weekend, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz explained that
the United States at times relied on "murky" intelligence
in trying to link Iraq to the al-Qaeda terrorist group, but the war
against Iraq was justified despite the fact that the White House is
now being dogged by questions about the accuracy of its prewar intelligence.
"The nature of terrorism intelligence is intrinsically murky,"
Wolfowitz said on "Meet the Press." "If you wait until
the terrorism picture is clear, you're going to wait until after something
terrible has happened."
But the reasons behind the murky intelligence used by the White House
to build a case for war against Iraq may have more to do with the
people who provided the Pentagon and the White House with its information
on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction than the difficulties
the intelligence community already faces in trying to obtain reliable
intelligence from a variety of sources.
"Having concluded that international inspectors are unlikely
to find tangible and irrefutable evidence that Iraq is hiding weapons
of mass destruction, the Bush administration is preparing its own
assessment that will rely heavily on evidence from Iraqi defectors,
according to senior administration officials," The New
York Times reported Jan. 23.
In addition, Bush administration officials said Jan. 23 some of the
intelligence information provided by the Iraqi defectors would likely
be included in the president's State of the Union address, which may
explain why the White House has come under fire for failing to paint
an accurate picture of the Iraqi threat it is well-known among intelligence
experts that much of the information provided by Iraqi defectors is
"The White House asked administration intelligence analysts …
to use the information from the defectors as part of a 'bill of particulars'
that the administration hopes will convince skeptical allies and the
American public that Iraq's behavior warrants military action, the
officials said," the Times reported. "In addition,
they said, it may be incorporated into President Bush's State of the
Union address on Jan. 28."
Many of the defectors were encouraged to speak to intelligence officials
by Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, an exile group
with close ties to the White House. There continue to be deep divisions
in Washington over the value of information from defectors associated
with Chalabi's group.
"The Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency has been the most
receptive to the defectors intelligence, saying that defectors are
critical to penetrating Iraq's deceptive practices. The CIA has often
been dismissive of the defectors and questioned their credibility,
according to administration officials," the Times reported.
As lawmakers in Washington begin investigations into the accuracy
of pre-war intelligence, they should question whether the White House
and the Pentagon used dubious information from Iraqi defectors to
help sway public opinion in supporting the war and whether some of
that information was included in Bush's State of the Union address
Five days before President's Bush's State of the Union Speech Jan.
28, Wolfowitz spoke to the Council of Foreign Relations in New York
and credited Iraqi defectors with providing the Pentagon and other
U.S. "intelligence agencies" much of the information on
Iraq's secret weapons programs that has long been dismissed by military
personnel in Iraq as unreliable.
Wolfowitz said in his Jan. 23, presentation to the Council of Foreign
Relations that it was Iraqi defectors who told the CIA and the Pentagon
about mobile trailers in Iraq that were allegedly used to produce
"We know about that capability from defectors and other sources,"
Wolfowitz said during his speech.
"For a great body of what we need to know, we are very dependent
on traditional methods of intelligence that is to say, human beings
who are either deliberately or inadvertently communicating to us."
Secretary of State Colin Powell in his February presentation to the
United Nations where he was trying to win support for war, pointed
to the trailers as evidence of Iraq's secret weapons program.
When the trailers were found in May, President Bush, Secretary of
Defense Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Condoleezza
Rice were quick to point out that the trailers were used to produce
lethal chemical weapons, even though no traces of any chemical weapons
were found inside the trailers.
But the State Department in a June 2 classified memorandum disputed
the conclusion that the trailers were used to cook up deadly weapons.
United Nations weapons inspectors said that the trailers were likely
used to produce hydrogen for weather balloons.
Prior to the war in March, Wolfowitz said some of the most valuable
information it received came from Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, a
contractor who escaped Iraq in the summer of 2001. He told American
officials that chemical and biological weapons laboratories were hidden
beneath hospitals and inside presidential palaces and he provided
documents to back up some of his other assertions about Iraq's weapons
In December and January, the White House highlighted Haideri's claims
against Iraq in a report called "Iraq; A Decade of Deception
and Defiance" and in a fact sheet on Iraq posted on the White
Houses web site. But when U.S. forces searched the hospitals and presidential
palaces where Haideri said weapons were hidden they found nothing,
not even evidence that weapons had ever been there.