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Iraq - Its infrastructure of concealment, deception and intimidation. Or not.
February 6, 2003 8:56 PM   Subscribe

Iraq - Its infrastructure of concealment, deception and intimidation (pdf) is Downing Street's recently released intelligence dossier regarding Iraq, mentioned during Colin Powell's UN speech. Fair enough maybe, but they copied it pretty much wholesale from here (authored by a postgraduate student from California), without even as much as a thank you. More info here (channel4.com) and here (bbc.co.uk).
posted by toby\flat2 (17 comments total)

 
I was amused when I first learnt about this on Channel 4's news programme, but after thinking and looking into a bit more my amusement turned into annoyance and anger.

How on earth did they think they could get away with passing off someone elses work as a legitimate intelligence report, and maybe more to the point: why?

I find it pretty repulsive that even my government would stoop this pathetically low.
posted by toby\flat2 at 9:05 PM on February 6, 2003


UH OH. i think you might be a little late on the trigger.... good topic though.

as the now hawkish - flip flopping on inspections - and altogether much less likeable powell petulantly scoffs at the iraqi assertion that "any third rate" security organization could have produced the scratchy some what comical recordings presented to the UN ... i think this report from britain barely qualifies as 4th rate - and most likely would get powell and the brits who put it together kicked out of any "third rate" university.
posted by specialk420 at 9:18 PM on February 6, 2003


while we are on the subject... if this is the best intelligence we have after having iraq under a microscope for the last 10 years -- is anyone else a little concerned about the "evil doers" no one in the administration will talk about any longer - osama, zawahiri et al? if i was a repulican hawk i would be screaming bloody murder.
posted by specialk420 at 9:27 PM on February 6, 2003


How'd we get to "Or Not", tobyflat? The "can't deny what it says, so lets deny who said it" tactic smacks of conversational terrorism, and you fell for it -- hook, line, and sinker.*

You know, I don't think I've ever heard of a postgraduate student's knowledge in his subject matter be so trivially ignored. Not sure what Channel 4 wanted...should they have ignored the intelligence compiled, simply because parts of it were published before (and thus, presumably, could not still be true)? Apparently not...they should have rewritten and paraphrased the source material.

But when they did precisely that, apparently they were taking liberties with the source material, injecting opinions that weren't those of the original author.

It's like they had their own opinions...you know, what you get from having your own men risking their lives in the field finding out what's going on. Funny, that.

I guess what the government should have done would be to fully attribute their sources (this fact brought to you by Agent Bob). But then, Channel 4 would have had to have mentioned that the school in Monterey, CA was, in fact, the Naval Postgraduate School -- associated with the U.S. Navy, as opposed to, say, Hamburger University, associated with McDonalds. The former has a life-or-death interest in knowing what's going on in Iraq; the latter has a life-or-death interest in beefy fat.

There is a difference -- maybe Channel 4 would like to report on that too?

What's odd is I actually know about the NPS; some of their thesis' came up during some random crypto research I was looking into. Check out some of the work these "students" are up to:

http://web.nps.navy.mil/~code09/thesisyr.html

Not bad for some "random school" out of "Monterey, CA".

--Dan
posted by effugas at 10:05 PM on February 6, 2003


How on earth did they think they could get away with passing off someone elses work as a legitimate intelligence report

Remember this? At least this time the report exists.
posted by homunculus at 10:17 PM on February 6, 2003


I'm not really sure who's supposed to be ignoring the actual bulk of the report, certainly I wasn't trying to rubbish it, and I don't think C4 were either.

Many of the sources quoted in the original report (scroll to the bottom of the page) are several years old, many from five years ago, some from before (and indeed some are more recent). If you are going to state that Iraq's intelligence agency is responsible for "conducting sabotage, subversion, and terrorist operations against
neighbouring countries such as Syria and Iran" (amongst other things), do you not think that more up to date evidence is needed? Or at the very least evidence gained from some other means than a book?

Are they conducting these operations now? Maybe they were in 1997, maybe they were in September 2002, maybe they are now. But copying a report made in 2002, citing a source from 1997 doesn't hold up as valid intelligence of Iraq's wrong doing for me, in 2003, on the verge of war.

Regarding the 'or not'; stealing someone elses work, tinkering with it a bit, then passing it off as your own instantly calls your crediablity into question, regardless if the original source material was 'correct' or not. At the risk of being called a conversational terrorist again, surely you can see that?
posted by toby\flat2 at 10:42 PM on February 6, 2003


Moreover, stealing someone elses work, tinkering with it a bit, then passing it off as your own without covering your tracks and then getting caught at it instantly makes your report look like a joke and you a complete incompetent--just to elaborate on the preceding point.
posted by y2karl at 11:21 PM on February 6, 2003


Slightly off topic, but still relating to playing games with information relating to Iraq: "Beth Osborne Daponte was a 29-year-old Commerce Dept. demographer in 1992, when she publicly contradicted then-Defense Secretary Richard Cheney on the highly sensitive issue of Iraqi civilian casualties during the Gulf War. In short order, Daponte was told she was losing her job."
posted by homunculus at 11:33 PM on February 6, 2003


Some of the stuff is signifcantly older than even 1997. A lot of the portions copied from the Monterey paper are based on primary sources uncovered after the Gulf War, and only can be seen as accurate about Iraq as of 12 years ago. By similar logic, the US economy is doing great, my evidence being that in 1999 there was a bull market. The British government is claiming Iraq's security infrastructure is as strong or (seeing how they pumper up the original report's numbers) stronger than it was in 1991. Iraq is bigger and badder now than it was before Desert Storm, before the sanctions, before losing northern Iraq, before the no-fly zones, before the dozen of years of continuous bombings of any faintly suspicious buildings and December 98's air campaign. Or so Blair's people claim. Things like this and how everyone up to Blair and Powell still say Saddam "threw out" inspectors before Desert Fox shows how much of an illusion all this "incontrovertible evidence" really is. I'm sorry, but in my experience, when someone embellishes and distorts the truth while trying to prove their case, it means they don't have much confidence the facts would stand for themselves.
posted by jbrjake at 12:11 AM on February 7, 2003


In a way, it's comforting. This reminds me that Government really isn't much more cunning and conspiratorial than the average episode of Yes Minister.

We're trusting a bunch of people just like you and me to make decisions on our behalf. Just happens that they're the wrong decisions... oh, and we don't get the benefit of brown paper envelopes stuffed with cash!
posted by skylar at 3:05 AM on February 7, 2003


what you get from having your own men risking their lives in the field finding out what's going on

Having one's head way up own arse can indeed cause fatal choking.

I don't think I've ever heard of a postgraduate student's knowledge in his subject matter be so trivially ignored

I fully agree with this. Postgraduates students are often excellent specialists.
posted by magullo at 5:12 AM on February 7, 2003


A proven track record of lies does not help
posted by magullo at 5:59 AM on February 7, 2003


You know, I don't think I've ever heard of a postgraduate student's knowledge in his subject matter be so trivially ignored. Not sure what Channel 4 wanted...should they have ignored the intelligence compiled, simply because parts of it were published before (and thus, presumably, could not still be true)?

The real issue for me here, has less to do with the plagiarised material, and more about what is really going on.

If Iraq is really as guilty as both Blair and Bush have been insisting, then shouldn't either country have tons of raw data to form into a comprehensive report of their own?

If they needed to plagiarise older reports, then it seems to me that they have nothing of real substance to offer despite all the saber rattling that both governments have been doing for the last several month
posted by EmergencyPenguin at 8:34 AM on February 7, 2003


More disturbing here is the editing of the plagiarized texts. I mean, if they had to take over published accounts of Iraqi affiliations, wholesale, do they really have extra information to justify spicing up "aiding opposition groups in hostile regimes" by rewriting "supporting terrorist organisations in hostile regimes"? Brainless cut-and-paste plagiarism has become rampant among college kids, but it's a bit distressing to see it (in so amateurish a form) at this level & on a subject of this gravity.
posted by Zurishaddai at 12:12 PM on February 7, 2003


"But then, Channel 4 would have had to have mentioned that the school in Monterey, CA was, in fact, the Naval Postgraduate School -- associated with the U.S. Navy,"

Uh, not according to this NY times article....

For instance, the second section of the three-part report, which is described on the Downing Street Web site as providing "up-to-date details of Iraq's network of intelligence and security," was drawn in large part from "Iraq's Security and Intelligence Network: a Guide," an article about the activities of Iraqi intelligence in Kuwait in 1990 and 1991, which appeared in the Middle East Review of International Affairs last September. Its author was Ibrahim al-Marashi, a postgraduate student at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California.

I didn't see that name listed in your link. Maybe I missed it.
posted by bas67 at 5:39 AM on February 8, 2003


Sorry, here's the link.
posted by bas67 at 5:40 AM on February 8, 2003


Seems like this thread should be linked for cross reference on this subject - here's the posted topic:

The first cracks in the foundations of Colin Powell's "Case for War" speech are beginning to be uncovered by a Cambridge professor. Some of the information taken from an "up to date" British intelligence dossier was apparently plagiarized and dramatically spun from a California graduate student's paper, describing the Iraqi regime during the 1990s. Will it make any difference in U.S. public opinion if the Powell speech is debunked? Will the widening gap between U.S. and global opinion further weaken the UN?
posted by zekinskia at 7:35 PM EST [trackback] (29 comments total)
posted by madamjujujive at 7:18 AM on February 8, 2003


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