Pentagon Inspector General to release investigation into secretive pre-war Iraq intelligence group
Update: A source close to Senate Intelligence Committee says the Committee will now be receiving the classified version of the Pentagon's report on the Office of Special Plans Thursday evening, adding that the summary to be made public will be released Friday.
Former Undersecretary Feith says he hasnt seen report
A long awaited Pentagon Inspector General's report into the Office of Special Plans and its activities surrounding pre-war intelligence in the lead up to the Iraq war has been completed, RAW STORY has learned.
According to sources close to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the classified version of the Pentagon IG's report will be released to committee members Friday. Two to three declassified pages may also be concurrently released to the public.
A Senate aide on the committee, while not commenting on particular questions regarding the IG's report, confirmed that a major focal point involves former Deputy Undersecretary for Defense Policy Douglas Feith a keystone of the Administration's intelligence on Iraq and director of the notoriously secretive Pentagon Office of Special Plans from September 2002 to June 2003.
Feith announced his resignation in January 2005, a week after the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh accused him of working with Israeli officials to select potential targets for a preemptive Iran strike.
It remains unclear how objective the Inspector General's report will be, given that the Pentagon was tasked with investigating itself. It's also uncertain just how much light two to three declassified pages will shed on questions surrounding what many consider a rogue Pentagon intelligence unit created to feed the White House information favoring a case for war.
For his part, Feith says he has not been privy to the IG's findings.
I "haven't seen a copy of the IG report,"
Feith wrote in an email to RAW STORY in the early hours on Wednesday. "I requested a copy but the IG's office chose not to provide one."
Asked in a three point email about his thoughts on the Office of Special Plans, Feith who now teaches at the Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service responded, "I'll save my thoughts on question three for another time."
Repeated attempts to reach the IG's office in time for publication proved fruitless. In the past, the IG's office responded to questions by saying the IG was conducting a "review," not an "investigation."
Either way, the Pentagon has told the Senate Intelligence Committee to expect the report Friday.
Phase II of the Intelligence Committee's own investigation will likely be completed sometime this spring or summer.
Investigating pre-war Iraq intelligence
The Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation into Iraq intelligence failures was to be done in two phases. Phase I, which focused exclusively on the failures of the Central Intelligence Agency, was released in July 2004. However, Phase II, which looked into the Office of Special Plans, its members, and Bush Administration officials, remains largely incomplete.
The Phase II investigation was delayed in large part because the Pentagon specifically refused to address Feith's role and the Office's activities, stonewalling the Senate's efforts.
Even with a then-Republican Chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Defense Department attorneys were unwilling to cooperate. Instead of issuing subpoenas, however, Roberts asked the Pentagon Inspector General to conduct his own investigation.
The Pentagon's IG agreed to review the prewar intelligence activities relating to the Office of Special Plans, as well as Feith's particular role, in November 2005. One of two senators who requested the inquiry, Democratic Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), said the probe sought to ascertain whether Feith "provided a separate channel of intelligence, unbeknownst to the CIA, to the White House."
The Office of Special Plans
The report on the secretive Office of Special Plans and its coterie of controversial players is perhaps the most awaited section of the Phase II report.
Led by Feith, the group's members also included Larry Franklin, who pleaded guilty to leaking classified documents regarding Iran to a Washington-based Israeli lobby in 2005; prominent neoconservative and Iran-Contra intermediary Michael Ledeen; and Middle East expert Harold Rhode, who purportedly sought to purge the Pentagon of anyone opposing the group's hawkish Iraq agenda.
Another prominent member was Ahmed Chalabi, who headed up the Iraqi National Congress an Iraq opposition group created by the Rendon Group, a defense contractor for the U.S. military, after the first Gulf War.
Although he was wanted for embezzlement in Jordan and a suspected Iranian spy, the Administration presented Chalabi as a credible anti-Saddam leader. Chalabi was later found to be a primary source of bogus intelligence provided to the Pentagon and U.S. reporters, including Judith Miller, then writing for The New York Times.
The Office of Special Plans was created by then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. On an organizational level, Feith ran the operation, which then purportedly "cooked" and filtered intelligence that favored an Iraq invasion. More specifically, the OSP was tasked with finding intelligence that fit the administration's anti-Iraq policy and was treated as a favored and separate intelligence channel by the Office of the Vice President.
While the US intelligence community struggled to check a hawkish Executive Branch set on going to war, the OSP funneled questionable information directly to the White House, bypassing standard channels and operational procedures and deploying its own "off book teams" into the region without notifying special forces already on the ground.
A history of espionage allegations
Compounding concerns over a self-investigating Defense Department are a history of confessed and alleged espionage by members of the OSP.
A previous investigation by RAW STORY revealed an apparent "revolving door policy" at the Pentagon which allowed officials whose clearances had been revoked to return to powerful positions in US government.
Feith's access to classified information and any possible wrongdoing can likely be laid at the feet of more senior officials in the Bush Administration namely former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who would have been forced to overrule Pentagon background checks to reissue Feith's clearances after he was booted from the National Security Council for espionage allegations in the mid-1980s.
According to the Washington Post, Feith faced questioning in 2004 on allegations that he or other officials may have passed classified information to an Iraqi politician or a pro-Israeli lobby group.
Asked if he was still under investigation by the FBI or if he was cleared, Feith responded, "Still? There never was such an investigation."
Iran specialist Larry Franklin who worked directly under Feith pleaded guilty in 2005 to conspiracy to pass classified information to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a pro-Israeli lobby group, and illegal possession of national defense information. Feith has not been charged or accused of wrongdoing in the case.
In 1978, former Rumsfeld Deputy Paul Wolfowitz was investigated for allegedly passing a classified document on proposed US weapons sales to Israel through the same pro-Israeli lobby. The inquiry was later dropped. Wolfowitz now serves as president of the World Bank.
Wolfowitz, who at the time was working for the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, was brought into that position by conservative political adviser Richard Perle, who was also questioned in connection with the Franklin case.
A Bush appointee, Perle most recently served as chairman of the Pentagon Defense Policy Board but resigned his chairmanship after the Franklin case broke.
According to an FBI wiretap, Perle discussed classified information with the Israeli embassy when he was a foreign policy aide for Senator Henry M. Jackson in 1970; in 1978, the New York Times reported that he inappropriately accepted classified data from a CIA official, again as Jackson's aide.
Larisa Alexandrovna is the Managing Investigative News Editor for Raw Story and regularly reports on intelligence and national security matters. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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