[FOUNTAIN]Intelligence, lies and the war in Iraq

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[FOUNTAIN]Intelligence, lies and the war in Iraq

The war against Iraq is considered a triumph of 21st century intelligence warfare. The U.S. military and intelligence agencies used the latest devices to gather intelligence and surgically pinpoint targets.
But there was a loophole in U.S. intelligence gathering. The U.S. Wintelligence agencies excel in gathering signals and images, but the United States lacked human intelligence. It was especially hard for American agents to operate in a country like Iraq with a different culture and religion and a long history of autocratic rule.
To offset the sluggish field operations, the U.S. intelligence authorities found an alternative source of intelligence from refugees. Ahmed Chalabi, 59, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress, is the most notable pro-American exile.
In fact, Mr. Chalabi cannot be considered a political refugee, since he moved to the United States at age 13 with his father and then moved to Jordan. In 1990, a Jordanian court sentenced Mr. Chalabi to 22 years in prison on 31 counts of fraud and embezzlement, but he had already fled. That’s how Mr. Chalabi’s exile began. He was more of a fugitive than a political exile. But with the backing of the Central Intelligence Agency, he became the leader of Iraqi National Congress, a pro-American exile organization. Mr. Chalabi cleverly provided the neoconservatives with the information they wanted to hear. He made a grand return to Iraq in a private jet airplane.
A year later, no evidence of weapons of mass destruction has been found. Mr. Chalabi was revealed to be responsible for corruption and financial irregularities during the currency reform last year. He was also involved in kidnappings and assaults by his bodyguards. Cornered by the disclosures, he began criticizing the United States and agitated the Shiites.
Even the neoconservatives have given up on Mr. Chalabi. The White House decided to halt monthly payments to him on June 18. Two days later, Iraqi police searched his house.
On May 26, the New York Times ran an article, “The Times and Iraq,” written by its editors. The newspaper admitted that some of its articles had been based on sketchy, incomplete intelligence. There are more people out there who should look back and repent of their actions.

by Oh Byung-sang

The writer is the London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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