James Risen’s State of War: the Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, may hold bigger secrets than the disclosure that President George W. Bush authorized warrantless eavesdropping on Americans.
Risen’s book also confirms the most damning element of the British Cabinet Office memos popularly called the "Downing Street memos;" namely, that "the intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy." The result is that it is no longer credible to maintain that the failures in the Iraqi intelligence were the product of a broken intelligence community. The Bush administration deliberately fabricated the case against Iraq, lying to Congress and the American people along the way.
Risen, a senior reporter for The New York Times, reports that British Prime Minister Tony Blair had an urgent need in the summer of 2002 to get the equivalent of a "second opinion" regarding Bush’s plans for war in Iraq insight independent of his own telephone conversations with the president and independent of what Blair was hearing from his own foreign office.
During his April 2002 visit to Crawford, Blair had gone out on a limb in pledging to support war on Iraq. The following months saw him getting nervous. So he chose what intelligence parlance calls a "back channel," and sent the chief of British intelligence, Richard Dearlove, to Washington to sound out his counterpart: the garrulous CIA director George Tenet, who he knew to be very close to the president.
The highly revealing Downing Street memo contained the minutes of Dearlove’s briefing of Blair and his top advisers upon his return from Washington on July 23. But what the memo left unanswered was the question of who gave Dearlove the confidence to say this to his prime minister:
Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy.
When the Sunday Times published the minutes of that key briefing on May 1, 2005, it seemed a safe bet that Dearlove’s source was Tenet, and I said so.
Now we have the confirmation. Risen writes that George Tenet was reluctant to receive Dearlove, but acquiesced when the British made clear that Blair considered the back-channel meeting urgent. Tenet then rose to the occasion with a vengeance. Risen, quoting a former senior CIA official who helped host the British for a session that lasted most of Saturday, July 20, 2002, reports that Tenet and Dearlove had a 90-minute one-on-one conversation, during which Tenet was "very candid."
Risen adds that by the time of this "intelligence summit," senior CIA officials had concluded that "the quality of the intelligence on weapons of mass destruction didn’t really matter," since war was inevitable. That perverse attitude certainly prevailed two months later, when the fabricated National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq and WMD was produced by Tenet’s National Intelligence Council in a successful attempt to deceive Congress into voting for war.
A former CIA official told Risen that after the conversation with Tenet, Richard Dearlove could certainly "figure out what was going on; plus, the MI6 station chief in Washington was in CIA headquarters all the time, with just about complete access to everything." In any case, we now know that Blair got what he wanted out of the visit the inside scoop from someone enjoying the complete trust of, and daily access to, President Bush.
The president now says that he does not want his political opposition to dwell on how he lied to Congress and the American people in order to invade a country and kill tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians and more than 2,200 U. S. troops not to mention the many thousands maimed for life. Perhaps he knows that Risen’s book could do as much damage to his administration by calling renewed attention to the Downing Street memos as is likely to be done by the revelations of the secret NSA wiretapping.
One world leader recognizes the extreme danger of official lies told to a nation in the service of an aggressive war. He also happens to be a leader who survived the horrors of fascism in the last century. In a Jan. 1 address to the world, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the consequences of lies such as these, in what can only be a thinly veiled reference to the president of the United States:
" Sacred Scripture, in its very first book, Genesis, points to the lie told at the very beginning of history by the animal with a forked tongue, whom the Evangelist John calls ‘the father of lies’ (Jn 8:44). Lying is also one of the sins spoken of in the final chapter of the last book of the Bible, Revelation, which bars liars from the heavenly Jerusalem: ‘outside are… all who love falsehood’ (22:15). Lying is linked to the tragedy of sin and its perverse consequences, which have had, and continue to have, devastating effects on the lives of individuals and nations. We need but think of the events of the past century, when aberrant ideological and political systems wilfully twisted the truth and brought about the exploitation and murder of an appalling number of men and women, wiping out entire families and communities. After experiences like these, how can we fail to be seriously concerned about lies in our own time, lies which are the framework for menacing scenarios of death in many parts of the world."
The ethos of the Central Intelligence Agency in which my contemporaries and I worked was chiseled into the marble at the entrance of CIA headquarters: "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
Sadly, the agency has come a long way.
Reprinted courtesy of TomPaine.com.