A half-dozen former CIA agents investigating prewar intelligence have found that a secret Pentagon committee, set up by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
in October 2001, manipulated reams of intelligence information prepared by the spy agency on the so-called Iraqi threat and then delivered it to top White House
officials who used it to win support for a war in Iraq.
More than a dozen calls to the White House, the CIA, the National Security Council and the Pentagon for comment were not returned.
The ad-hoc committee, called the Office of Special Plans, headed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas
Feith and other Pentagon hawks, described the worst-case scenarios in terms of Iraq’s alleged stockpile of chemical and biological weapons and claimed the country
was close to acquiring nuclear weapons, according to four of the CIA agents (speaking on the condition of anonymity because the information is still classified) who
conducted a preliminary view of the intelligence.
The agents said the Office of Special Plans is responsible for providing the National Security Council and Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser
Condoleeza Rice and Rumsfeld with a bulk of the intelligence information on Iraq’s weapons program that turned out to be wrong. But White House officials used the
information it received from the Office of Special Plans to win support from the public and Congress to start a war in Iraq even though the White House knew much
of the information was dubious, the CIA agents said.
For example, the agents said the Office of Special Plans told the National Security Council last year that Iraq’s attempt to purchase aluminum tubes were
part of a clandestine program to build an atomic bomb. The Office of Special Plans leaked the information to the New York Times
last September. Shortly after the story appeared in the paper, Bush and Rice both pointed to the story as evidence that Iraq posed a grave threat to the United
States and to its neighbors in the Middle East, even though experts in the field of nuclear science, the CIA and the State Department advised the White House that the aluminum tubes were not designed for an atomic bomb.
Furthermore, the CIA had been unable to develop any links between Iraq and the terrorist group al-Qa'ida. But under Feith’s direction, the Office of Special
Plans came up with information of such links by looking at existing intelligence reports that they felt might have been overlooked or undervalued. The Office of
Special Plans provided the information to the Pentagon and to the White House. During a Pentagon briefing last year, Rumsfeld said he had “bulletproof” evidence
that Iraq was harboring al-Qa'ida terrorists.
At a Pentagon news conference last year, Rumsfeld said of the intelligence gathered by Special Plans: “Gee, why don't you go over and brief George Tenet?
So they did. They went over and briefed the CIA. So there's no there's no mystery about all this."
CIA analysts listened to the Pentagon team, nodded politely, and said, "Thank you very much," said one government official, according to a July 20, report
in the New York Times. That official said the briefing did not change the agency's reporting or analysis in any substantial way.
Several current and former intelligence officials told the Times that they felt pressure to tailor reports to conform to the administration's views,
“particularly the theories Feith's group developed”.
Moreover, the agents said the Office of Special Plans routinely rewrote the CIA’s intelligence estimates on Iraq’s weapons programs, removing caveats such
as “likely,” “probably” and “may” as a way of depicting the country as an imminent threat. The agents would not identify the names of the individuals at the Office
of Special Plans who were responsible for providing the White House with the wrong intelligence. But, the agents said, the intelligence gathered by the committee
sometimes went directly to the White House, Cheney’s office and to Rice without first being vetted by the CIA.
In cases where the CIA’s intelligence wasn’t rewritten, the Office of Special Plans provided the White House with questionable intelligence it gathered from
Iraqi exiles from the Iraqi National Congress, a group headed by Ahmad Chalabi, whom the CIA has publicly said is unreliable, the CIA agents said.
More than a dozen CIA agents responsible for writing intelligence reports for the agency told the former CIA agents investigating the accuracy of the intelligence
reports said they were pressured by the Pentagon and the Office of Special Plans to hype and exaggerate intelligence to show Iraq as being an imminent threat to
the security of the U.S.