Monday, August 4, 2008

Actually, It's Called Talking Out of Your Ass

The first thing that should grab you and shake you by your lapels when you read this is that Mr. Judis is quoting an "unnamed policy expert." That's like quoting the guy who says something profound before he falls off his barstool:
On the morning of the second day, one of the policy experts pulled me aside and told me that the night before over drinks, some CIA people had told him that they believed Iraq was behind the anthrax attacks. He was taken aback, and so was I, because we presumed they had access to information that might demonstrate this. I don’t who they were; I also don’t believe that the CIA itself was officially engaged in spreading rumors of this kind--most of CIA officialdom was very skeptical of the invasion--but I think it is possible that there was a network people who were promoting a theory about anthrax that helped make the case for war. They may have been unwittingly spreading mis-information that emanated from the perpetrator. Or they may have been winging it irresponsibly. It’s not clear, but I join those who believe that some kind of congressional investigation is in order.

No serious assessment of our intelligence agencies is going to happen until the Congressional leadership reshuffles after the election this Fall. Nothing is to be gained from any hearing chaired by Senator Jay Rockefeller, whose chairmanship has been a disaster. A serious assessment and change will actually begin when a new DNI, a new DIRNSA, a new head of the CIA, and most definitely a new head of the FBI can be chosen. The current bloc holding those positions are the stick in the eye of any progress that might come from having Congress yap to itself about what it thinks should be done. What's sad is that Michael Hayden could stay in place and still be marginalized and contained because his position has seen so much power erode over the last year.

The other problem with what Mr. Judis has to say is that he might have been listening to someone "talking out of their ass" and repeating something that, in early 2003, had been circulating since the Anthrax attacks:
During the last week of October, 2001, ABC News, led by Brian Ross, continuously trumpeted the claim as their top news story that government tests conducted on the anthrax -- tests conducted at Ft. Detrick -- revealed that the anthrax sent to Daschele contained the chemical additive known as bentonite. ABC News, including Peter Jennings, repeatedly claimed that the presence of bentonite in the anthrax was compelling evidence that Iraq was responsible for the attacks, since -- as ABC variously claimed -- bentonite "is a trademark of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program" and "only one country, Iraq, has used bentonite to produce biological weapons."

So much for the wisdom and insight of what a policy expert hears over drinks.


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