Wednesday, June 25, 2003

State Department expert urged to distort work

"A top State Department expert on chemical and biological weapons told Congressional committees in closed-door hearings last week that he had been pressed to tailor his analysis on Iraq and other matters to conform with the Bush administration's views," reports the NY Times.

Christian Westermann, an analyst in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, "told lawmakers last week that while he felt pressure, he never actually changed the wording of any of his intelligence reports.

"He did not immediately provide lawmakers with details about his complaints, and it remains uncertain the degree to which his concerns related to Iraq or other regional issues.

"Administration officials said his most specific complaints concerned issues related to intelligence on Cuba, and he has not yet provided similar specific complaints about the handling of intelligence on Iraq."

The Times also notes the proper context: that a "number of analysts at the C.I.A. and other agencies have privately complained over the past few months that they felt pressure from administration officials to write reports that they believe overstated evidence that Iraq had illegal weapons programs and terrorist links" and that many "were angered that senior Bush administration officials selectively disclosed classified intelligence reports that supported the worst-case scenario concerning Iraq's weapons programs, making it seem as if there was an imminent threat to the United States. The analysts believe that in some cases, White House and Pentagon officials made public statements about Iraq's weapons based on intelligence that was far from definitive."

These last points, more than the failure to locate WMD thus far, are what should prompt impeachment hearings for Dubya and his crew.

If you haven't already, read the Ackerman and Judis article from TNR for a thorough elaboration.