[Media-watch] Is CIA at war with Bush? - Novak's original
column/Chicago Sun-Times - 27/09/2004
jadavies2004 at yahoo.co.uk
Fri Oct 1 23:29:35 BST 2004
This also appeared in the Washington Post - however it is not available on
their website and despite being syndicated so far I have only found it here.
Is CIA at war with Bush?
September 27, 2004
BY ROBERT NOVAK SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST
A few hours after George W. Bush dismissed a pessimistic CIA report on Iraq
as ''just guessing,'' the analyst who identified himself as its author told
a private dinner last week of secret, unheeded warnings years ago about
going to war in Iraq. This exchange leads to the unavoidable conclusion that
the president of the United States and the Central Intelligence Agency are
at war with each other.
Paul R. Pillar, the CIA's national intelligence officer for the Near East
and South Asia, sat down Tuesday night in a large West Coast city with a
select group of private citizens. He was not talking off the cuff. Relying
on a multi-paged, single-spaced memorandum, Pillar said he and his
colleagues concluded early in the Bush administration that military
intervention in Iraq would intensify anti-American hostility throughout
Islam. This was not from a CIA retiree but an active senior official.
(Pillar, no covert operative, is listed openly in the Federal Staff
For President Bush to publicly write off a CIA paper as just guessing is
without precedent. For the agency to go semi-public is not only
unprecedented but shocking. George Tenet's retirement as director of Central
Intelligence removed the buffer between president and agency. As the new
DCI, Porter Goss inherits an extraordinarily sensitive situation.
Pillar's Tuesday night presentation was conducted under what used to be
called the Lindley Rule (devised by Newsweek's Ernest K. Lindley): The
identity of the speaker, to whom he spoke, and the fact that he spoke at all
are secret, but the substance of what he said can be reported. This dinner,
however, knocks the Lindley Rule on its head. The substance was less
significant than the forbidden background details.
The Bush-CIA tension escalated Sept. 15 when the New York Times reported a
National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that was circulated in August (not
July, as the newspaper reported), spelling out ''a dark assessment of Iraq''
with civil war as the ''worst case'' outcome. The NIE was prepared by
Pillar, and well-placed sources believe Pillar leaked it, though he denied
that at Tuesday night's dinner.
The immediate White House reaction to the NIE, from spokesman Scott
McClellan, was to associate it with ''pessimists'' and ''hand-wringers.''
With Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi at his side at the United
Nations, Bush said of the CIA: ''They were just guessing as to what the
conditions might be like.''
A few hours later, Pillar discussed the Iraqi war in a context of increased
aversion to the United States -- an attitude he said his East Asia section
at the CIA was aware of three years ago and feared would be exacerbated by
U.S. military intervention. When Pillar was asked why this was not made
clear to the president and other higher authorities, his answer was that
nobody asked -- not even Tenet.
The CIA official spokesman said Pillar's West Coast appearance was approved
by his ''management team'' at Langley as part of an ongoing ''outreach''
program. However, the spokesman said, Pillar told him that the fact I knew
his name meant somebody had violated the off-the-record nature of his
remarks. In other words, the CIA bureaucracy wants a license to criticize
the president and the former DCI without being held accountable.
Through most of the Bush administration, the CIA high command has been
engaged in a bitter struggle with the Pentagon. CIA officials refer to
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Undersecretary Douglas Feith as
''ideologues.'' Nevertheless, it is clear the CIA's wrath has now extended
to the White House. Bush reduced the tensions a little on Thursday, this
time in a joint Washington press conference with Allawi, by saying his use
of the word ''guess'' was ''unfortunate.''
Modern history is filled with intelligence bureaus turning against their own
governments, for good or ill. In the final days of World War II, the German
Abwehr conspired against Hitler. More recently, Pakistani intelligence was
plotting with Muslim terrorists. The CIA is a long way from those extremes,
but it is supposed to be a resource -- not a critic -- for the president.
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