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Politics - AFP
US spy agencies not taking blame if banned weapons not found
Mon Jun 2,10:42 AM ET
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WASHINGTON (AFP) - In an environment of score-settling, finger-pointing and strong language, those in the US intelligence community are not eager to pay the price for the alleged exaggeration of the Iraqi threat.

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The "spooks," as they are called, believe they did their jobs right, said Vincent Cannistraro, former counterterrorism chief for the Central Intelligence Agency (news - web sites).

Seven weeks after the fall of Baghdad, the banned weapons of mass destruction on which the United States and Britain based the justification for the invasion have not been found, leading to charges that the two countries manipulated evidence of those weapons and of Iraqi links to the al-Qaeda group.

"All I can tell you is there is a general feeling among CIA (news - web sites) analysts that intelligence was politicized and that the CIA and (Defense Intelligence Agency) was not given full consideration because the Pentagon (news - web sites), the policymakers, including the vice-president's office, did not want to hear that message. They wanted to hear a hardline message supporting a policy they already adopted," Cannistraro said.

In a New Yorker magazine article earlier this month, author Seymour Hersh said a little-known Pentagon office, the Office of Special Plans, played a role in the George W. Bush administration's presentation of evidence on Iraq (news - web sites).

Created by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz in the wake of the deadly September 11, 2001, terror attacks, the office succeeded in having its opinion prevail at the White House that the CIA and other agencies did not perceive the reality of the Iraqi threat.

The OSP developed its more-alarming conclusions on the threat of weapons of mass destruction and Iraq's links with al-Qaeda through information from Iraqi defectors provided by the Iraqi National Congress, Hersh reported.

"A lot of the material that we got on this came from defectors. Some of that may have been wrong. My hunch is a fair chunk of it was right and the CIA historically does not like to use defectors that much. I think the Defense Department has been more attuned to what they've said and we'll see after this is over who is right," former CIA director James Woolsey said.

Three internal complaints charging mishandling of information were filed with the CIA by employees, the Washington Post reported Saturday.

Former intelligence officers also have formed a group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, to defend the agency's reputation.

CIA Director George Tenet also is defending his agency's reputation.

"Our role is to call it like we see it, to tell policymakers what we know, what we don't know, what we think and what we base it on," he said Saturday.

"The integrity of our process was maintained throughout and any suggestion to the contrary is simply wrong."

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