Wednesday, December 03, 2003

CIA: Trust Us On This, We're Incompetent, Not Liars 

No, this is not from The Onion.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has issued a spirited defence of the now-suspect assertions that Iraq had secret arsenals of germ and chemical weapons, and says second-guessing its work may undermine analysts' willingness to make bold assessments in the future....

"If we eventually are proven wrong -- that is, that there were no weapons of mass destruction and the WMD programs were dormant or abandoned -- the American people will be told the truth; we would have it no other way," writes Stuart Cohen, a senior CIA official and acting chairman of the National Intelligence Council, which produced the report.

No, of course we wouldn't. We're the CIA. Anyone in the audience batting an eye? No? Good. Now on with the real bullshit.

Mr. Cohen also warns of the risks to future intelligence estimates if the spy community becomes preoccupied with allegations about past failures.

"The need to confront these charges [has] forced senior intelligence officials throughout U.S. intelligence to spend much of their time looking backward," he says in the statement. "I worry about the opportunity costs of this sort of preoccupation, but I also worry that analysts labouring under a barrage of allegations will become more and more disinclined to make judgments."

I didn't know the CIA hired drama queens with egos more fragile than hothouse flowers. But if freedom from criticism is what's required to maintain the CIA's stellar track record (see below), it's a small price to pay, I'm sure we all agree.

Mr. Cohen seeks to defend the U.S. intelligence community by debunking what he calls "10 myths" that have arisen since the war.

Myth No. 1 is that the "NIE favored going to war." Myth No. 10 is that the "NIE asserted that there were 'large WMD stockpiles' and because we haven't found them, Baghdad had no WMD."

Myth No. 11: Alchemists asserted that phlogiston was one of the three essences of matter and because they haven't found it yet, phlogiston does not exist.

He blames "media frenzy" for the now-widespread view that the spies were wrong.

If you can't imagine yourself being Peter Pan, you won't be Peter Pan.

...Mr. Cohen also challenges critics who suggest that U.S. intelligence agencies -- which had been proved woefully wrong after the 1991 Persian Gulf war when it emerged that Iraq had an advanced nuclear-weapons program about which U.S. spies knew nothing -- were determined not to get caught flat-footed again.

"In no case were any of the judgments 'hyped' to compensate for earlier underestimates," he says.

See? We're not biased. Our assessments are consistently and even-handedly wrong for no reason, and we resent implications to the contrary that impugn our professionalism.

Finally, he credits the brutal effectiveness of the now-fallen Baathist regime for the failure -- so far -- of U.S. and international weapons experts to find any evidence of poison-gas or germ-warfare arsenals.

We're just the intelligence agency of the World's Only Remaining Superpower. How can we be expected to know that when Iraq said it had no WMD, it was telling the truth? That kind of deceit no one can be prepared for.

corrente SBL - New Location
~ Since April 2010 ~

~ Since 2003 ~

The Washington Chestnut
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