America’s Alleged Intelligence Failure in the Prelude to Operation Iraqi Freedom: A Study of Analytic Factors

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
In the prelude to Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), notables in the G. W. Bush administration declared Iraq to be an existential threat as it had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and connections to transnational terrorist groups. After the 2003 invasion of that state, coalition forces engaged in a search effort that found no significant evidence of WMD. Investigatory committees subsequently judged Iraq had no WMD or terrorist group connections. This situation is broadly regarded as a failure by America’s intelligence community (IC). The initial hypotheses driving the research for this dissertation focused on four sets of factors: (1) a lack of fresh and accurate data; (2) a series of analytical and intellectual pathologies in the intelligence analysis process; (3) a dependence on scientistic, technology-driven methods of data collection and analysis; and (4) a serendipitous denial and deception (D & D) campaign mounted by Iraq’s government. However, the research undertaken did not support this initial line of argument. Instead, it suggested that the working-level members of the IC in the broad sense, correctly analyzed the Iraqi situation. The intelligence failure thus arose from other factors. These initial results pointed to factors in organizational and bureaucratic politics especially at the upper levels of the IC, in its relationship to senior levels of the G. W. Bush administration, and to channels for the assessment and movement of information that bypassed the established intelligence apparatus. Drawing on a detailed examination of the analyses and handling of claims regarding Iraqi WMD and its connections with terrorist groups, combined with considerations drawn from organizational and bureaucratic theories, the dissertation concludes (a) that there was no intelligence failure at the non-executive levels of the IC, but (b) there were distortions or suppressions of situationally-correct intelligence analytic products at the executive levels of the IC to support the policy preferences of certain G. W. Bush administration elites. In contrast to this, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) of the State Department not only was outstandingly accurate in its assessments of the Iraqi situation but also, bolstered by its executive team, was able to resist downward-facing pressures to generate policy-palatable analytic products.
Military Studies
Cake, T. (2017). America’s Alleged Intelligence Failure in the Prelude to Operation Iraqi Freedom: A Study of Analytic Factors (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from doi:10.11575/PRISM/24784