OODA OriginalUncategorized

Ever Backwards

The editors of the Weekly Standard sound off:

“WHERE WAS THE NUCLEAR material transported to?” asks an aide to Saddam Hussein, in a taped conversation released last week. He answers his own question: “A number of them were transported out of Iraq.” This provocative snippet is part of 12 hours of taped exchanges between Saddam Hussein and his advisers. The tapes were found in Iraq after the war and were released last week by their American translator. The tapes are authentic. And they are seemingly of little interest to the U.S. government. A spokesman for John Negroponte, the director of national intelligence (DNI), downplayed their importance: “Analysts from the CIA and the DIA reviewed the translations and found that, while fascinating from a historical perspective, the tapes do not reveal anything that changes their postwar analysis of Iraq’s weapons programs.”

We suspect many Americans would be interested in learning more about this “nuclear material” and where it went when it was “transported out of Iraq”–and not just for “historical perspective.” That doesn’t mean the Saddam tapes contain some “smoking gun” on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. We don’t yet know the circumstances of the Iraqi aide’s conversation with his boss, or whether he was being truthful. It would certainly be nice to know more.

If you have tracked with Steve Hayes’ work in this area (and my own very modest contribution) you know the deal. If you haven’t start here and work your way up. I too tired to beat any dead horses.

Everyone in the intelligence business is an amateur historian. That or they are just parrots of tired clichés because “those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it” is heard so often in the halls of SCIFs that you’d think there was actually some concern about learning from the past to avoid future mistakes. Thankfully we now know that there is no real interest in learning from our most recent past since it appears that the DNI is disinclined to allow those who are actually interested in doing so from gaining access to the data that could help the most. The prevailing sentiment from the top to the bottom of the IC seems to be “we won, forget it, what’s next” which, to be very generous, is a cavalier attitude to have if you are really interested in success.

Late last week, a top DNI staffer met with Hoekstra. The meeting did not go well. “If there are 100 reasons not to make this information available, I got every one of them,” Hoekstra told The Weekly Standard last week. “We have received a proposal that clearly demonstrates that the DNI is living in the analog age while the rest of us are in the digital age. At this rate, my grandkids and great-grandkids will be the first ones to see this information. And I don’t even have grandkids yet.”

Hey, that’s my line!

The most common fear associated with public release or the downgrading of an item’s classification is the potential for exposing sources and methods, or that we would be providing our adversary with the last piece in a puzzle that they have been aggregating for years. Those would be good arguments if a) the ‘method’ primarily involved bending down and picking stuff up and b) the adversary in question wasn’t already defeated. So why the slow roll? Here is a guess: remember the controversy over documents that showed our erstwhile allies cutting deals with Saddam despite sanctions? Multiply that times 1,000.

There is a balance between opening the flood gates (which I don’t support) and allowing a serious external (trusted) review so onerous that no one will bother attempting it. Unfortunately the only tangible “reform” that has come out of aftermath of 9/11 (ODNI) is really just another level of obstruction, not an instrument of change.

Speaking of tired clichés, I’m told that it is always darkest before the dawn. It’s pretty dark at this point, but I’m still holding out hope that BMNT is not that far away.

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji spent nearly 20 years in the US intelligence community. Trained in both SIGINT and HUMINT disciplines he has worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office. At various points in his career he served as an expert in information warfare, computer network operations, computer forensics, and indications and warning. A veteran of the US Army, Michael has served in both strategic and tactical assignments in the Pacific Theater, the Balkans, and the Middle East.