Dogmatic intelligence

A veteran CIA operative sues the agency for firing him after he refused orders to falsify his reports on Iraq's WMD.


Suzanne Goldenberg
December 10, 2004 7:54PM (UTC)

A senior CIA analyst who was once decorated for his work on weapons proliferation in the Middle East has accused the spy agency of ruining his career as punishment for his refusal to adhere to official prewar "dogma" on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. In a lawsuit filed in a U.S. district court, the unnamed agent, described as a 22-year veteran of the agency's counterproliferation department, accuses his former supervisors of demanding that he alter his intelligence reporting to conform to the views of CIA management in the run-up to the war on Iraq.

The action marks the first time the CIA, which proclaimed that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, has been publicly accused by one of its employees of exerting pressure to produce reports that would help the Bush administration make its case to go to war on Saddam. However, one former CIA employee said the process described by the analyst -- pressure and retaliation -- was a familiar bureaucratic response to agents who did not conform.

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The agent's refusal to tailor his reports had, he claims, a disastrous effect on a career that had previously been marked by regular promotions and a CIA medal for the operative's recruitment of moles who penetrated a nuclear weapons program in another Middle Eastern country. "The complaint alleges that there was a prewar dogma at the CIA concerning weapons of mass destruction, and my client's reports were contrary to the dogma," said Roy Krieger, who represents the agent. "My client was told to conform to the dogma. He refused and retribution followed."

The CIA Thursday night rejected the charge. "The notion that CIA managers order officers to falsify reports is flat wrong," said spokeswoman Anya Guilsher. "Our mission is to call it like we see it."

The agent's complaint has been heavily blacked out by the CIA, and it makes no mention of the word "Iraq." However, the timing of the operative's run-in with his superiors and other details strongly suggest he ran afoul of agency management for his reports on Saddam Hussein's alleged arsenal during the run-up to the war. But the agent's work was not restricted to Iraq. The first instance of pressure occurred in 2000, when he says he tried to pass on intelligence culled from one of his many "human assets" in the field.

Court papers describe how the "plaintiff was subsequently advised by CIA management that his report did not support the earlier assessment ... and instructed that if he did not alter his report to support this assessment, it would not be received well by the intelligence community."

A year later, the agent obtained intelligence from a "highly respected human asset," which he tried to pass on to his superiors, the complaint says. "Plaintiff was later instructed that he should prepare no written report of the matter" and received assurances that the CIA chief would personally brief the president. However, "upon information and belief, plaintiff avers that no such briefing ever occurred, and therefore the president was misled by the withholding of vital intelligence."

The complaint goes on to describe further instances in 2001 and 2002 in which the operative's attempts to report "actionable" intelligence were thwarted by CIA superiors. He was also warned to break off contact with the highly regarded source. "Plaintiff was subsequently approached by a senior desk officer who insisted that plaintiff falsify his reporting of this matter," the complaint reads.

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Some months later, the CIA operative was accused of having had sex with one of his female informants. In September 2003, the operative was suspended. He was later accused of stealing funds meant to pay informants, and he was sacked this year.

The CIA has had a torrid two years. Its former director, George Tenet, was quoted as telling President Bush that finding WMD in Iraq was a "slam-dunk"; and the agency has been pilloried for the way it dealt with intelligence prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. And under its new chief, Porter Goss, there have been persistent rumblings of mismanagement as a series of senior figures have announced their intention to quit.


Suzanne Goldenberg

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