CIA pressured into linking Iraq, terrorTOP DOWN: Analysts
claim that the drive from the Bush administration to connect
Saddam's regime with al-Qaeda was so great they exaggerated
NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE
Monday, Mar 24,
The recent disclosure
that reports claiming Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger
were based partly on forged documents has renewed complaints
among analysts at the CIA about the way intelligence related
to Iraq has been handled, several intelligence officials said.
"On topics of very intense concern to
the administration of the day, you become less of an
analyst and more of a reports officer."
Some analysts at the agency said they had felt pressured to
make their intelligence reports on Iraq conform to Bush
For months, a few CIA analysts have privately expressed
concerns to colleagues and congressional officials that they
have faced pressure in writing intelligence reports to
emphasize links between Saddam Hussein's government and
As the White House contended that links between Saddam and
al-Qaeda justified military action against Iraq, these
analysts complained that reports on Iraq have attracted
unusually intense scrutiny from senior policy makers within
the Bush administration.
"A lot of analysts have been upset about the way the
Iraq-al-Qaeda case has been handled," said one intelligence
official familiar with the debate.
That debate was renewed after the disclosure two weeks ago
by Mohammed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic
Energy Agency, that the claim that Iraq sought to purchase
uranium from Niger was based partly on forged documents. The
claim had been cited publicly by US President George W. Bush.
"The forgery heightened people's feelings that they were
being embarrassed by the way Iraqi intelligence has been
handled," said one government official who said he has talked
with CIA analysts about the issue.
The forged documents were not created by the CIA or any
other US government agency, and CIA officials were always
suspicious of the documents, American intelligence officials
said. But the information still ended up being used in public
Intelligence officials said there was other information,
which was deemed to be credible, that raised concerns about a
possible uranium-sale connection between Niger and Iraq.
Several analysts have told colleagues they have become so
frustrated that they have considered leaving the agency,
according to government officials who have talked with the
"Several people have told me how distraught they have been
about what has been going on," said one government official
who said he had talked with several CIA analysts. None of the
analysts are willing to talk directly to news organizations,
the official said.
A senior official of the agency said no analysts had told
CIA management that they were resigning in protest over the
handling of Iraqi intelligence. At the US State Department, by
contrast, three foreign service officers have resigned in
protest over Bush's policies.
The official said some analysts had been frustrated that
they had frequently been asked the same questions by officials
from throughout the government about their intelligence
reports concerning Iraq. Many of these questions concern
sourcing, the official said.
The official said that the analysts had not been pressured
to change the substance of their reports.
"As we have become an integral component informing the
debate for policy-makers, we have been asked a lot of
questions," the senior CIA official said. "I'm sure it does
come across as a pressured environment for analysts. I think
there is a sense of being overworked, a sense among analysts
that they have already answered the same questions. But if you
talk to analysts, they understand why people are asking, and
why policy-makers aren't accepting a report at face value."
Another intelligence official said, however, that many
veteran analysts were comparing the current climate at the
agency to that of the early 1980s, when some CIA analysts
complained that they were under pressure from then president
Ronald Reagan's administration to take a harder line on
intelligence reports relating to the Soviet Union.
The official said the pressure had prompted the agency's
analysts to become more circumspect in expressing their
analytical views in the intelligence reports they produced.
"On topics of very intense concern to the administration of
the day, you become less of an analyst and more of a reports
officer," the official said.
The distinction between an analyst and a reports officer is
an important one within the CIA. A reports officer generally
pulls together information in response to questions and
specific requests for information. An intelligence analyst
analyzes the information in finished reports.
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