Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Iraqi Documents Are Put on Web, and Search Is On - New York Times

Iraqi Documents Are Put on Web, and Search Is On - New York Times

"There's no quality control," said Michael Scheuer, a former Central Intelligence Agency specialist on terrorism. "You'll have guys out there with a smattering of Arabic drawing all kinds of crazy conclusions. Rush Limbaugh will cherry-pick from the right, and Al Franken will cherry-pick from the left."

American intelligence agencies and presidential commissions long ago concluded that Saddam Hussein had no unconventional weapons and no substantive ties to Al Qaeda before the 2003 invasion.

But now, an unusual experiment in public access is giving anyone with a computer a chance to play intelligence analyst and second-guess the government.

Under pressure from Congressional Republicans, the director of national intelligence has begun a yearlong process of posting on the Web 48,000 boxes of Arabic-language Iraqi documents captured by American troops.

Less than two weeks into the project, and with only 600 out of possibly a million documents and video and audio files posted, some conservative bloggers are already asserting that the material undermines the official view.

On his blog last week, Ray Robison, a former Army officer from Alabama, quoted a document reporting a supposed scheme to put anthrax into American leaflets dropped in Iraq and declared: "Saddam's W.M.D. and terrorist connections all proven in one document!!!"

Not so, American intelligence officials say. "Our view is there's nothing in here that changes what we know today," said a senior intelligence official, who would discuss the program only on condition of anonymity because the director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte, directed his staff to avoid public debates over the documents. "There is no smoking gun on W.M.D., Al Qaeda, those kinds of issues."

All the documents, which are available on fmso.leavenworth.army.mil/products-docex.htm, have received at least a quick review by Arabic linguists and do not alter the government's official stance, officials say. On some tapes already released, in fact, Mr. Hussein expressed frustration that he did not have unconventional weapons.

Intelligence officials had serious concerns about turning loose an army of amateurs on a warehouse full of raw documents that include hearsay, disinformation and forgery. Mr. Negroponte's office attached a disclaimer to the documents, only a few of which have been translated into English, saying the government did not vouch for their authenticity.

Another administration official described the political logic: "If anyone in the intelligence community thought there was valid information in those documents that supported either of those questions — W.M.D. or Al Qaeda — they would have shouted them from the rooftops."


http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/28/politics/28intel.html

con·cept: Iraqi Documents Are Put on Web, and Search Is On - New York Times