Lies Have Consequences

Holding Intelligence Liars Accountable
By Ray McGovern and W. Patrick Lang
January 6, 2007

Editor’s Note: From both the White House and Congress, there’s lots of talk about how important it is to look to the future, not dwell on the past. But one of the painful lessons from the Iraq debacle is that Official Washington’s failure to understand the past — and the real histories of key players — contributed to the present catastrophe.

In this guest essay, two former U.S. intelligence analysts — Ray McGovern and W. Patrick Lang — argue that the United States can ill afford letting the Iraq War-era liars off lightly, even if that means taking a hard look back over the past several years:

Lies have consequences.

All those who helped President George W. Bush launch a war of aggression—termed by Nuremberg “the supreme international crime”—have blood on their hands and must be held accountable. This includes corrupt intelligence officials. Otherwise, look for them to perform the same service in facilitating war on Iran.

“They should have been shot,” said former State Department intelligence director, Carl Ford, referring to ex-CIA director George Tenet and his deputy John McLaughlin, for their “fundamentally dishonest” cooking of intelligence to please the White House. Ford was alluding to “intelligence” on the menacing but non-existent mobile biological weapons laboratories in Iraq.

Ford was angry that Tenet and McLaughlin persisted in portraying the labs as real several months after they had been duly warned that they existed only in the imagination of intelligence analysts who, in their own eagerness to please, had glommed onto second-hand tales told by a con-man appropriately dubbed “Curveball.”

In fact, Tenet and McLaughlin had been warned about Curveball long before they let then-Secretary of State Colin Powell shame himself, and the rest of us, by peddling Curveball’s wares at the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003.

After the war began, those same analysts, still “leaning forward,” misrepresented a tractor-trailer found in Iraq outfitted with industrial equipment as one of the mobile bio-labs. Former U.N. weapons inspector David Kay, then working for NBC News, obliged by pointing out the equipment “where the biological process took place… Literally, there is nothing else for which it could be used.”

George Tenet knows a good man when he sees him. A few weeks later he hired Kay to lead the Pentagon-created Iraq Survey Group in the famous search to find other (equally non-existent, it turned out) “weapons of mass destruction.”

(Eventually Kay, a scientist given to empirical evidence more than faith-based intelligence, became the skunk at the picnic when, in January 2004, he insisted on telling senators the truth: “We were almost all wrong—and I certainly include myself here.” But that came later.)

Read it here.

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