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DoD Policy Chief Seeks to Clear Intel Record

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 4, 2003 – DoD officials attempted to lay to rest some media stories on intelligence information that are "not true and taking on the status of urban legends."

Douglas Feith, defense undersecretary for policy, and Bill Luti, deputy undersecretary for special plans and Near East and South Asian affairs, spoke at a Pentagon briefing today to put to rest a number of inaccurate news stories.

The men addressed an alleged intelligence cell in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and its relationship to the special plans office. Feith also addressed intelligence judgments regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. They spoke about a story alleging DoD was working to topple the Iranian regime. Finally, they addressed stories on the Mujahedin-e Khalq - a group in Iraq dedicated to the overthrow of the Iranian government.

Feith discussed the intelligence "cell" that some news reports said were the Defense Department's answer to the CIA. The news reports indicated that the cell came into being because the department did not like some of the analyses coming from the intelligence community. "After the Sept. 11 attack, I identified a requirement to think through what it means for the Defense Department to be at war with a terrorist network," Feith said.

Twentieth century wars were against nations, and a war against terrorist networks was something new. "We understood that it presents a number of peculiar conceptual challenges," he said.

Feith asked for two full-time employees to conduct a review of intelligence on terrorist networks and to examine how the various terrorist organizations relate to each other and to state sponsors of terrorism, he said. He said the two employees drew expertise from others in the office as needed.

The team began work in October 2001, and was never involved with intelligence collection, Feith said. The team examined all terrorist organizations and state sponsors. It was not confined to Iraq or al Qaeda.

The team's main conclusion "was that groups and states were willing to cooperate across philosophical, ideological lines," he said. "It came up with a number of interesting connections where Sunni and Shia (Muslim) groups cooperated. Or religious based groups cooperated with secular groups or states."

He said the reason this team has become the focus of so much attention was that in the course of reviewing the intelligence the team "came up with some interesting linkages between Iraq and al Qaeda," Feith said.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld asked Feith and members of the team to brief George Tenet, the director of central intelligence, on their conclusions. "My impression was that it was pretty well-received, and that was that," he said.

The team was not a part of the special plans office, nor was it ever tied to the Intelligence Collection Program - a program to debrief Iraqi defectors. The team conducted the review and presented its findings in August 2002. The project was over, so the employees returned to other duties, he said.

On intelligence judgments about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, Feith said there was massive intelligence pointing to an Iraqi WMD program. Secretary of State Colin Powell in his February presentation to the U.N. Security Council played intercepts of Iraqi officers discussing concealing arms from U.N. inspectors. The coalition intelligence services used U.N. facts and figures for Iraq not accounting for WMD capabilities.

Feith said the intelligence analyses of Iraq's capabilities did not change from the Clinton to the Bush administrations. What changed was the strategic situation following the attacks of Sept. 11, he said. The nexus of states with weapons of mass destruction and terrorist organizations willing to use these weapons gave states an option to use the weapons without their "fingerprints" on the attack, Feith said.

"Without regard to whether the officials of the previous administration agree or disagree with the policies of this administration on how to deal with the problem, the basic intelligence reports did not undergo any change from the previous administration," Feith said.

Correcting another record, Feith said a recent London Financial Times article "grossly misrepresented" Rumsfeld's views on Iran and the desire of the United States to topple the clerical regime in Teheran. Feith said the United States wants Iran to turn over all al Qaeda operatives and to comply with its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, "but as for the future of the Iranian government, that's a matter to be decided by the Iranian people."

Finally, Feith spoke about the U.S. policy on the Mujahedin-e Khalq. The United States has declared the group a foreign terrorist organization. The MEK has several thousand fighters scattered throughout Iraq, mostly organized in the MEK's National Liberation Army. Some of these units possess tanks, armored vehicles and heavy artillery.

U.S. forces demanded the surrender of MEK forces in Iraq. "That demand is being complied with and the MEK forces are being disarmed," he said.

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