The Office of Special Plans, which existed from September, 2002, to June, 2003, was a Pentagon unit created by Donald Rumsfeld and led by Douglas Feith, dealing with intelligence on Iraq. An allegedly similar unit, called the Iranian Directorate, was created in 2006 to deal with intelligence on Iran.


A threat to US national security

In an interview with the Scottish Sunday Herald, former CIA officer Larry C. Johnson said the OSP was "dangerous for US national security and a threat to world peace. [The OSP] lied and manipulated intelligence to further its agenda of removing Saddam. It's a group of ideologues with pre-determined notions of truth and reality. They take bits of intelligence to support their agenda and ignore anything contrary. They should be eliminated." (Mackay, 2003)

Seymour Hersh writes that, according to an unnamed Pentagon adviser, "[OSP] was created in order to find evidence of what Wolfowitz and his boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, believed to be true—that Saddam Hussein had close ties to Al Qaeda, and that Iraq had an enormous arsenal of chemical, biological, and possibly even nuclear weapons that threatened the region and, potentially, the United States. [...] 'The agency [CIA] was out to disprove linkage between Iraq and terrorism,' the Pentagon adviser told me. 'That’s what drove them. If you’ve ever worked with intelligence data, you can see the ingrained views at C.I.A. that color the way it sees data.' The goal of Special Plans, he said, was 'to put the data under the microscope to reveal what the intelligence community can’t see.'" (Hersh, 2003)


Manipulation of intelligence

These allegations are supported by an annex to the first part of Senate intelligence committee's Report of Pre-war Intelligence on Iraq published in July 2004. The review, which was highly critical of the CIA's Iraq intelligence generally but found its judgments were right on the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship, suggests that the OSP, if connected to an "Iraqi intelligence cell" also headed by Douglas Feith which is described in the annexe, sought to discredit and cast doubt on CIA analysis in an effort to establish a connection between Saddam Hussein and terrorism. In one instance, in response to a cautious CIA report, "Iraq and al-Qa'eda: A Murky Relationship", the annexe relates that "one of the individuals working for the [intelligence cell led by Feith] stated that the June [2002] report, '...should be read for content only - and CIA's interpretation ought to be ignored.'" (Report, 2004)

In another instance, an "Iraqi intelligence cell" briefing to Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz in August 2002 condemned the CIA's intelligence assessment techniques and denounced the CIA's "consistent underestimation" of matters dealing with the alleged Iraq-al Qaeda co-operation. In September 2002, two days before the CIA's final assessment of the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship, Feith briefed senior advisers to Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice, undercutting the CIA's credibility and alleging "fundamental problems" with CIA intelligence-gathering. As reported in the conservative British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, "Senator Jay Rockefeller, senior Democrat on the [Senate] committee, said that Mr Feith's cell may even have undertaken 'unlawful' intelligence-gathering initiatives." (Coman, 2004)


Allegedly unlawful activities

Journalist Larisa Alexandrovna of The Raw Story reported in 2006 that the OSP "deployed several extra-legal and unapproved task force missions" in Iraq both before and after the beginning of combat. The teams operated independently of other special forces operations, occasionally causing confusion on the battlefield. The teams appear to have had a political rather than military mission; specifically, to find Iraqi intelligence officers willing come up with evidence of WMD in Iraq whether or not such weapons actually existed:

"They come in the summer of 2003, bringing in Iraqis, interviewing them," [a source close to the UN Security Council] said. "Then they start talking about WMD and they say to [these Iraqi intelligence officers] that 'Our President is in trouble. He went to war saying there are WMD and there are no WMD. What can we do? Can you help us?'"

According to the UN source, the intelligence officers did not cooperate with the OSP forces because they were aware that forged WMD evidence "would not pass the smell test and could be shown to be not of Iraqi origin and not using Iraqi methodology."


Indictment for espionage

Larry Franklin, an analyst and Iran expert in the Feith office, has been charged with espionage, as part of a larger FBI investigation (see AIPAC espionage scandal). Douglas Feith's role is also being investigated. Allegations have also been made that Pentagon employees in the Feith office have been involved in plans for overthrowing the governments of Iran and Syria.

When Former NSA Chief General Michael Hayden testified before the Senate Hearing on his nomination as Director of Central Intelligence in May 2006, he was questioned by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) on the pressure exerted by the Office of Special Plans on the intelligence community over the question of Saddam's links to al-Qaeda. Hayden explained that he was not comfortable with the OSP's analysis: "I got three great kids, but if you tell me go out and find all the bad things they've done, Hayden, I can build you a pretty good dossier, and you'd think they were pretty bad people, because that was I was looking for and that's what I'd build up. That would be very wrong. That would be inaccurate. That would be misleading." He also acknowledged that after "repeated inquiries from the Feith office" he put a disclaimer on NSA intelligence assessments of Iraq/al-Qaeda contacts.

 


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