Dear Anonymous

Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary of defense, responds to the Salon article by Anonymous, "The State Department's Extreme Makeover."

Published November 6, 2004 8:58PM (EST)

To the editor of

A certain amount of interagency friction is inevitable given our open, democratic system of government. But the virulence of your recent article by "Anonymous," a "veteran Foreign Service officer currently serving as a State Department official," ("The State Department's Extreme Makeover," Oct. 4, 2004) is (to borrow from the title) extreme.

"Anonymous" implies that he or she has personal knowledge of interagency work discussed in the article, but the descriptions are fundamentally inaccurate and credit conspiracy theories of a sort one finds in fringe publications. Given the depth of the animus Anonymous displays, one wonders how and, indeed, whether he could actually have participated in the government-wide work that he discusses.

The article contains too many factual errors to deal with in one letter, even if we leave aside various unpleasant personal remarks regarding my colleagues and me. For example, Anonymous asserts that the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research "kept telling Powell the truth about Saddam's nonexistent WMD." However, as the Senate Intelligence Committee reported on July 7, 2004, with respect to both Iraq's biological and chemical weapons programs, "Analysis from individual intelligence agencies ... was consistent between agencies and largely consistent with the [National Intelligence Estimate] and other [Intelligence Community] products ... " (pages 185 and 208). If State's intelligence bureau had dissented from the rest of the intelligence community on these key issues, it is hard to believe that the Senate Intelligence Committee would have overlooked that important fact.

An example of the nastiness and distortion of the article is the implication that the production, in 1996, of a paper on Israeli security policy would require those involved to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Anonymous is wrong both as to the facts of the matter (e.g., I was not a coauthor, let alone a "principal author," of the paper) and as to the law (e.g., merely publishing an open letter to a foreign leader does not constitute acting as a foreign agent.)

It would appear that Anonymous was either not involved with Iraq in any direct way, or he has no interest in factual accuracy, for he credits all the erroneous stories that have appeared in the press over the past year and a half. For example, he appears to believe that the State Department was cut out of postwar planning and policy: In fact, of the three main subordinates of Gen. Garner who dealt with substantive policy issues, two were from the State Department.

Anonymous claims that "State personnel are used to comings and goings of Democratic and Republican administrations, serving all equally and fairly." Fortunately for our country, this statement is true of almost all State Department officials. Unfortunately, Anonymous is not one of them.

Yours truly,

Douglas J. Feith
Undersecretary of Defense
Washington, D.C.

By Salon Staff

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