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Key Events

Key events related to DSM (56)

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Alleged al-Qaeda ties (83)
Politicization of intelligence (80)
Pre-9/11 plans for war (34)
Weapons inspections (122)
Alleged WMDs (99)
The decision to invade (104)
Internal opposition (29)
Motives (53)
Pre-war planning (30)
Predictions (19)
Legal justification (96)
Propaganda (23)
Public opinion on Iraqi threat (13)
Diversion of Resources to Iraq (8)
Pre-war attacks against Iraq (18)

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Aluminum tubes allegation (59)
Office of Special Plans
Africa-uranium allegation (95)
Prague Connection (24)
Al Zarqawi allegation (10)
Poisons And Gases (5)
Drones (4)
Biological weapons trailers (18)

Specific cases and issues

Spying on the UN (8)
Outing of Jose Bustani (13)
Powells Speech to UN (13)
Chalabi and the INC (63)

Quotes from senior US officials

Chemical and biological weapons allegations (23)
Imminent threat allegations (5)
Iraq ties to terrorist allegations (15)
Nuclear weapons allegations (29)
WMD allegations (9)
Democracy rhetoric (33)
Decision to Invade quotes (16)
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Events leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq: Office of Special Plans and other Pentagon offices under Douglas Feith

 
  

Project: Inquiry into the decision to invade Iraq

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2001-2003

       The US intelligence community—most notably the intelligence gatherers working in the Pentagon offices under Douglas Feith (see September 2002) —bases several of its intelligence assessments concerning Iraq on information offered by the Iraqi National Congress (INC) and by Iraqi defectors provided by the INC, despite warnings from the State Department and some CIA analysts that the lobbying group cannot be trusted. [Mother Jones, 1/04; Independent, 9/30/03; New Yorker, 5/5/03; Guardian, 7/17/03; Salon, 7/16/03; Inter Press Service, 8/7/03 Sources: Greg Thielmann, Unnamed administration official] The INC's primary intelligence organization is its Information Collection Program (ICP), which conducts about 20 percent of all US intelligence's verbal debriefings of Iraqi prisoners, insurgents, and defectors. [Bamford, 2004, pp 336-337] Some of the INC's intelligence on Iraq is reportedly funneled directly to the office of Vice President Dick Cheney by Francis Brooke, the DC lobbyist for the group. [Newsweek, 12/15/03 Sources: Francis Brooke, Memo] Brooke will later acknowedge that the information provided by the INC was driven by an agenda. “I told them [the INC], as their campaign manager, ‘Go get me a terrorist and some WMD, because that's what the Bush administration is interested in.’ ” [Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pg 230] Brooke had previously worked for the Rendon Group, “a shadowy CIA-connected public-relations firm.” [Mother Jones, 1/04]
People and organizations involved: Douglas Feith, Frank Gaffney, Francis Brooke, Richard ("Dick") Cheney  Additional Info 
          

Shortly after January 20, 2001

       Shortly after George W. Bush is inaugurated, “[k]ey personnel, long-time civilian professionals” at the Pentagon's Near East South Asia (NESA) desk are moved or replaced with people from neoconservative think tanks. [Mother Jones, 1/04; American Conservative, 12/1/03 Sources: Karen Kwiatkowski] Joe McMillan, the Office Director, is moved to a new location outside of the Pentagon, which according to Karen Kwiatkowski, who works at the NESA desk, is odd because “the whole reason for the Office Director being a permanent civilian (occasionally military) professional is to help bring the new appointee up to speed, ensure office continuity, and act as a resource relating to regional histories and policies.” [Mother Jones, 1/04; Salon, 3/10/04; American Conservative, 12/1/03 Sources: Karen Kwiatkowski] Larry Hanauer, who has long been at the Israel-Syria-Lebanon desk and who is known to be “even-handed with Israel,” is replaced by David Schenker of the Washington Institute. [Mother Jones, 1/04; American Conservative, 12/1/03 Sources: Karen Kwiatkowski] Other veteran NESA employees who are banished include James Russell, who has served as the country director for Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, and Marybeth McDevitt, the country director for Egypt. [Mother Jones, 1/04]
People and organizations involved: Marybeth McDevitt, James Russell, Joe McMillan, Larry Hanauer, David Schenker  Additional Info 
          

September 11, 2001

       Seven members of Donald Rumsfeld's so-called neocon “brain trust,” including Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith and William Luti, head of the Pentagon's Near Eastern and South Asian desk, are “busy on unrelated missions in Europe and the Middle East.” They return to Washington the next day (see September 12, 2001). [Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pp 234 Sources: William Luti, Douglas Feith]
People and organizations involved: William Luti, Douglas Feith
          

Shortly after September 11, 2001

       Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith and Middle East specialist Harold Rhode recruit David Wurmser, the director of Middle East studies for the American Enterprise Institute, to serve as a Pentagon consultant. Wurmser is a known advocate of regime change in Iraq, having expressed his views in a 1997 op-ed piece published in the Wall Street Journal (see November 12, 1997) and having participated in the drafting of a 1996 policy paper for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm” (see July 8, 1996). Wurmser works at Feith's office, where he and F. Michael Maloof, a former aide to Richard Perle, head a secret intelligence unit, named the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group, or the “Wurmser-Maloof” project. Neither Wurmser nor Maloof are intelligence professionals. The four- to five- person unit, a “B Team” commissioned by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, uses powerful computers and software to scan and sort already-analyzed documents and reports from the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and other agencies in an effort to consider possible interpretations and angles of analysis that these agencies may have missed due to deeply ingrained biases and out-of-date worldviews. [New York Times, 10/24/02; Los Angeles Times, 2/8/04; Reuters, 2/19/04; Mother Jones, 1/04; Washington Times, 1/14/02] The Pentagon unit's activities cause tension within the traditional intelligence community. Critics claim that its members manipulate and distort intelligence, “cherry-picking” bits of information that fit their preconceived conclusions. “There is a complete breakdown in the relationship between the Defense Department and the intelligence community, to include its own Defense Intelligence Agency,” a defense official will tell the New York Times. “Wolfowitz and company disbelieve any analysis that doesn't support their own preconceived conclusions. The CIA is enemy territory, as far are they're concerned.” [New York Times, 10/24/02 Sources: Unnamed defense official] Defending the project, Paul Wolfowitz will tell the New York Times that the team's purpose is to circumvent the problem “in intelligence work, that people who are pursuing a certain hypothesis will see certain facts that others won't, and not see other facts that others will.” He insists that the special Pentagon unit is “not making independent intelligence assessments.” [New York Times, 10/24/02] One of the cell's projects includes sorting through existing intelligence to create a map of relationships demonstrating links between militant Islamic groups and state powers. This chart of links, which they name the “matrix,” leads the intelligence unit to conclude that Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and other groups with conflicting ideologies and objectives are allowing these differences to fall to the wayside as they discover their shared hatred of the US. The group's research also leads them to believe that al-Qaeda has a presence in such places as Latin American. For weeks, the unit will attempt to uncover evidence tying Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 attacks, a theory advocated by both Feith and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. [Mother Jones, 1/04; Los Angeles Times, 2/8/04; Washington Times, 1/14/02] The group is later accused of stovepiping intelligence directly to the White House. Former DIA chief of Mideast operations, Pat Lang, later tells the Washington Times: “That unit had meetings with senior White House officials without the CIA or the Senate being aware of them. That is not legal. There has to be oversight.” According to Lang and another US intelligence official, the two men go to the White House several times to brief officials, bypassing CIA analysts whose analyses they disagreed with. They allegedly brief White House staffers Stephen Hadley, the deputy national security adviser, and Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Richard Cheney, according to congressional staffers. [Washington Times, 7/29/2004] According to unnamed Pentagon and US intelligence officials, the group is also accused of providing sensitive CIA and Pentagon intercepts to the US-funded Iraqi National Congress, which then passed them on to the government of Iran. [Washington Times, 7/29/2004] David Wurmser will later be relocated to the State Department where he will be the senior advisor to Undersecretary Of State for Arms Control John Bolton.(see September 2002). [American Conservative, 12/1/03; Mother Jones, 1/04]
People and organizations involved: Stephen Hadley, Lewis ("Scooter") Libby, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser, Harold Rhode, Richard Perle, F. Michael Maloof, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz
          

September 12, 2001

       Seven members of Donald Rumsfeld's so-called neocon “brain trust,” meet at an airport in Frankfurt, Germany where they are picked up by an Air Force refueling plane which brings them back to Washington. During the flight they discuss the implications of the 911 attacks for US foreign policy. [Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pp 234 Sources: William Luti, Douglas Feith] “Right there on the plane, we took out our laptops and sketched out for Secretary Rumsfeld where we thought we had to go, what it meant to get things on a war footing,” William Luti will tell Vanity Fair magazine. “Obviously we had Afghanistan on our minds straightaway. That was our immediate concern. But we also thought we had to learn about the terrorist networks, how they connected to he states.” They arrive at Andrews Air Force base a few minutes after five in the afternoon. [Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pp 234]
People and organizations involved: Douglas Feith, William Luti
          

September 20, 2001

       Douglas Feith suggests in a draft memo [Washington Post, 8/7/2004] that the US should consider “hitting terrorists outside the Middle East in the initial offensive, perhaps deliberately selecting a non-al-Qaeda target like Iraq.” Other regions he proposes attacking include South America and Southeast Asia. He reasons that an initial attack against such targets would “surprise ... the terrorists” and catch them off guard. [Newsweek, 8/8/2004 Sources: 9/11 Commission Report] According to Newsweek, the content of Feith's memo derives from the work of the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group (see Shortly after September 11, 2001), a project headed by Michael Maloof and David Wurmser. The group suggested that an attack on the remote Triborder region, where Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil meet and where Iranian-backed Hezbollah is said to have a presence, would have a ripple effect among international Islamic militant groups. [Newsweek, 8/8/2004] Feith later says his memo merely expands upon ideas put forth by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a memo (see September 19, 2001) the secretary wrote the day before to Gen. Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. [Washington Post, 8/7/2004] The logic behind proposing strikes against targets outside of the Middle East, Feith says, was based on the need to “cast a wide net” and achieve “additional objectives,” such as creating fissures in the enemy network, highlighting “the global nature of the conflicts,” showing “seriousness of US military purpose,” and demonstrating that the “war would not be limited geographically to Afghanistan.” [Washington Post, 8/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: F. Michael Maloof, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser
          

December 9, 2001

       The Bush administration sends two defense officials, Harold Rhode and Larry Franklin, to meet with Iranians in Rome in response to an Iranian government offer to provide information relevant to the war on terrorism. The offer had been backchanneled by the Iranians to the White House through Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian arms trader and a central person in the Iran-Contra affair, who contacted another Iran-Contra figure, Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute. Ledeen passed the information on to his friends in the Defense Department who then relayed the offer to National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. Hadley expressed no reservations about the proposed meeting and informed George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, and Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage. According to officials interviewed by the New York Times, the United States Embassy in Rome was not notified of the planned meeting as required by standard interagency procedures. Neither the US embassy nor CIA station chief in Rome learns of the three-day meeting until after it happens (see December 12, 2001). When they do catch wind of the meeting, they notify CIA and State Department headquarters in Washington which complain to the administration about how the meetings were arranged. [Washington Post, 8/9/03; New York Times, 12/7/03; Newsday, 8/9/03] In addition to Ghorbanifar, Ledeen, Franklin, and Rhode, the meeting is attended by Nicolo Pollari, head of SISMI, and Antonio Martino, Italy's minister of defense. [Washington Monthly, 9/2004] According to the Boston Globe, either at this meeting, a similar one in June (see June 2002), or both, Ledeen and Ghorbanifar discuss ways to destabilize the Iranian government, possibly using the Mujahedeen-e Khalq, a US-designated terrorist group, as a US proxy. [Boston Globe, 8/31/2004] Additionally, according to an unnamed SISMI source, Pollari speaks with Ledeen about intelligence his agency has collected (see October 15, 2001) suggesting that Iraq made a deal with Niger to purchase several tons of uranium. SISMI already sent a report to Washington on the matter in mid-October (see October 15, 2001). Reportedly, Pollari has also approached CIA Station Chief Jeff Castelli about the report, but Castelli has since indicated he is not interested in the information. [La Repubblica, 10/25/2005]
People and organizations involved: Antonio Martino, Harold Rhode, Larry Franklin, Michael Ledeen, Manucher Ghorbanifar, Nicolo Pollari, George Tenet, Harold Rhode, Stephen Hadley
          

December 12, 2001

       The newly-installed US ambassador to Italy, Mel Sembler, learns during the course of a private dinner with Iran-Contra figure Michael Ledeen and Italian defense minister Antonio Martino about a secret backchannel meeting that took place three days before (see December 2001) involving US defense officials, former Iran-Contra figures, and Iranian government officials. After the dinner, Sembler immediately contacts the CIA station chief in Rome to find out if he knows about the meeting. But the station chief says he does not know anything either. “Soon both Sembler and the Rome station chief were sending anxious queries back to the State Department and CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., respectively, raising alarms on both sides of the Potomac” since all US government contact with foreign government intelligence agencies is supposed to be overseen by the CIA. [Washington Monthly, 9/2004 Sources: Unnamed US Government sources]
People and organizations involved: Michael Ledeen, Mel Sembler, Antonio Martino
          

Early January 2002

       Harold Rhode, a specialist on Islam who speaks Hebrew, Arabic, Turkish, and Farsi, moves into the Pentagon Office of Net Assessment, “an in-house Pentagon think tank” run by Andrew Marshall. Rhode, along with Douglas Feith, whose appointment to Undersecretary of Defense for Policy is not approved until July, imposes a new anti-Iraq and anti-Arab orientation on the department. The two men purge the department of career Defense officials whose worldviews are not considered sufficiently compatible with the neoconservative perspective. An intelligence analyst will tell reporter Robert Dreyfuss that Rhode appeared to be “pulling people out of nooks and crannies of the Defense Intelligence Agency and other places to replace us with.” The source adds: “They wanted nothing to do with the professional staff. And they wanted us the f_ck out of there.” [Mother Jones, 1/04]
People and organizations involved: Harold Rhode, Andrew Marshall
          

Early 2002

       DIA reservist and Penn-State political-science professor Chris Carney takes over the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group (see Shortly after September 11, 2001). [Vanity Fair, 5/04, pg 238]
People and organizations involved: Chris Carney
          

Early 2002

       Bruce Hardcastle, the Defense Intelligence Agency officer assigned to Bill Luti, provides Luti's office with intelligence briefings. But his reports are not appreciated by Luti or his colleagues, because they do not support neoconservatives' assumptions about Iraq's weapon capabilities and terrorist activities. [Salon, 3/10/04 Sources: Paul O'Neill]
People and organizations involved: William Luti, Bruce Hardcastle
          

2002-2003

       The Bush administration develops plans for post-war Iraq. But the process is plagued with infighting between a small, highly secretive group of planners in the Pentagon and experts at the CIA and State Department who are involved with the “Future of Iraq Project” (see April 2002-March 2003). The two opposing groups disagree on a wide range of topics, but it is the Pentagon group which exerts the strongest influence on the White House's plans (see Fall 2002) for administering post-Saddam Iraq. One State Department official complains to The Washington Post in October 2002 “that the Pentagon is seeking to dominate every aspect of Iraq's postwar reconstruction.” The group of Pentagon planners includes several noted neoconservatives who work in, or in association with, the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans (see September 2002) and the Near East/South Asia bureau. The planners have close ties to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), two think tanks with a shared vision of reshaping the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East in favor of US and Israeli interests. The Pentagon planning group “had a visionary strategy that it hoped would transform Iraq into an ally of Israel, remove a potential threat to the Persian Gulf oil trade and encircle Iran with US friends and allies,” Knight Ridder Newspapers will later observe. The group's objectives put it at odds with planners at the CIA and State Department whose approach and objectives are much more prudent. The Pentagon unit works independently of the CIA and State Department and pays little attention to the work of those two agencies. Critics complain that the group is working in virtual secrecy and evading the scrutiny and oversight of others involved in the post-war planning process by confining their inter-agency communications to discussions with their neoconservative colleagues working in other parts of the government. The Pentagon planners even have a direct line to the office of Dick Cheney where their fellow neoconservative, Lewis Libby, is working. [Knight Ridder, 7/12/03; Washington Post, 4/2/03; Associated Press, 11/12/02] In the fall of 2002, the various groups involved in planning for post-war Iraq send their recommendations to the White House's Executive Steering Committee, which reviews their work and then passes on its own recommendations to the cabinet heads (see Fall 2002). According to a July 2003 report by Knight Ridder Newspapers, the ultimate responsibility for deciding the administration's post-war transition plans lay with Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. [Knight Ridder, 7/12/03]
The Office of Special Plans -

The civilian planners at the Pentagon believe that the UN should exert no influence over the structure, make-up, or policy of the interim Iraqi post-Saddam government. They seek to limit the UN's role to humanitarian and reconstruction projects, and possibly security. The State Department, however, believes that the US will not be able to do it alone and that UN participation in post-Saddam Iraq will be essential. [Observer, 4/6/03; Los Angeles Times, 4/2/03]

The Pentagon group wants to install Ahmad Chalabi, the controversial Iraqi exile leader of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), as leader of post-Saddam Iraq. [Knight Ridder, 7/12/03; American Prospect, 5/1/03 Sources: Richard Perle]
The group thinks that the Iraqis will welcome Chalabi, who claims he has a secret network inside and outside the Ba'ath government which will quickly fill in the power vacuum to restore order to the country. Chalabi is a notorious figure who is considered untrustworthy by the State Department and CIA and who has a history of financial misdealings. [Knight Ridder, 7/12/03] But the Pentagon is said to be enamored with Chalabi “because he [advocates] normal diplomatic relations with Israel” which they believe will “‘ [take] off the board’ one of the only remaining major Arab threats to Israeli security.” Another geopolitical benefit to installing Chalabi is that he can help the US contain “the influence of Iran's radical Islamic leaders in the region, because he would ... [provide] bases in Iraq for US troops,” which would “complete Iran's encirclement by American military forces around the Persian Gulf and US friends in Russia and Central Asia.” [Knight Ridder, 7/12/03 Sources: Unnamed Bush administration official] Danielle Pletka, vice president of the American Enterprise Institute, with close ties to the Pentagon's planning group, tells Robert Dreyfuss of American Prospect Magazine that the State Department's perception of Chalabi is wrong. “The [Defense Department] is running post-Saddam Iraq,” said Pletka, almost shouting. “The people at the State Department don't know what they are talking about! Who the hell are they? ... the simple fact is, the president is comfortable with people who are comfortable with the INC.” [American Prospect, 5/1/03]
The Pentagon's planning unit believes that the Iraqis will welcome US troops as liberators and that any militant resistance will be short-lived. They do not develop a contingency plan for persistent civil unrest. [Knight Ridder, 7/12/03]
However the State Department's “Future of Iraq” planning project is more prudent, noting that Iraqis will likely be weary of US designs on their country. [New York Times, 10/19/03]
The Pentagon planners believe that Iraq's oil reserves—estimated to contain some 112 billion barrels of oil—should be used to help fund the reconstruction of Iraq. They also advocate a plan that would give the US more control over Iraq's oil. “[The Pentagon] hawks have long argued that US control of Iraq's oil would help deliver a second objective,” reports the Observer. “That is the destruction of OPEC, the oil producers' cartel, which they argue is ‘evil’—that is, incompatible with American interests.” The State Department, however, believes such aggressive policies will surely infuriate Iraqis and give credence to suspicions that the invasion is motivated by oil interests. One critic of the plan says “that only a puppet Iraqi government would acquiesce to US supervision of the oil fields and that one so slavish to US interests risks becoming untenable with Iraqis.” [Insight, 12/28/02; Observer, 11/3/02]

People and organizations involved: American Enterprise Institute, Project for the New American Century, Ahmed Chalabi, Donald Rumsfeld, Danielle Pletka, Condoleezza Rice  Additional Info 
          

(May 2002-February 2003)

       Karen Kwiatkowski escorts about half a dozen Israelis, including some generals, from the first floor reception area of the Pentagon to Douglas Feith's office. “We just followed them, because they knew exactly where they were going and moving fast,” she later explains. The Israelis are not required to sign in as is required under special regulations put into effect after the Sept. 11 attacks. Kwiatkowski speculates that Feith's office may have waived this requirement for the Israelis so that there would be no record of the meeting. [Inter Press Service, 8/7/03 Sources: Karen Kwiatkowski]
          

June 2002

       In Paris, an unnamed Pentagon official (either Harold Rhode or Larry Franklin) meets with Manucher Ghorbanifar (Ghorbanifar says he did not attend this meeting [Washington Monthly, 9/2004] ), an Iranian arms trader who had been a central figure in the Iran-Contra affair. [Washington Post, 8/9/03; New York Times, 12/7/03] Though an unnamed senior Defense official claims the meeting resulted from “an unplanned, unscheduled encounter,” [Washington Post, 8/9/03] Ghorbanifar later tells the Washington Monthly that “he arranged that meeting after a flurry of faxes between himself and DoD official Harold Rhode.” According to Ghorbanifar, an Egyptian and an Iraqi are present at the meeting and brief the Pentagon official about the general situation in Iraq and the Middle East, and what would happen in Iraq if the US were to invade. [Washington Monthly, 9/2004] But other reports will suggest that Ledeen and Ghorbanifar may have discussed US collaboration with the Mujahedeen-e Khalq, a US-designated terrorist group, as a means to destabilize the Iranian regime. [Boston Globe, 8/31/2004] The meeting, which took place without White House approval, was preceded by a similar meeting involving Pentagon officials and Ghorbanifar that took place seven months earlier (see December 2001). [Washington Post, 8/9/03] When Secretary of State Colin Powell learns of the meeting, he complains directly to Condoleezza Rice and the office of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. [Newsday, 8/9/03; Washington Post, 8/9/03]
People and organizations involved: Harold Rhode, Larry Franklin, Manucher Ghorbanifar, Colin Powell, Michael Ledeen
          

June 26, 2002

       Entifadh Qunbar, a lobbyist for the Iraqi National Congress (INC), sends a memo to the staff of the Senate Appropriations Committee, in which he provides information about a State Department-funded intelligence program, known as the “information-collection program,” run by the INC. Qunbar, who says he is the overall manager of the group, states in the memo that under the program, “defectors, reports and raw intelligence are cultivated and analyzed,” and “the results are reported through the INC newspaper (Al Mutamar), the Arabic and Western media and to appropriate governmental, nongovernmental and international agencies.” Information is also passed on to William Luti, who will later run the Office of Special Plans (see September 2002), and John Hannah, a senior national-security aide on Cheney's staff, who Qunbar describes as the “principal point of contact.” [Newsweek, 12/15/03; New York Times, 2/12/04 Sources: Memo] The memo provides a description of some of the people involved in the group and their activities. It says that the analytical group includes five analysts with a background in Iraq's military, Iraq's intelligence services and human rights. One person, a consultant, monitors the Iraqi government's alleged efforts to develop banned weapons. The five analysts process information and write reports, which are sent to Al Mutamar, the INC's newspaper, as well as the US government and many mainstream news organizations. Qunbar says that the information-collection program issued 30 reports between August 2001 and June 2002, which were sent to Al Mutamar. According to the memo, the group published 28 private reports in collaboration with the INC's headquarters in London. The memo reveals that between October 2001 and May 2002, information provided by the INC was cited in 108 articles published by a variety of English-language news publications, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, the New Yorker, CNN, Fox News, and several others. [New Yorker, 6/7/2004; New York Times, 2/12/04 Sources: Memo]
People and organizations involved: Richard ("Dick") Cheney, Entifadh Qanbar, Memo, Iraqi National Congress
          

July 2002

       Michael Ledeen contacts Mel Sembler, the US ambassador to Italy, and informs him that he will be traveling to Rome again (see December 2001) to continue “his work” with the Iranians. Sembler passes this on to Washington, and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley sends word to Ledeen reminding him that he is not to deal with the Iranians. [Washington Monthly, 9/2004]
People and organizations involved: Mel Sembler, Michael Ledeen, Stephen Hadley
          

August 2002

       The Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group, also know as the “Wurmser-Maloof” project, which had been formed shortly after the September 11 attacks (see Shortly after September 11, 2001), is disbanded. [Reuters, 2/19/04]
          

August 2002

       Defense Intelligence Agency [DIA] reservist and Penn-State political-science professor Chris Carney and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith give two presentations on Iraq's alleged ties to al-Qaeda to the CIA at the agency's Langley headquarters. CIA analysts are not impressed, having seen much of the information before and having already determined that it was not credible. Some of the information will nevertheless be included in speeches by Bush and in testimony by Tenet to Congress. The information is also put into a classified memo to the Senate Intelligence Committee by Feith, which is later leaked to the Weekly Standard, a neoconservative magazine. [Vanity Fair, 5/04, pg 238]
People and organizations involved: Douglas Feith, Chris Carney, US Congress
          

(August 2002)

       Pentagon officials working in the Office of Special Plans visit George Tenet at CIA headquarters under the direction of Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith to voice their objections to the final draft of a CIA assessment on Iraq's supposed links to militant Islamic groups. The officials disputed the report's conclusion that intelligence suggesting an alleged April 2001 Prague meeting between Mohammed Atta and Iraqi diplomat Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani (see 1999) was not credible. As a result of Pentagon officials' objections, the CIA's assessment is postponed until September 18. Tenet will later say he “didn't think much of” the briefing. [Newsweek, 7/19/04; Telegraph, 7/11/04]
People and organizations involved: George Tenet
          

September 2002

       Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, adamant hawks, rename the Northern Gulf Affairs Office on the Pentagon's fourth floor (in the seventh corridor of D Ring) the “Office of Special Plans” (OSP) and increase its four-person staff to sixteen. [Mother Jones, 1/04; Tom Paine [.com], 8/27/03; Inter Press Service, 8/7/03; American Conservative, 12/1/03; New Yorker, 5/5/03; Los Angeles Times, 11/24/02; Knight Ridder Newspapers, 8/16/02 Sources: Unnamed administration official, Karen Kwiatkowski, Greg Thielmann] William Luti, a former navy officer and ex-aide to Vice President Cheney, is put in charge of the day-to-day operations. [Guardian, 7/17/03; Mother Jones, 1/04] The Office of Special Plans is staffed with a tight group of like-minded neoconservative ideologues, who are known advocates of regime change in Iraq. Notably, the staffers have little background in intelligence or Iraqi history and culture. [American Conservative, 12/1/03; Inter Press Service, 8/7/03; Salon, 7/16/03; Mother Jones, 1/04 Sources: A Pentagon adviser, Karen Kwiatkowski, Greg Thielmann] Some of the people associated with this office were earlier involved with the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group, also known as the “Wurmser-Maloof” project (see Shortly after September 11, 2001). They hire “scores of temporary ‘consultants’ ... including like-minded lawyers, congressional staffers, and policy wonks from the numerous rightwing think-tanks in the US capital.” Neoconservative ideologues, like Richard Perle and Newt Gingrich, are afforded direct input into the Office of Special Plans. [Guardian, 7/17/03; Mother Jones, 1/04] The office works alongside the Near East and South Asia (NESA) bureau, also under the authority of Douglas Feith [Inter Press Service, 8/7/03; Mother Jones, 1/04 Sources: Karen Kwiatkowski] The official business of Special Plans is to help plan for post-Saddam Iraq. The office's staff members presumably “develop defense policies aimed at building an international coalition, prepare the secretary of defense and his top deputies for interagency meetings, coordinate troop-deployment orders, craft policies for dealing with prisoners of war and illegal combatants, postwar assistance and reconstruction policy planning, postwar governance, Iraqi oil infrastructure policy, postwar Iraqi property disputes, war crimes and atrocities, war-plan review and, in their spare time, prepare congressional testimony for their principals.” [Insight, 12/2/03] But according to numerous well-placed sources, the office becomes a source for many of the administration's prewar allegations against Iraq. It is accused of exaggerating, politicizing, and misrepresenting intelligence, which is “stovepiped” to top administration officials who use the intelligence in their policy decisions on Iraq. [Telegraph, 7/11/04; Mother Jones, 1/04; CNN, 7/11/04; Tom Paine [.com], 8/27/03; Knight Ridder Newspapers, 8/16/02; Los Angeles Times, 11/24/02; American Conservative, 12/1/03; New Yorker, 5/5/03; Inter Press Service, 8/7/03 Sources: Karen Kwiatkowski, Greg Thielmann, Unnamed administration official] There are very few news reports in the American mainstream media that report on the office. In fact, the office is reportedly Top Secret. [Bamford, 2004, pp 308] “We were instructed at a staff meeting that this office was not to be discussed or explained,” OSP staffer Karen Kwiatkowski will later say, “and if people in the Joint Staff, among others, asked, we were to offer no comment.” [American Conservative, 12/1/03] Colin Powell is said to have felt that Cheney and the neoconservatives in this “Gestapo” office had established what was essentially a separate government. [Woodward, 2004 cited in Washington Post 1/18/04 Sources: Top officials interviewed by Washington Post editor Bob Woodward] Among the claims critics find most troubling about the office are:
The office relies heavily on accounts from Iraqi exiles and defectors associated with Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress (INC), long considered suspect by other US intelligence agencies. [Salon, 7/16/03; Guardian, 7/17/03; Inter Press Service, 8/7/03; New Yorker, 5/5/03; Mother Jones, 1/04; Independent, 9/30/03 Sources: Unnamed administration official, Greg Thielmann]
One defector in particular, code-named “Curveball,” provides as much as 98 percent of the intelligence on Iraq's alleged arsenal of biological weapons. [CNN, 7/11/04] Much of the information provided by the INC's sources consists of “misleading and often faked intelligence reports,” which often flow to Special Plans and NESA directly, “sometimes through Defense Intelligence Agency debriefings of Iraqi defectors via the Defense Human Intelligence Service and sometimes through the INC's own US-funded Intelligence Collection Program, which was overseen by the Pentagon.” [Mother Jones, 1/04] According to Karen Kwiatkowski, the movement of intelligence from the INC to the Office of Special Plans is facilitated by Colonel Bruner, a former military aide to Gingrich. [Salon, 3/10/04; Mother Jones, 1/04; Newsweek, 12/15/03 Sources: Memo, Karen Kwiatkowski] Bruner “was Chalabi's handler,” Kwiatkowski will tell Mother Jones. “He would arrange meetings with Chalabi and Chalabi's folks.” [Mother Jones, 1/04 Sources: Karen Kwiatkowski]
The Office of Special Plans purposefully ignores intelligence that undermines the case for war while exaggerating any leads that support it. “It wasn't intelligence,—it was propaganda,” Karen Kwiatkowski, who worked at the NESA desk, will later explain. “They'd take a little bit of intelligence, cherry-pick it, make it sound much more exciting, usually by taking it out of context, often by juxtaposition of two pieces of information that don't belong together.” [New Yorker, 5/5/03; New York Times, 10/24/02; Inter Press Service, 8/7/03; Guardian, 7/17/03; Salon, 7/16/03; Mother Jones, 1/04; Independent, 9/30/03 Sources: Ellen Tauscher, Greg Thielmann, Unnamed former intelligence official]

The OSP bypasses established oversight procedures by sending its intelligence assessments directly to the White House and National Security Council without having them first vetted by a review process involving other US intelligence agencies. [Guardian, 7/17/03; Salon, 7/16/03; Mother Jones, 1/04; New Yorker, 5/5/03 Sources: Unnamed senior officer who left the Pentagon during the planning of the Iraq war, David Obey, Greg Thielmann]
The people at Special Plans are so successful at bypassing conventional procedures, in part, because their neoconservative colleagues hold key positions in several other agencies and offices. Their contacts in other agencies include: John Bolton, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International; Bolton's advisor, David Wurmser, a former research fellow on the Middle East at the American Enterprise Institute, who was just recently working in a secret Pentagon planning unit at Douglas Feith's office (see Shortly after September 11, 2001); Elizabeth Cheney, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs; Stephen Hadley, the deputy national security adviser; Elliott Abrams, The National Security Council's top Middle East aide; and Richard Perle, Newt Gingrich, James Woolsey and Kenneth Adelman of the Defense Policy Board. The office provides very little information about its work to other US intelligence offices. [Salon, 7/16/03; Inter Press Service, 8/7/03; Guardian, 7/17/03 Sources: Karen Kwiatkowski, Unnamed An unnamed senior officer who left the Pentagon during the planning of the Iraq war, Greg Thielmann, David Obey]
Lastly, the people involved in Special Plans openly exhibit strong pro-Israel and anti-Arab bias. The problem, note critics, is that the analysis of intelligence is supposed to be apolitical and untainted by ideological viewpoints. [American Conservative, 12/1/03 Sources: Karen Kwiatkowski]
According to a CIA intelligence official and four members of the Senate's Intelligence Committee, Special Plans is the group responsible for the claim Bush will make in his 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq had attempted to procure uranium from an African country (see January 28, 2003). [Information Clearing House, 7/16/03; The Nation, 6/19/03] After the existence of the Office of Special Plans is revealed to the public, the Pentagon will deny that it served as a direct conduit to the White House for misleading intelligence, instead claiming that its activities had been limited to postwar plans for Iraq. [New Yorker, 5/5/03] And a December 2003 opinion piece published in Insight magazine will call the allegations surrounding the Office of Special Plans the work of conspiracy theorists. [Insight, 12/2/03]
People and organizations involved: Colonel Bruner, James Woolsey, Newt Gingrich, Kenneth Adelman, Colin Powell, Richard Perle, Elliott Abrams, Stephen Hadley, Karen Kwiatkowski, Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, Abram Shulsky, David Wurmser, Elizabeth Cheney  Additional Info 
          

September 16, 2002

       Two days before the CIA is to issue an assessment (see (August 2002)) on Iraq's supposed links to militant Islamic groups, Pentagon officials working in the Office of Special Plans give a briefing directly to the White House; Vice-President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis Libby; and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice's deputy, Stephen Hadley. The briefing says that there were “fundamental problems” with CIA intelligence-gathering methods and includes a detailed breakdown of the alleged April 2001 Prague meeting between Mohammed Atta and Iraqi diplomat Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani. [Telegraph, 7/11/04; Newsweek, 7/19/04]
People and organizations involved: Lewis ("Scooter") Libby, Stephen Hadley
          

July 2003

       The Pentagon announces that the Office of Special Plans will revert to its previous name, the “Northern Gulf Affairs Office,” explaining that this name more accurately reflects the activities and mission of that office. [Tom Paine [.com], 8/27/03]
          

Mid-December 2003

       The existence of a June 2002 memo—revealing that intelligence from the INC was being sent directly to the offices of Dick Cheney and William Luti—is reported in the December 15 issue of Newsweek magazine, which also reports that Francis Brooke, a DC lobbyist for the INC, admits having supplied Cheney's office with information pertaining to Iraq's alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and Saddam's supposed ties to militant Islamic groups. [Newsweek, 12/15/03 Sources: Francis Brooke, Memo] Furthermore, he acknowedges that the information provided by the INC was driven by an agenda. “I'm a smart man. I saw what they wanted, and I adapted my strategy,” he later admits. “I told them [the INC], as their campaign manager, ‘Go get me a terrorist and some WMD, because that's what the Bush administration is interested in.’ ” [New Yorker, 6/7/2004; Vanity Fair, 5/04, pg 230] Brooke had previously worked for the Rendon Group, “a shadowy CIA-connected public-relations firm.” [Mother Jones, 1/04] However, an unnamed Cheney aid interviewed by the same magazine flatly denies that his boss' office had received raw intelligence on Iraq. [Newsweek, 12/15/03 Sources: Unnamed staff aid of Dick Cheney's office]
People and organizations involved: Richard ("Dick") Cheney, William Luti, Francis Brooke
          

October 2005

       Speaking at the New America Foundation, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, argues that power in Washington has become so concentrated, and the inter-agency processes within the Federal government so degraded that the government is no longer capable of responding competently to threatening events—whether such events are natural disasters or international conflicts. He describes how successive administrations over the last five decades have damaged the national security decision-making process and warns that new legislation is desperately needed to force transparency on the process and restore checks and balances within the federal bureaucracy. The process has hit a nadir with the Bush administration, he says, whose secrecy and disregard for inter-agency processes has resulted in disastrous policies, such as those toward Iraq, North Korea, and Iran, and the policies that resulted in the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib. “Fundamental decisions about foreign policy should not be made in secret,” he says. This approach to government also contributed to the failures in responding to hurricanes Katrina and Rita. “Decisions that send men and women to die, decisions that have the potential to send men and women to die, decisions that confront situations like natural disasters and cause needless death or cause people to suffer misery that they shouldn't have to suffer, domestic and international decisions, should not be made in a secret way.” His speech includes a very direct and open attack on the Bush administration. “What I saw was a cabal between the Vice President of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made. And then when the bureaucracy was presented with those decisions and carried them out, it was presented in such a disjointed incredible way that the bureaucracy often didn't know what it was doing as it moved to carry them out. ” [Financial Times, 10/20/2005 Sources: Transcript: Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson Speech to New America Foundation]
People and organizations involved: Larry Wilkerson, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard ("Dick") Cheney
          


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