Hershing the Buzz


It's always difficult to assess the validity of anonymous sourcing and institutional ax-grinding in Seymour Hersh's reporting on intelligence agencies, but this latest New Yorker piece, on the gap between what we thought we knew about Iraq's WMDs and what's actually turned up, has much interesting food for thought. For instance, this quote from, an "intelligence official":

"If you look at them side by side, C.I.A. versus United Nations, the U.N. agencies come out ahead across the board."

Doh! Then this worrying bit about the classic mistake of politicizing intelligence:

Kenneth Pollack, a former National Security Council expert on Iraq, whose book The Threatening Storm generally supported the use of force to remove Saddam Hussein, told me that what the Bush people did was "dismantle the existing filtering process that for fifty years had been preventing the policymakers from getting bad information. They created stovepipes to get the information they wanted directly to the top leadership. Their position is that the professional bureaucracy is deliberately and maliciously keeping information from them.

"They always had information to back up their public claims, but it was often very bad information," Pollack continued. "They were forcing the intelligence community to defend its good information and good analysis so aggressively that the intelligence analysts didn't have the time or the energy to go after the bad information."

Link via TAPped's Matthew Yglesias.