February 9, 2007
Contact:
Leah Yoon, NPR
 | 

DOUGLAS FEITH, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE
RESPONDS TO PENTAGON INSPECTOR GENERALíS REPORT
ON NPR NEWS DAY TO DAY
TODAY, FRIDAY, February 9, 2007

AUDIO AVAILABLE AT WWW.NPR.ORG

Douglas Feith on the criticism directed towards him, found in the latest Pentagon Inspector General report, ďItís really very difficult to refute stuff that is so thoroughly inaccurateĒ


Washington, DC; February 9, 2007 Ė In an interview with NPRís Alex Chadwick airing today on NPR News Day To Day, former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith responds to the recent report released by the Pentagonís Inspector General: ďItís really very difficult to refute stuff that is so thoroughly inaccurate.Ē The IG report suggests that Feithís office manipulated pre-war intelligence to heighten fear of a connection between Iraq and Al-Qaeda. Feith rebuts much of the report, including the claim that he briefed the President and Vice-President on conclusive evidence linking the 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta to Al-Qaeda.

A rushed transcript of the interview with former Undersecretary of Defense Feith, which is airing today, Friday, February 9, on NPR News Day to Day is below. Excerpts must be credited to NPR News Day To Day. The audio is available now at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7309878.

With 1.7 million listeners Day to Day, NPRís fastest-growing new program, is a weekday, one-hour newsmagazine produced at NPR West studios in Culver City, Calif., in collaboration with Slate.com and hosted by Alex Chadwick and Madeleine Brand.

-NPR-

ALEX CHADWICK: From the studios of NPR West, this is Day to Day. Iím Alex Chadwick.

CHADWICK: First, there is another report today on the intelligence failures that led the U.S. into the Iraq war. This one is from the Pentagon. It says a former top official there presented misleading reports to President Bush and Vice President Cheney and others. That official is the former undersecretary of Defense, Douglas Feith. Weíll hear from him in a moment.

Here is Senator Carl Levin, the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is releasing a declassified version of the report today. The senator is speaking to the inspector general of the Department of Defense, Thomas Gimble.

SENATOR CARL LEVIN (D-MI): Without the knowledge of the intelligence community, we have an alternative intelligence analysis being presented on war or no war issues, whether or not the people who attacked us on 9/11 had a connection to Saddam Hussein.

CHADWICK: Former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, thank you for agreeing to come back on Day to Day. And what would be your response to Senator Levin?

DOUGLAS FEITH: Well, what heís saying is wrong and unsupported. The criticism that is being directed now at my former office is because my office was trying to prevent an intelligence failure. We had people in the Pentagon who thought that the CIAís speculative assessments were not of top quality; they were not raising all the questions they should raise and considering all the information they should consider. And our people criticized the CIA. And they did not present an alternative intelligence analysis; they presented a criticism. And now, the inspector general is saying that criticizing the CIA was an intelligence activity that policy people should not have engaged in.

CHADWICK: Thatís not what heís saying. Heís saying you briefed the president and the vice president, and you said that there was conclusive evidence that there was a meeting between the 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and an Iraq spy in Prague. That was doubtful then; itís pretty much discredited now.

FEITH: No, thatís absolutely not true. I mean, what youíre saying Ė there are about a dozen factual errors in your question there. Itís just not true. First of all, I didnít brief them. I mean, thatís part of it. But there were some people from my office and people from elsewhere in the Pentagon who were challenging the CIAís assessment of the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship. And they were raising questions and they were not putting out their own conclusions and analysis. They were challenging the approach that the CIA took because they believed that the CIA had a theory that ideological opponents like secular Baíathists in the Iraqi government and religious extremists in al Qaeda could not cooperate for strategic purposes. And the critics in the Pentagon of the CIA said that the CIA was filtering its own intelligence and ignoring its own intelligence that was inconsistent with the CIAís theory.

CHADWICK: What the inspector generalís report says is that your office presented findings, which appeared to be based on a full reading of intelligence. And they were not based on a full reading of intelligence.

FEITH: Thatís simply not correct. And I donít believe thatís what the inspector general report says. I mean, thereís an enormous amount of loose talk about this, and vague and loose allegations. And itís really very difficult to refute stuff that is so thoroughly inaccurate. The point here is there was an intelligent, professional criticism made by policy people of intelligence Ė now let me just specify.

When this very issue was looked at by the Senate Intelligence Committee, in their bipartisan, unanimous report in July 2004, they said that this very activity improved the CIAís work.

CHADWICK: Let me read to you from a statement Ė an executive summary put out today by the Pentagon. It says that your office, quote ďdeveloped, produced, and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and al Qaeda relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the intelligence community.Ē And you presented these to senior decision makers.

FEITH: It is true that we put out questions and ideas that were inconsistent with the consensus of the intelligence community. That is not a crime; that was criticism. By the way, it is clear from both the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Silverman-Robb commission reports that the government is better off if we have more and not less policy people raising serious challenges to intelligence. As you pointed out, there were serious intelligence errors as we went into Iraq. There should have been more questioning, not less.

CHADWICK: That again is a position that the inspector general seems to disagree with quite sharply. He concludes that a basic problem was that you were a policy person. You were formulating and advocating for a policy that you thought was the right thing to do, in this case the war in Iraq. And then, you are presenting reports from your office that present themselves as neutral intelligence analysis when theyíre not.

FEITH: Well, thatís not correct. And I donít agree with the inspector general on the point that the criticism of intelligence is intelligence work. I mean, itís an interesting thing. Senator Levin and Senator Rockefeller have severely criticized the CIA. Now, when they criticize the CIA, is that intelligence work improper for non-intelligence people to do? Policy people also can criticize the CIA. The inspector general, I think was simply wrong. He was saying something that if we followed his advice on this, you would not have skeptical examination of intelligence. It is a healthy thing that we did. The government should be doing more of it, and it is misguided that intelligence people should not be allowed to raise questions about Ė policy people should not be allowed to raise questions about intelligence.

CHADWICK: Douglas Feith, now a visiting professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington. Weíll sure hear more from you today, and thank you so much for coming back on ďDay to Day.Ē

FEITH: Good to talk to you.

(END)