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Pentagon aide's prewar work faulted

A Defense report says the ex-official alleged links between Al Qaeda and Iraq that didn't reflect intelligence.

February 09, 2007|Julian E. Barnes | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — A Pentagon official who was a prime architect of Bush administration policies that led to the Iraq war presented policymakers with allegations of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda that did not accurately reflect the views of U.S. intelligence agencies, according to a Defense Department investigation disclosed Thursday by a senior Senate Democrat.

The report concluded that the official's actions were inappropriate, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said.

The report by the Pentagon's inspector general examined the activities of Douglas J. Feith, an influential undersecretary to former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld during the months leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. An unclassified summary of the report will be released today.

Its findings lend credence to charges by White House critics that Feith, who has since left the department, was out of line when he sought to discredit analyses by CIA intelligence officials that discounted alleged ties between Al Qaeda and then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Feith, in responding to the investigation, defended his actions and said he was pleased that the report found he had done nothing illegal.

'Alternative intelligence'

The report says that Feith's office "developed, produced and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and Al Qaeda relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the intelligence community."

The quote from the report was included in a statement released Thursday night by Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Levin also said the report found that Feith acted inappropriately, taking on a role that should have been reserved for the intelligence analysts.

The report is sure to add fuel to the controversy over President Bush's main justifications for overthrowing Hussein.

Before the invasion, Bush and other administration officials warned that Hussein had stockpiles of banned biological and chemical weapons and had ties to Al Qaeda terrorists.

The alleged caches of weapons have not been found, and the independent commission that investigated the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks found no evidence of a collaborative relationship between Hussein and Al Qaeda.

Levin has been highly critical of Feith in the past, saying he played a key role in helping Bush make a misleading case for war. In 2005, Levin requested the probe into Feith's activities.

In his statement, Levin called the inspector general's report "devastating," and said he was going to push for the full, classified version of the investigation to be made public.

Levin's committee will hold a hearing on the report today.

Rejecting criticism

In a statement, Feith said it "is good but not surprising" that the report found that his office's activities "were all legal and authorized" and that he and his aides "did not mislead Congress." But he took issue with the conclusion that his actions were inappropriate.

"I disagree with the inspector general's opinions here mainly because, if heeded, they would discourage policy officials from asking tough questions about the quality of CIA work," he said.

At the Pentagon, Feith created the Office of Special Plans, an organization that drafted plans for the war in Iraq. Feith has long rejected claims by critics that the office generated misleading intelligence.

Analysts in the Office of Special Plans believed that the CIA was ignoring links between Al Qaeda operatives and Iraq.

Feith resigned from the Pentagon in 2005 and teaches at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) said in a statement Thursday that his panel had never been informed of the activities of Feith's office.

"Individuals in that office produced and disseminated intelligence products outside of the regular intelligence channels," Rockefeller said. "These intelligence products were inconsistent with the consensus judgments of the intelligence community ... and as a result policymakers received distorted intelligence."

julian.barnes@latimes.com

Times staff writer Greg Miller contributed to this report.

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