POLITICS
09/05/2013 10:01 am ET | Updated Sep 05, 2013

Donald Rumsfeld Says Iraq War Intelligence 'Part Of The Problem' With Syria, But Denies Manipulation

Former Secretary Of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday that the failure of Iraq War intelligence was "part of the problem" in convincing other countries to join in an attack on Syria, but denied that pre-war intelligence for Iraq was in any way manipulated.

"I suppose it's part of the problem," Rumsfeld said on CNN's "New Day" of how Iraq intelligence failures affect the chance for a Syria strike.

"You know if intelligence were a fact, it would be called a fact, and not intelligence," he said. "And I think when Colin Powell went before the United Nations with George Tenet, the director of intelligence, and talked about the intelligence they had in great detail, and then it turned out that stockpiles were not found, that people were cautious and began to recognize that intelligence is intelligence and not necessarily a fact."

Rumsfeld moved to criticize President Barack Obama, saying he didn't think Iraq was really the problem in terms of forming a coalition around a Syria strike. "I think what's going on here is almost any president in my adult life I think would have provided stronger leadership and greater clarity, and as a result generated broader support in the international community and in the country and in the Congress," he said.

Just after the Iraq invasion, Rumsfeld seemed very sure of the intelligence the U.S. government had. "We know where they are," he said of the WMDs in an ABC News interview in 2003. "They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat. Second, the facilities, there are dozens of them. It's a large geographic area."

Speaking to CNN Thursday, Rumsfeld denied that the pre-war Iraq intelligence was manipulated. "If you'll recall, the Congress looked at the same intelligence and came to the same conclusions. And there were Democrats who supported it, including very prominent Democrats who enthusiastically supported it," he said.

As for those who claimed intelligence wasn't as clear-cut as the administration made it out to be, Rumsfeld said, "So I think that there may be people on the fringe who say the kind of thing that you're saying, but I don't think anyone responsible has said anything like that."

The Downing Street Memo, a document from a July 2002 meeting with information from a British intelligence officer on his talks with CIA Director George Tenet and other American officials, contradicts Rumsfeld's claim. "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy," the officer "C" reported.

While in office, Rumsfeld set up a special unit to secure intelligence while bypassing the typical channels, the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh reported in 2003. "After he became Secretary of Defense, a separate intelligence unit was set up in the Pentagon’s policy office, under the control of William Luti, a senior aide to Feith. This office, which circumvented the usual procedures of vetting and transparency, stovepiped many of its findings to the highest-ranking officials," Hersh wrote.

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