Official Lies Exposed: The Levee, White House Leaks of Classified Material, Intelligence on Iraq War


I’m off to New York this morning, writing this from the Metro-liner train, scanning the news.
I’m going to post a series of links today of things people should either know or just be very angry about. I’ll add more commentary later, but there’s too much to tell today not to get some of it out now.
First and foremost is Eric Lipton’s powerful New York Times report that the White House lied when stating that it “had been caught by surprise” that a levee had broken in New Orleans:

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Bush administration officials said they had been caught by surprise when they were told on Tuesday, Aug. 30, that a levee had broken, allowing floodwaters to engulf New Orleans.
Investigators have found evidence that federal officials at the White House and elsewhere learned of the levee break in New Orleans earlier than was first suggested.
But Congressional investigators have now learned that an eyewitness account of the flooding from a federal emergency official reached the Homeland Security Department’s headquarters starting at 9:27 p.m. the day before, and the White House itself at midnight.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency official, Marty Bahamonde, first heard of a major levee breach Monday morning. By late Monday afternoon, Mr. Bahamonde had hitched a ride on a Coast Guard helicopter over the breach at the 17th Street Canal to confirm the extensive flooding. He then telephoned his report to FEMA headquarters in Washington, which notified the Homeland Security Department.
“FYI from FEMA,” said an e-mail message from the agency’s public affairs staff describing the helicopter flight, sent Monday night at 9:27 to the chief of staff of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and recently unearthed by investigators. Conditions, the message said, “are far more serious than media reports are currently reflecting. Finding extensive flooding and more stranded people than they had thought — also a number of fires.”

Secondly, the White House promulgated a culture of leaking classified information. Vice President Cheney and his key staff had significant power in the post-9/11 power and they abused it and undermined the national security of this country.
However, the White House — and particularly David Addington — have excoriated and villified other potential leakers of materials who were responding to a loyalty to the nation — rather than a loyalty to Cheney. More on this issue later — but read the linked story by Neil Lewis.
Third, although I’m not sure how much more confirmation we need, former National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia Paul Pillar has just published one of the most devastating critiques of the Bush administration’s manufactured war, or what former State Department Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson recently called, “a hoax on the American people.”
The sad fact is that we seem to need ongoing waves of confirmation of White House blindness and missteps as it approached the War against Iraq.
A summary of Pillar’s important, controversial article, “Intelligence, Policy and the War in Iraq” in the March/April 2006 issue of Foreign Affairs:

During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, writes the intelligence community’s former senior analyst for the Middle East, the Bush administration disregarded the community’s expertise, politicized the intelligence process, and selected unrepresentative raw intelligence to make its public case.

From Walter Pincus’s excellent profile of Paul Pillar today in the Washington Post:

“Official intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs was flawed, but even with its flaws, it was not what led to the war,” Pillar wrote in the upcoming issue of the journal Foreign Affairs. Instead, he asserted, the administration “went to war without requesting — and evidently without being influenced by — any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq.”
“It has become clear that official intelligence was not relied on in making even the most significant national security decisions, that intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made, that damaging ill will developed between [Bush] policymakers and intelligence officers, and that the intelligence community’s own work was politicized,” Pillar wrote.
Pillar’s critique is one of the most severe indictments of White House actions by a former Bush official since Richard C. Clarke, a former National Security Council staff member, went public with his criticism of the administration’s handling of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and its failure to deal with the terrorist threat beforehand.
It is also the first time that such a senior intelligence officer has so directly and publicly condemned the administration’s handling of intelligence.

This is all powerful, important — and at some level, just harder confirmation of things we all know already.
We have become too tolerant a nation regarding official lies.
The President now reveals top secret information that a serious al Qaeda effort to destroy what I used to know as “Library Tower” in Los Angeles as a justification for the many nefarious things that his administration has done.
This is unbelievable on so many fronts. First, I believe that the U.S. government did stop a terrible attack from occurring in Los Angeles. That is the government’s job, and it does need robust intelligence capacity to stop, inderdict, and deter very bad people from doing horrific things.
The REASON why Bush did not previously disclose this thwarted terrorist attack has more to do with not want to reveal “means and methods” or not wanting to compromise sources so that more information can be generated such means and sources in the future.
Very possibly, the President has just sacrificed key sources or exposed some of our means in order to cover himself politically. This was an incredibly cynical gesture on his part — disclosing an intelligence success as implied justification for the suspension of American civil liberties, privacy, and warrantless wiretaps.
This is just wrong and a serious violation of our Constitution.
I will post more later today.
Greetings to all New Yorkers.
I’m sure I’ll be lurking in numerous coffee shops around town today, seeing some foundations, filmmakers, and bloggers.
More later.

— Steve Clemons