Thursday, July 10, 2003

Hoo boy, Bush is in trouble. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a whistleblower.

A former US intelligence official who served under the Bush administration in the build-up to the Iraq war accused the White House yesterday of lying about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

This was the first time an administration official has put his name to specific claims. The whistleblower, Gregory Thielmann, served as a director in the state department's bureau of intelligence until his retirement in September, and had access to the classified reports which formed the basis for the US case against Saddam, spelled out by President Bush and his aides.
Mr. Thielmann gave specific examples:

In one example, Mr Thielmann said a fierce debate inside the White House about the purpose of aluminium tubes bought by Baghdad had been "cloaked in ambiguity".

While some CIA analysts thought they could be used for gas centrifuges to enrich uranium, the best experts at the energy department disagreed. But the national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, said publicly that they could only be used for centrifuges.

Mr Thielmann also said there was no significant pattern of cooperation between Iraq and al-Qaida. He added: "This administration has had a faith-based intelligence attitude ... 'We know the answers - give us the intelligence to support those answers'."
Needless to say, this has put Bush on the defensive. What's really interesting, and entirely unreported, however, is the Arms Control Today document written by Mr. Thielmann that appears to have partially prompted this news conference: Rumsfeld Reprise? The Missile Report That Foretold the Iraq Intelligence Controversy. This article documents Mr. Thielmann's experiences with Rumsfeld's brand of "faith based intelligence" that long predates the Iraqi conflict. Here's the opening:

In recent weeks, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has come under fire for his part in the Bush administration’s misuse of U.S. intelligence to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq. But Rumsfeld’s tendency to hype selective portions of intelligence that support his policy goals was already familiar to intelligence professionals. They remember his chairmanship of a 1998 congressionally chartered commission charged with evaluating the nature and magnitude of the ballistic missile threat to the United States. As with Iraq, Rumsfeld’s work on ballistic missiles often ignored the carefully considered views of such professionals in favor of highly unlikely worst-case scenarios that posited an imminent threat to the United States and prompted a military, rather than diplomatic, response. Just as is likely to be the case with Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD), time has proven Rumsfeld’s predictions dead wrong.

The “Report of the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States,” chaired by Rumsfeld and released in July 1998, was one of the most influential congressionally mandated reports in recent memory. The presentation of the Rumsfeld Commission report and the unexpected attempt by North Korea to launch a satellite one month later combined to create a political tidal wave that ultimately engulfed one of the most successful arms control treaties in history, the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. The report also led to massive increases in spending on defenses against ICBMs rather than on domestic spending, other defense priorities, or more urgent defenses against short- and medium-range missiles....
The bolding was mine. That date in regards to that behavior is extraordinarily significant, because it puts the lie to both Bush and Rumsfeld's claims that 9/11 and the war on terrorism was responsible for their willingness to discard, misinterpret, or ignore evidence. Rumsfeld's claims in his defense that he ""saw the existing evidence in a new light through the prism of our experience on Sept. 11" are total falsehoods- he had behaved in the same fashion three years before 9/11!

The Rumsfeld Report itself contained some seriously flawed arguments:

The Rumsfeld Commission strongly implied that movement from single-stage, short-range ballistic missiles to multiple-staged ICBMs is a straight-line, relatively rapid, and predictable progression. This notion is both ahistorical and unrealistic. Missile development programs of even the most advanced industrialized states have advanced in fits and starts, encountering serious programmatic setbacks along the way. Even after the development secrets of long-range missiles have been unlocked by other states, it can take many years to move beyond the rudimentary short-range missiles represented by the Soviet Scud model. Those countries today that seek to build missiles that can deliver a sizeable payload on target to the other side of the globe must still overcome significant technological hurdles. These include, among others, the use of staging, developing, or acquiring sophisticated guidance systems and mastering high stress atmospheric re-entry. Moreover, emerging missile states also have to seek foreign help in an environment where most potential suppliers have pledged to withhold assistance.
It ain't as easy as it looks to get an ICBM program up and running, and Rumsfeld's implication of that raises serious questions. Thielmann himself notes that "for the Rumsfeld Commission to have erred in its principal warning is an important symptom of deeper problems, but it is hardly an impeachable offense in and of itself.". This is true; it might have simply been overzealous. The problem, however, is that "...instead of elucidating a security concern, it sounded a false alarm. In the process, it fostered a polarization of the intelligence community on the warning function, emphasizing possible but highly unlikely outcomes. Moreover, the Executive Summary of the report blurred the distinction between a real, tactical ballistic missile threat to U.S. forces and interests and a hypothetical future threat to U.S. territory from “rogue state” strategic ballistic missiles, just as the administration recently blurred the distinction between Iraq and the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks."

Especially applicable now was its misrepresentation of the threat of WMDs. It "exaggerated the threats that Iran and North Korea could pose to the United States by blurring crucial distinctions on the ability of each country’s missiles to carry different payloads—from nuclear to chemical and biological weapons.". Thielmann points out that nuclear weapons are more difficult to deliver due to the greater weight, and that ballistic missiles are actually poor candidates for chemical and biological weapons:

Biological weapons pose particular technical challenges in surviving the high temperatures of ICBM warhead re-entry. The deadly effects of chemical weapons are confined to the area of use, requiring more accuracy, and are critically weather dependent. Moreover, many types of chemical weapon agent are lethal for only a short period.
This is all information that the Rumsfeld Report would have had available to it, and information that it deliberately ignored when the "three categories of unconventional weapons were lumped together under the catchall label 'weapons of mass destruction'". This was not just a benign omission or mistake- this could only have been an attempt to deliberately mislead in order to play up the threat- once again, three years before 9/11.

(This is all assuming, of course, that the things would even work. Thielmann doubts it, considering the state of Iranian and North Korean technology.)

Worse, however, is the effect the Rumsfeld Report and Rumsfeld himself had on the intelligence community. One of the specific charges is that Rumsfeld forced the CIA to change the rules on what constitutes a threat:
The intelligence community had been judged harshly by elements of Congress for the alleged sanguinity of its past assessments of foreign ballistic missile developments. Yet... a commission chaired by former CIA director Robert Gates [came to similar conclusions]. After passing a new law, which broke with the congressional tradition of naming commission members proportionately between the parties, the Republican majority did succeed in appointing a new commission under Rumsfeld and naming six of its nine members. In an apparent effort to mollify Republican congressional critics, the intelligence community adopted a more alarmist tone in its next full-blown National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the subject in 1999, “Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States Through 2015.” This NIE lowered the threshold for identifying a new missile threat. The previous standard of “initial operating capability,” still used by the U.S. military, was discarded... adoption of the new criterion meant that missile systems under development would now be considered “a threat” significantly earlier than before.
Rumsfeld and the Republicans forced the CIA to redefine a missile threat to make the threat seem more alarming. Again, this was three years before 9/11 supposedly caused Rumsfeld to "re-evaluate the evidence."

"Re-evaluate?" It's the same old "evaluation" that he's always done.

The impact of this?

The North Korea section of the unclassified summary’s Key Points began by assessing that “North Korea could convert its Taepo Dong-1 space launch vehicle [SLV] into an ICBM that could deliver a light payload…to the United States.” The tone implied that a quasi-ICBM threat already existed. One would have to read deeper into the document to learn that this system failed even to place its small satellite in orbit. If the system were to be converted from an SLV into an ICBM, the North Koreans would also have to learn how to construct a warhead that could be brought back through the atmosphere successfully, undamaged by the considerable heat and vibration of re-entry, and then could be directed to hit its target. These requirements each pose discrete engineering challenges — and mastering them is far from a foregone conclusion for a country that has no long-distance instrumented test range and no long-range missile development experience.
Again, bolding mine. Remember North Korea? The member of the "Axis of Evil" whose imminent threat was a chief reason for NMD? Apparently, they were nowhere near being able to build anything close to an ICBM, and Rumsfeld and the Republicans pushed the CIA into covering it up. This continued throughout the late 90's and into the new century, with the only dissenters being (predictably) the State department, whose own intelligence showed that the thread was overblown and misinterpreted.

Thielmann brings these two elements together (the hyperbole of the Rumsfeld Report itself and the effect it and the Republicans faith-based intelligence had on American intelligence-gathering) and shows the effects:

The report’s dubious assertions that the new missile states could have ICBMs within five years of a deployment decision and that there would be little warning in advance of a flight test created a new sense of urgency. Although Clinton ultimately postponed the expected deployment decision in 2000, the die had been cast. It made little difference that the ABM Treaty did not preclude the deployment of defenses against the short- and medium-range missiles, which had experienced dynamic growth. Nor did it matter that there was a nearly universal desire internationally for retention of the ABM Treaty and that Russia had made START II implementation contingent on adherence to the ABM Treaty. Bush announced before the end of his first year in office that the United States would withdraw from the ABM Treaty, without even selecting a system architecture that would explain the necessity for withdrawal. Six months later, the treaty was gone, and with it, the START II agreement that would have verifiably halved the number of U.S. and Russian strategic weapons.

Bilateral strategic arms control was not the only victim. Withdrawing from the ABM Treaty was one of the first in a long series of major U.S. policy decisions flying in the face of world opinion—spending precious political capital and lowering the reservoir of international support needed in moments of crisis. The full-bore pursuit of strategic missile defenses will have cost the United States tens of billions of dollars in obligations over five fiscal years. It has diverted attention and resources from the... threat posed by terrorist attack. It has even siphoned funds from the tactical ballistic missile defense programs that would address a real and present danger to U.S. forces.

The Rumsfeld Commission report also weakened the NPT regime by ignoring progress made over the previous decade in nonproliferation efforts and implicitly denigrating the potential effectiveness of existing international instruments... Moreover, by emphasizing how dire it would be for the United States to face off against even one unreliable, inaccurate ICBM with a biological- or chemical-weapon warhead, the report gave heart to the missile program advocates in hostile states that their efforts would yield a great political dividend in deterrent value.

The end result... was to distract... from the most serious security threats to the nation, leading to misallocation of resources, America’s estrangement from its allies, and a weakening of the nation’s deterrent... in the aftermath of a war propelled by dubious threat assessments from the Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz Pentagon, it is difficult to avoid being overcome by a powerful sense of déjà vu.
There you have it, folks. Clear proof that very same tricks that we know Rumsfeld and Bush have used in order to support the War on Iraq were also used to support their quest for Missile Defense, THREE YEARS before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center that both continually use to justify their actions. This shows a pattern of lies, both by omission and commission, used to forward the foreign policy aims of the Republican party and (naturally) the foreign policy hawks within that party. It also shows that they have absolutely no respect for the functions of the Executive Branch of the United States of America, as neither any single president nor his appointed political representatives have any right to force parts of the branch (such as the CIA) to deliberately misuse their power, resources, and responsibilities to favour the desires of partisan political appointees. The CIA does not work for President Bush and they certainly don't work for Donald Rumsfeld. They work for the Presidents' boss: the citizens of the United States of America. Those citizens were the victims of these actions, and the pathetic bleatings of Rumsfeld about 9/11 only sink him in deeper.

Don't believe the lies. This has nothing to do with Osama Bin Laden, and everything to do with Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, and the Republican party. Everything.

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