Tuesday, March 28, 2006

This Is a Really Bad Idea

This has to be one of the most irresponsible things a US intelligence agency has ever done.

WASHINGTON, March 27 — American intelligence agencies and presidential commissions long ago concluded that Saddam Hussein had no unconventional weapons and no substantive ties to Al Qaeda before the 2003 invasion. But now, an unusual experiment in public access is giving anyone with a computer a chance to play intelligence analyst and second-guess the government.

Under pressure from Congressional Republicans, the director of national intelligence has begun a yearlong process of posting on the Web 48,000 boxes of Arabic-language Iraqi documents captured by American troops.

Less than two weeks into the project, and with only 600 out of possibly a million documents and video and audio files posted, some conservative bloggers are already asserting that the material undermines the official view. On his blog last week, Ray Robison, a former Army officer from Alabama, quoted a document reporting a supposed scheme to put anthrax into American leaflets dropped in Iraq and declared: "Saddam's W.M.D. and terrorist connections all proven in one document!!!"

Not so, American intelligence officials say. "Our view is there's nothing in here that changes what we know today," said a senior intelligence official, who would discuss the program only on condition of anonymity because the director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte, directed his staff to avoid public debates over the documents. "There is no smoking gun on W.M.D., Al Qaeda, those kinds of issues."

Since there is no way for people sitting at home on their computers to be able verify the authenticity or accuracy of these documents, much less the quality of translation, this data dump can only serve to confuse, rather than enlighten, the American people.

Confusion is exactly what the Republicans want right now. As the American people finally start to realize how disastrous the decision to invade Iraq was, the GOP is desperate to throw whatever sand it can find into their eyes, the better to blind them to the realities of the ever-worsening situation there. That stuff is politics as usual. The tragedy is that the American intelligence community is allowing itself to be used so blatantly as a political instrument, and doing more hamr than good for the American people and the world.

Not only that, by conducting this "experiment," the intelligence community si basically saying, "We don't think we've a thorough job. So we'll let untrained amateurs do the job that we get paid to do, because maybe they can do it better."

That instills confidence.


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