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IG Report: DoD Policy Office Acted Within Law, Authority

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2007 – Findings of a Defense Department Inspector General report sent to Congress today offer the third determination that activities within DoD’s policy office regarding pre-war intelligence were both legal and authorized.

The report, delivered today to the Senate Armed Services Committee by acting Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble, was based on an investigation ordered by Congress into the way former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith and his staff treated the intelligence they received before the Iraq war.

The report concluded that activities by the office were both legal and authorized, but that some may have been inappropriate.

Feith’s office developed, produced and then disseminated “alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and al-Qaeda relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the intelligence community, to senior decision makers,” the report noted in its unclassified executive summary.

“While such actions were not illegal or unauthorized,” it continued, “the actions were, in our opinion, inappropriate given that the intelligence assessments were intelligence products and did not clearly show the variance with the consensus of the intelligence community.”

Bryan Whitman, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, noted today that the IG report is the third in-depth review of Feith’s office during the past three years by both bipartisan and nonpartisan groups. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued its report in July 2004, and the so-called “Silberman-Robb” Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission issued its evaluation in September 2006.

Whitman said the IG’s findings “would seemingly run counter to other reviews of the office” about the value of debate over intelligence. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence review noted that “asking probing questions actually improved the intelligence process,” he said.

Some intelligence analysts told the committee that policymakers’ questions had forced them to go back and review the intelligence reporting, Whitman said, and that during this exercise, they came across information they had overlooked in the initial readings.

“No one would suggest that vigorous debate on issues of significant national security isn’t important,” he said. “Quite the contrary. Most people would agree that issues of … important national security issues should be debated, and they should be debated vigorously.”

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who was attending a NATO defense ministers meeting in Seville, Spain, today, declined to comment on the IG report because he hadn’t yet seen it. He also noted that he wasn’t defense secretary when the activities covered in the report occurred.

“But I will just tell you, based on my whole career, that I believe that all intelligence activities need to be carried on through established institutions and where there is appropriate oversight,” he said. “And if the intelligence isn't adequate, then changes need to be made in those institutions to improve the intelligence.”

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