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Public was misled, claim ex-CIA men
From Tim Reid in Washington

Times of London
May 31, 2003

A GROUP of former US intelligence officials has written to President Bush claiming that the US Congress and the American public were misled about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction before the war.
The group’s members, most of them former CIA analysts, say that they have close contacts with senior officials working inside the US intelligence agencies, who have told them that intelligence was “cooked” to persuade Congress to authorise the war.

The manipulation of intelligence has, they say, produced “a policy and intelligence fiasco of monumental proportions”. They write in the letter to Mr Bush: “While there have been occasions in the past when intelligence has been deliberately warped for political purposes, never before has such warping been used in such a systematic way to mislead our elected representatives into voting to authorise launching a war.

“You may not realise the extent of the current ferment within the intelligence community and particularly the CIA. In intelligence, there is one unpardonable sin — cooking intelligence to the recipe of high policy. There is ample indication that this has been done in Iraq.”

The Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity group is headed by Ray McGovern, a CIA analyst for 27 years. He said that people in the agency were totally demoralised, particularly over what they claim is the reliance by Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, and his Pentagon-based intelligence staff on the testimony of Ahmed Chalabi, an Iraqi emigré.

“The contribution of reporting from emigrés has been highly touted for months by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz (Paul Wolfowitz, Mr Rumsfeld’s deputy), who seem unaware of Machiavelli’s warning that of all intelligence sources, exiles are the least reliable,” the letter says. Mr Chalabi heads the Iraqi National Congress and was the favourite among Washington’s hawks to lead a postwar Iraqi authority.

The failure of coalition troops to uncover Iraq’s banned weapons is causing increased tensions between Capitol Hill and the White House. The House and Senate Select Intelligence Committees are to investigate in hearings this summer the claims of weapons stockpiles and the intelligence that led to them.

The former CIA officials were supported by a current official in the Pentagon’s Defence Intelligence Agency, who told The New York Times yesterday: “The American people were manipulated.”

Pentagon officials said that the claims of intelligence manipulation were nothing more than a campaign of sour grapes led by present and former CIA officials over their perceived marginalisation in the run-up to the war.

In an attempt to unearth incriminating intelligence on Saddam Hussein, Mr Rumsfeld created last year the Office of Special Plans, an intelligence unit inside the Pentagon. This became a direct rival not only of the CIA, but of the Pentagon’s own Defence Intelligence Agency.

Mr Rumsfeld denied that the war in Iraq was waged under a false pretext and expressed fresh confidence that weapons of mass destruction would be found there. He said that before the war the United States had good intelligence about Iraqi weapons.

The Bush Administration faced further pressure yesterday when it emerged that a Texas-based energy company with close links to the White House has been awarded nearly $500 million (£300 million) in Iraq-related projects in the past two years and is set to earn billions more.

Halliburton, which was headed by Dick Cheney, the Vice-President, for five years until 2000, could potentially earn a “limitless” amount because of its open-ended logistics contract with the US Army, Henry Waxman, a prominent White House critic, said.

The senior Democrat on the House of Representatives’ Government Reform Committee said yesterday: “It is simply remarkable that a single company could earn so much money from the war in Iraq.”

As the army’s sole provider of troop-support services, the company had received work orders totalling $529.4 million related to the Afghan and Iraqi wars under a ten-year contract with no spending ceiling, Mr Waxman said. The sum was well in excess of what had been previously disclosed, he said.

Halliburton said that the original contract was awarded in 1992, well before Mr Cheney joined the company. The Vice-President’s links to Halliburton have been a point of controversy since Mr Bush took office.

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