Sunday 4 May 2003
WASHINGTON - US insistence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction is based on dubious intelligence from a shadowy Pentagon committee that now dominates US foreign policy.
By late last year, the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans (OSP) had grown to become President George W. Bush's main intelligence source, particularly over Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and the country's links to al-Qaeda, the New Yorker reported in its May 12 edition.
But the OSP, the brainchild of US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, relied on questionable intelligence from the Iraqi National Congress (INC), the exile group headed by Ahmad Chalabi.
"You had to treat them with suspicion. The INC has a track record of manipulating intelligence because it has an agenda. It's a political unit, not an intelligence agency," a former senior CIA official specialising in the Middle East said in the article written by Seymour Hersh.
"One of the reasons I left was my sense that they (the Pentagon) were using the intelligence from the CIA and the other agencies only when it fit their agenda. They didn't like the intelligence they were getting and so they brought people in to write the stuff," the same official said.
"They were so crazed and far out and so difficult to reason with, to the point of being bizarre. Dogmatic, as if they were on a mission from God," he added.
W. Patrick Lang, the former chief of Middle East intelligence at the Pentagon's own intelligence agency, the DIA, told the magazine that the SPO's influence has spread beyond Iraq.
"The Pentagon has banded together to dominate the government's foreign policy, and they've pulled it off ... The DIA has been intimidated and beaten to a pulp. And there's no guts at all in the CIA," he said.
But an official who works with the OSP supervisor and Under Secretary of Defence William Luti, told The New Yorker that such arguments were no more than bureaucratic sour grapes.
"(OSP director) Shulsky and Luti won the policy debate ... There's no mystery why they won -- because they were more effective in making their arguements," he said.
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