'Chicken Farm Inspection Team'

Stephen W. Stromberg
June 17, 2004 9:22PM (UTC)

The Los Angeles Times reports that two U.K.-recruited Iraqi spies who gave the Bush administration dubious warnings of Saddam Hussein's illegal weapons before the war weren't quite as reliable as America's spooks once thought. And that's not all.

"U.S. agencies were also beset by broader, more systemic problems that included failures in analyzing communications intercepts and spy satellite images, the officials interviewed by The Times said." But that didn't stop the Bush administration from exploiting all the "intelligence" it could get.


"U.S. experts, for example, still have not been able to determine the meaning of three secretly taped conversations that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell played to the United Nations Security Council in February 2003 in making the case for war."

And what about all those pictures? "U.S. analysts also erred in their analysis of high-altitude satellite photos, repeatedly confusing Scud missile storage places with the short, half-cylindrical sheds typically used to house poultry in Iraq. As a result, as the war neared, two teams of U.N. weapons experts acting on U.S. intelligence scrambled to search chicken coops for missiles that were not there."

"'We inspected a lot of chicken farms,' said a former inspector who asked not to be identified because he now works with U.S. intelligence. His U.N. team printed 'Ballistic Chicken Farm Inspection Team' on 20 gray T-shirts to mark the futile hunt."

Expect even more good news when the Senate Intelligence Committee finally releases its report on America's flaccid spy work in Iraq before the invasion. That is, if the CIA doesn't manage to keep large portions of the report away from the public in the first place.

Stephen W. Stromberg

Stephen W. Stromberg is a former editorial fellow at Salon.

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