The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, September 30, 2003
 

Why the strange hush over leaked DIA report on Chalabi?


The fashionable leak story in Washington is the one concerning the (gloriously searchable) Valerie Plame - already, we had the leaker leaked against [1]; and now AP has the leak of a memo from White House counsel Alberto Gonzales telling White House staff not to shred stuff that might be of interest to the Department of Justice leak inquiry!

Meanwhile, the leaked report of the Defense Intelligence Agency saying that most of the intelligence provided through Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress was complete garbage - seems to have made almost zero news impact: one piece in the New York Times (September 29), another in the London Independent (September 30), and that's about it.

Which is, perhaps, a little surprising given that
  • intelligence - especially on WMD - is at the heart of the political difficulties on Iraq now assailing (to varying degrees) the Bush and Blair governments; and

  • Chalabi was (is) the cause (pretext?) for a bitter dispute between factions in the Pentagon (who thought he was the key to the New Jerusalem they had planned in Iraq) and the State Department (who thought he was a fabulist and chancer, a sort of Semitic Jayson Blair, at best a distraction, at worst a fatal weakness).

The Times piece has the leakers [2]
federal officials briefed on the arrangement
saying that
The arrangement, paid for with taxpayer funds supplied to the exile group under the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, involved extensive debriefing of at least half a dozen defectors by defense intelligence agents in European capitals and at a base in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil in late 2002 and early 2003, the officials said. But a review early this year by the defense agency concluded that no more than one-third of the information was potentially useful, and efforts to explore those leads since have generally failed to pan out...

DOD officials damn the INC intel with faint praise:
A Defense Department official who defended the arrangement said that even most of the useful information provided by the defectors included "a lot of stuff that we already knew or thought we knew." But the official said that information had "improved our situational awareness" by "making us more confident about our assessments."

The Independent piece includes a contribution from friend of the blog (from way back [3]) ex-CIA man Vincent Cannistraro on INC intel:
...Much of it is propaganda. Much of it is telling the Defence Department what they want to hear...

I never did get to find out what Cannistraro's deal was: I'm none the wiser now.

The piece also mentions (that the Times piece does not) Grey Lady hack and WMD specialist [4] Judith Miller. It quotes (without further detail) an email of Miller's: [5]
I've been covering Chalabi for about 10 years, and have done most of the stories about him for our paper. He has provided most of the front-page exclusives on WMD to our paper.

Comment is surely superfluous...

  1. I'm not following every twist: Jack Shafer in Slate has something of a history (with links); WaPo's Kurtz brings the story up to today.

  2. I'm not sure what this is code for: the absence of senior in the description I'd suspect is significant; as may be the lack of attribution to a particular department or agency. Could this be a CIA leak? Cui bono?

  3. He popped up in connection with the fraught question of Iraq-Al Qaida links (piece of October 10 2002), for instance; and again on December 5 in the same connection.

  4. Widely inferred to be a willing conduit for whatever WMD effluent USG happened to want to spread around - think the underground scenes in The Third Man...

  5. Second source. I didn't follow the twists and turns of the Miller case: Jack Shafer's piece is the place to pick up the trail, I think.

UPDATE

A piece in WTF Is It Now today (permalinks seem fried) leads on to further levels in the Plame Game that I'm content to leave to the better informed.


UPDATE 2

On the CIA's Studies in Intelligence site - which looks to be a mine of fascinating information - I find a piece from the latest edition by James B Bruce, Vice Chairman of the DCI Foreign Denial and Deception Committee - though naturally writing on behalf of himself alone. (DCI is Director of Central Intelligence (ie, George Tenet).)

Bruce's thesis is that a pandemic of intelligence leaks (not a recent invention!) is endangering US security; and that what is needed is stricter anti-leaking laws, and all laws rigorously enforced (he mentions the laws in force - including the one under which the putative Valerie Plame leaker might be liable to prosecution).

(Apparently, the sole prosecution for an intelligence leak was Navy analyst Samuel Loring Morison in 1985. He was convicted, and his conviction upheld on appeal. It seems Morison got one of Clinton's confetti-pardons in 2001.)


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