If you missed 60 Minutes this weekend rest assured that they remain the same nest of anti-American terrorist-lovers, or whatever we call people with the temerity to criticize the president. An extended interview with Tyler Drumheller, a 26-year veteran of the agency and former director of European operations, uncovered at least two extremely interesting bits of information.
First, the most important prewar intelligence coup that you never heard about:
[T]he CIA had made a major intelligence breakthrough on Iraq’s nuclear program. Naji Sabri, Iraq’s foreign minister, had made a deal to reveal Iraq’s military secrets to the CIA. Drumheller was in charge of the operation.
“This was a very high inner circle of Saddam Hussein. Someone who would know what he was talking about,” Drumheller says.
Talk about credible sources. Did the White House know that we had such a high-placed informant? You bet:
According to Drumheller, CIA Director George Tenet delivered the news about the Iraqi foreign minister at a high-level meeting at the White House, including the president, the vice president and Secretary of State Rice.
At that meeting, Drumheller says, “They were enthusiastic because they said, they were excited that we had a high-level penetration of Iraqis.”
With every level of our administration on tenterhooks, the Iraqi foreign minister delivered his bombshell:
What did this high-level source tell him?
“He told us that they had no active weapons of mass destruction program,” says Drumheller.
If you guessed that our leaders’ “enthusiasm” would not survive having their preconceived notions contradicted, congratulations:
“The group that was dealing with preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they’re no longer interested,” Drumheller recalls. “And we said, ‘Well, what about the intel?’ And they said, ‘Well, this isn’t about intel anymore. This is about regime change.'”
“And if I understand you correctly, when the White House learned that you had this source from the inner circle of Saddam Hussein, they were thrilled with that,” Bradley asked.
“The first we heard, they were. Yes,” Drumheller replied.
Once they learned what it was the source had to say — that Saddam Hussein did not have the capability to wage nuclear war or have an active WMD program, Drumheller says, “They stopped being interested in the intelligence.”
Condoleeza Rice responded to the story by insisting that we had “other sources.” That’s right, we had Curveball.
There you have everything that you need to know about our leadership in one tidy anecdote. When they found out that we had turned the best-placed informant imaginable they practically soiled themselves in anticipation, until they heard what he had to say. Then his testimony suddenly seemed less interesting than the latest brain dropping from some serial-fabricating expatriate who couldn’t be bothered to keep his multiple stories straight.
When it came to promoting the Iraq war positive information couldn’t make it to the press fast enough. Pesky concepts like declassification and dissenting analysts just seemed to go up in smoke when pro-war leakmeisters like Judith Miller or your average stenographer at FOX came calling. Somehow negative information like Sabri’s testimony never received the same celebrity treatment.
CNN puts a finer point on it:
CBS said the White House declined to respond to the charge and that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said Sabri was just one source and therefore not reliable.
But Drumheller said it was not unusual for the administration to rely on single-source stories when those stories confirmed what the White House wanted to hear.
He cited a report the CIA received in late 2001 that alleged Iraq had bought 500 tons of uranium-containing compounds from Africa.
“They certainly took information that came from single sources on the yellowcake story and on several other stories with no corroboration at all,” he said.
The second important revelation from Sunday’s interview is that it was a revelation at all. As Josh Marshall points out we have had two major investigations into pre-war intelligence, one hand-picked by the president (the Robb-Silbermann commission) and one run Pat Roberts, whose shameless toadying embarrasses even the right-wing editorial board of the Wichita Eagle. It makes no sense that two separate commissions tasked with investigating prewar Iraq intelligence would both fail to mention America’s single most important intelligence coup from the prewar period. Either the respective chairmen of both commissions are mind-bogglingly stupid, or else the goal of illuminating took a backseat to covering up.
Josh Marshall confirmed that both commissions repeatedly interviewed Drumheller about Sabri, so stupid is not an option.
POSTCSCRIPT – can you guess which dishonest credibility smear Drumheller’s attackers will choose? As always the choices are Partisan Activist, Mentally Imbalanced, Disgruntled Ex-Employee and Promoting a Book.
Hint: he has a book coming out.