Act II

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BLIND MEN TOUCHING AN ELEPHANT

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ASSOCIATED PRESS (October 3rd, 2004): On Sunday, Rice acknowledged she was aware of a debate within the intelligence community about whether the tubes were intended for nuclear weapons. “I knew that there was a dispute — I actually didn’t really know the nature of the dispute,” Rice told ABC’s “This Week” program. A New York Times story Sunday quoted four C.I.A. officials and a senior administration official as saying that Rice’s staff had been told in 2001 that Energy Department experts believed the tubes were probably intended for small artillery rockets — and not nuclear weapons. Rice said she learned of objections by the Energy Department only after making her 2002 comments.

RWM: Are we to believe that the National Security Adviser of the United States was unaware of an intelligence dispute of this magnitude that had been going on for well over a year? One Congressional investigator went so far as to call it a holy war. And doesn’t it strike you as suspicious that she didn’t bother consulting the D.OE. before serving up images of a nuclear detonation?

NEW YORK TIMES (October 3rd, 2004): At the Energy Department, those examining the tubes included scientists who had spent decades designing and working on centrifuges, and intelligence officers steeped in the tricky business of tracking the nuclear ambitions of America’s enemies. On questions about nuclear centrifuges, this was unambiguously the A-Team of the intelligence community.

RWM: And yet the A-Team was toppled by Turner, who was curiously encouraged by the head of the C.I.A. — According to State of War by James Risen: In a meeting with WINPAC, Deputy C.I.A. Director John McLaughlin brought up the Energy Department’s skepticism on the tubes. Turner retorted: “‘NO, that’s BULLSHIT, there is only one use for them,’ recalled a former official who attended the meeting. And Tenet says, ‘yeah? . . . Great!'”

RWM: It seems woefully inadequate that Tenet responded to Turner with such simplistic acceptance. But like everything else that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny in this story — connecting the dots always leads back to the relationships between the key players.

HUBRIS: Tenet had bonded with Bush and became extremely loyal to him, according to A. B. Krongard, the C.I.A’s executive director. “It was beyond professional loyalty.” Some C.I.A. officers later griped that Tenet had gotten too close to the White House — that he had acted as if he were still a congressional staffer overly concerned with pleasing his employer — in this case, the president.

RWM: A cozy relationship with the president was doubly dangerous given that the C.I.A. was the dominant force in the intelligence community. As the October 3rd, 2004 New York Times article pointed out: “The C.I.A. has a distinct edge: ‘unique access to policy makers and unique control of intelligence reporting,’ the Senate Intelligence Report found.” That’s how the C.I.A. got away with isolating its reporting on the tubes. The C.I.A. would also control the language of the National Intelligence Estimate (N.I.E. for short) — painting an illusion of the threat that they invented.

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DRAMATIZATION BASED ON EMAIL EXCHANGES (All of his words are verbatim and mine are summarized arguments of what I wrote in those emails):

FRIEND IN THE MILITARY: You can’t believe everything you read!

RMW: So, your point is — since you can’t believe everything, why bother reading anything?

FRIEND IN THE MILITARY: It wouldn’t matter to you if I told you that I met the Secretary of Defense.

RMW: If the issue were a borderline call, vouching for someone might be warranted, but that alone doesn’t trump the overwhelming evidence that counters your claim.

FRIEND IN THE MILITARY: But I have a security clearance. I know things that you don’t.

RWM: Tactical military clearance has no bearing on the ORIGIN of the intel. Your well-intentioned motive to stand by your leaders is understandable — to doubt the intel is to question the cause. But as John Adams said in his closing argument in defending the British involved in the Boston Massacre: “Facts are stubborn things — and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

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SENATOR BOB GRAHAM (WASHINGTON POST (November 20th, 2005): At a Senate Intelligence Committee meeting on Sept. 5th, 2002, C.I.A. Director George Tenet was asked what the N.I.E. provided as the rationale for a preemptive war in Iraq. An N.I.E. is the product of the entire intelligence community — and its most comprehensive assessment. I was stunned when Tenet said that no N.I.E. had been requested by the White House and none had been prepared. Invoking our rarely used senatorial authority, I directed the completion of an N.I.E. — Tenet objected, saying that his people were too committed to other assignments. We insisted — and three weeks later the community produced a classified N.I.E.

RWM: That the Administration were putting the cart before the horse on a matter of this magnitude is incredibly telling, and Tenet’s resistance is all the more revealing. For over a year and a half the C.I.A. was able to control the messaging on the tubes and ignore all dissent, but being forced to deliver an N.I.E. undercut that ability. If the tubes required major modifications, it would seriously undermine the administration’s argument for war, so the C.I.A. set out to circumvent that dilemma.

ROBB-SILBERMAN REPORT: C.I.A’s WINPAC sought the assistance of a contractor to perform spin tests on the tubes in order to determine if they were strong enough to withstand the extremely high speeds at which rotors must spin. The initial test performed was reported to have successfully spun a tube at 60,000 revolutions per minute. The N.I.E. explained that the test results provided only a rough indication that the tubes were suitable as centrifuge rotors — and that future tests would be performed at higher speeds.

RWM: D.O.E’s standard is to spin a tube at 20% above 90,000 RPM before failure — so 48,000 short is a pretty loose definition of “rough indication.” And since the entire point of testing should be to replicate the conditions of centrifuges, one would think that the full-blown testing would be performed before the N.I.E. was completed. Out of 31 tubes in subsequent testing, only one was successfully spun to 90,000 RPM for 65 minutes — which the C.I.A. seized on as evidence  in their favor. One D.O.E. analyst offered a superb analogy of that contorted conclusion:  “Running your car up to 6,500 RPM briefly does not prove that you can run your car at 6,500 RPM cross country. It just doesn’t. Your car’s not going to make it.”

RWM: In an industry where fractions of a millimeter matter, these guys were playing horseshoes with centrifuge physics — which is illustrated in the following animation:

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Trillion Dollar Tube

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RWM: A replica of the actual tubes is mounted on the teardrop lamp. The tiny tube on the little lamp represents the 400mm concoction that went into the N.I.E. Hacking the tube in half was pointless — since it still weighs twice that of Iraq’s proven carbon fiber design resting on the bottle-like lamp. The findings were inevitable in every aspect of the overflowing evidence. Just as the I.A.E.A. did 4 months before the invasion — Chief Weapons Inspector David Kay paid a visit to the Nahser plant in the summer of 2003 — and found the aluminum tubes lying in wait to be turned into 81mm rocket casings. Kay’s conclusion was that the tubes issue was an “absolute fraud.”

AT THE CENTER OF THE STORM (by C.I.A. DIRECTOR George Tenet): With more time, I’m certain we would have delayed a decision on the tubes until greater clarification emerged — but in the end, the majority of agencies believed that the tubes were part of the evidence of nuclear reconstitution.
RWM: It was a meaningless majority — falsified through the coopting of unqualified agencies. Tenet had 18 months to get to the bottom of the tubes debate, and yet he claims not to have even known about it. It’s simply not possible that anyone at that level could be so clueless on an issue of this enormity. All it takes is one page in Tenet’s book to see that he is whitewashing history on the tubes. He makes entirely false claims and sidesteps the fact that at every turn he went out of his way to avoid the issue.

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DAVID ALBRIGHT (SPINNING THE TUBES): In terms of numbers, the CIA is the elephant in the tent. I mean, just in terms of numbers. Um, you… It’s a small group, finally, of experts on…on this issue, so to say “most” is — is a meaningless statement if you mean people because once Bush weighs in, “These tubes are for centrifuges,” a good portion of the CIA, whether they know anything about it or not, are gonna say, “Yeah, yeah – these tubes are for centrifuges.”

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DAVID ALBRIGHT (RWM): An alternative method to resolve this conflict would have been for the D.C.I. to ask for the judgment of the Joint Atomic Energy Intelligence Committee (JAEIC for short)  which is officially part of the N.I.E. process. JAEIC has been a standing D.C.I. technical intelligence committee for several decades.
WASHINGTON POST (April 1st, 2005): The C.I.A. refused to convene the government’s authoritative forum for resolving technical disputes about nuclear weapons. JAEIC proposed twice — in the spring and summer of 2002 — to assess all the evidence. The C.I.A’s front office replied that the C.I.A. was not ready to discuss its position.

RWM: For a year and a half the C.I.A. was ready enough to shovel its certitude to the White House. Turner was ready enough to arrogantly dismiss the conclusions of all the world’s top centrifuge scientists. And yet somehow the C.I.A. was never ready enough to openly debate the issue.

DAVID ALBRIGHT (RWM): This polarized debate was formalized, but not resolved, in October 2002 with the N.I.E.  In this process, roughly ten intelligence agencies each had one vote, which pitted one agency against the other in a drive for a majority, vote.

RWM: Only D.O.E. and I.N.R. dissented. The C.I.A. won a majority vote with agencies that had no business being involved in the discussion — which is where Colin Powell’s empty assertion of “most U.S. experts” came from. What does satellite surveillance and phone tapping have to do with centrifuge science? Even the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency got an equal say on the aluminum tubes — an agency that does imagery analysis of the Earth.

An N.I.E. normally takes months, but this one was haphazardly thrown together in 3 weeks. It was completed on October 1st, 2002 — which left little time to read it — as the Iraq War Resolution vote was just over a week away. But for people who spend their lives inundated with reams of material, 92 pages could be skimmed over coffee. Congress is packed with lawyers, so they are highly educated in weighing evidence. But none of that matters in the political domain, which is patently obvious when you look at the level of interest in the N.I.E. In order to read it, congressmen and senators had to sign in for access to the secure room at the Capitol. Indicative of the seriousness with which they take their responsibility: Less than 10 members of Congress showed up to read it.

Not taking initiative to be fully informed was a convenient approach to voting for the war — particularly for those with presidential aspirations in 2004. If the war worked out then you “stood by the president,” and if not, you could blame him for not being forthright. The default refrain was that “the intel briefings are so thorough that it’s common for members not to read entire reports.” Even if you had heard it all before, the comprehensive document would offer insight that isolated briefings would not. And “thorough” is not what comes to mind with anything around the run-up to the Iraq War. Exemplifying the point — on September 24th, 2002 Tenet was testifying before the Senate foreign relations committee. Top officials from D.O.E. and I.N.R. were brought in to testify on the tubes, but before they even began — Tenet took off to his son’s basketball game and some senators followed his lead by leaving early.

HUBRIS: Both witnesses told the dwindling number of senators that their agencies didn’t accept the tubes argument. But few senators were paying close attention to their testimony, and the hearing was petering out. “These dissents,” another staffer present said, “were not front and center.” Peter Zimmerman, the committee’s scientific adviser, left the closed-door meeting enraged. “I remember going home that night,” he recalled, “and practically putting my fist through the wall half a dozen times. I was as frustrated as I’ve ever been. I remember saying to my wife — “They’re going to war and there’s not a damn piece of evidence to substantiate it.”

RWM: Rushing the N.I.E. was orchestrated to coerce a vote on the resolution before the 2002 midterms that were only 3 weeks away, as the following scene illustrates.

HUBRIS:  On September 3rd, 2002 Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle attended a breakfast with Bush, Cheney, and other Congressional leaders. Daschle  asked, “Wouldn’t it be better to postpone the resolution vote until after the election and take politics out of the debate?” Bush looked at Cheney, who shot the president a “half smile.” Then Bush turned back to Daschle and said — “We just have to do it now.” That was it, Daschle would later recall: “He didn’t answer the question.”

RWM: Much like the media, that’s what happens when calculated compliance deters your demand for answers. It should be said that not everyone going along with the war was a Bush fanatic or had ulterior motives.

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DRAMATIZATION BASED ON EMAIL EXCHANGES (All of his words are verbatim and mine are summarized arguments of what I wrote in those emails):

ENGLISH PROFESSOR FRIEND: We should not lose sight of perhaps the most important point: It’s Saddam’s lies, not Bush’s, that started the war. Even if Bush lied or his administration overstated its case, Saddam could have easily prevented the war had he been forthcoming. For twelve years he refused to do so.

RWM: If being toyed with by rogue regimes were a qualifier for war, we’d need to permanently reinstate the draft. Moreover, it’s not 12 years that matters most, it’s 12 weeks. Greg Thielmann addressed the importance of that point in response to an email I sent him about the judgment of the international intelligence community. That topic is covered later on, but the following excerpt is of particular relevance here: ”The appropriate period of time for critical scrutiny is the 12 weeks between the return of the U.N. inspectors in November 2002 and the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.  All evidentiary legs of the stool collapsed during that period of time — but by then, the books were closed by the U.S. Congress, most of the press and the American public.”

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RWM: What is even more revealing is what Thielmann talked about on a February 3rd, 2004 Arms Control Association conference call: “Within one week after the U.N. inspectors hit the ground in Iraq — the White House and other Cabinet members were calling their mission a failure. They were denigrating their competence, they were describing their efforts as feckless and doomed — just one week into their inspections. Within one month, we were actually getting information which would resolve a lot of the prudent concerns that the intelligence community had. Almost without exception, those worst-case suspicions were unfounded. There was no effort, as far as I know, on the part of the White House or anyone else in the administration, to go to the intelligence community and say, “Before we invade this country on the assumption that the threat is as it was characterized several months earlier, how would we now characterize the threat?”

And lo and behold, the inspectors found 13,000 complete rockets at Iraq’s Nahser 81mm rocket production facility — all made from the same type of tubes that the administration had been pushing as centrifuges. Undeterred by the patently obvious, they refused to alter their position even in the slightest. And according to David Albright, “Senior I.A.E.A. officials personally briefed Powell about many of their findings in December 2002. Powell told them that the tubes were giving him a headache.” That’s your conscience talking to you, Mr. Secretary — because your intellect and instincts are way too sharp for you to be so oblivious.

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COLIN POWELL AT THE UN: We also have intelligence from multiple sources that Iraq is attempting to acquire magnets and high-speed balancing machines; both items can be used in a gas centrifuge program to enrich uranium.

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ROBB-SILBERMAN REPORT: This evidence was based on thin streams of reporting — and the N.I.E’s recitation of this evidence was marred by inaccuracies. These items are all dual-use materials, and the reporting provided no direct indication that the materials were intended for use in a nuclear program.

SENATE INTELLIGENCE REPORT: No intelligence reporting showed that Iraq was trying to acquire the thousands of other components needed for a centrifuge. For example, if Iraq were attempting to use 64,000 tubes to make 32,000 centrifuge rotors, Iraq would also need 64,000 end caps, 32,000 lower bearings, 32,000 upper bearings, and thousands of other parts.

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DRAMATIZATION BASED ON EMAIL EXCHANGES (All of his words are verbatim and mine are summarized arguments of what I wrote in those emails):

REP. BLUST: Saddam was an evil dictator who gassed his own people.

RWM: That was 1988 — but even if it had been 1998, chemical weapons are irrelevant to the tubes.

REP. BLUST : You so badly want Bush to be a liar that you become angry when confronted with any evidence to the contrary.  This irrational anger on the part of Bush-haters was the whole point of my article, and your reaction proves the point of my article.

RWM: I have yet to be confronted with any evidence at all. As for the quotes you cling to — politicians are always posturing to push a narrative — truth be damned. The Democrats polluted the air with empty rhetoric that they had no intention of acting on, moreover — none of those quotes were cited as evidence by Powell. You can’t seem to comprehend that I don’t care what damage the truth inflicts upon politicians of any brand. I have this crazy idea that across-the-board accountability is always in the best interests of the nation. As for my frustration — I have this thing about people who regurgitate nonsense in the face of overwhelming evidence that counters their baseless beliefs.

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SPINNING THE TUBES

DAVID ALBRIGHT: There’s no — there’s no willingness to say, “I’m wrong.” I mean, you have to — You have to take a two-by-four to these people basically to get them — to sort of knock them down and admit they were wrong.

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This concludes Act II

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FLAG ANIMATION TO THE BALLAD OF THE GREEN BERETS

Trained to live, off nature’s land
Trained in combat, hand to hand
Men who fight by night and day
Courage deep, from the Green Beret

The Green Berets - Record Cover

 

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