Once Were Lost, But Now They're Found

The press continues to be blind, however.

They found those missing records. The records gave us no new information about Bush's attendance as I said they wouldn't. And you can see that the press is screwing up with these papers still:

Those records did not provide new evidence to place Bush in Alabama during the latter part of 1972...
And they never, ever will. The redundancies in the records tell us that Bush showed up (probably in Alabama) late in October and four days in mid November. That's it.

We have all the records necessary to say what Bush did during that time. We have a clear picture of what happened.

What we don't have is documentation that must exist given the attendance record that Bush displayed in his fifth and sixth years of service. Where is the Flight Inquiry paperwork? Where's documentation on Bush's late April jumpstart? Where's the paperwork that should have labeled Bush a deserter when he left for Harvard Business School?

It's so frustrating to see the press lagging behind in this story. And then there's this - the take from Talking Points Memo:
Of course, the fact that the White House has wrangled this issue down to poring over a million different records that I myself can hardly keep track of means they've largely neutralized this issue through that classic Washington method of the death of a thousand docs.
That's pretty much what BushCo has done. There's so much Bushista blood in the water that the press corp doesn't know which way to turn.

Another "Oh Boy, They Found Saddam's Nukes, Oh, Wait A Second" Story

Blogs For Bush, that round table of right wing bloggers, took a little time out of spreading lies about Sandy Berger to trumpet the latest non-discovery of WMD in Iraq.

This is desperation at its sweatiest. "We'll have to wait and see," indeed.

Somerby on Wilson

I never claimed to debunk Bush's claim, Wilson says. We warned you about this last year:

Go read. Somerby has Wilson's number.

Powell's "Four Sourcemen" Hobbled By Senate Intelligence Report

When I was a kid, I loved logic problems. You'd get a few statements about a situation and a grid. By matching up the information in statements, you could eventually develop a complete picture of the situation.

So when I started reading the Senate Intelligence Committee report - which I quoted below - I was excited to find a small logic problem buried inside the report. The report is minutely concerned with the several major products of American intelligence that sold us on the Iraq war, one being Secretary Colin Powell's February 5, 2003 speech to the United Nation.

According to the Senate report, Secretary Powell went in with guns blazing against "single source" intelligence - intelligence based on the word of a single person. One particular "single source" is singled out for immense contempt by the Senate report - a source codenamed CURVEBALL (CB). This source was never in US custody and met with a US intelligence agent only once before Operation Iraqi Freedom, yet he became the backbone of one particularly damning claim in Powell's speech: that Iraq had produced several mobile biological weapons laboratories. Why? Because this source was backed up by three other intelligence sources. Powell gives us the details in his UN speech:

Although Iraq's mobile production program began in the mid-1990s, U.N. inspectors at the time only had vague hints of such programs. Confirmation came later, in the year 2000.

The source was an eyewitness, an Iraqi chemical engineer who supervised one of these facilities. He actually was present during biological agent production runs. He was also at the site when an accident occurred in 1998. Twelve technicians died from exposure to biological agents.

He reported that when UNSCOM was in country and inspecting, the biological weapons agent production always began on Thursdays at midnight because Iraq thought UNSCOM would not inspect on the Muslim Holy Day, Thursday night through Friday. He added that this was important because the units could not be broken down in the middle of a production run, which had to be completed by Friday evening before the inspectors might arrive again.

This defector is currently hiding in another country with the certain knowledge that Saddam Hussein will kill him if he finds him. His eyewitness account of these mobile production facilities has been corroborated by other sources.

A second source, an Iraqi civil engineer in a position to know the details of the program, confirmed the existence of transportable facilities moving on trailers.

A third source, also in a position to know, reported in summer 2002 that Iraq had manufactured mobile production systems mounted on road trailer units and on rail cars.

Finally, a fourth source, an Iraqi major, who defected, confirmed that Iraq has mobile biological research laboratories, in addition to the production facilities I mentioned earlier.
You will note that CB isn't mentioned by name in this quote, nor are any of the other three sources that Powell uses. That's as it should be. I don't care to know any actual names.

But by comparing this section of Powell's speech to pages 152 - 161 of the Senate report, we find an astonishing theory: the Senate report may have singled out this particular part of the Powell speech and repudiated every source that Powell relied upon. It did it under the guise of repudiating an important portion of an earlier National Intelligence Estimate released in October 2002, but the information given by the Senate report is enough to reasonably conclude that Powell's four sources were quite impeachable, and should have been.

First, let's do a short list of Powell's four.
  • an Iraqi chemical engineer with very detailed information
  • an Iraqi civil engineer who spoke of mobile BW production labs in trailers
  • a completely anonymous source from the summer of 2002 who spoke of mobile BW production labs in trailers and on railcars
  • an Iraqi major who confirmed mobile BW research labs (not the same as production)
Now look at the table of contents of this section of the Senate report:

A Background 143
B. Baghdad Has Transportable Facilities for Producing Bacterial and Toxin BW Agents 148

1. Other Sources 150
3. [censored] 157
4. INC Source 160
5. [censored] 161
6. Intelligence Community Mind Set Concerning Mobile BW Programs 161
In section 2-5, the Senate report discusses four human intelligence sources.
  • CURVEBALL (CB) who gave detailed information
  • An anonymous source who seems to have flunked a polygraph
  • An Iraqi National Congress(INC) source who spoke of mobile BW research labs
  • a June 2001 informer
CB is the easiest to place; he must be Powell's "Iraqi chemical engineer." He's the only one Powell cites at length, and CB was one of the most prolific of intelligence sources. Here's how the Senate report talks about CB:
A large part of the NIE's discussion of the alleged mobile BW production units was based on information provided by a source described in the NIE as "a credible source" and "an Iraqi defector deemed credible by the IC." The source was an Iraqi defector who had been the subject of debriefings [censored] since 2000. He was believed by the IC to have been a project engineer involved in the design and production of [censored] biological production facilities in Iraq. [Entire sentence censored.] The source is hereafter referred to by the codename he was given [phrase censored] "CURVE BALL".
Like Powell's engineer, CB sprung onto the scene in the year 2000.

Also, the only US intelligence officer who had direct access to CB emailed this statement after reading a late draft of Powell's UN speech: "I believe I am still the only [United States Government] USG person to have had direct access to him. There are a few issues associated with that contact that warrant further explanation, in my opinion, before using him as the backbone for the Iraqi mobile program." He went on to list his concerns about CB - his only interview with CB occurred while CB had a hangover, that the people protecting CB were having handling issues with him, and had not yet determined that CB was who he said he was! He concluded, "These issues, in my opinion, warrant further inquiry, before we use the information as the backbone of one of our major findings of the existence of a continuing Iraqi BW program!"

Only one of Powell's sources could be considered the backbone of this assertion about mobile BW labs: the first one. The others are only cited for details. He, then, is CURVEBALL, the "single source to whom the Intelligence Community did not have direct access."

CB is Powell's first source. Are there any more direct matches?

One must. According to the Senate report, their third HUMINT source, the Iraqi National Congress (INC) source, is one of Powell's four sources (page 161). In logic problems, that's a major find. We know for certain that the INC source is one of the remaining three. Which one?

The INC source could only be Powell's fourth source (the Iraqi major), because both spoke only about mobile BW research labs. Both Powell's civil engineer and anonymous summer 2002 source speak to production labs. The INC source gave his info in March 2002, which further rules against him being Powell's anonymous source.

So Powell's Iraqi major is the Senate report's INC source.

Powell's other two sources are harder to reconcile with the Senate's remaining two sources. But they do fit together pretty well.

Let's look at the Senate's June 2001 informer. This source couldn't be Powell's anonymous summer 2002 source because of the dates. If the Senate's fourth source is present on Powell's list, then that source can only be Powell's second, the civil engineer. No information separates them, and both sources did talk about production labs in trailers. Also, the same agent who had the one interview with CB shared his reservations about this informer as well when he emailed about Powell's UN speech in January 2003. It's only logical that this informer was included as one of Powell's sources, and thus could only be the civil engineer.

This leaves Powell's anonymous source in the summer of 2002 as a possible match for the Senate's completely redacted source who evidently failed a polygraph. Is it arguing from silence to note Powell's reluctance to identify a single fact about his source in the same sentence as the Senate's reluctance to say anything at all about their second source? Probably so, but since we are 2 for 2 on Powell's sources, and most probably 3 for 3, this fourth match is plausible.

So we have two direct matches, one most probable match, and a plausible match. Barring further revelations, I think it's safe to conclude that the Senate report specifically examined the four sources used in the Powell UN speech and found them wanting.

Only once was a US intelligence agent granted direct access to CURVEBALL, and he found the source troubling enough to fire off an email in January 2003 (after reading Powell's speech) to share his deep concerns.

The "INC source" was found to be coached into embellishments of his data. His information was "accessed as unreliable and, in some cases, pure fabrication."

The anonymous source evidently failed a polygraph.

The June 2001 informer had never been vetted, according to the same agent who raised questions about CB:
The detailee also expressed concern about this source in his e-mail concerning Secretary Powell's UN speech. He noted that the source was "[phrase censored], but one whose reliability nor reporting has been evaluated," and said the reporting had inconsistencies that needed further checking. The detailee added, "we sure didn't give much credence to this report when it came out. Why now?"
The Senate's point is that each of these four sources were impeachable. There was a corruption of the analytical processes of the American IC, one that overwhelmed even Colin Powell's vendetta against "single source" information. Why were these four sources considered reliable at all, even when specific information existed to impeach them all?

It couldn't have anything to do with this, could it?

Kevin Drum's Contest: Explain CEO Pay

The Washington Monthly

Kevin wants to know how CEO pay (which rose 27% in 2003) fits into the law of supply and demand. Here's my entry:

CEOs who can supply large profit margins are in great demand, hence their pay is skyrocketing.

By "supply large profit margins", I mean "ax enough laborers without endangering productivity". This floods the labor market with more unemployed (greater supply), which lowers the demand for higher wages.

CEOs with the requisite lack of a soul are in short supply. That's why they're getting paid so well.

Single Source

I have a lazy summer Sunday afternoon in which to do nothing but look for interesting angles on public documents. Wouldn't you know that I might find one?

I started reading the US Senate Intelligence Commitee report on the handling of Iraqi WMD information. I didn't get very far before I ran across the phrase "single source to whom the Intelligence Community did not have access." That's one heck of a phrase to find, don't you think? And since Josh Marshall was kind enough to give a link to a searchable pdf file of the report, I searched for the phrase "single source" in that document to see if the report referred to this single source again.

There are ten hits. Here they are:

Page 23 (pdf 33): Similarly, the IC based its judgment that "all key aspects - research & development (R&D), production, and weaponization - of Iraq's offensive biological weapons (BW) program are active and that most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf War" primarily on its assessment that Iraq had mobile biological production vans. While this assessment was based on direct intelligence that indicated Iraq had mobile biological production units, the reporting was largely from a single source to whom the Intelligence Community did not have direct access. The Committee believes that the IC's expectation that Iraq would move to mobile biological weapons production, focused their attention on reporting that supported that contention and led them to disregard information that contradicted it. This exemplifies Dr. Kay's concerns that the IC made large new conclusions based on only a few pieces of new evidence that were joined to previous conclusions and that pieces that did not fulfill its expectations tended to be thrown aside.

Page 67 (pdf 77): According to the CIA's former ADDI for Intelligence for Strategic Programs, who was the point person for coordinating the [Powell UN] speech, the CIA removed some of the information that the White House had added to the speech, gathered from finished and raw intelligence, because the information was single source and uncorroborated.

Page 144 (pdf 154): Quoting the December 2000 ICA on Iraqi WMD - We cannot confirm whether Iraq has produced ... biological agents, although in the case of biological weapons, credible reporting from a single source suggests it has done so on a large scale and had developed a clandestine production capability.

Page 145 (pdf 155): Quoting the December 2000 ICA on Iraqi WMD - According to [censored - as above, was this word "credible"?] reporting from a single source, Iraq has constructed seven transportable - via trucks and rail cars - plants, some of which have produced BW agents. Although the information is unconfirmed, it tracks with UNSCOM evidence acquired in the mid-1990's that Iraq was considering such a program.

Page 156 (pdf 166): Because of Committee staffs concerns about the IC's reliance on a single source and questions about CURVE BALL'S reporting, the Committee requested an IC assessment of CURVE BALL and his reliability. The DHS provided the Committee with an information paper on December 17, 2003 that stated ". . . the Iraqi design engineer [CURVE BALL] is not a biological weapons expert nor is he a life science expert. Source simply designed [censored] production facilities. He never claimed that the project he was involved in was used to produce biological agents." The DHS assessment also noted that "the source's reporting demonstrates a knowledge of and access to personalities, organizations, procurement, and technology related to Iraq's BW program." Concerned that the assessment had said the primary source behind the IC's assessments of the Iraqi mobile BW production program had "never claimed that the project he was involved in was used to produce biological agents," Committee staff asked DHS to clarify what appeared to be a serious discrepancy. The DHS was unable to respond to the request for several weeks, noting to Committee staff that the matter was being handled by the DCI's staff. The DHS then issued a correction to the Committee on January 15, 2003 that stated the information in the December 17, 2003 paper contained several errors and [about two lines censored here - the ellipses and quotation mark following is part of the report] . . . ." The DHS correction also stated that "by virtue of his position, and as reflected in the published Intelligence Information Reports, the source demonstrated extensive knowledge of Iraq's BW program. As the project manager, he had intimate details of the mobile BW program." The author of the December 2003 DHS paper which stated that CURVE BALL "never claimed that the project he was involved in was used to produce biological agents" was the DHS intelligence officer who had primary responsibility [censored] for collecting and reporting the intelligence from CURVE BALL'S debriefings. In an interview with Committee staff, the DHS officer stated that in his haste to provide an assessment of the source to the Committee, he had misread some of the intelligence reports from the source.

Page 241 (pdf 251): According to a State Department foreign affairs officer in the Bureau of Nonproliferation and the NIO, the general operating principle set by Secretary Powell in preparing his presentation was that any intelligence that was included had to be corroborated. The foreign affairs officer told Committee staff that "single source information did not go in the speech." CIA analysts who participated in these meetings told Committee staff that the Secretary only wanted to use solid intelligence in the speech and wanted the language carefully reviewed by the analysts. One CIA analyst and one official told the Committee they were not aware of any guidance that single source information should not be used in the speech. The NIO for Science and Technology, who also worked on Secretary Powell's speech, told Committee staff that DCI Tenet specifically told him to check the speech for classification issues and to "back [] up the material and mak[e] sure we had good solid stuff to support everything."

...CIA analysts told Committee staff that during the coordination meetings on the speech, information was removed in some instances because Secretary Powell was not comfortable with it and because some information was based on single source raw reporting which the CIA could not corroborate.

Page 366 (pdf 376): According to State Department officials, the general operating principle set by Secretary Powell in preparing his presentation was that any intelligence that was included had to be corroborated. The official told Committee staff that, "single source information did not go in the speech." The CTC analyst interviewed by Committee staff indicated that in the final weeks leading up to the February 5 presentation, the CIA analysts responsible for preparing the terrorism portion were heavily engaged with Secretary Powell on "... everything from substance to style to Secretary Powell's personal 'I don't like that' . . . ."

Page 450 (pdf 460): When United Nations inspectors departed from Iraq in 1998, the Intelligence Community lost a major source of information on the ground and failed to take remedial actions to replace it with a human intelligence collection program essential for understanding the clandestine nature of proliferation activities and Saddam Hussein's intentions. As a result, the intelligence collected in the intervening period was primarily through overhead imagery and signals intercepts of limited value and from Iraqi defectors, often single sources of unknown credibility that were provided by the now suspect Iraqi National Congress, a group promoting the use of U.S. military force to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
The report itself is pretty harsh on the IC, and they certainly share any blame for the sorry state of intelligence about Iraqi WMD. But there's a trail here to follow, and this search gave me a method of focusing on it. Still working on that post, but it will be out soon. In the meantime, chew on those quotes.

Things to remember while chewing:
  • Powell went gunning for single source information when prepping for the UN speech.
  • Several "single sources" of unverifiable info came from the Iraqi National Congress, Ahmed Chalabi's group.
  • One crucial single source, the source codenamed CURVEBALL, was only interrogated by an American intelligence agent once. All other information from this most prolific sources was obtained at secondhand by US intelligence.

I'll be back later...