McGovern's Circular Firing Squad
The liberal blogosphere (yes, we occasionally visit the dark side) is euphoric over today's public "calling out" of Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld, regarding his "lies" about WMD in Iraq. Speaking in Atlanta, Rumsfeld was sharply questioned about his 2003 statement that "we know where they are" [Iraqi weapons of mass destruction].
When Rumsfeld denied making the statement, the questioner read the quote to the defense secretary, and cited the media source. According to the liberal blogs (and the MSM), the episode left the defense secretary "speechless," if for only a moment. CNN reported that the Atlanta heckler, err...questioner was none other than retired CIA analyst (and persistent Bush Administration critic) Ray McGovern.
But Rumsfeld's critics ignore a salient fact in this game of "gotcha." What was Rumsfeld's 2003 statement based on? Intelligence reporting--much of it from McGovern's old employer, the CIA. In the late 1990s, there was a sizeable body of reporting about Iraq's WMD programs and locations of potential stockpiles, based on the reporting of multiple agencies, including the CIA. If Rumsfeld got it wrong (the final verdict on Saddam's WMD programs has not been rendered), it was because the spooks got it wrong, with the CIA leading the charge. In fact, prior to the creation of the National CounterProliferation Center, the CIA was the intelligence community lead for WMD proliferation issues, including Iraq.
The left still claims that the Administration "cherry-picked" intelligence to support its war plans, but the Robb Commission report debunks that myth. You may recall Conclusion #26 from the commission's findings:
"The Intelligence Community did not make or change any analytic judgments in response to political pressure to reach a particular conclusion, but the pervasive conventional wisdom that Saddam retained WMD affected the analytic process."
On the other hand, the Robb Report was highly critical of the CIA's efforts in detecting and reporting on WMD proliferation issues, through its Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control Center (WINPAC), which served as the community's all-source center for WMD analysis. From page 212 of the report:
"...[WINPAC] was at the heart of many of the errors discussed earlier, from the mobile BW case to the aluminum tubes. Just as bad, some WINPAC analysts--and WINPAC as an institution--showed great reluctance to correct these errors, even long after they had become obvious."
On the surface, McGovern achieved his primary goal in Atlanta--creating an embarassing "media moment" for Rumsfeld that will run through today's news cycle. But look beyond the headlines, and you'll see McGovern also accomplished something that was very unintended--he reminded us of how the CIA became "screwed up" when "Veteran Intelligence Professionals" like him were running the show. Lest we forget, the intelligence failures in Iraq (and elsewhere) began at Langley, not on the E-Ring in the Pentagon.