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How Intelligent Is Intelligence?

Thursday, 12 June 2003 12:00 AM

Recent revelations have called into question the quality and accuracy of American and British intelligence employed as the principal justification for the invasion and pacification of Iraq, that is, the certainty of the presence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Most prominently, Bill O’Reilly, host of Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor,” obviously a man of unshakable faith and confidence, had counted upon the veracity of this information in promoting the hostilities that would lead to the Iraqi regime’s demise.

Definitely not a person to be hoodwinked, he frames the agenda of the important issues of the day for the American public. Rightly so, he is calling for clarification and has yet to be satisfied.

Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleezza Rice were interviewed on television this weekend. They confirmed their belief in CIA-coordinated intelligence information that had indicated the presence of WMD programs in Iraq.

Secretary Powell had been very definite about WMDs in his historic address to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003. He alluded to foreign intelligence sources but was not specific, most assuredly the result of security considerations.

Recent statements by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz have raised questions concerning the WMD intelligence and/or its significance. Surely taken out of context, he has been credited with characterizing it as “bureaucratic” justification for the war while affirming in Singapore on June 4 that Iraq was preferred for hostilities over North Korea because the former was awash in oil.

The situation appears more even more vexing in Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair’s crucial credibility having come under heavy attack.

The furor aroused gives confusing signals as to what intelligence really is. In my own experience, the general impression of intelligence being

One would have to have confidence in unnamed sources (and, perhaps, interpreters) from various countries to be able to act quickly. This is true also for

Naturally, the qualities of those evaluating intelligence ultimately are key. Also, the sources and their potential biases cannot be ignored. I believe totally without merit the notion that either our government or the British had any thought or design of deceiving us.

To conclude, from what has been stated thus far regarding the WMD intelligence, it seems clear that significant input from refugee organizations and third countries may have been involved. To reverse-paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, the utmost care must be taken to ensure that the

A Life Member of the National Defense Industrial Association, Louis V. Riggio, a professional linguist, is a former U.S. diplomat and international financial negotiator. Military service was with the U.S. Marines. He may be e-mailed at

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Recent revelations have called into question the quality and accuracy of American and British intelligence employed as the principal justification for the invasion and pacification of Iraq, that is, the certainty of the presence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Most...
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2003-00-12
Thursday, 12 June 2003 12:00 AM
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