Patterico's Pontifications

3/4/2014

Accepted Wisdom™ on Accepting Intelligence Information

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:46 am

(Accepted Wisdom™ is a semi-regular feature of this site, highlighting contradictory viewpoints held by the elite.)

It is Accepted Wisdom™ that:

U.S. intelligence told Bush that Saddam tried to buy yellowcake in Niger. Bush claiming to believe that, and repeating it to the American people, was a lie.

And at the same time:

U.S. intelligence told Obama that Russia would not invade Ukraine. You can’t blame Obama for believing U.S. intelligence.

Thanks to a tipster.

27 Responses to “Accepted Wisdom™ on Accepting Intelligence Information”

  1. U.S. intelligence told Bush that Saddam tried to buy yellowcake in Niger. Bush claiming to believe that, and repeating it to the American people, was a lie.

    It is much more complicated than that.

    The CIA indeed said that. Vice President Cheney wanted to check it out. The CIA made a pretend investigation, and sent former Ambassador Joe Wilson to the capital of Niger. Wilson came back with an equivocal report, not even a report, that is, nothing written forwarded to he Vice President’s office, although Joe wilson later claimed something must have sent to Cheney, repeating the obvious, that if Saddam Hussein had actually bought yellowcake from Niger, it would have been almost impossible to conceal, given the controls over uranium. (or at least it would have been impossible to conceal that the audit trail had been dismantled.)

    Jow Wilson later claimed he had said it was false – but the original claim (based on forged documents in Italy) was only that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy yellocake!

    Wilson reported something equivocal that could be interpreted as saying Sadddam Hussein had been interested in the possibility.

    The CIA did not retract its report.

    Now the point that’s getting lost here was that if Saddam Hussein was trying to buy uranium ore, he was further away from a nuclear bomb anyone thought!

    Because Iraq had, prior to the Gulf War, enriched uranium.

    If Saddam Hussein was now trying to buy uranium ore, he was now all the way back to Square One. It meant he had lost or contaminated his enriched uranium.

    Iraq also had supplies of uranium it could mine, by the way, which makes this importation of yellowcake really unlikely, unless he would have been afraid to start a mine becausde it might be bombed. The U.S. was periodically bombing targets in Iraq from 1991 through 2003. Anything that violated the ceasefire that ended Gulf War I.

    Anyway, the bottom line was that this weakened the case for invading Iraq. (That’s why the CIA reported it.)

    Now a deputy to Cheney, Scooter Libby, told New York Times reporter Judith Miller about this initial CIA report, the inquiry, and the strange non-investigation by Joe Wilson.

    Judith Miller had an idea. Find out why Joe Wilson was picked. Who picked him to go to Niger?

    Scooter Libby sdtated an inquiry – and the answer from the CVIQ came back – that was because his wife workled for the CIA, and she had suggested his name.

    N.B. This was actyually not true! She had had nothing to do with selecting him. The whole thing was conspiracy by bad people in the CIA.

    Now Bush did use the uranium report in his speech, which by that time, was interpreted as an indication that Saddam Hussein was more dangerous (when actually it indicated the opposite – as I said if he had get yellowcake, his nuclear bomb program was set back all the way to the beginning)
    he also had had otehr sources of claimsd that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy uranium from other placesd in Africa. All probably Iraqi disinformation.

    Now after Joe Wilson write his article, the CIA started a whole tumult about the leak that Valerie Plame was Joe wilson’s wife, which supposedly was a violation of one of the most important secrecy laws – not revealed CIA agents’
    names.

    Actually that didn’t apply, because that only applied to people under cover (in foreign countries) and she wasn’t, although technically she may have still listed as being undercover. But she hadn’t been sent abroad for a long time, under the assumption her cover was blown.

    Joe Wilson had told any number of people she worked for the CIA – and the CIA had told all sorts of people in the national security parts of the governments after Judith Miller caused Scooter Libby to start asking questions. That’s how the news got to Bon Novak.

    Now important – you must realize – the purpose of creating the investigation of the leak was to hide the REAL people and the REAL reason the decision was made to send Joe Wilson to Niger (and not to look at and evaluate the Italian evidence again)

    To this day, I don’t think anyone has the answer to that.

    Sammy Finkelman (e33a13)

  2. the Hutton, the Senate Select report, all indicated Saddam was trying to acquire yellowcake from Africa, by contrast there is no indication that Putin was doing anything but moving on Crimea,

    narciso (3fec35)

  3. U.S. intelligence told Obama that Russia would not invade Ukraine. You can’t blame Obama for believing U.S. intelligence.

    The United States, I think pretty obviously, has got no intelligence about what’s actually going on in the Russian government. I think it doens’t have much good intelligence at all. The ability to tap communications, and to break codes, where there is sophisticated security, had eroded. (that’s why they went after easy targets, like Angela Merkel)

    I think it’s probably fair to say, also, that Putin has not really penetrated the U.S. government. Russia had a couple of spies here a few years ago, who were doing nothing, and in no position to discover anything.

    So Putin acted as his own intelligence agent.

    He had a long conversation with President Obama.

    In which he listened to what Obama said, and didn’t say very carefully.

    Did Obama know about things, or did he not? Was Obama contemplatting doing something that might stop him, or was he not? Did Obama act like he had the upper hand, or was he in more of a begging mood? What were Obama’s real bottom lines.

    Former skilled KGB agent Vladimir Putin pumped Obama for 90 minutes on Saturday.

    Sammy Finkelman (e33a13)

  4. Former skilled KGB agent Vladimir Putin pumped Obama for 90 minutes on Saturday.

    Sammy, I have no doubt that you are right.

    nk (dbc370)

  5. 2.Comment by narciso (3fec35) — 3/4/2014 @ 8:37 am

    the Hutton, the Senate Select report, all indicated Saddam was trying to acquire yellowcake from Africa,

    I think that was total nonsense, except maybe for the possibility that Saddam was thinking long range.

    by contrast there is no indication that Putin was doing anything but moving on Crimea,

    The problem here is standards of evidence and the presumption of innocence.

    It’s more than the Crimea, by the way.

    Putin is doing his best to keep everybody guessing.

    Has he committed himself, or maybe not. and just to what?

    Sammy Finkelman (e33a13)

  6. No, that was in the report,
    a little knowledge would be helpful when making significant details, but Mrs. O’Bagy would dissent on that point;

    http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/03/zoubi-yarmouk-brigade-qaeda-saudi-southern-front.html#

    narciso (3fec35)

  7. Call for Mr. Joseph Plame… please pick up the white courtesy phone…

    Colonel Haiku (1fb3ba)

  8. Certainly motive and opportunity, whether they had the means was an open question, the CIA reputedly
    knew the Egyptians were ready to attack in ’73, because they had bought water pumps and hoses to take down the Israeli fortifications on the Southern Border

    Only a few analysts, really saw Saddam’s move in ’90,

    narciso (3fec35)

  9. Clearly General McAgoo’s team, were told not to ignore the troop movements, because world peace or something,

    narciso (3fec35)

  10. I used to think I had a pretty good handle on English.

    Moreover, I can’t think of any thing I might have done to make it go away. Guess I need to be more attentive.

    gary gulrud (e2cef3)

  11. What were the Iraqis wanting from Niger? What else can you acquire in Niger? Tropical diseases? It’s a poor country. The CIA Factbook says its second largest export after uranium is sadness.

    Bud Norton (29550d)

  12. 11. Comment by Bud Norton (29550d) — 3/4/2014 @ 1:05 pm

    What were the Iraqis wanting from Niger? What else can you acquire in Niger? Tropical diseases? It’s a poor country. The CIA Factbook says its second largest export after uranium is sadness.

    Yes, if they wanted to trade they probably wanted uranium. If this was serious, it was a long shot, as well being superfluous, sinmce he had enriuched uranium, but Saddam Hussein would sometimes do all kinds of superfluous things.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  13. Sammy @1, no, it’s not complicated.

    But in any case it’s even worse. Susan Rice went on national TV and repeatedly lied about what she claimed was the “best available” intelligence, and insulted the Libyan PM who was on one of those five talk shows. The damage she did was so egregious that the Libyan government refused to cooperate with FBI investigation. Farce that it was.

    Yet who’s the criminal in this situation? The racist sexist old white men who have the temerity to point out that it was in fact a serious lie.

    Steve57 (2991b6)

  14. w.r.t. Putin pumping Obama for 90 minutes; it’s a good thing Obama doesn’t actually know anything about the actions of his underlings or any future plans. If he did, he might have given something away.

    luagha (5cbe06)

  15. The Russians cleverly avoided associating with any TEA Party or other conservative groups, so they were ignored by the U.S. government.

    There’s only so much spying to go around in this age of government austerity, so the Obama administration has to prioritize its threats.

    malclave (1db6c5)

  16. Comment by malclave (1db6c5) — 3/4/2014 @ 7:26 pm

    Rush joked that Putin was going to claim he was invading the Ukraine to go after Tea-Partiers, so Obama would support the move.

    But seriously, Russian sources were complaining of “fascists and Nazis” behind the unrest in the Ukraine.
    IOW, reason for further Russian involvement.

    MD in Philly (f9371b)

  17. Bolshies always complain about “fascists and Nazis” when they need someone to blame.

    askeptic (2bb434)

  18. Bolshies always complain about “fascists and Nazis” when they need someone to blame.

    Yes, but Obama’s a bolshie.

    Kevin M (dbcba4)

  19. 13.. Comment by Steve57 (2991b6) — 3/4/2014 @ 3:29 pm Sammy @1, no, it’s not complicated.

    It’s the Iraqi wantinmg to buy yellowcake story that is extremely complicated.

    The CIA was actually queried about this claim by Vice President Cheney’s office, and came up with this cockcamamie non-investigation by Joe Wilson, that led to no change in their reporting, and that was only the beginning of the story.

    But in any case it’s even worse. Susan Rice went on national TV and repeatedly lied about what she claimed was the “best available” intelligence,

    No, that was not a lie or her part. It was, or was what was supposed to be the best available information. Best available, because it revised earlier information that the attack had been planned.

    The two incidents are very similar in a way. In booth cases the CIA lied to the president or was very stupid.

    And in both cases, the president did not shake up the CIA: Bush II because his father had told him the CIA should not be political, and the director shouldn’t change with the president etc., (maybe there would have been a shake-up had anyone in The White House ever found out who really sent Joe Wilson to Niger and why) and Obama because he invariably accepts excuses for bungling.

    Instead the lower ranking people “fired” the Director Obama had put in charge, and earlier had succeeded in getting him not to interfere too much.

    And in both cases, I am highly doubtful of the honesty of the people in the CIA who came up with that intelligence. It is either careerism gone amuck or moles.

    and insulted the Libyan PM who was on one of those five talk shows.

    The Libyan PM wasn’t the source of the SOOPER SEKRIT INTELLIGENCE. Other Libyans were, and “intelligence partners” (read Saudi Arabia and/or Qatar) Susan Ricve may not have known all that, but she did know what the CIA was saying.

    The damage she did was so egregious that the Libyan government refused to cooperate with FBI investigation. Farce that it was.

    Probably they refused to co-operate because it was a farce, not because of what Susan Rice said on American TV, which had to be retracted after awhile.

    And of course there might have been internal pressure, or fear of the people involved in the attacks. You did need American leadership, or at least an investigation where people seemed to know what they were doing.

    Yet who’s the criminal in this situation? The racist sexist old white men who have the temerity to point out that it was in fact a serious lie

    No one is a criminal or saying anyone is. Except me maybe. I’m saying the CIA is probably infested with moles.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  20. “I can see another of Putin’s bootprints on Obama’s behind from my house!!”
    - attributed to Sarah Palin -

    “I have it on authority, directly from U.S. Intelligence, that, if you LIKE your doctor, you should, under ObamaCare, be able to KEEP your doctor…”
    - attributed to Barack Obama -

    IGotBupkis (3535e2)

  21. “U.S. intelligence told Obama that Russia would not invade Ukraine.”

    If you look at the statements of various congresspeople actually in a position to read intelligence reports, it’s pretty clear that the intelligence basically said “here’s where the Russian forces are, here’s where the Ukranians are, Russia could invade if they wanted, that’s all we know”. It’s pretty likely there wasn’t much more warning than that because Putin himself made a more or less snap decision under pressure from ongoinging events in Ukraine, possibly as Sammy Finkelman said a few comments above after talking with Obama himself. I doubt there was a lot more intelligence could have done.

    M (e8a117)

  22. If you think that’s bad, you should look at a comparison of employment related headlines with unemployment at 5% under W. compared to 8% under Obama…..
    Everything was doom and gloom then but is booming recovery now. Bias, what bias?!

    Devan (a94d07)

  23. Sammy, Saddam (for the sake of argument)looking to get more uranium ore does not necessarily mean something had happened to the enriched uranium he already had. Could be that he had enough for, say, two nukes, but he wanted to build twelve.

    Cybrludite (6b3f61)

  24. So if we’re so sure there’s a conspiracy, we must have an inkling of what the conspiracy must be. are we daring to suggest that the Bush people sent Joe Wilson who was currently sitting on his couch to Niger because they wanted to be able to ultimately roll over on someone who was going to “blow the lid” on the war impetus? That’s so preposterous as to defy all description, but it seems as though it’s suggested that the CIA was up to something when it sent Wilson on its own to a bunch of cocktail parties in Africa because as every good spook knows, that’s where you get all the best intel. That doesn’t make any sense either because no one at the CIA had a motive to send Joe Wilson as the expert investigator/undercover agent over there to hang out because everyone knew that the CIA had sent him in the first place. So the the CIA sent Joe Wilson to Niger to weaken the case for the yellowcake intelligence that the CIA itself had put forward? And all along it knew that Joe Wilson wasn’t really going to be doing anything at all because the guy wasn’t undercover, a spy, or really even experienced in anything other than being somewhat familiar with the African landscape and having encountered Saddam in the past but was in fact an American diplomat. The best explanation for Joe Wilson going to Niger is that he wasn’t doing anything at the time and needed to get off the couch. After all there were sources who reported that Plame had met with officials to suggest her husband be sent. If there was some conspiracy in the offing, it seems that Plame herself was dead center of it. If it was anything, it was a jobs program, and it smacks of it given all of the circumstances and people involved.

    And let’s be perfectly clear, the evidence that Saddam was interested in trying to purchase yellowcake was in no way evidence that his weapons program had been halted in way. Quite the contrary. Sourcing additional enrichable uranium is pretty good evidence that the program was in full swing. The only way to argue the alternative is to suggest that there was no other means by which to acquire anything of the like that was capable of being included in a weapon AND that all existing yellowcake previously controlled by Saddam was “lost” AND that Niger was the best chance of acquiring it AND that this was preferrable to the less expensive alternative material (also available in parts of Africa), which is decidedly curious since we know that in downtown Tripoli there was an warehouse of impossible to conceal yellowcake just sitting in barrels. Yeah, those controls were impregnable.

    matt foley (0f8aa4)

  25. But in any case it’s even worse. Susan Rice went on national TV and repeatedly lied about what she claimed was the “best available” intelligence,

    This could only be construed as not a lie if Susan Rice went on national TV knowing nothing in order to inform the American people of what “actually” was happening. Well, that actually is a good explanation, that the administration sent a dupe on TV to tell us nothing so nothing would be given away since everyone was already blaming a Presidential candidate for being “inconsiderate” or something while asking questions about this debacle and covering up for Hillary who everyone knew was either going to get thrown under the bus or was going to go full incommunicado (or bump her head, but I digress). So it’s pretty clear that Rice was/is a dupe who went on national TV to audition for a higher job in the administration and had no idea of what was happening. If she had been aware of anything, anything at all, with regard to the situation, the first thing, I’m sure they dutifully relayed to her was that Ambassador was requesting increased security, was wary of the situation, to say nothing of the fact that this was 9/11 (nothing to suspect here), which would have had to be the most convenient coincidence in the history of mankind to have been ginned up by an unknown hack video on the intertubes. There was also communication from other members of the staff that implied someone was casing the compound before the attack, and I’m sure that the intelligence community NEVER records any phonecalls or internet contact between staff members and family, friends, or something more sinister. So to revise the earlier assessment, Susan Rice was sent on TV as a know nothing with plausible deniability since she was (may have been) kept in the dark about any (wouldn’t even classify it as intelligence but just previous OFFICIAL communication between the Ambassador and the State Department) information that was had AND has to be the most clueless dimwit to not consider that 9/11 itself might not be an impetus to attack in an angry country of which we had to depose a dictator who had blown up passenger planes FOR FUN. So really it’s no surprise that she was promoted.

    matt foley (0f8aa4)

  26. “he also had had otehr sources of claimsd that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy uranium from other placesd in Africa. All probably Iraqi disinformation.

    Comment by Sammy Finkelman (e33a13) — 3/4/2014 @ 8:30 am”

    My understanding is a LOT of what happened was Iraqi disinformation.

    Saddam didn’t think the US would invade regardless what happened

    Saddam DID think that Iran would invade, unless they were deterred.

    Saddam was convinced he needed the world to believe he was dangerous, and had a lot of WMD’s, chemical and possibly nuclear in violation of the cease-fire to protect him from Iran.

    So Saddam did everything he could to inflate EVERYONE’s opinion of his weapons and abilities as much as possible, to avoid the only threat he considered possible. Iran.

    And this led to everyone thinking he had real weapons, and considerably more than he ever had.

    gekkobear (e105f4)

  27. Saddam may indeed have been more worried about an invasion or incursion from Iran than he was from the United States, and with good evidence on his side, but that’s hardly the singular problem that we are/were dealing with here. Saddam was not the uber secularist as many have suggested, often without any sort of evidence other than that Iran was so much less so. So on balance we can say that relative to the crazies on his right, geographically-speaking, Saddam was a secularist, but only insofar as he was wary of their influence and erosion of his hold on power. He certainly didn’t wage war on the religious zealots of the country. Closer to the truth is actually the suggestion that Saddam used religious fervor and compromised with the clergy to the extent that he thought it would further his own ends, not all that unlike Iran, which was only different in the degree to which it was influenced by its religious zealotry. It’s fairly clear that Saddam used religious fanaticism to establish his street cred with the religious leaders of his country. We know for a fact that he was directly, ok, indirectly, sponsoring terrorism in Palestine by paying tens of thousands of dollars to the families of suicide bombers. We also know that there were elite terrorist leaders meeting with Saddam and/or being harbored in Baghdad (state-sponsored homes at the very least), Abu Abbas, Abu Nidal etc. Saddam also knew of and presumably permitted the operation of several training camps in the northern part of Iraq. Most notably, Saddam was aware of the presence and operation of Zarqawi (yes, al Qaeda) cells, which was verified by other al Qaeda operatives who were interrogated during the war. But then there’s also this little tidbit from the Institute for Defense Analysis

    Captured documents reveal that the regime was willing to co-opt or support organizations it knew to be part of al Qaeda – as long as that organization’s near-term goals supported Saddam’s long-term vision.

    So the belief that prewar intelligence estimates, carefully hyped by certain media outlets as if they represent fact in postwar world, wanders into the realm of myth as it’s easy to see how knowledge of terrorist operation and free roam allowed within the borders of an allegedly die-hard secularist state strain the bounds of credulity. In fact, according to the IDA assessment of postwar intelligence gained from Iraq’s own documents Bin Laden himself had been in contact with the regime prior to the war, and the dictator chose to leave the relationship open to see what avenues of cooperation were available. So let’s put aside the delusion that Saddam was wholly agnostic to the terrorist movement and consider that acquiring weapons-grade whatever would go a long way toward sealing the friendship between a state interested in revenge and an international terrorist organization with roughly the same goals, the capability to carry out a rather sophisticated attack, and the willpower, all without the political liability (and geographic inflexibility) that would put a target on the back of a rogue state.

    matt foley (0f8aa4)


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