Wednesday, May 24, 2006

# Posted 12:40 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DUELING INTERPRETATIONS: Kevin Drum and Dan McKivergan both read the same NYT story about failed US efforts to train the Iraqi police. Both Kevin and Dan, with no apparent coordination, picked up on the same strange detail that has only a tangential relationship to the story's main point:
Douglas J. Feith, then the Defense Department's under secretary for policy, said in an interview that the C.I.A.'s prewar assessment deemed Iraq's police professional, an appraisal that events proved "fundamentally wrong."

But Paul Gimigliano, a spokesman for the C.I.A., said the agency's assessment warned otherwise. "We had no reliable information on individual officers or police units," he said. The "C.I.A.'s written assessment did not judge that the Iraqi police could keep order after the war. In fact, the assessment talked in terms of creating a new force."

A copy of the document, which is classified, could not be obtained.
Both Kevin and Dan want to know why the heck this document isn't in the public domain at a time when so many other classified reports wind up on the front pages of the NYT or the WaPo. Dan writes:
Given the CIA's track record of selectively leaking material to bolster its image and tarnish that of the White House, I wonder why someone over there hasn't leaked this police document if the agency's assessment was so spot on.
Kevin writes:
If Doug Feith says it, it's a pretty good bet that exactly the opposite is the case. Still, why is this report classified? Surely this would be one of those cases that Scott McClellan told us about in which declassification would be in the public interest? Right?
I guess what we have here is trench warfare. CIA analysts figure that they have to leak because the administration will only declassify documents that make it look good. The administration only declassifies documents that make it look good because it figures that dissenters at the CIA are already determined to leak enough of the bad stuff.

Not really a system that's working, eh?
(5) opinions -- Add your opinion

"The administration only declassifies documents that make it look good because it figures that dissenters at the CIA are already determined to leak enough of the bad stuff."

What's your basis for this conclusion? Your imputation of motives of preventive and post facto self-defense to the administration is an enormous leap of logic.

There are so many more efficient explanations, such as that 'the administration declassifies documents for political expediency' or 'the administration declassifies documents when it deems it necessary to bolster US policies.'
Hi Dan! I'd say the difference between our positions isn't all that great. It sort of turns on whether the Bush White House would behave the same way regardless of whether the CIA, etc. leaked like a sieve. Where you see "leap[s] of logic", I see reasonable inference, albeit somewhat speculative.

There's definitely some merit to that point. There are no saints in the White House. But given that so much high-level information has leaked from the intelligence community -- clearly angering the White House -- I don't think you can discount defensive motives.

Now, there are arguments to be made that the leaks about NSA surveillance and secret European prisons were morally justifiable. But leaking is still highly illegal, so it isn't hard to see why the White House is defensive.
In reality, the US efforts to train the Iraqi police haven't "failed" because we're not done yet.

Besides, how is the low quality of Iraqi cops our fault? If Iraqi cops choose--of their own free will--to continue the Arab traditon of being corrupt, incompetent, violent, and unreliable, so be it. They're adults who are responsible for their own actions.

All we can do is what we've been doing: Provide opportuniies for them to do things differently.
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