Democratic Policy Committee Hearing On
Pre-War Iraq Intelligence — Selected comments from Congressman Walter Jones, and replies
This segment of the hearing can be streamed online at this address:
CONGRESSMAN WALTER JONES — Republican of North Carolina
LT. COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON — Chief of Staff to Sec'y of State Colin Powell, 2001-05
PAUL PILLAR — Former CIA Iraq Intelligence Coordinator, 2000-05
CARL FORD — Former Asst. Sec'y of State for Intelligence and Research, 2001-03
WAYNE WHITE — Former State Department Principal Iraq Analyst, 2003-05
Senator, I am very pleased and honored that this distinguished panel, the Democratic Policy Committee, will allow me to spend just a few minutes, and ask questions. I have actually met with Mr. Pillar, and Mr. Wilkerson, and eight other individuals, from Gen. Zinni, to Newbold, to Batiste, to Karen Kwiatkowski, to Sam Gardiner, to James Bamford. These men know that my heart has ached ever since I found out that maybe the intelligence we that were given as members of the House to vote for the resolution was flawed and possibly manipulated.
I've taken it upon myself to write every family [of a casualty] in America. It's a two-page letter that requires my signature on both pages. And when you count the extended families, we have sent over eight thousand letters.
I say that to you and this distinguished group here today because my heart has ached ever since I have questioned whether my vote was justified, based on fact. What I would like to ask, and it might be, and it — only two or three questions — but what has befuddled me so greatly is — I will make reference very briefly to Gen. Newbold, who I've met with. And he wrote an article in Time magazine in April of 2006, that says "Why Iraq Was A Mistake". And this is not co-authored, this is his name, Lt. Gen Greg Newbold, who actually gave up a third star — he was a two-star Marine general, and gave up a third star, because he could no longer stay at Department of Defense. He was part of J3. I want to read this, then I'll get at my question.
"I was a witness and therefore a party to the action that led us to the invasion of Iraq, an unnecessary war. Inside the military family I made no secret of my view, that the zealots' rationale for war made no sense." He goes on to say that maybe he should have done more.
What I am just, and I think the American people, quite frankly, am so perplexed with, is how, and I think, Col. Wilkerson, since you identified yourself as I was driving in earlier, on the radio, as being a Republican, and since I'm a Republican, I will go to you first.
Uh, how did the four or five, the neoconservatives that were put into policy positions in and around the Department of Defense — how were they able to take credible, or at least the best information that could be given, and somewhat, it seems, and correct me if I'm wrong, it seems like they rewrote the intelligence. And I guess my point is, because you were there with Secretary Powell, I'm sure, at some inner meetings, so to speak, classified meetings at the time — I don't know how, unless someone wanted them to have that authority, that they themselves could have so much influence. And knowing that the previous history of these individuals, was that they tried to get President Clinton to go into Iraq.
My question is this to all four of you, if you would like to answer, maybe it's a very simple question, I apologize if it's been asked before. But what perplexes me is how in the world could professionals — and I'm not criticizing anybody here at this table — but how could the professionals see what was happening, and nobody speak out?
I'm not saying you did not do your duty, please understand. My point is, as a congressman, who trusted what I was being told, I'm not on the Intelligence Committee, Sen. Dorgan, but I am on the Armed Services Committee, and I was being told this information. And I wish I'd had the wisdom then that I might have now. I would have known what to ask. But I think many of my colleagues that did not have the experience on the Intelligence Committee, we just pretty much accepted. So, where along the way, how did these people so early on get so much power, that they had more influence in those — in the administration, to make decisions than you, the professionals?
Um, let me try to answer you first, but let me say, right off the bat, I'm glad to see you here.
Thank you, sir.
Uh, as a Republican I'm somewhat embarrassed by the fact that you're the only member of my party here.
But I understand it. Um, I'd answer you with two words. Let me put the article in there, and make it three: The Vice President.
Would the other three gentlemen agree with Col. Wilkerson's three words?
I don't. And I'm also a Republican, but I don't — they — they've disowned me a long time ago.
Uh — I might be next. [laughter]
They're still sending me things, asking for contributions.
I have to interject something similar to what I said to Sen. Feinstein. To a lot of the analysts working these issues, we weren't aware of what was going on — up there [gestures upward with both hands ], whether it was the Vice President, or somebody else.
To give you an illustration, I didn't even know about the existence of the Feith Office [of Special Plans] in the Pentagon, until maybe — six, seven months before the war. And the way I found out about the existence of Mr. Feith's office [was] because somebody who worked in Terrorism in our bureau showed me a product produced by that office — as I recall, it was two pages long. And it was the evidence linking Iraq with Terrorism.
And the person was giving it to me effectively as comic relief, saying, "Can you believe — what's on this paper?" It was as if I'd gotten my morning traffic someday, because there's a lot of junk in intelligence that the analyst knows that has to be sifted out, to get to the real kernels, and it looked like an unsorted pile of junk. And this is one reason the Feith office, which does relate to the Sec'y of Defense, and then to others, becomes extremely important. I didn't go into it in my, uh — in what I've read here: it's in my written testimony.
Those kinds of nodes and offices must be completely eliminated. Because, people aren't even aware of them, there aren't standard communications between them and the rest of the intelligence community, and more importantly, there has been no vetting of their personnel, y'know, whatsoever, for professionalism, for experience in that field — . That office basically was writing intelligence which was getting far more attention than a lot of what — Carl, and I, y'know, were working on, and yet it had none of the professional standards, y'know, that applied to the rest of the intelligence community.
And it was so low profile, that if you didn't know what was going on behind the scenes, to — to many of us it was utterly invisible till the last — last moments.
Senator, let me ask one more question when Mr. Pillar finishes.
Congressman Jones, if I can just extend what Wayne White mentioned with regard to the detached nature of some of what was going on in the office of the Sec'y of Defense and the Office of [the] Vice President, what this little group under Mr. Feith was doing in trying to come up with all the scraps, y'know, trying to show a link with al-Qaeda — uh, they did put together a briefing, which was briefed out at Langley [CIA HQ, where Pillar worked] to Mr. Tenet and to members of the counter-terror center, and I wasn't working on counter-terrorism at the time, I didn't receive the briefing, but it wasn't the whole briefing, as we later learned, that they provided down at the White House.
And the way that I and others found out about this was at a hearing of the Senate Select Committee of Intelligence, a closed hearing, in which one of Sen. Feinstein's colleagues had before him the version of the briefing slides that he was given, and my colleague, who was then deputy chief of the counter-terror center had the version that he was given, and the version that came to the Intelligence community was missing the couple of slides that were devoted to criticizing the community for how they were missing this big link between Saddam and al-Qaeda, and "here's what the intelligence community is doing wrong, and why their analysis on this is so poor".
This was never briefed to Mr. Tenet, or the counter-terror center, it was just briefed down at the White House, and only thanks to one of the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee did we ever find out about it.
But if I could just add one more, and if I would disagree with my friend Carl Ford on this, [hand gestures] that group wasn't established because the intelligence community wasn't doing its job. It was doing its job rather intensively, and devoting a great deal of effort, particularly the counter-terror center — again I wasn't in it at the time, to this whole issue of Iraq and al-Qaeda, because they were asked so many questions, again and again and again and again and again, so they wrote a bunch of papers, it wasn't that they didn't do the good analysis, or come up with the specific evidence: it's that the policy makers, these particular ones in the Office of Sec'y of Defense, didn't like the answer. [long pause] And the answer was, "there's no alliance".
And that was a very well documented answer. And there was a lot of other evidence that pointed in an opposite direction from all the scraps that Mr. Feith's office put together, and we later read about in the The Weekly Standard, evidence that showed for example that there was not training going on, that there were not contacts between Iraq and — just about any Islamist you could come up with in Afghanistan. That was all the other side that was ignored.