Declassified CIA document reveals US analytic errors before Iraq war
The heavily-redacted 2006 review, declassified on Wednesday, shows that the case for war against Iraq rested on a number of falsehoods, all of which came from the US intelligence community’s failures in assessing Iraqi weapons programs in the lead-up to the Bush administration’s 2003 invasion.
The document highlights that such “analytic liabilities” kept US analysts from seeing the issue “through an Iraqi prism” and generated findings that helped justify the Iraq war.
Prior to the 2003 military occupation of Iraq, the US intelligence community had claimed that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, backed by Washington throughout the 8-year war he waged against the Islamic Republic of Iran in the 1980’s, was hiding stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.
"Given Iraq's extensive history of deception and only small changes in outward behavior, analysts did not spend adequate time examining the premise that the Iraqis had undergone a change in their behavior, and that what Iraq was saying by the end of 1995 was, for the most part, accurate," the report reads in part.
The key findings of the declassified document are reportedly released nearly in full while the body of the report is filled with blackened codewords, sources and intelligence reports that are still kept classified, seven years after the Iraq Survey Group reported to the CIA director on the near total failure of the prewar assessments.
The assessment further states, "Analysts tended to focus on what was most important to us -- the hunt for WMD -- and less on what would be most important for a paranoid dictatorship to protect. Viewed through an Iraqi prism, their reputation, their security, their overall technological capabilities, and their status needed to be preserved.”
The document notes that the failure on Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction marks a complete fiasco for the US intelligence community.
Paul Pillar, who served as the CIA Middle East division chief in the run-up to the Iraq war, has noted that the document stops short of speaking about the pressure, the Bush administration exerted on US intelligence services to fabricate findings in an attempt to justify the invasion of Iraq. “The campaign to sell the war moved into high gear before the estimate was ever written,” writes Pillar in his Intelligence and US Foreign Policy: Iraq, 9/11, and Misguided Reform.
In 2003, just before the US military invasion of Iraq, top American officials, including then Secretary of State Colin Powell and CIA Director George Tenet, appeared before the UN Security Council and offered what they claimed to be specific intelligence accounts pointing to the Iraqi efforts to hide their arsenal of chemical and biological weapons.