Snap, Crackle, Pop

Snap, Crackle, Pop August 19, 2004

David Kay is not impressed with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice:

A former Bush administration official who led the fruitless postwar effort to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq told Congress on Wednesday that the National Security Council led by Condoleezza Rice had botched intelligence information before the war and was "the dog that did not bark" over Iraq's weapons program. …

"Every president who has been successful, at least that I know of, in the history of this republic, has developed both informal and formal means of getting checks on whether people who tell him things are in fact telling him the whole truth," Dr. Kay told the Senate Intelligence Committee at a hearing called to discuss the findings of the Sept. 11 commission.

"I think this is particularly crucial and difficult to do in the intelligence area,'' he continued. "The recent history has been a reliance on the NSC system to do it. I quite frankly think that has not served this president very well."

Dr. Kay added: "The dog that did not bark in the case of Iraq's WMD weapons program, quite frankly, in my view, is the National Security Council."

… In his sharp attack on the National Security Council, Dr. Kay said that the council had failed, in particular, to provide Mr. Bush and Mr. Powell with the intelligence information they needed before the war about Iraq's weapons capabilities, especially after both had expressed some skepticism about the extent of Iraq's weapons programs.

"Where was the National Security Council when, apparently, the president expressed his own doubt about the adequacy of the case concerning Iraq's WMD weapons that was made before him?" Dr. Kay asked.

"Why was the secretary of state sent to the CIA to personally vet the data that he was to take the Security Council in New York, and ultimately left to hang in the wind for data that was misleading and, in some cases, absolutely false and known by parts of the intelligence community to be false?" he continued. "Where was the NSC then?"

The New York Times' Philip Shenon notes that Kay's angry criticism "mirrored that made earlier this year by Richard A. Clarke."

It will be interesting to see how quickly the backlash against Kay comes to mirror the propaganda directed against Clarke as well. One way in which Kay's criticism differs from Clarke's is that Kay does not criticize President Bush himself, but rather argues that the president was not well-served due to the incompetence of those on whom he relied — most notably the NSC and the CIA. Kay's anger, in a sense, is anger on behalf of Bush, rather than anger directed at him. That may entail a different kind of backlash.

It will also be interesting to see if any of this criticism of Rice sticks. With the exception of President Bush, the people who know her best seem least impressed with her performance as the head of the NSC. She has even — if unwittingly — testified that she has failed in the most essential tasks of her post. To cite, again, Slate's Fred Kaplan:

[The national security adviser] is the one decision-maker who is supposed to coordinate the views of the various agencies and present them as a coherent picture to the president of the United States. [Rice's] testimony today provides disturbing evidence that she failed at this task — failed even to understand that it was part of her job description.

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  • eRobin

    How does Rice still have her job? Smearing Kay will be very tricky for the reason you mention and because he was the golden boy for a while when he was looking for WMD. BushCo couldn’t say enough good things about him. I think they won’t smear him and rely on the story fading away. It won’t get followed up in the NYT, I’m sure of that. (famous last words. I hope I’m wrong)

  • dave heasman

    “Kay’s anger, in a sense, is anger on behalf of Bush, rather than anger directed at him”
    If only the Tsar knew how wicked these Cossacks are, he’d do something about it…