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Obama’s Case for Syria Didn’t Reflect Intel Consensus


mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>The evidence indicates that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper culled intelligence analyses from various agencies and by the White House itself, but that the White House itself had the final say in the contents of the document. 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>That part of the strategy, at least, has been successful. Despite strong opposition in Congress to the proposed military strike in Syria, no one in either chamber has yet challenged the administration’s characterisation of the intelligence. But the administration is vulnerable to the charge that it has put out an intelligence document that does not fully and accurately reflect the views of intelligence analysts. 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>In essence, the White House selected those elements of the intelligence community assessments that supported the administration’s policy of planning a strike against the Syrian government force and omitted those that didn’t. 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>It was titled “Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013.” The first sentence begins, “The United States government assesses,” and the second sentence begins, “We assess”. 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>A former senior intelligence official who asked not to be identified told IPS in an e-mail Friday that the language used by the White House “means that this is not an intelligence community document”. 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>The document further indicates that the administration “decided on a position and cherry-picked the intelligence to fit it,” he said. “The result is not a balanced assessment of the intelligence.” 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>“If it’s an intelligence assessment,” Thielmann said, “why didn’t they label it as such?” 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>Pillar suggested that senior intelligence officials might have signed off on the administration paper, but that the White House may have drafted its own paper to “avoid attention to analytic differences within the intelligence community.” 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>An unnamed “senior administration official” briefing the news media on the intelligence paper on Aug. 30 said that the paper was “fully vetted within the intelligence community,” and that, ”All members of the intelligence community participated in its development.” 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>The same “senior administration official” indicated that DNI Clapper had “approved” submissions from various agencies for what the official called “the process”. The anonymous speaker did not explain further to journalists what that process preceding the issuance of the White House paper had involved. 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>That article suggests that the administration had originally planned for the report on intelligence to be issued by Clapper rather than the White House, apparently after reaching agreement with the White House on the contents of the paper. 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>The issuance of the document by the White House rather than by Clapper, as had been apparently planned, points to a refusal by Clapper to put his name on the document as revised by the White House. 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>Efforts by IPS to get a comment from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence suggest strongly that Clapper is embarrassed by the way the Obama White House misrepresented the Aug. 30 document. 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>In follow-up phone calls, ODNI personnel said someone would respond to the query. After failing to respond for two days, despite promising that someone would call back, however, ODNI’s media relations office apparently decided to refuse any further contact with IPS on the subject. 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>That figure, for which no source was indicated, was several times larger than the estimates given by British and French intelligence. 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>It claims that Syrian chemical weapons specialists were preparing for such an attack merely on the basis of signals intelligence indicating the presence of one or more individuals in a particular location. The same intelligence had been regarded prior to Aug. 21 as indicating nothing out of the ordinary, as was reported by CBS news Aug. 23. 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>But the evidence appears to indicate that the alleged intercept was actually passed on to the United States by Israeli intelligence. U.S. intelligence officials have long been doubtful about intelligence from Israeli sources that is clearly in line with Israeli interests. 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan.