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C.I.A. Chief Says He's Corrected Cheney Privately


It is art to "correct" an administration official as important as Cheney without being seen to disavow that same administration. Note that Tenet mentions a correction to a B-Team member, Doug Feith, who is a senior member of Rumsfeld's latest alternative to Langley's A-Team. While that must be a special treat, Tenet will no doubt do it gracefully. (B-Teams have been around at least since the 1970s, but for the purposes of this note, I refer to the current team.)

I have wondered how the B-Team came to such different conclusions, some better and some worse that CIA. This B-Team sees many sitting intel officers as constrained bureaucrats that cannot dissent from a 'mainstream' view. There are also a goodly number of what might be called neocons in this B-Team who bring a different strategic lens. But there must be more, I think. Feith has said that Rumsfeld is interested in the limits of future knowledge and the inability to make predictions: "His big strategic theme is uncertainty… The need to deal strategically with uncertainty. The inability to predict the future. The limits on our knowledge and the limits on our intelligence."

I have the impression that this need to accommodate a very imperfect predictor of the future allows in a wider array of threats -- not a bad idea in theory. I have seen comments to the fact that this team "looked at the same intelligence materials that the CIA reviewed for its assessment. But, in addition to looking at the "hard data" of intelligence itself, the commission members also studied significant "gaps" in U.S. intelligence collection capabilities." One would think that Langley also does that but the B-Team disagrees. I agree with their concern as to whether US intel collection is adequate to the task of detecting an ongoing weapons program in the future. We did, after all, miss the Iranian, Libyan, and for a long time, the Pakistani and Iraqi progress. I would tend to put that on the A-Team and, it might be fair to say, a series of administrations that directed them.

I get the feeling that the B-Team also shifts to the more dire end of the spectrum -- again, not a bad idea as it is too easy to underestimate an adversary. Yet the B-Team absorbed the entirety of Ahmed Chalabi' grossly optimistic predictions of a docile, grateful postwar Iraq and dismissed a very different opinion from State so they are no better than the A-Team in believing what they wish to be true. It would also appear that DoD and the B-Team ignored a body of research that would have eased the current post-conflict condition. (Post-conflict is fourth phase of the US military model, preceded by deterrence and engagement, seize the initiative, and decisive operations. Army doctrine states that post-conflict planning has to start well before what the lay reader calls the war itself, i.e., decisive operations.) I put that down on the B-Team.

The early evidence indicates that A-Team assets focused through the third phase, decisive operations, while the B-Team had the fourth phase, post-conflict. If that is true, I put that down on both teams. My jury is still out but it is fair to say that I am as interested in the processes of discovery and analysis of the A and B Teams as I am in their divergent conclusions:

C.I.A. Chief Says He's Corrected Cheney Privately
March 10, 2004
New York Times

Gordon Housworth

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