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Ear to the Ground

CIA Veteran: White House Was Subtle in Twisting Analysts’ Arms

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Posted on Jun 22, 2006
Paul Pillar
From PBS

Thirty-year CIA veteran Paul Pillar

The CIA’s former top man in the Middle East and South Asia says in a PBS interview that Americans shouldn’t be persuaded by official reports that prewar intelligence on Iraq wasn’t politicized; twisting the arms of analysts may not have been official policy but it happened nonetheless.


PBS:

This is something I think has been missed by otherwise very good work by the likes of the commission led by Judge [Laurence H.] Silberman and Sen. [Charles S.] Robb, which produced a very comprehensive and useful report with excellent recommendations. But one thing that’s been missed by that inquiry, and the inquiry of the Senate Intelligence Committee, really has to do with the issue of politicization. They reached the judgment that no, there wasn’t any evidence of politicization, but basically what they were doing was asking analysts whether their arms had been twisted.

Politicization, real politicization, rarely works that way; that is to say a blatant, crude arm twisting. It’s always far more subtle. It would take the form either of these almost subconscious or subliminal adjustments that dozens of analysts might make in the course of phrasing their judgments, making it a little less nuanced, a little less caveated, which I think is the main basis for criticizing the judgments on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

It can take the form of ... intelligence assessments that conform with what is known to be the policy having an easier time making it through ... than assessments that don’t supply the policy. ... This wasn’t an inquiry into how can Iraq threaten the United States; it wasn’t an inquiry into what are Al Qaeda sources of support. It instead was basically research in support of a specific line of argument. That, I think, qualifies for the label “politicization,” even if analysts are doing their best job to maintain their analytic integrity when they make their individual judgments. ...

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By John Marshall, June 23, 2006 at 6:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

From the SIC report: “The Committee did not find any evidence that intelligence analysts changed their judgments as a result of political pressure, altered or produced intelligence products to conform with Administration policy, or that anyone even attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to do so. When asked whether analysts were pressured in any way to alter their assessments or make their judgments conform with Administration policies on Iraq’s WMD programs, not a single analyst answered “yes.””  (p273)

Now - please tell me how this could be more clear?  Any influence on the analyists would have to have been completely subconscious or they’d have answered “yes” to the above questions.

So is this Pillar’s contention: that the administration is now guilty of subliminal mind control?

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By Mace Price, June 22, 2006 at 4:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It seems it was more a question of arm breaking as opposed to twisting. It is my considered opinion that the man has obviously been traumatized psychologically. As former CIA Bin Laden Chief Michael Scheuer commented expertly in The PBS Documentary FRONTLINE’s production of “The Dark Side,” the pressure placed on Paul Pillar must have been “extraordinary.”

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By bg1, June 22, 2006 at 3:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“It instead was basically research in support of a specific line of argument.”

This sounds like a reasonable explanation.  This is the passive approach to cooking the books; it allows plausible deniability.

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