2005 May 29 Sunday
Iraq Aluminum Tubes Intelligence Analysts Rewarded

Two intelligence analysts were very wrong on a question of great importance and were rewarded for their troubles.

Two Army analysts whose work has been cited as part of a key intelligence failure on Iraq -- the claim that aluminum tubes sought by the Baghdad government were most likely meant for a nuclear weapons program rather than for rockets -- have received job performance awards in each of the past three years, officials said.

The civilian analysts, former military men considered experts on foreign and U.S. weaponry, work at the Army's National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC), one of three U.S. agencies singled out for particular criticism by President Bush's commission that investigated U.S. intelligence.

The government has failed to punish anyone who carried out the will of George W. Bush.

Despite sharp critiques from the president's commission and the Senate intelligence committee, no major reprimand or penalty has been announced publicly in connection with the intelligence failures, though investigations are still underway at the CIA. George J. Tenet resigned as CIA director but was later awarded the Medal of Freedom by Bush.

Part of the problem here is the normal propensity of government bureaucracies to resist rewarding and punishing based on the quality of work performed. But the Bush Administration places such a high value on loyalty that punishment is unlikely for those who did work which advanced the President's agenda.

My guess: They will find some internal Bush critics and punish them for supposed errors in their analyses. No one loyally serving the President, no matter how incompetently or dishonestly, will be punished.

As for intelligence agencies: We should not expect great performance from them because few of the best minds want to work for the government in general and for intelligence agencies in particular. Plus, their political masters all too often do not want to know the truth.

Update: Back in August 2003 Paul Sperry of World Net Daily reported that the Energy Department official who was put in a powerful position for deciding on Iraq WMD intelligence had no intelligence experience.

The official who represented the Energy Department at a key prewar intelligence meeting on Iraq's alleged new nuclear-weapons program was a human resources manager with no intelligence experience, and was easily swayed by Bush administration hawks, say department insiders.

Though Energy disputed a critical piece of evidence that Baghdad sought aluminum tubing to make nuclear materials it nonetheless agreed with the White House's conclusion that Baghdad was reconstituting a nuclear-weapons program. The State Department, in contrast, dissented on both counts.

The conclusion formed the cornerstone of last fall's 90-page Top Secret intelligence report used to justify preemptive war on Iraq.

Ryder overrode energy department analysts who did not think that Saddam was reconstituting his nuclear weapons program.

A former Energy Department intelligence chief who agreed with the White House claim that Iraq had reconstituted its defunct nuclear-arms program was awarded a total of $20,500 in bonuses during the build-up to the war, WorldNetDaily has learned.

Thomas Ryder, as acting director of Energy's intelligence office, overruled senior intelligence officers on his staff in voting for the position at a National Foreign Intelligence Board meeting at CIA headquarters last September.

His officers argued at a pre-briefing at Energy headquarters that there was no hard evidence to support the alarming Iraq nuclear charge, and asked to join State Department's dissenting opinion, Energy officials say.

Ryder ordered them to "shut up and sit down," according to sources familiar with the meeting.

Was he just an incompetent who was accidentally put in charge of something he wasn't qualified to handle? Or did the Bush Administration, having already decided to invade Iraq, fix it so that the Energy Department would give the answer Dubya wanted to hear?

Update: Here's a link to the full text of the Downing Street Memo which shows the Bush Administration decided to overthrow Saddam and then went looking for justiification for their decision. "C" of course is the head of MI6.

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. 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 facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

The decision on the Iraq invasion was not based on real evidence.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 May 29 03:02 PM  US Foreign Weapons Proliferation Control

Bartelson said at May 30, 2005 7:40 AM:

"As for intelligence agencies: We should not expect great performance from them because few of the best minds want to work for the government in general and for intelligence agencies in particular. Plus, their political masters all too often do not want to know the truth."

Very true. Washington elites do not take CIA and FBI seriously at all. That's why both agencies today seem to be mostly places to conduct politically correct social experiments.

GUYK said at May 30, 2005 11:26 AM:

I think you are being a little tough on this call. Intelligence people are just that, people. They take the facts as they have them, put them together, and make the call. There was other intelligence, that we know now may have been faulty, that Saddam was trying to by uranium. We also know that at one time Saddam did have a program in affect to build nukes. Saddam refused to let the UN inspectors review all of his programs and when the UN was finally let back in the country they were jerked around. Take all these facts, put them together, and make an analysis. It is not too hard for me to see how they came to their conclusions.

Another thing about intelligence gathering. The folks who gather report it as they see it with no claim to it being absolute unless they can prove it was absolute. Generally information is submitted with qualifications and it is up to the people on top to decide what to do with it. I suspect that thgis was the case. If so the people were doing their jobs. The fact that they came to the wrong conclusion in this incident doesn't mean that they were not doing a good job. And, it could be that they were commended for doing other intelligence work that we the public do not know about and maybe never know about. Thats what intelligence work is all about.

gcochran said at May 30, 2005 11:53 AM:

The Iraqis said the aluminum tubes were for artillery rockets, and indeed they were exact duplicates of the Italian Medusa artillery rocket, whose specs were easy to find. These guys didn't bother. You could (well, I could, anyway) go look up the article detailing the engineering physics of Hoppe-style centrifuges in Reviews of Modern Physics and note that aluminum is not a very good material to use (poor strength -to-weight ratio, better to use maraging steel or carbon), also that the tubes are too thick and would fail due to centrifugal stresses. If one were too innumerate to do that, one could talk to designers of such centrifuges at DOE (at Oak Ridge and Livermore) - oh, I forgot, they did and the designers said no way. In that case, the guy in charge of such intelligence evaluation at DOE was replaced by someone from HR (who of course had no intelligence experience): that HR person overruled the technical boys and was also given a cash bonus. I'm sure that there was a good reason for that. What do you thimnk that reason was?

Or, you could have talked to the people at the IAEA, who were able to instantly determine that the tubes were unsuitable simply by picking it up: too heavy, therefore too thick a wall, therefore failure due to centrifugal stresses.

Concerning inspectors in Iraq in late 2002 and 2003: they were not jerked around. They were able to go anywhere they wanted, look at anything they wanted, and they said so. If you doubt this, go read their report. Of course they found nothing, beacuse there was nothing to find. In addition, they inspected tens of sites based on US tips: evey one came up empty.

Dropping the sarcasm, seems to me that no reasonable person could think anything other than that the fix was in. and ( sarcasm back on), isn't it the duty of the Governemnt to lie to the electorate on issues of war and peace? Isn't that what the Revolution all about?

If this was, as seems obvious, part of a deliberate deception campaign, what should be done? I sure have some suggestions.

gcochran said at May 30, 2005 12:10 PM:

Thomas Rider was the DOE HR honcho who knew so much more than those silly physicists. It's easy to see why someone unqualified, who overrides experts while pushing a spectacularly incorrect theory, would get a bonus.

> anyhow, it turns out that Thomas Rider, as acting director of Energy's intelligence office, overruled senior intelligence officers on his staff in voting for the position at a National Foreign Intelligence Board meeting at CIA headquarters last September.

After his 9 month tenur, during which he back this administrations claim on Iraq's reconstituted nuclear program, he received a $20,000 bonus which according to sources

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham gave Rider a $13,000 performance bonus after the NIE report was released and just before the war, department sources say. He had received an additional $7,500 before the report.

"That's a hell of a lot of money for an intelligence director who had no experience or background in intelligence, and who'd only been running the office for nine months," said one source who requested anonymity. "Something's fishy."

Energy officials say Rider rubber-stamped the administration's conclusion that Baghdad was reactivating a nuclear weapons program over the objections of Energy's nuclear weapons research labs and senior members of his own staff.

"He was doing their bidding," asserted an Energy official who also wished to remain nameless.

Also while rubber stamping reports that supported the administration view, he told senior scientist who dissagreed to "Sit down and shut up" and continued to support the bad information even though there was growing evidence showing otherwise.

"It is noteworthy that although DOE [Department of Energy] assessed that the tubes probably were not part of Iraq's nuclear program, DOE agreed that reconstitution was under way [emphasis in the original]," CIA Director George Tenet said in a four-page statement defending the NIE on Iraq. It was published Sunday in the Washington Post.

But officials in Energy's intelligence office were at odds with Rider, and did not agree that the program was being reconstituted, sources say. In fact, they agreed with the State Department's view that the nuclear case against Baghdad was weak.

"Senior folks in the office wanted to join INR on the footnote, and even wanted to write it with them, so the footnote would have read, 'Energy and INR,'" one official said. "But when they were arguing about it at the pre-brief, Rider told them to 'shut up and sit down.'"

INR, State's intelligence office, not only shot down the tubes theory, but called "inadequate" other evidence used to support the view that Baghdad was trying to acquire nuclear arms.

"He (Ridder) was the spark plug for them on the whole issue," said David Albright, a physicist who helped inspect Iraqi nuclear sites last decade. "But most scientists at the labs disagreed with him," arguing that the tubes Iraq sought were too thick for gas centrifuges, and had a coating that would flake off in the corrosive gases of centrifuges. However, they were ideal for artillery rockets, they argued, and matched ones Iraq had previously used for rockets.

"The debate over whether Baghdad was trying to acquire nuclear weapons pretty much came down to the tubes," said one Energy official. "Yet even though DOE voted against the tubes, Rider still argued that the program was being reconstituted."

Bonuses that big are rare, and Energy insiders say they cannot recall previous intelligence chiefs receiving as much bonus money as Rider, who is said to be close to Abraham. >

Anonymous said at June 1, 2005 5:19 AM:

Thomas Rider -- traitor to his country, especially to all soldiers and their families.

Herb Ely said at June 2, 2005 7:29 AM:

Thanks, gcochran for the info on DOE.

As one who worked on portions of NIE's let me add a little perspective. David Kay has pointed out that the intelligence community was surprised after the first gulf war at Saddam's success at hiding his nuclear program. During the run-up to the this gulf war every new piece of evidence was treated with skepticism. When an analyst drafts an NIE, the draft is first reviewed by his own agency. NGIC, DIA and the interagency review committee had many chances to review and change any claims that Norris and Campos made. Now all of these reviewers have disappeared. The predominant management attitude seems to be "blame the troops". I don't know what claims Norris and Campos made. I do know that during my time at NGIC we had a commander who would give sensitive claims like this careful scrutiny - and then stand behind his analysts.

I'm not writing to defend Norris and Campos - I have no idea what they did or whether they are responsible for this intelligence failure. I do however, resent the fact that the entire intelligence community is now pointing fingers at them.

There was pressure from the top - most likely the very top - to produce intelligence justifying this war. check out my post on Curveball.

M.Robinson said at July 20, 2005 6:11 AM:

Its seems to me that many are failing the plot line here, the whole purpose of the Iraq war was never the idea saddam had WMD's, its more to do with the control of OIL. From all the major respected inspectors it was reported that saddam's infrastructure of WMD development was destroyed, so Powell was sent to the UN security council to tell his part of the lie and get the machinery rolling for eventual war. We had the famous 'dodgy dossier' by prime minister tony blair(A research paper off the net, over 5 years old) to peddle his lies in Britain. the final touch was the assertion by the Bush team that Saddam and Osama were in cahoots, and as such saddam was helping terrorists(saddam a secular nationalists,Osama a religious fundamentalist), a over the top story if ever there was one.
When the war was over , and no WMD could be found, we have the President of USA and Tony Blair changing their story to ' isn't it good that we have removed an evil dictator like saddam, it was for democracy'. Nobody disagree with the act that saddam was an evil person, the point is we the public were told that saddam posed a danger to us because of his WMD program(which in reality existed no more prior to the war), and in the process we killed 30,000+ civilians and then we ask ourselves WHY THEY HATE US!. The neo-conservatives(fundamentalists) are running the US foreign policy, and even if an agent/s were to supply information which contradicted the noe's policy, then you can forget about the truth. The Neo's are creating enemies for the US people around the world, because when a US made bomb kills somebodies loved one, what do you think will be going through their mind(put yourself in their place).

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