Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group

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The Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group (CPEG), created shortly after the events of September 11, 2001, by Douglas J. Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy, was disbanded in February 2004. In April 2004, the "Group" was under investigation by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence as to whether it "exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq to justify the war." [1][2]


The "Group"

In the April 28, 2004, New York Times, James Risen described the "Group" as "a two-man intelligence team [that] set up shop in a windowless, cipher-locked room at the Pentagon, searching for evidence of links between terrorist groups and host countries."

Risen wrote that "Feith created his team a few weeks after the September 11, 2001, attacks to study links between terrorist groups and potential state sponsors around the world. F. Michael Maloof and his colleague, David Wurmser began work in October 2001 in a 15-by-15-foot space on the third floor of the Pentagon. The pair spent their days reading raw intelligence reports, many from the Central Intelligence Agency, in the Pentagon's classified computer system." The "Group" reported weekly to Steven A. Cambone, "then Mr. Feith's principal deputy."

Maloof said that the "men culled classified material, much of it uncorroborated data from the C.I.A. ... They recorded and annotated their evidence on butcher paper hung like a mural around their small office. By the end of the year, as the rubble was being cleared from the World Trade Center and United States forces were fighting in Afghanistan, the men had constructed a startling new picture of global terrorism."

"Old ethnic, religious and political divides between terrorist groups were breaking down, the two men warned, posing an ominous new threat. They saw alliances among a wide range of Islamic terrorists, and theorized about a convergence of Sunni and Shiite extremist groups and secular Arab governments. Their conclusions, delivered to senior Bush administration officials, connected Iraq and Al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden."

However, Risen wrote, "In doing so, the team also helped set off a controversy over the shaping of intelligence that continues today."

"The C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies found little evidence to support the Pentagon's view of an increasingly unified terrorist threat or links between Mr. Hussein and Mr. bin Laden, and still largely dismiss those ideas. Foreign Islamic fighters have sought haven in Iraq since the American-led invasion and some Sunnis and Shiites have banded together against the occupiers, but the agencies say that is the result of anger and chaotic conditions, not proof of prewar alliances."
"Unable to reach a consensus on Iraq's terrorist ties because of the skepticism of the C.I.A. and the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Bush administration turned its focus to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction as the central rationale for war. Mr. Feith said his team was not involved in the analysis of those weapons.
"But, [Feith] said in an interview, terrorism and Iraq's weapons became linked in the minds of top Bush administration officials. After Sept. 11 and the anthrax attacks that followed it, he said, the administration 'focused on the danger that Iraq could provide the fruits of its W.M.D. programs to terrorists.'"

Risen said that "The failure to find such weapons in Iraq has prompted a series of investigations into prewar intelligence. The Senate committee plans to complete its review, including its examination of the Feith group, in the next few months. The unit has often been confused with another Feith operation, called the Office of Special Plans, which Pentagon officials say was involved in prewar planning but not intelligence analysis."

Read remainder of article for further details. Also see "A Small Intelligence Cell's Connections" graphics, NYT, April 27, 2004.

"Group" Only Known to Rumsfeld's "Inner Circle"

"Wurmser works at Feith's office, where he and another neocon, F. Michael Maloof, a former aide to Richard Perle, head a secret intelligence unit, named the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group, or the 'Wurmser-Maloof' project. The four- to five-person unit, a "B Team" commissioned by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, uses powerful computers and software to scan and sort already-analyzed documents and reports from the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and other agencies in an effort to consider possible interpretations and angles of analysis that these agencies may have missed due to deeply ingrained biases and out-of-date worldviews." [3][4][5]

About a year after the "Group"'s formation, in the October 24, 2002, New York Times, Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker wrote that

"Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his senior advisers have assigned a small intelligence unit to search for information on Iraq's hostile intentions or links to terrorists that the nation's spy agencies may have overlooked, Pentagon officials said today."
"The four- to five-person intelligence team was established by Douglas J. Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy and another strong advocate for military action against Mr. Hussein. It was formed not long after the Sept. 11 attacks to take on special assignments in the global war on terror.
"The team's specialty is using powerful computers and new software to scan and sort documents and reports from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies.
"The team's current task, described by one official as 'data mining' is to glean individual details that may collectively point to Iraq's wider connections to terrorism, but which may have been obscured by formal assessments that play down the overall Iraqi threat.
"In an interview tonight, Paul Wolfowitz said the members of the special intelligence team 'are helping us sift through enormous amounts of incredibly valuable data that our many intelligence resources have vacuumed up.' He emphasized, 'They are not making independent intelligence assessments.'"
"Although the team was created one year ago, its existence is only now becoming known outside of Mr. Rumsfeld's inner circle as the debate over the administration's Iraq policy intensifies.
"The new team is the latest example of an often contentious relationship between Mr. Rumsfeld and his top policy makers on one side, and intelligence agencies on the other."

"Group" End Run

"Instead of pre-war intelligence assessments being 'so wildly off the mark,' as Democratic Michigan Sen. Carl Levin recently put it, it's looking ever more as if hawkish administration officials, intent on invading Iraq, went around Tenet and grasped at any shard of intelligence they could find to bolster their case.

"Perhaps the most egregious end run around Tenet was performed by Rumsfeld's personal intelligence team at the Pentagon. Despite having hundreds of intelligence analysts under his command at the Defense Intelligence Agency, Rumsfeld's deputy pulled together a small body, officially known as the Policy Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group, for the express purpose of uncovering possible links between al-Qaida and Iraq.

"In a letter released Tuesday, the Pentagon admitted that Rumsfeld's personal team had briefed the National Security Council and Vice President Dick Cheney's staff, channeling information to the top, without Tenet's knowledge. The CIA did not agree with the group's findings. Tenet only learned his agency had been sidestepped on Feb. 24."

Source: "War came first, the evidence second," The Virginian-Pilot, March 14, 2004.

"Group" Disbanded

The Center for Cooperative Research says that the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group was disbanded in February 2004.

Justin Raimondo included the following excerpt in his February 20, 2004, article [http://www.antiwar.com/justin/?articleid=1996 "Chutzpah! Richard Perle's got plenty of it"] at antiwar.com:

"Critics of the Bush administration argue that these two offices, driven by ideology and a predisposition for war, operated outside normal intelligence channels to manipulate and politicise data to portray Saddam Hussein's government in the most threatening light. 'What is deeply troubling is that this was an administration that was hell-bent on using force,' said Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, a California Democrat who says these Pentagon operations 'cherry picked' intelligence to amplify bad news and nullify caveats.
"… Mr Feith and other Pentagon officials defended the two offices and dismissed what they said were 'urban legends' about shadowy intelligence cells."

The original news source is Reuters and the article was originally published by ABC News (Australia) at http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/s1048656.htm . This link no longer works, nor can it be accessed via waybackmachine.org.

Related SourceWatch Resources

External links

  • Derek Mitchell, comp., "Complete timeline of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq: Douglas Feith's Pentagon offices," Center for Cooperative Research, 2003.
  • Seymour M. Hersh, "Selective Intelligence," The New Yorker, May 5, 2003: "Donald Rumsfeld has his own special sources. Are they reliable?"
  • Robert Dreyfuss and Jason Vest, "The Lie Factory," Mother Jones, January/February 2004.
  • Chris Strom, "Lawmakers question whether Pentagon manipulated Iraq intelligence," GovExec.com, February 6, 2004.
  • "Pentagon offices face probe on Iraq claims" (cache file), ABC News (Australia), February 19, 2004.
  • Jim Lobe, "Bush Lies Uncovered," Inter Press Service, February 23, 2004: "The OSP and a parallel group under Feith, the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group, have become central targets of congressional investigators, according to aides on Capitol Hill, while unconfirmed rumours circulated here this week that members of the DPB (Defense Policy Board) are also under investigation. ... The question, of course, is whether the individuals involved were themselves taken in by what Ahmed Chalabi and the INC (Iraqi National Congress) told them or whether they were willing collaborators in distorting the intelligence in order to move the country to war for their own reasons."
  • Pamela Hess, "DOD weighs future of INC-fed intel group," Washington Times, March 3, 2004: "The panel is also trying to determine if the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans and the Policy Counter-terrorism Evaluation Group carried out intelligence activities, and particularly if they received raw intelligence directly from the INC, bypassing professional analysis altogether. ... Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld denied this in 2002, characterizing their task as informed scrutiny of available intelligence."
  • "CIA chief says he doubts Bush misused Iraq data," Seattle Times, March 10, 2004: "The Policy Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group, created by Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith after the Sept. 11 attacks, is known principally for its efforts to assemble evidence linking Iraq to al-Qaida."
  • Greg Miller, "Special Pentagon Unit Left CIA Out of the Loop," Los Angeles Times, March 10, 2004.
  • "Tenet Treads Lightly On WMD Claims," CBS News/AP, March 10, 2004: Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet "said the Pentagon's Policy Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group, which was formed after Sept. 11 and tried to prove a connection between Iraq and al Qaeda, had briefed the offices Vice President Dick Cheney and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. ... Tenet said he only recently learned of the prewar briefings. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said the Group's White House briefings included material not presented to the CIA."
  • Jim Lobe, "CIA chief plays dumb on neo-con intelligence," Asia Times, March 12, 2004: "Shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith set up two groups, the Office of Special Plans (OSP) and the Counter-Terrorism Evaluation Group (CTEG). These groups were tasked to review raw intelligence to determine if official intelligence agencies had overlooked connections between Shi'ite and Sunni terrorist groups and between al-Qaeda and secular Arab governments, especially Saddam Hussein's. ... The effort, which reportedly included interviewing 'defectors', several of them supplied by the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an exile group close to neo-conservatives who support Israel's Likud Party, closely tracked the agenda of the Defense Policy Group (DPG), chaired by Feith's mentor, Richard Perle."
  • Walter C. Uhler, "The Times Continues to Understate the Influence of Feith's 'Gestapo Office' in the Run-up to War," walter-c-uhler.com, December 3, 2006.