as "high value" suspects were shipped there for interrogation. Frustrated FBI officials, along with military interrogators like those from the Naval Criminal Investigation Service, found themselves "like kids with their noses pressed up against the glass," says a source involved in the early days at Gitmo. "Law enforcement had a long history of interrogating people. The intelligence community did not. Back in the cold war, they'd debriefed defectors. But that was all. So the intelligence community, once it got the mission, was searching for effective techniques of interrogation--and in their inexperience were floundering for a while."
Oh, and guess who one of the key players was in all of this? None other than David Addington, the guy Cheney just promoted to take Scooter Libby's place.

This is unbelievable!

What a scoop! Douglas Jehl discovers a story he wrote a year ago!

Everyone in media knows why the Dems sent the Senate into secret session and everyone has no idea why they would do such an odd thing.

Well, it's good that Sen. Levin has the paper proving it. The Republicans lie about EVERYTHING!
Actually, the documents in question were still classified in 2004, so Jehl's 2004 article had to rely on the word of intelligence officials who (for obvious reasons during the Bush Reign of Error) didn't want to go on the record.

The big difference between then and now is that the declassification of the DIA documents makes it official and undeniable.
I know, PW.

I am just saying that our politics seem like a very elaborate kabuki skit in which we are not supposed to remember what happened previously so that we can be amazed and surprised anew.

The documents may have been classified, but there never was any corroborating evidence for al-Libi's claims and plenty of reason to think they were wrong.

I am honestly cheering Levin's success at getting the document declassified. It must have been like doing a trans-colonic tooth extraction. So hooray for Levin. And hooray to Jehl and the NYT for publishing the story. And hooray for me who knew the Iraq-Al Qaida links story was almost certainly wrong back in 2002 and wasn't even getting paid for all the good advice I dispensed before the war.
Speaking of kabuki, and this is something that the opening paragraph of Jehl's document hints at:

The mere fact that these documents were classified in the first place -- and I'm betting would have stayed classified were it not for Harry Reid's profile-in-courage bit last week, coupled with the increasing reluctance of GOP legislators to be connected to Bush in any way, shape or form -- is not that they harmed America's national security, but made BushCo look bad.

That's probably why so much of the Clinton-era anti-terror documents written up by Sandy Berger are still classified: Because when one compares what the Clinton adminstration did to what the Bush people did and are doing, the Clinton folks come off looking very, very good in comparison.
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