Robert Baer had some interesting things to say on Newsnight tonight. He was Deputy Chief of Operations with the CIA Group in Iraq.
Paxman: What went wrong with the intelligence gathering?
Robert Baer: Well from my perspective, I was an Operations Officer, worked my whole career in the field, for many years in Iraq. We failed to get human sources inside Saddam’s Iraq, any good sources. Most of the weapons programs was going on, if it was going on at all, under roofs, under closed areas – satellites couldn’t see. So through the 90’s we were quite aware that our intelligence wasn’t very good.
Paxman: What lessons do you expect to emerge?
Baer: Well certainly if you look at Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN on the 5th of February I believe it was, he used alot of technical collection, information from that turned out to be all wrong. It turned out to be useless. And the human intelligence that most intelligence services used leading up to the war was from the Iraqi exiles, which was trash. And I think that’s where the cherry picking occurred, was false information, or bad information from technical means, or bad information from Iraqi exiles. And that’s how I think we ended up with these assessments so far wrong.
Paxman: But everybody, as we have already heard, was essentially making the same mistake. The British were making it, the Americans were making it, the Canadians were making it, the Germans were making it, the Austrialians and everyone else – the French.
Baer: It was group think. That was the problem, everyone was afraid to come forth and say wait a minute, the Emperor has no clothes.