The official put in charge of reviewing and reworking the CIA's intelligence was Douglas Feith, then Undersecretary of Defense. In a 26-point briefing to the White House, he reported that Saddam Hussein's Baath regime had operational ties with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization. ABC's Jonathan Karl pointed out that "before the war, the CIA had concluded that Saddam and al-Qaeda were rivals, not allies." Feith told Karl that it was "flat wrong" to say he was manipulating intelligence. He was just providing an "alternative view." Karl observed that Feith registered "absolutely no contrition."
Feith's efforts paid off, NBC's Chip Reid reminded us: "When the Iraq War began more than half of the American people believed Saddam Hussein had been personally involved" in the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. Reid replayed a soundbite by Vice President Dick Cheney on his network's Meet the Press that restated one of Feith's talking points, namely that lead hijacker Mohammed Atta had met with a top Iraqi spy in Prague. "Now," Reid noted, "even the White House concedes the meeting likely never happened."
Feith argued that his intervention was neither inappropriate nor illegal. But for sheer gall, no justification matched the one CBS' David Martin cited. The CIA had been wrong about Iraq's threat from weapons of mass destruction so why could it not also have been wrong about Iraq's ties to al-Qaeda? Thus, Feith justifies erroneously contradicting the CIA's accurate anti-war findings by reminding us that the CIA had been erroneous in its findings that had been pro-war.
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