Office of Special Plans

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In the summer of 2002, the general staff of Douglas Feith, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, was being overwhelmed with work on Iraq, yet only had two people devoted to it; Feith said he created the Office of Special Plans (OSP) to handle the Iraq-related workload. He received authorization to hire more people to create regional divisions under his Deputy Undersecretary, William Luti. Rather than call the northern Persian Gulf division by a geographical name and give an opportunity for the media to assume it was doing war planning, OSP was simply a euphemism for what was otherwise a division. Indeed, after Saddam was overthrown, it was renamed the Office of Northern Gulf Affairs. [1]

The office was sometimes confused with the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group, a separate organization also under Feith. It also was sometimes confused with the Office of Strategic Influence, another office under Feith.

Initial press coverage

Press coverage varied widely. James Risen, of the New York Times, wrote that the office provided a channel for Iraqis to try to avert war. Messages from an official in Saddam's government The messages from Baghdad went, in February 2003, to an analyst in an office under Feith. While they were eventually rejected, the led to a March meeting in London between Richard Perle and a Lebanese-American businessman, Imad Hage.[2]

The question to be raised here is why intergovernmental communications were not going to the Department of State, or, if the Iraqis wanted them to be disavowable, to the Central Intelligence Agency.

Priest wrote that there was no evidence, alleged by Democrats, that the offices collected intelligence. PCTEG and OSP did, however, do analysis that presented a more hard-line alternative to the official intelligence, much as had the "Team B" analyses done in the mid-1970s. OSP and concluded that Saddam Hussein's Iraq and al Qaeda were much more closely and conclusively linked than the intelligence community believed. [3]

Seymour Hersh, however, presented a very different picture, beginning in an article in the New Yorker. Hersh wrote that the OSP was directed by Abram Shulsky, an intelligence and foreign policy specialist who follows the doctrines of Leo Strauss.[4]

Hersh said the offices used, as well as unevaluated information from U.S. intelligence agencies, and information from the Iraqi National Congress (INC) the exile group headed by Ahmed Chalabi. He suggested that the operation was of equal influence, to the White House, as the Central Intelligence Agency or Defense Intelligence Agency "as President Bush’s main source of intelligence regarding Iraq’s possible possession of weapons of mass destruction and connection with Al Qaeda."

Allegations

W. Patrick Lang, DIA national intelligence officer for the Middle East, said
The Pentagon has banded together to dominate the government’s foreign policy, and they’ve pulled it off. They’re running Chalabi. The D.I.A. has been intimidated and beaten to a pulp. And there’s no guts at all in the C.I.A.”[4]

Specifically, allegations were made that a large part of the justification from the U.S. invasion of Iraq, in 2003, came from the Office of Special Plans, a new office in the Department of Defense, under Douglas Feith,[5] which effectively bypassed the intelligence review process and reported to Dick Cheney.[6] Vice Presidential counsel Scooter Libby, however, claimed this was ridiculous, according to Bob Woodward. Woodward said Libby considered the office as two people who summarized sensitive intelligence for him, which was not given to the President or Vice President. Libby also said it was not a special channel for Ahmed Chalabi, whose information went to the CIA. [7]

The Guardian reports the office was created when Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz were unable to get Central Intelligence Agency confirmation of their suspicions of a link between Saddam Hussein and the 9-11 Attacks. While the office had a small staff, they had, according to John Pike of Globalsecurity, a large number of consultants, "basically a way they could pack the room with their little friends".

"They surveyed data and picked out what they liked," said Gregory Thielmann, a senior official in Bureau of Intelligence and Research his retirement in September. "The whole thing was bizarre. The secretary of defence had this huge defence intelligence agency, and he went around it." [8]

Borger, reporting in the Guardian, said OSP had a parallel, ad hoc operation inside Ariel Sharon's office in Israel, bypassing Mossad, Israel's regular intelligence agency. "'None of the Israelis who came were cleared into the Pentagon through normal channels,' said one source familiar with the visits. Instead, they were waved in on Mr Feith's authority without having to fill in the usual forms. "

Certain of the points that OSP supported were consistent with the policies of the Project for a New American Century,[9] which Cheney and Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld had been active. [8]

Assessment

A 2007 report by the Inspector General of the Department of Defense, [10] released by Sen. Carl Levin, said it "was predisposed to finding a significant relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda."

According to Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, Feith's briefings, given to the White House, National Security Council, and Office of the Vice President, contained a slide not presented to the CIA, entitled "Fundamental Problems with How Intelligence Community is Assessing Information". described what he sarcastically called "Feith-based intelligence", which he said mischaracterized the intelligence, selecting information that "confirmed preconceived notions."[11] Tenet said that much of the connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda was "cherry-piicked, selective data that Feith, Libby and others had been enamored of for so long...Vice President Cheney...cited the leaked Feith memo as 'your best source of information' on possible ties." Tenet said the best source was a January 2003 CIA paper saying "there was no Iraqi authority, direction, or control over al-Qaida."[12]

References

  1. Douglas J. Feith (2008), War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism, Harper, ISBN 9780060899738, pp. 29-30}}
  2. James Risen (November 6, 2003), "THE STRUGGLE FOR IRAQ: DIPLOMACY; Iraq Said to Have Tried to Reach Last-Minute Deal to Avert War", New York Times
  3. Dana Priest (March 13, 2004), "Pentagon Shadow Loses Some Mystique: Feith's Shops Did Not Usurp Intelligence Agencies on Iraq, Hill Probers Find", Washington Post
  4. 4.0 4.1 Seymour Hersh (May 12, 2003), "Annals of National Security, Selective Intelligence: Donald Rumsfeld has his own special sources. Are they reliable?", New Yorker
  5. Katzman, Kenneth (August 15, 2008), Al Qaeda in Iraq: Assessment and Outside Links, Order Code RL32217, p. CRS-4
  6. Barry, Tom (February 12, 2004), Decentralizing U.S. Intelligence: Office of Special Plans, IRC Right Web
  7. Bob Woodward (2004), Plan of Attack, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 074325547X, pp. 288-289
  8. 8.0 8.1 Julian Borger (17 July 2003), "Special Investigation: The spies who pushed for war", The Guardian
  9. History Commons, Profile: Project for the New American Century (PNAC)
  10. Walter Pincus and R. Jeffrey Smith (February 9, 2007), "Official's Key Report On Iraq Is Faulted: 'Dubious' Intelligence Fueled Push for War", Washington Post
  11. Tenet, George (2007). At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA. HarperCollins, pp. 347-349. ISBN 9780061147784. 
  12. Tenet, pp. 357-358