The Magazine

Feith Memo, Ralph de Toledano, and more

Classical programming returns to WETA.

Feb 19, 2007, Vol. 12, No. 22 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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The 'Feith Memo' Revisited

Much press attention was given last week to a report from the Department of Defense Inspector General. The IG report examined the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Douglas Feith, and its work on the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. In the fall of 2003, the office produced a 50-point bulleted list detailing contacts and cooperation between Iraq and al Qaeda. The document, first reported in this magazine ("Case Closed," by Stephen F. Hayes, November 24, 2003), became known as the "Feith Memo." Critics of the war are now celebrating the IG report both as a critique of the process by which Feith's office examined intelligence (it is that) and confirmation that there was no connection between Iraq and al Qaeda (it is not). As always, Michigan senator Carl Levin is dishonestly leading the charge.

The inspector general found that Feith's office engaged in alternative intelligence analysis (i.e., not emanating from the CIA) and deemed those activities "inappropriate." He's both right and wrong. As this magazine reported at the time, there is no question that the Feith shop was conducting analysis, their denials notwithstanding. But what's wrong with alternative analysis? As former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy asks in National Review:

What was so "inappropriate"? The people who actually had to fight the war had the audacity to conduct their own independent assessment of what we now know beyond cavil was the Intelligence Community's appallingly sparse and shoddy work. Feith and his unit engaged in critical thinking (can't have that!), and allegedly failed to register their disagreements in a fashion consistent with Intelligence Community protocols (i.e., the governing standards under which, in just the last two decades, the IC has missed the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the emergence of India as a nuclear power, etc.).

Or, as Feith himself put it: Of course his memo "varied from [the] consensus. It was a criticism of that consensus. That is why it was written."

Last week's IG report--or at least the unclassified executive summary--also challenges the Feith Memo on substance. The report says that the Feith office "did not provide 'the most accurate analysis of intelligence' to senior decisionmakers." Now seems like a good time to point out that the intelligence community itself did not provide the most accurate intelligence either. Remember the intelligence community consensus that Baathists and jihadists would not collaborate because of their ideological differences? That seems rather quaint given the daily, deadly Baathist-jihadist collaboration in Baghdad today.

What Carl Levin and others would have us believe is that because the Feith analysis deviated from that of the intelligence community, the Feith analysis was wrong and there was no connection between Iraq and al Qaeda. Some of the conclusions in the Feith Memo did not check out, as we suggested would happen from the beginning. But others are hard to explain away.

As Levin pushes to declassify the IG report, we hope he'll join our calls for declassification of a few other items.

* A document captured in postwar Iraq showing that the Iraqi regime harbored and financed Abdul Rahman Yasin, a key figure in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center.

* Transcripts of telephone intercepts from senior Iraqi intelligence officials reporting their support for al Qaeda affiliates in northern Iraq.

* Intelligence cited by the Clinton administration that Iraqi chemical weapons scientists were working with al Qaeda-linked Sudanese military officials in the 1990s.

* The FBI debriefing of Wali Khan Amin Shah, a senior al Qaeda operative in U.S. custody since 1995. He told the FBI that Abu Hajer al Iraqi, described by another al Qaeda member as Osama bin Laden's best friend, had a good relationship with Iraqi Intelligence.

The list goes on.

Welcome Back, WETA

It's almost two years now since our editors got up on their hind legs, climbed the pulpit, and denounced, with unwonted ferocity, the directors of WETA-FM, the public radio station that for 50 years had broadcast classical music to the culture-starved residents of the nation's capital. Suddenly, in February 2005, the directors had unilaterally decided to discontinue classical programming. In its place they began offering chat shows from the BBC and NPR round the clock, day after day. Just what the capital needed: more talk.