Ten years af­ter Iraq’s ‘WMDS’

“At the Cen­ter of the Storm: The CIA Dur­ing Amer­ica’s Time of Cri­sis” (2007)

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK -

The Bushies are still fight­ing about Colin Pow­ell’s speech.

Colin asked to come out to CIA head­quar­ters along with sev­eral of his speech­writ­ers and se­nior aides to work through the speech and make sure it was as solid as pos­si­ble. Although he didn’t say so ex­plic­itly, I be­lieve one of the rea­sons he wanted to have the speech worked on at the Agency was the sense that, within our barbed wire-en­cir­cled head­quar­ters com­pound, we were rel­a­tively free from in­ter­fer­ence from down­town. . . .

When Colin’s team first ar­rived at CIA, they had in their hands a fifty-nine page doc­u­ment on WMD with which they pre­sumed we were fa­mil­iar. Pow­ell as­sumed that the White House had pulled the doc­u­ment to­gether in co­or­di­na­tion with the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity. But what the White House handed him was some­thing very dif­fer­ent, some­thing that we had never seen be­fore. . . .

Some mem­bers of Sec­re­tary Pow­ell’s team who par­tic­i­pated in as­sem­bling the speech have sub­se­quently spo­ken out about the or­deal and given the im­pres­sion that they were stand­ing alone on the bul­wark, keep­ing out the bad in­tel­li­gence. That is not how CIA par­tic­i­pants re­mem­ber it. . . . Our me­mory is that CIA and State De­part­ment of­fi­cials worked side by side to rid the draft of ma­te­rial that would not stand up. . . .

De­spite our ef­forts, a lot of flawed in­for­ma­tion still made its way into the speech. No one in­volved re­grets that more than I do. But I have of­ten won­dered whether we might have un­cov­ered more of those flaws if our peo­ple had not had to spend two days get­ting the garbage out of a White House draft.

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