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February 11, 2005
Notes from the Pentagon

WMD commission
A presidential commission has uncovered major CIA intelligence failures related to clandestine reporting on Iraq's arms programs.

The Commission on Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, headed by federal appeals Judge Laurence H. Silberman and former Sen. Charles S. Robb, is working in secrecy, in contrast with the September 11 commission, which held a series of public hearings. The panel is winding down its inquiry and will issue a report in the next several weeks. The report will fault the CIA for numerous failures of clandestine reporting on Iraq, the agency's primary mission.

One finding: The bombing of Dora Farms near Baghdad, where Saddam Hussein was believed to be holed up on the opening night of the Iraq war on March 23, 2003, was based on false spy data. The bombing prematurely began Operation Iraqi Freedom. The false information on Saddam's whereabouts came from Iraqi spies recruited by the CIA.

The commission confirmed that not only was Saddam not in the residence, but also that the site hit with cruise missiles and guided bombs wasn't even a bunker, as the spies had reported.

Xiong gone
Pentagon officials said Chinese Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Xiong Guangkai is retiring. Gen. Xiong has long been a fixture of Chinese military delegations to the Pentagon. He is considered one of the most influential Chinese military officials and has the important role of heading military intelligence and conducting the Chinese military's foreign affairs with overseas militaries. He meets regularly with North Korean generals and admirals, as well as officers from the United States and Russia.

Gen. Xiong was passed over for the post of Chinese defense minister in the leadership shuffle that brought President Hu Jintao to power.

He is expected to retire from the military when China's National People's Congress meets in early March. The Congress will endorse the resignation of Jiang Zemin as chairman of the Central Military Commission, the communist organ that controls the Chinese military. Mr. Hu then will become the new CMC chairman.

Earlier this month, Gen. Xiong met with a delegation of U.S. officials led by Richard Lawless, the deputy assistant defense secretary for East Asia. Gen. Xiong is notorious for his 1995 comments to former Pentagon official Charles Freeman that the United States would not intervene militarily in a conflict between China and Taiwan because Washington "cared more about Los Angeles than Taipei."

The remark was reported to the White House at the time as a threat to use nuclear weapons against the United States.

In late 2002, Gen. Xiong met with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice who told the general that such threats were unacceptable.

Lugar's lair
Some conservatives in the Senate are increasingly unhappy with the way Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican, is running the Foreign Relations Committee.

It's not just that his persistent criticism of President Bush last year on Iraq garnered him poster boy status with the John Kerry presidential campaign, alongside Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

Our sources say it's the way Mr. Lugar sets the agenda. Among the complaints:

•Few hearings are held on conservative issues, including the U.N. oil-for-food scandal and the total corruption of Saddam Hussein.

•Experts summoned to testify on Iraq were almost all uniformly negative toward achieving the mission.

•Mr. Lugar does more to reach out to Bush critics and committee Democrats, such as Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, than he does to conservative Republicans.

•Mr. Lugar champions few resolutions and fewer still on conservative foreign policy issues.

•Mr. Lugar criticized the failure to pass a State Department authorization bill, which would impose the Senate's will on selected foreign policy issues. But Mr. Lugar, in his first two years as chairman since the retirement of Jesse Helms, also has failed to get a bill passed.

Mr. Bush considers Afghan President Hamid Karzai a pioneering figure who is leading his beleaguered country on a path to democracy.

But when Mr. Karzai testified before Mr. Lugar's committee, he was treated so roughly by senators that the White House felt obliged to apologize to him on behalf of the U.S. government.

Andy Fisher, Mr. Lugar's spokesman, rebutted the conservatives' complaints, point by point.

"I am sorry that some anonymous Senate staff may have attacked a Republican senator," Mr. Fisher said. "Lugar has supported President Bush more than 98 percent of the time according to [Congressional Quarterly's] vote index. He is second in the Senate by three-tenths of a point to Senator [Jon] Kyl. In 2003, Lugar was in a 13-way tie as the most conservative member of the Senate, with a conservative score of 87 percent, according to the National Journal magazine. For comparisons, John McCain had a score of 62 percent. John Kerry was the most liberal member of the Senate with a score of 4 percent."

Mr. Fisher said the Foreign Relations Committee "was the most active committee in the Senate," holding nearly 250 hearings at the full and subcommittee levels and approving "dozens of pieces of legislation." Mr. Lugar also guided through the Senate treaties and nominees proposed by the president. "The committee's record on passing Bush administration nominations has been outstanding," the spokesman said. "We have avoided stalemates with our Democrats over diplomatic nominations like the ones that have blocked Judiciary appointments."

Mr. Lugar also held the Senate's first hearing on the oil-for-food scandal and said, "There is no doubt that billions of dollars that should have been spent on humanitarian needs in Iraq were siphoned off by Saddam Hussein's regime through a system of surcharges, bribes and kickbacks."

Mr. Fisher said Mr. Lugar was able to get a committee-approved State Department authorization bill in each of the past two years. But because Democrats wanted to attach nonrelevant amendments, the majority leader did not bring up either bill.

"Senator Lugar has reached across the aisle to build bipartisan consensus," Mr. Fisher said. "Foreign policy is for the whole country."

Petty cash
Although the current defense authorization bill enables special operations troops to pay informants via a CIA fund for the first time, in actual practice the Spec Ops community has been making such payments for some time.

The payouts were put in use in Afghanistan by Special Forces (Green Berets) hungry for information on the whereabouts of Taliban and al Qaeda fighters.

A Special Forces source said the money has come out of "confidential military purpose funds" authorized in Title 10, the federal code that regulates the armed forces.

"The funding request procedure was unbelievably complicated," the source said.

The new funding will come via CIA accounts and cover many more items besides paying informants, the source said.

  • Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at

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