C. Iraq and al-Qaida: Interpreting a Murky Relationship, June 2002
(U) Following the publication of the October 2001 paper, the CTC began drafting another paper that would eventually become Iraq and al-Qaida: Interpreting a Murky Relationship. The paper was drafted based on widely expressed interest on the part of several senior policy makers, according to CIA. Throughout the drafting process (October 2001 to June 2002), the two offices took different approaches to assessing Iraq's links to terrorism as a result of their different missions and perspectives. According to the CIA's Ombudsman for Politicization, the CTC was aggressive in drawing connections to try to produce information that could be used to support counterterrorism operations, while the NESA took a traditional analytic approach, confirming intelligence with multiple sources and making assessments only based on strongly supported reporting. Analysts worked on several drafts over the eight month drafting period, but CTC management found them unsatisfactory and ultimately produced a draft without NESA's coordination.
(U) The Deputy Director for Intelligence (DDI) directed that Iraq and al-Qaida: Interpreting a Murky Relationship be published on June 21, 2002, although it did not reflect the NESA's views. CTC's explanation of its approach to this study and the analysts' differing views were contained in the paper's Scope Note, which stated:
- (U) This intelligence assessment responds to senior policymaker interest in a
comprehensive assessment of Iraqi regime links to al-Qa'ida. Our approach is
purposefully aggressive in seeking to draw connections, on the assumption that
any indication of a relationship between these two hostile elements could carry
great dangers to the United States.
( ) Our knowledge of Iraqi links to al-Qa'ida still contains many critical gaps DELETED
(U) Some analysts concur with the assessment that intelligence reporting provides "no conclusive evidence of cooperation on specific terrorist operations," but believe that the available signs support a conclusion that Iraq has had sporadic, wary contacts with al-Qaida since the mid- 1990s, rather than a relationship with al-Qaida that has developed over time. These analysts would contend that mistrust and conflicting ideologies and goals probably tempered these contacts and severely limited the opportunities for cooperation. These analysts do not rule out that Baghdad sought and obtained a nonaggression agreement or made limited offers of cooperation, training, or even safehaven (ultimately uncorroborated or withdrawn) in an effort to manipulate, penetrate, or otherwise keep tabs on al-Qaida or selected operatives.
(U) The NESA believed that this edited Scope Note did not adequately capture the differences between the two offices over the weighing and interpretation of the supporting intelligence reports.
(U) The CIA Ombudsman for Politicization received a confidential complaint four days after the paper was published, on June 25, 2002, claiming the CTC paper was misleading, in that it did not make clear that it was an uncoordinated product that did not reflect the NESA's views and assessments. The CIA created the position of Ombudsman for Politicization in 1992 to respond to alleged issues of politicization and analytic distortion. According to the Ombudsman's Charter, the position serves as an "independent, informal, and confidential counselor for those who have complaints about politicization, biased reporting, or the lack of objective analysis." The Ombudsman reports directly to the DCI. The complaint and subsequent inquiry is discussed later in this report under Pressure on Intelligence Community Analysts.
(U) The Committee Staff interviewed the Deputy Director for Intelligence on the production of this paper, and asked specifically why the analysts' approach was purposefully aggressive. She explained that:
- What happened with the "murky paper" was I was asking the people who were writing it to lean far forward and do a speculative piece. If you were going to stretch to the maximum the evidence you had, what could you come up with?
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