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Falsification of intelligence?

From Ray Close
Date: Fri, May 23, 2008 at 9:18 AM
Subject: Falsification of intelligence?
To: undisclosed-recipients


Over the past weeks and months, there has been a continuing flow of half-baked claims by Bush administration spokespersons that Iranian covert supply of lethal weapons to Iraqi militants has contributed directly to the deaths of many American service personnel in Iraq. Sometimes, news stories on the subject have consisted primarily of drum-rolls of hype, building expectations that dramatic revelations would soon be forthcoming.  In the event, however, very little has ever been produced that substantiates assertions of a direct connection between Iranian covert support to Iraqi militants and significant loss of American life. 

There have recently been two excellent articles on this subject written by U.S. observers:  one by historian and national security policy analyst Gareth Porter entitled "Where Are Those Iranian Weapons in Iraq?", and an equally perceptive and informative follow-up commentary by Professor William Beeman of the University of Minnesota.  (I would be happy to supply links to these pieces for anyone who wants to have their full texts.  Just drop me a note.)

The simple fact is that persistent assertions by the USG of direct Iranian responsibility for killing large numbers of American soldiers in Iraq have lacked credibility.

It is quite possible, of course, that the subject has simply been seized upon and sensationalized  by overzealous journalists hunting for opportunities to file a front-page story.  We always have to make fair allowance for that possibility.

However, remembering our difficulties in correctly evaluating "intelligence" portraying Saddam Hussein's regime as a dire and imminent threat to American lives, it seems prudent to look at all allegedly incriminating "evidence" against Iran with a very jaundiced eye.  In short, it should be our patriotic duty to question whether efforts to "sell" that "case" may be planned and orchestrated (and exaggerated?) by the Bush administration with an ulterior motive.  It is not a trivial question.  It could be a matter of war or peace.

I would frame the proposition in these terms, reflecting my professional training and experience:

For an independent intelligence analyst attempting to evaluate indications that the United States is planning to attack Iranian training and supply bases in Iran, a valuable first step would be to determine the accuracy (or, more specifically, the veracity) of reports emanating from the Bush administration concerning the volume and effective quality of Iranian weapons being supplied to Shiite elements in Iraq that are allegedly being used to kill large numbers of U.S. military personnel.

If these reports are being deliberately exaggerated, that fact in itself should be taken as an extremely significant intelligence indicator. It could only mean that the U.S. is, in fact, as many of us have speculated, systematically building a case to justify attacking Iranian targets --- basing its case on the legitimate principle that any sovereign state is entitled to protect the lives and safety of its own citizens --- and NOT committing an act of war that would require international legal authority or approval from the U.S. Congress.  This would not be a case of simply "sexing up" a few facts for the purposes of deception or propaganda.  That latter activity would fall (well, sort of) within the definition of legitimate (?) covert action.

What we may be witnessing here, on the other hand, could only be characterized as deliberate falsification of national intelligence in order to deceive and mislead the Congress and the American people, for the purpose of justifying acts of war that would not otherwise be countenanced.  

Sound familiar?

Where is the dividing line between that level of deception and outright crime?

Would it make any rational sense deliberately to exaggerate Iranian actions of this nature if we were trying to avoid unnecessarily increasing the risks of inadvertent military confrontation?

Ray
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