Monday, July 06, 2009

The Aluminum Tubes Fiasco in the Lead-Up to Iraq (I)

So currently I'm working on a project for the DIA that's forcing me to analyze some of the reasoning in the pre-invasion intelligence concerning the infamous aluminum tubes. One really helpful summary and analysis of that mess is in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence publication 108-301, Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Pre-War Intelligence Assessments on Iraq.

It's extremely interesting stuff. I sped through some of the report when it came out, but that's virtually valueless. Anyway, now I've spent a little time with it, and I just want to make one tiny little observation: the CIA, DIA, NGIC, INR, DOE, IAEA and a few other agencies all had at least something to say about the question of the aluminum tubes, but the DOE seems to have been head and shoulders above the others in its analysis of this issue.

In particular, the CIA seems to have relied very heavily on a couple of faulty propositions and conclusions. Perhaps most notably that there was no other known, reasonable use for the tubes other than in centrifuges. That is, in fact, a claim that repeatedly plays an important role in the reasoning about the tubes.

The DOE, however, was very clear from very early on about a few critical facts--that the tubes were poorly-suited for use in centrifuges, that they were incompatible with Iraq's known centrifuge technology, that they were perfectly suited for making rockets, that Iraq used rockets of that size (81mm), and that the tests that allegedly showed that the tubes were suitable for centrifuges were radically flawed.

So props to the DOE. Too bad their excellent analysis seems not to have been weighed as heavily as it ought to have been.


Blogger Jim Bales said...

WS writes
"So props to the DOE. Too bad their excellent analysis seems not to have been weighed as heavily as it ought to have been,"
as if the Bush administration had any interest in the facts. But, the Bushies were only interested in analyses that supported invading Iraq, for they had already decided to do so.

The DOE analysis was given zero weight because it did not come to the desired conclusion -- it's merits were irrelevant to Bush & Co.

An interesting question is: "To what degree did the other agencies shade their analyses (intentionally or not) to match the clear expectations of the White House?"

WS -- Does the report shed any light on this?

11:57 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Well, here's one thing of note:

"[A DOE] engineer told Committee staff he had initially expected that the CIA was coming to them for an objective opinion [about the probable intended use of the aluminum tubes] but believed the CIA analyst 'had an agenda' and was trying 'to bias us, to encourage us to come up with [the] answer," that the tubes were not intended to be used for a rocket program." (p. 103)

Nothing here about the White House thus far, though. But that's not the focus of this report.

12:59 PM  

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