Insider Leaks to Reporters Spread as CIA Turns Wary on Iraq
By E&P Staff
Published: September 29, 2004
NEW YORK Conditions in Iraq appear to be deteriorating so badly that CIA
officials are now leaking to reporters left and right, signaling a new
dynamic in press coverage of the war. Columnist Robert Novak noted this on
Monday in a column titled, "Is CIA at War With Bush?"
The latest example: today's Washington Post, which includes a lengthy
article by veteran war-at-home watchers Dana Priest and Thomas E. Ricks,
based mainly on anonymous insider comments. They explain that many
interviewed would only talk anonymously, "either because they don't have
official authorization to speak or because they worry about ramifications of
criticizing top administration officials."
Priest and Ricks write, "A growing number of career professionals within
national security agencies believe that the situation in Iraq is much worse,
and the path to success much more tenuous, than is being expressed in public
by top Bush administration officials, according to former and current
government officials and assessments over the past year by intelligence
officials at the CIA and the departments of State and Defense.
"While President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others have
delivered optimistic public appraisals, officials who fight the Iraqi
insurgency and study it at the CIA and the State Department and within the
Army officer corps believe the rebellion is deeper and more widespread than
is being publicly acknowledged, officials say."
"People at the CIA 'are mad at the policy in Iraq because it's a disaster,
and they're digging the hole deeper and deeper and deeper,' said one former
intelligence officer who maintains contact with CIA officials. 'There's no
obvious way to fix it. The best we can hope for is a semi-failed state
hobbling along with terrorists and a succession of weak governments.'
"'Things are definitely not improving,' said one U.S. government official
who reads the intelligence analyses on Iraq.
"'It is getting worse,' agreed an Army staff officer who served in Iraq and
stays in touch with comrades in Baghdad through e-mail. 'It just seems there
is a lot of pessimism flowing out of theater now. There are things going on
that are unbelievable to me. They have infiltrators conducting attacks in
the Green Zone. That was not the case a year ago.'"
On Monday, columnist Novak criticized the CIA and Paul Pillar, a national
intelligence officer. Novak said comments Pillar made about Iraq during a
private dinner in California showed that he and others at the CIA are at war
with the president. Pillar had not spoken for the record, but Novak
published his remarks and name anyway., noting that he is "no covert
Novak also charged that "the CIA bureaucracy wants a license to criticize
the president....without being held accountable."
In their article on Wednesday, Priest and Ricks quote a CIA official saying,
"I'm not surprised if people in the administration were put on the
defensive. We weren't trying to make them look bad, we're just trying to
give them information. Of course, we're telling them something they don't
want to hear."
And an Army staff officer told the two Post reporters, "They keep telling us
that Iraqi security forces are the exit strategy, but what I hear from the
ground is that they aren't working," he said. "There's a feeling that Iraqi
security forces are in cahoots with the insurgents and the general public to
get the occupiers out."
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