Sunday, April 03, 2005

Presidential Daily Briefs as Cover Your A's

It seems like they've been reorganizing American Intelligence all my adult life. I'm 55 years old. I couldn't legally vote, or sign a contract until I was 21 years old, but, I could enlist, I sure as hell could be drafted, and I sure was classified 1A. I even got called in for the physical, but somehow, I wasn't asked to raise my hand and pledge allegiance to the constitution (not the flag) of the United States.…

Anyone trying to make sense of America's many intelligence failures should read In Search of Enemies: A CIA Story by John Stockwell. ISBN 0393009262. It should be mandated by law for all politicians. It's out of print now, and the link is to used copies, but search your public library for it. Read it for free, and a whole lot of you will decide it's worth having.

Some things just don't change. In Daily Intelligence Briefings Are Vague, Officials Say By SCOTT SHANE and DAVID E. SANGER ,“officials told the commission that they read the brief, known as the P.D.B., mainly for "defensive" purposes, Charles S. Robb, a former Virginia senator and governor, and Laurence H. Silberman, a senior federal judge, said in an interview on Friday.

‘They knew that was going to drive the president's schedule on a given day, and they had to be prepared for that reason,’ Mr. Robb said. ‘I cannot recall any particular current or former official saying that they believed the P.D.B. was in and of itself that valuable to them. It was more of a defensive reading of the document.’

The comments suggest that the grave shortcomings of the daily briefs before the Iraq war, detailed as part of the commission's sweeping 601-page indictment of the nation's intelligence agencies, have not been remedied despite efforts in recent months by the Central Intelligence Agency to improve them. Asked about how the briefs have changed and whether they were still more alarmist and less nuanced’ than the underlying information warranted, as the commission concluded, the White House refused to comment.

Questions about the commission's critique and how the process has changed, directed to Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser, went unanswered. His spokesman, Frederick Jones, said the White House did not want to discuss a ‘privileged presidential document.’”

In Curveball the Goofball
MAUREEN DOWD wrote Organizations organically respond to please the boss. Bosses naturally surround themselves with people who tell them what they want to hear.

When King Lear's favorite daughter spoke frankly to him, and refused to fawn like her sisters, she was instantly banished. Insincerity pays.

It is absurd to have yet another investigation into the chuckleheaded assessments on Saddam's phantom W.M.D. that intentionally skirts how the $40 billion-a-year intelligence was molded and manufactured to fit the ideological schemes of those running the White House and Pentagon.

As the commission's co-chairman, Laurence Silberman, put it: "Our executive order did not direct us to deal with the use of intelligence by policy makers, and all of us were agreed that that was not part of our inquiry."

Huh? That's like an investigation into steroids in baseball that looks only at the drug companies, not the players who muscled up.

We don't need a 14-month inquiry producing 601 pages at a cost of $10 million to tell us the data on arms in Iraq was flawed. We know that. When we got over there, we didn't find any.

This is the fourth exhaustive investigation that has not answered the basic question: How did the White House and Pentagon spin the information and why has no one gotten in trouble for it? If your kid lied and hid stuff from you to do something he thought would be great, then wouldn't admit it and blamed someone else, he'd be punished - even if his adventure worked out all right for him.

When the "values" president and his aides do it, they're rewarded. Condoleezza Rice was promoted to secretary of state. Stephen Hadley, Condi's old deputy, was promoted to national security adviser. Bob Joseph, a national security aide who helped shovel the uranium hooey into the State of the Union address, is becoming an under secretary of state. Paul Wolfowitz, who painted the takeover of Iraq as such a cakewalk that our troops went in without the proper armor or backup, will run the World Bank. George Tenet, who ran the C.I.A. when Al Qaeda attacked and when Saddam's mushroom cloud gained credibility, got the Medal of Freedom.

…The quality of the brief may be particularly crucial in this administration because by the accounts of close aides and intelligence officials, President Bush is extremely interested in what the spy agencies tell him. He has been described by aides as asking frequent questions, sometimes calling in C.I.A. officers for direct briefings. A senior intelligence official sits on the staff of the national security council to act as an intermediary, and to demand more information.

But none of that questioning pierced through the huge errors in the Iraq intelligence, the commission concluded. It said the briefs "left an impression of many corroborating reports where in fact there were very few sources." Some administration officials say Mr. Bush now demands to see some of the backup sourcing, but they could not say how often he hears dissenting views, and Mr. Hadley's office would not comment on that issue.

Mr. Bush receives an oral briefing each morning from 8 to 8:45 on foreign intelligence and domestic security. The C.I.A. briefer is usually accompanied by the agency's director, currently Porter J. Goss.

Contrary to his image in some circles as a man with little appetite for detailed study, Mr. Bush asked early in his presidency that the brief be expanded and delivered in a loose-leaf notebook to include more than just the 10 to 15 pages of finished intelligence analyses on current topics.

The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, as it is formally called, reviewed about two years of the President's Daily Briefs in the period before the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. It found the reports were "disastrously one-sided," giving the president a "daily drumbeat" of sensational headlines.

They noted that Mr. Goss has said that preparing, studying and delivering the daily brief takes as much as six hours a day. Although Mr. Bush has said the newly appointed director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte, will become his "primary briefer," Mr. Robb and Judge Silberman said they thought that would distract Mr. Negroponte from his main task of overseeing the 15 intelligence agencies and coordinating their work.…
con·cept: Presidential Daily Briefs as Cover Your A's