Differing war intelligence.

Some people seem to have missed the Washington Post‘s big article about pre-war intelligence last week. Just to make sure that everybody’s on the same page, here’s the crux of it:

Bush and his aides had access to much more voluminous intelligence information than did lawmakers, who were dependent on the administration to provide the material. And the commissions cited by officials, though concluding that the administration did not pressure intelligence analysts to change their conclusions, were not authorized to determine whether the administration exaggerated or distorted those conclusions.


Bush asserted that “more than 100 Democrats in the House and the Senate, who had access to the same intelligence, voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power.” Giving a preview of Bush’s speech, Hadley had said that “we all looked at the same intelligence.”

But Bush does not share his most sensitive intelligence, such as the President’s Daily Brief, with lawmakers. Also, the National Intelligence Estimate summarizing the intelligence community’s views about the threat from Iraq was given to Congress just days before the vote to authorize the use of force in that country.

In addition, there were doubts within the intelligence community not included in the NIE.

There’s much, much more in this piece, but that’s the important bit.

So remember, when somebody says “Congress can’t complain, because they had access to the same intelligence that President Bush did,” you know what to say: “Actually, that’s not true. President Bush had access to a tremendous amount of information that was off-limits to Congress.” And I know you will.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

8 replies on “Differing war intelligence.”

  1. So remember, when somebody says “Congress can’t complain, because they had access to the same intelligence that President Bush did,” you know what to say: “Indeed, as the Washington Post’s Walter Pincus reported, ‘lawmakers are partly to blame for their ignorance. Congress was entitled to view the 92-page National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq before the October 2002 vote. But…no more than six senators and a handful of House members read beyond the five-page executive summary.'”

  2. That is precisely how I’ve been answering. But I’m yet to see any Congressman claim that they made no errors. President Bush, on the other hand, both claims that he has done absolutely nothing wrong in the history of his presidency and that Congress had access to the exact same information that he did.

    It’s clear who’s being more truthful here.

  3. What you both have missed is the fact that the CIA-prepared unclassified summary of the 92-page NIE
    that many in the Cogress did see, included only the cherry-picked allegations and conclusions
    that the Bush Adminstration wanted the Congress to have and none of the questions raised about
    the validity of those same allegations and conclusions.

  4. So when Bush said that Congress had “access to the same intelligence” he’s only referring to that small subset of intelligence that both Bush and Congress knew about. Notice he never says Congress had access to ALL the intelligence that Bush had access to.

    It’s as if you came to my house for Thanksgiving dinner, and all I gave you was a stick of celery stuffed with cream cheese. Later, when you complained, I could say, “Hey, you had access to the same food that I had access to” because everyone had the celery.

    And then, you would correctly assert, “But what about the turkey? The stuffing? The apple ‘pah’?”

  5. Also, if it’s true that congress didn’t take full advantage of what intelligence they did have, so much the worse for congress. But that fact does nothing to cure the innaccuracy of Bush’s “we had the same intelligence” claim.

  6. Not only did Congress not have the same intelligence, but Bush was specifically told on September 21 that there was no Al-qaeda/Saddam link, and that Saddam considered Al-qaeda an enemy:


    Our embattled President will now say anything so that he won’t have to take responsibility for his actions and the thousands of deaths, and hundreds of billions of dollars that resulted.

    Bush is the embodiment of irresponsible government.

    The buck stops nowhere.

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