IRAQ AND WMD….A presidential intelligence commission concluded on Thursday that before the war the CIA was an uncritical cheerleader of the idea that Iraq had stockpiles of WMD and an active WMD program:

In scores of…cases involving the country’s alleged nuclear and chemical programs and its delivery systems, the commission described a kind of echo chamber in which plausible hypotheses hardened into firm assertions of fact, eventually becoming immune to evidence.

Leading analysts accepted at face value data supporting the existence of illegal weapons, the commission said, and discounted counter-evidence as skillful Iraqi deception.

Hmmm. But if that’s the case, why did the Pentagon feel the need to set up an Office of Special Plans in order to look at the raw data independently and construct the hawkish analysis they believed the CIA was too timid to produce? Seymour Hersh:

Rumsfeld and his colleagues believed that the C.I.A. was unable to perceive the reality of the situation in Iraq. “The agency was out to disprove linkage between Iraq and terrorism,” the Pentagon adviser told me. “That?s what drove them. If you?ve ever worked with intelligence data, you can see the ingrained views at C.I.A. that color the way it sees data.” The goal of Special Plans, he said, was “to put the data under the microscope to reveal what the intelligence community can?t see.”

If the CIA was already championing the idea that Iraq had loads of WMD and close ties to al-Qaeda, Donald Rumsfeld wouldn’t have needed Special Plans. The fact that he did must have meant that ? at least in the early days after 9/11 ? the CIA wasn’t quite the uncritical cheerleader the commission says it was. At least, not uncritical enough for the rest of the Bush administration.

There’s not much question that the CIA screwed the pooch in Iraq, but there’s obviously more to the story than that ? which makes it unfortunate indeed that congressional Democrats got suckered into delaying the investigation into political pressure on the intelligence community until after the election. Needless to say, with the election safely over, that investigation is now on the “back burner,” never to see the light of day again.

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