BAD INTEL….Ahem, sorry about that. My annoyance at Mr. Barone’s typing in the LA Times this morning has delayed my commenting on a Times story that’s actually important.

According to the invaluable Bob Drogin, U.S. intelligence in Iraq before the war was not very good. That may sound like old news, but Drogin has details. Let’s start with this one:

U.S. experts, for example, still have not been able to determine the meaning of three secretly taped conversations that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell played to the United Nations Security Council in February 2003 in making the case for war. Investigators have been unable to identify who was speaking on the tapes or precisely what they were talking about.

U.S. analysts also erred in their analysis of high-altitude satellite photos, repeatedly confusing Scud missile storage places with the short, half-cylindrical sheds typically used to house poultry in Iraq. As a result, as the war neared, two teams of U.N. weapons experts acting on U.S. intelligence scrambled to search chicken coops for missiles that were not there.

Remember, we’ve known for a long time that our human intel in Iraq sucked, but the technical intel, like satellite photos and communications intercepts, are the things we’re supposedly good at. Think again. (But Colin Powell sure sounded pretty confident about those tapes and photos a year ago, didn’t he?)

And then there’s this little gem. What happened to loyal-but-ethical David Kay when he came home from Iraq and told everyone there were no WMDs?

CIA leaders refused to accept Kay’s stark assessment when he returned from Iraq last December that most prewar assessments of Iraq’s weapons were wrong. Kay was assigned a tiny office far from the executive suites, without a working computer or secure telephone.

Is there anyone left in the entire upper reaches of the Bush administration who has any contact with reality these days?

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