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November 15, 2003

Comments

Ahh, Moe. Let's start with the memo, a wingnut story that vanished quickly and with good reason. Here's the memo's summary:

"SUMMARY: Intelligence issues are clearly secondary to the public's concern regarding the insurgency in Iraq. Yet we have an important role to play in revealing the misleading, if not flagrantly dishonest, methods and motives of senior administration officials who made the case for unilateral preemptive war.

"The approach outlined above seems to offer the best prospect for exposing the administration's dubious motives."

Now. Please advise how the latter goes to anyone's credibility. Their motives, sure. Their opinions, you bet. But credibility? That's just a shell game.

So let's skip that and move on to the Triumphalism Club's news-of-the-day. The Feith Memo. And man, talk about burying the lede. Let's remind ourselves, okay, let's remind you, who this guy is:

"Virtually everything that has gone wrong in Iraq—especially those matters that Congress is either investigating or is poised to investigate—is linked directly to his office. "All roads lead to Feith," noted one knowledgeable administration official this week.

It was his now-defunct Office of Special Plans (OSP) office that is alleged to have collected—often with the help of the neo-conservatives' favorite Iraqi exile, Ahmed Chalabi—and "cooked" the most alarmist pre-war intelligence against Saddam Hussein and then "stovepiped" it to the White House via Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney unvetted by the intelligence agencies.

It was also his office that was in charge of post-war planning and rejected months of work by dozens of Iraqi exiles and Mideast experts in the State Department and the CIA, work that anticipated many of the problems that have wrong-footed the occupation. It also excluded many top Mideast experts from the State Department from playing any role in the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq.

...."Until they get rid of Feith, no one is going to believe that the administration is seriously reassessing its policies," said one Congressional aide, whose boss has been a strong critic of administration policy in Iraq."

Oh. THAT Feith. Anyway, Calpundit has a more reasonable post re the memo and what it might portend. Check it out.

I think the intelligence committee "scandal" was the weakest excuse for a scandal I've seen in a little while. I am skeptical of Feith, and of announcements of "blockbusters" that prove the administration was right after all (remember the Kay report last month?) That said, this bears watching.

"Calpundit has a more reasonable post re the memo and what it might portend. Check it out."

I have. Kevin's a great blogger, but charges that he's spinning have quite a bit of heft to them. For that matter, the memo story has not vanished; it's simply not being talked about by people on the Left. While I'm glad to see that we're not getting any punches pulled, here - hope you're enjoying the site, btw - I really don't consider either myself or Senator Miller the Apostate to be wingnuts, sorry. :)

Finally, the article you quoted without linking - tsk, tsk, harley - was written by a fellow with a mad-on for neoconservatives (which, contrary to certain usages, is NOT a swear word), not to mention somewhat bad timing. Shall we talk about his biases, especially since he'll be one of the people whose credibility will be further shot if this memo checks out?

Instapundit has updated with a link to the Hayes piece hosted at Fox News... at least, it's credited to Stephen Hayes and the Weekly Standard.

It's chock full of references to surces that aren't named, but the wording makes it seem that there is probably a lengthy appendix to it somewhere that you've got to have a pretty good clearance to read. I'm interested to see what the eventual reaction will be.

It's up on the Standard site now:
http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/003/378fmxyz.asp

Moe, of course you're not a wingnut, that's why the weird decision to drag the intel comm. memo into a post that had nothing to do with it seemed odd and sorta....wingnutty to me. And the people on the Right who are still talking about this non-story need a hobby and a more attractive significant other. Honestly, Moe, read the memo. Check in with Marshall's brief takedown on the subject. This is the kind of stuff you usually eschew. Or as one Tacitus poster once put it: escher. Either way...

As for the Feith Memo. We'll see. He's got less credibility then most. Yglesias has an update you might want to take a look at (he's read it, he's unconvinced). And while this would qualify as Christmas morning for you and yours, I'm afraid in the end it might end up, I don't know, more like Boxing Day. (Little discussed, of disputed origin.)

I can't wait for all those right-wing bloggers who said that obviously the Plame story couldn't be true because it relied on the good old "anonymous sources" too much, to argue that the Feith memo can't be true because it relies on too many "anonymous sources". /irony

By the way, Moe, your link to the 'prolific scholar' Bainbridge -- his description, natch -- includes this gem re the memo and what they really mean:

"We were too young to get in on the Viet Nam war protests, but we've got another chance here. We don't really care whether Hussein was a bad guy, we just care that Bush didn't kowtow to the French."

This more or less gives away the game. More bile borrowed from Sullivan and Glenn. Not to mention a laughable lack of familiarity with the ages of some of the committee members when it comes to Nam.

"...top secret U.S. government memorandum..."

My immediate concern on this one is what a "top-secret" document is doing passing within 2 weeks or so to a national paper. If the reported classification holds true, this is a serious breach.

From the Defense Security Service website:
TOP SECRET. The designation that shall be applied only to information or material the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security* that the original classification authority is able to identify or describe.

* Emphasis added

Most recent thing on the Intel Committee memo is this press release from DoD:

No. 851-03
IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nov 15, 2003
(703)697-5131(media)
(703)428-0711(public/industry)

DoD Statement on News Reports of al-Qaida and Iraq Connections
News reports that the Defense Department recently confirmed new information with
respect to contacts between al-Qaida and Iraq in a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee are inaccurate.

A letter was sent to the Senate Intelligence Committee on October 27, 2003 from Douglas J. Feith, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, in response to follow-up questions from his July 10 testimony. One of the questions posed by the committee asked the Department to provide the reports from the Intelligence Community to which he referred in his testimony before the Committee. These reports dealt with the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida.

The letter to the committee included a classified annex containing a list and
description of the requested reports, so that the Committee could obtain the reports
from the relevant members of the Intelligence Community.

The items listed in the classified annex were either raw reports or products of the CIA, the NSA, or, in one case, the DIA. The provision of the classified annex to the Intelligence Committee was cleared by other agencies and done with the permission of the Intelligence Community. The selection of the documents was made by DOD to respond to the Committee's question. The classified annex was not an analysis of the substantive issue of the relationship between Iraq and al Qaida, and it drew no conclusions.

Individuals who leak or purport to leak classified information are doing serious
harm to national security; such activity is deplorable and may be illegal.


-END-_

The rumor is not true, says the DOD:
http://www.dod.mil/releases/2003/nr20031115-0642.html

"Honestly, Moe, read the memo."

I've read it, thanks. Read it when it came out, reread it when Calpundit got around to try to debunk it, reread it again when writing this post. Again, just because you consider it a nonstory doesn't make it one.

As for bringing it up... I'm sorry, but when did the rules suddenly change about looking for possible ulterior motives? Matt called Feith's motivations into question: I merely pointed out that Levin's could be seen as equally at issue.

And just by the by, while we're suggesting reading memos, could someone -- anyone! -- explain to me how the DoD press release constitutes a denial? Read it again: it says the information in the memo didn't include new information (ergo, it's old information), and that it's a summary of existing reports that were mentioned during recent classified hearings, and that were requested by the committee. (But then no one really claimed it was new information -- Hayes is just revealing a "new summary" of old information.)

It also says the reports are "raw intel or products", which is to say it's the ground information, not an analysis.

It then goes on to say -- using a boilerplate phrase -- that revealing TS information is a Bad Thing.

It doesn't say the information is wrong. It just disclaims the conclusions Hayes made.

This is not a denial.

Uhm, everyone on the planet has questioned Feith's motives. (Okay, except Ahmed Chalabi.) I'm going to assume you're familiar with his story.

I've got a couple old 'Question Authority' bumper stickers in a trunk somewhere. Got a bumper? No matter what your politics, it remains good advice.

"Uhm, everyone on the planet has questioned Feith's motives."

I'm sure that his mother doesn... well, actually, all moms question motives. His grandmother, then. :)

True, somehow grandma always looked the other way. Or maybe it was the cataracts.

Speaking of eyes, Kleiman, who I just discoverd (yeah, I'm slow), has a nice little lyric up:

"When Odin chose
to sacrifice his right eye
for the secret of victory,
the secret turned out to be:

Watch with both eyes."

(I have no idea what it means, but I'm going to recite it at inappropriate moments for the rest of the weekend.)

Harley:

I'd like to thank you for one of the purest demonstrations of the *ad hominem* fallacy that I have ever seen. I hope you won't mind if I print it out and use it as an example next time I teach a class on informal logic.

I'm assuming pigs will fly, monkeys will exit my buttocks (ouch!), and Osama will be ice skating in hell the next time you teach anything. But sure, Professor. Be my guest. But don't let it run over into nap time. Kids get cranky without their naps.

Harley:

Care to make this interesting? I could use the money...

Let me warn you, though: be prepared to provide documentation of pigs flying, monkeys escaping your a**, and OBL ice-skating in hell before January 4th next.

But seriously: can you, or anyone, provide a refutation of *anything* in Feith's memo that goes beyond childish reiteration of the well-established fact that you hate the man?

Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

Vinteuil, what constitutes "refutation" in your book, and by your standards is the next report on the Simpsons that Dole is a space alien refutable? I rather thought the Atta-in-Prague was widely considered to be refuted.

Vinteil, and kudos for the Proustian handle by the way...

Now, where were we?

My point, made more than once, was that Feith's recent history as Senor Stovepipe suggested that any intel he forwards needs to be greeted with healthy skepticism and care. As for the memo points themselves, the problem, as stated elsewhere, is that this is more selective cherry picking, and lacking context, not to mention analysis, it's hard to know how valuable it is. In other words, if Feith shows you shadows on a cave wall, be advised that there is probably something casting them as well.

Rilkefan:

Here is what the memo says about Atta in Prague:

"And then there is the alleged contact between lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague. The reporting on those links suggests not one meeting, but as many as four. What's more, the memo reveals potential financing of Atta's activities by Iraqi intelligence.

"The Czech counterintelligence service reported that the Sept. 11 hijacker [Mohamed] Atta met with the former Iraqi intelligence chief in Prague, [Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir] al Ani, on several occasions. During one of these meetings, al Ani ordered the IIS finance officer to issue Atta funds from IIS financial holdings in the Prague office.

"And the commentary:

"CIA can confirm two Atta visits to Prague--in Dec. 1994 and in June 2000; data surrounding the other two--on 26 Oct 1999 and 9 April 2001--is complicated and sometimes contradictory and CIA and FBI cannot confirm Atta met with the IIS. Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross continues to stand by his information.
It's not just Gross who stands by the information. Five high-ranking members of the Czech government have publicly confirmed meetings between Atta and al Ani. The meeting that has gotten the most press attention--April 9, 2001--is also the most widely disputed. Even some of the most hawkish Bush administration officials are privately skeptical that Atta met al Ani on that occasion. They believe that reports of the alleged meeting, said to have taken place in public, outside the headquarters of the U.S.-financed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, suggest a level of sloppiness that doesn't fit the pattern of previous high-level Iraq-al Qaeda contacts.

"Whether or not that specific meeting occurred, the report by Czech counterintelligence that al Ani ordered the Iraqi Intelligence Service officer to provide IIS funds to Atta might help explain the lead hijacker's determination to reach Prague, despite significant obstacles, in the spring of 2000. (Note that the report stops short of confirming that the funds were transferred. It claims only that the IIS officer requested the transfer.) Recall that Atta flew to Prague from Germany on May 30, 2000, but was denied entry because he did not have a valid visa. Rather than simply return to Germany and fly directly to the United States, his ultimate destination, Atta took pains to get to Prague. After he was refused entry the first time, he traveled back to Germany, obtained the proper paperwork, and caught a bus back to Prague. He left for the United States the day after arriving in Prague for the second time."

In your opinion, what part of the above has been successfully refuted? So far as I can tell, the memo provides an admirably succinct account of the status of the disputed 9th April '01 meeting.

Define "refutation" however you like. But if a personal attack on Douglas Feith satisfies your definition, then don't expect to be taken too seriously.

Harley:

I would naively have thought that *any* intel that *anyone* forwards "needs to be greeted with healthy skepticism and care."

But skepticism is one thing, contemptuous dismissal quite another. The former reveals common sense, while the latter reveals a closed mind.

Well, one must read charitably, I suppose. So I will try to interpret your earlier posts to this thread as no more than a somewhat overheated call for skepticism.

Not to split hairs too much, but I think one can refute an argument without actually being able to show positive proof against a statement. That is, you say A asserts something that B says isn't convincing, and which C says is probably wrong. Here A is the Czech spy apparatus, B is ours, C is our admin according to the WaPo. If I quoted X saying Bush is a criminal, you couldn't refute the statement, but you could say you find X unconvincing and anyway not sufficient evidence to prove anything.

Re finding Feith reliable, you're begging the question.

rilkefan:

Quite right: when credible sources in a position to know contradict a factual claim, that counts toward refutation of said claim.

So fire away. What are your sources and which claims in the Feith memo do they contradict? Please be specific.

As for Feith's credibility, I have no basis for an opinion on the matter--and therefore no opinion.

I am, however, increasingly struck by the number of dunces who seem to be in league against him.

Have you not been struck by the number of dunces who seem to be in league against the Red Sox?

I'm glad you asked me to be specific. I was just going to point to the Kay Report, Bush saying "no evidence linking 9/11 and Saddam", the major news media on the aftermath of the war, the unusual DoD press release, and Thomas Powers in the current New York Review of Books. And then I was going to remind you that Feith is Mr. OSP. And I was going to refer you to the various discussions online about why it seems unlikely that even the admin takes this data seriously. But now I think I'm going to help a nice lady from Nigeria who needs help transferring some funds and wants to cut me a piece.

rilkefan:

"The Kay Report"

Wasn't that about WMD programs not terrorist links?

"Bush saying "no evidence linking 9/11 and Saddam"

Where does the Feith memo assert a link between Saddam and 9/11 in particular?

"The major news media on the aftermath of the war"

Heh.

"The unusual DoD press release"

You mean the one that says this is old news but doesn't deny any of it?

"Thomas Powers in the current New York Review of Books"

I just read the piece. So far as I can tell, it doesn't even contradict anything in the Feith memo, let alone refute it.

Incidentally, Powers has credibility problems of his own. For example, his account of the African yellowcake story makes the usual tendentious conflation of Niger with Africa as a whole. Worse, he ignores the fact that it wasn't just the CIA that thought Saddam Hussein had WMD's. Did Bush pressure foreign intelligence agencies into the same conclusion? But that's beside the present point.

Vinteuil, or should I say, Mrs. Doug Feith...

"As for Feith's credibility, I have no basis for an opinion on the matter--and therefore no opinion."


Now remind me about the perils of a closed mind again.

Josh Marshall weighs in with a little muscular skepticism. Oh, and Vinteuil, this'll help you get educated a little re Feith.

"In other words, the Senate Select Intelligence Committee is doing their investigation into the pre-war intelligence. This memo is what Doug Feith sent them representing their side of the story. With the exception of some tidbits from interviews with Iraqis now in custody, this is, to all appearances, the same bill of particulars that Feith's shop put together in 2002 and which was panned by the analysts in the rest of the Intel community.

"So, the first point to make is that there seems to be little if anything here that the folks in the rest of the Intel Community -- outside of Special Plans -- did not see before concluding that there were no significant links between Iraq and al Qaida.

"Point two is that Feith's shop, the Office of Special Plans, the original source of this memo, gained an apparently richly-deserved reputation for what intel analysts call cherry-picking. That is, culling raw intel data to find all the information that supports the conclusion you want to find and then ignoring all the rest.

"Now, of course, Feith's advocates say that everyone else was just doing their own sort of cherry-picking, picking the evidence that supported their preconceived notions, etc. But this is simply another example of a pattern which we see widely in this administration: the inability to recognize that there is such a thing as expertise which is anything more than a cover for ideological predilection.

"More to the point, there's now a record. These are the folks, remember, who had the most outlandish reads on the extent of Iraq's WMD capacities and the most roseate predictions about the ease of the post-war reconstruction. So their record of interpreting raw intelligence is, shall we say, objectively poor."

You're welcome.

Harley:

I try not to form opinions on matters I know nothing about. The fact that you apparently consider that policy closed-minded explains a lot about your postings.

Would still like to see *specific* refutations of any of the *particulars* in the Feith memo. So Josh Marshall can wave his hands: what else is new?

Okay, Vin, you're impenetrable, and I give up. Good luck to you. And better luck to your students. They'll need it.

The "leaked" memo is bullshit. It consists of a one-sided stovepiped version of intelligence which was found to be sadly wanting by CIA months ago. It was prepared by an uber-hawk with a specific political agenda. And it was probably leaked by him (or his allies) for just the purpose of pretending that the Emporer does have clothes.

Best comment on this was Marchall's saying that proper title of WS article should have been "Case Restated." There is nothing new in it, nor does it even pretend to be whole story. This leaked memo is propoganda because the leakers made absolutely sure not to leak the other memos that I am sure exist debunking the leaked memo.

TNR ran a great article last Summer about the political missue of intelligence materials. Key point is that no one can seriously rebut misused intelligence materials since by definition, the whole story is not available. The "leaked" memo sure looks like more of the same.

Further point. I saw an argument by Barnes on a weekend talk show defending the legitimacy of the memo by emphasizing that its the raw intel. But that's the problem. It includes every piece of garbage no matter how reliable or useful. Raw data is not "intelligence" since someone has to decide whether or not it has any true meaning or can even be believed.

What we don't have is anything relied on by the analysts to decide what to make of an item. Calling this "proof" of Saddam allegedly being involved with Al Queda is garbage.

Also, since most of this information is years old, why has no one other than Feith tried to pretend that it proves this point. No one else in the Administration makes this claim based on the same data.

A discussion of some of the context of this data:
http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2003/0311.ackerman.html

Ackerman's piece is deeply unimpressive.

Here's what he says about the Atta/Prague story:

"If the evidence of a Zarqawi connection is thin, other administration claims are even thinner. Senior administration officials have, for example, continued to assert that 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta had met with an Iraqi intelligence official while planning the World Trade Center attacks. The claim is based on an October 2001 report from Czech Republic officials that such a meeting had occurred earlier that year. The Czech report prompted Cheney to declare, in December 2001, that "it's been pretty well confirmed that [Atta] did go to Prague, and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service." But by mid-2002, F.B.I. and C.I.A. officials who combed through thousands of documents concluded that Atta was almost certainly still in the United States in April 2001, when the meeting is supposed to have taken place. As a result-and reportedly despite Cheney's insistence-Powell's staff excised the claim from his U.N. presentation. Although senior Czech officials stand by the story, many Czech intelligence analysts no longer have confidence that the meeting took place. And for good reason: The allegation has only a single source-an Arab student who, in October 2001, recalled witnessing the meeting after pictures of Atta flooded the airwaves in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. But despite the considered opinion of both American and Czech intelligence that the meeting never occurred, Cheney has continued to assert that the question remains unresolved, telling NBC's Tim Russert that "the Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack, but we've never been able to develop any more of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it."

Now compare this with what the Feith memo actually says about this point--which I have quoted at length above.

Note these lines in particular:

"The meeting that has gotten the most press attention--April 9, 2001--is also the most widely disputed. Even some of the most hawkish Bush administration officials are privately skeptical that Atta met al Ani on that occasion."

Ackerman is simply and obviously *nonresponsive* to the claims made in the Feith memo. Why?

Dmbeaster:

"Calling this 'proof' of Saddam allegedly being involved with Al Queda is garbage."

Why do you put the word *proof* in quotation marks? Who are you actually quoting?

"the other memos that I am sure exist..."

I admire your strength of conviction. It is my weakness to ask for evidence before I believe.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,132682,00.html

http://news.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/09/19/wniger19.xml

Blue: Are you suggesting France is behind the forged documents? Or is this just drive-by French-bashing?

I'm not suggesting or bashing anything, which is why I didn't comment on the article.

But, someone is talking...

"His admission to investigating magistrates in Rome on Friday apparently confirms suggestions that - by commissioning "Giacomo" to procure and circulate documents - France was responsible for some of the information later used by Britain and the United States to promote the case for war with Iraq.

Italian diplomats have claimed that, by disseminating bogus documents stating that Iraq was trying to buy low-grade "yellowcake" uranium from Niger, France was trying to "set up" Britain and America in the hope that when the mistake was revealed it would undermine the case for war, which it wanted to prevent."

He could be lieing for all I know, but the thread was Case Close? I was just wondering if anyone here is following some of these news items that have been coming up lately. The case doesn't appear to be closed.

Feel free to comment if you have some kind of opinion...

Don't you think there would be some implications if this guy is telling the truth?


On a seperate note, I must admit I still don't buy French wine... it's not even really intentional I just stopped. And the other day, I was looking at a toy for my son and it was made in France and I decided not to buy it.

Well, I'm sure we'll all treat this with the proper amount of "scepticism." Right?

Phil,

"He could be lieing for all I know, but the thread was Case Close? I was just wondering if anyone here is following some of these news items that have been coming up lately. The case doesn't appear to be closed."

It seems that I have expressed some scepticism. Whether it is the right amount who knows...

Many posters here choose to dedicate alot of time to doing research on issues. I applaud them for that.

Guess What's Less Important Than Tax Cuts For The Rich?
I Really Hope the Financial Times Has It Wrong.
Iraq Update
Wow.
Soap Operas
In Her Majesty's Service ;-)
Things we give away.
The Dream Police
Things Get Even Worse

I wonder if any of the posters at this site will give some of these press reports any attention at all!

They don't have to, but I thought I might bring up some of them to see if they are interested in tracking down some of the details involved.

It seems quite significant to me that we MAY have found new connections between Hussein and AQ. It seems extremely relevant to me that an "ally" MAY have been trying to give us bad information. I don't care who is President. if that's true it is a big deal.

There may be no legs to these stories. It may be too early to tell.

And if they deem these new stories unimportant or just aren't interested in them... that's fine, but for the sake of completeness I thought I would bring up some of the new reports.

Is that wrong of me to do?


They don't have to, but I thought I might bring up some of them to see if they are interested in tracking down some of the details involved

You might wish to heed your own advice.

You see, it's been well-established Martino has worked for the French since at least 1999. This was reported by Josh Marshall, The Financial Times, The Sunday Times (UK) among others.

One of the things you need to do is to go back and do a little research on this whole matter. You seem to be under the impression France created (or were complicit in the creation of ) the forged docs. And that France somehow decided to foist these forged docs on gullible US and UK intelligence services. But that's very far from what's known and alleged.

It's rather curious you've sought to smear Joseph Wilson several times when the allegations of Rocco Martino actually bolster Wilson's account.

Jade,

I haven't done any research on this matter that's why I posted.

I am not under any impression about them at all.

"He could be lieing for all I know, but the thread was Case Close?"

"There may be no legs to these stories."

Get a grip...


Good one... me smearing Joe Wilson... at the least someone who lied and mislead his fellow Americans.

Blue: Time to face facts--Wilson told the truth. In the matter of Bush's "16 words" in the SotU, Wilson was absolutely correct.

This has been acknowledged by the CIA, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and...drumroll.....the WH.

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