The following editorial appeared in the Kansas City Star on Sunday, July 11:
CIA DESERVES SOME BLAME, BUT NOT ALL
In the thickets of espionage, good players must never lose their ability to question basic assumptions. Those assumptions must be subjected to periodic re-examination in light of new developments, fresh information and alternate hypotheses.
Like other organizations, however, intelligence agencies can suffer from bureaucratic inertia, lack of imagination and simple hostility to unconventional thinking.
Certainly these have been persistent problems in the U.S. intelligence system, and a new report from the Senate Intelligence Committee points again toward such problems in seeking to explain Washington's mistaken claims last year about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
The devastating indictment of the CIA work on Iraq: "group think.'' The intelligence committee, led by Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, says assumptions that Iraq had certain chemical and biological weapons tainted the analyses that went to the White House and Congress.
Dissenting voices were reportedly downplayed by CIA Director George Tenet, who had nominal responsibility for the entire U.S. intelligence system.
The Senate panel argues that money alone isn't the answer to the CIA's problems, which is true. For many years, in fact, American intelligence was a case study in the perils of excessive funding.
The Senate committee's lengthy report deserves careful consideration by the American public.
But with a presidential election approaching, it should also be remembered that the administration and its supporters want to divert blame for White House mistakes on Iraq.
The CIA and Tenet, who is leaving the agency, should not be used as all-purpose scapegoats for the "group think'' on Iraq that took place among President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and their other top advisers. They, too, had a responsibility to question their assumptions.
If the CIA work was skewed in a particular direction, it was in the direction that gave Bush and Cheney the answers they obviously wanted to hear.
Perhaps that's why the president in January _ even after American inspectors in Iraq had essentially given up hope of finding large stores of chemical and biological weapons _ was still expressing "great confidence'' in the U.S. intelligence system.
The administration wants to forget …