Key Report On Iraq Is Faulted
'Dubious' Intelligence Fueled Push for War
By Walter Pincus and R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writers
Post" -- -- Intelligence provided by
former undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith to
buttress the White House case for invading Iraq included
"reporting of dubious quality or reliability" that
supported the political views of senior administration
officials rather than the conclusions of the
intelligence community, according to a report by the
Pentagon's inspector general.
Feith's office "was predisposed to finding a significant
relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda," according to
portions of the report, released yesterday by Sen. Carl
M. Levin (D-Mich.). The inspector general described
Feith's activities as "an alternative intelligence
An unclassified summary of the full document is
scheduled for release today in a hearing of the Senate
Armed Services Committee, which Levin chairs. In that
summary, a copy of which was obtained from another
source by The Washington Post, the inspector general
concluded that Feith's assessment in 2002 that Iraq and
al-Qaeda had a "mature symbiotic relationship" was not
fully supported by available intelligence but was
nonetheless used by policymakers.
At the time of Feith's reporting, the CIA had concluded
only that there was an "evolving" association, "based on
sources of varying reliability."
In a telephone interview yesterday, Feith emphasized the
inspector general's conclusion that his actions,
described in the report as "inappropriate," were not
unlawful. "This was not 'alternative intelligence
assessment,' " he said. "It was from the start a
criticism of the consensus of the intelligence
community, and in presenting it I was not endorsing its
Feith, who was defense policy chief before leaving the
government in 2005, was one of the key contributors to
the administration's rationale for war. His intelligence
activities, authorized by then-Defense Secretary Donald
H. Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul D. Wolfowitz, and
coordinated with Vice President Cheney's office, stemmed
from an administration belief that the CIA was
underplaying evidence of then-Iraqi leader Saddam
Hussein's ties with al-Qaeda.
In interviews with Pentagon investigators, the summary
document said, Feith insisted that his activities did
not constitute intelligence and that "even if they were,
[they] would be appropriate given that they were
responding to direction from the Deputy Secretary of
The report was requested in fall 2005 by Sen. Pat
Roberts (R-Kan.), then chairman of the Senate Select
Committee on Intelligence. Although the committee and a
number of official inquiries had criticized the
administration's prewar intelligence, Democratic
senators, led by Levin, demanded further investigation
of Feith's operation.
"The bottom line is that intelligence relating to the
Iraq-al-Qaeda relationship was manipulated by
high-ranking officials in the Department of Defense to
support the administration's decision to invade Iraq,"
Levin said yesterday. "The inspector general's report is
a devastating condemnation of inappropriate activities
in the DOD policy office that helped take this nation to
The summary document confirmed a range of accusations
that Levin had leveled against Feith's office, alleging
Feith's office, it said, drew on "both reliable and
unreliable" intelligence reports in 2002 to produce a
link between al-Qaeda and Iraq "that was much stronger
than that assessed by the IC [Intelligence Community]
and more in accord with the policy views of senior
officials in the Administration."
It stated that the office produced intelligence
assessments "inconsistent" with the U.S. intelligence
community consensus, calling those actions
"inappropriate" because the assessments purported to be
"intelligence products" but were far more conclusive
than the consensus view.
In particular, the summary cited the defense policy
office's preparation of slides describing as a "known
contact" an alleged 2001 meeting in Prague between
Mohamed Atta, the leader of the terrorist attack on the
World Trade Center, and an Iraqi intelligence officer.
That claim figured heavily in statements by Cheney and
other senior administration officials alleging a link
between al-Qaeda and the Iraqi regime, but it has since
Three versions of the briefing prepared by Feith's
office were presented in August and September 2002 --
months before the U.S. invasion of Iraq -- to I. Lewis
"Scooter" Libby, then Cheney's chief of staff; Rumsfeld;
and then-deputy national security adviser Stephen J.
Hadley, the summary states.
But only "some of the information" in those briefings
was "supported by available intelligence," the summary
said. The version of the briefing presented to senior
Bush officials, it said, contained different information
than a presentation to the CIA. Left out of the version
for the CIA, the inspector general said, was "a slide
that said there were 'fundamental problems' " with the
way the intelligence community was presenting the
While Pentagon officials said in responses cited in the
summary that no senior policymakers mistook these
briefings as "intelligence assessments," the inspector
general said that administration officials had indeed
cited classified intelligence that allegedly documented
a close al-Qaeda-Iraq relationship.
The policy office, the summary stated, "was
inappropriately performing Intelligence Activities . . .
that should be performed by the Intelligence Community."
The summary recommended no action within the Defense
Department because, it said, the current collaboration
under new leadership at the Pentagon and the
intelligence community "will significantly reduce the
opportunity for the inappropriate conduct of
intelligence activities outside intelligence channels."
Staff writer Karen DeYoung contributed to this report.
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