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CIA Terror Expert Charges Politicized Intelligence

Now retired from the CIA, Paul Pillar is a visiting professor at Georgetown University.
Jeremy Hobson, NPR
Now retired from the CIA, Paul Pillar is a visiting professor at Georgetown University.

The Bush administration misused intelligence to justify decisions like going to war in Iraq, according to former senior CIA official Paul Pillar.

In the current issue of Foreign Affairs, Pillar accuses the Bush administration of "cherry-picking" intelligence on Iraq to match its political aims. The result, Pillar says, is that data was emphasized that would help justify a decision the White House had already reached: To invade Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein.

Calling the intelligence community's relationship with policymakers "broken," Pillar suggests using the Federal Reserve as a model for rebuilding a sense of trust and integrity in U.S. intelligence agencies.

When Pillar retired last year after 28 years at the CIA, he was considered the agency's leading counter-terrorism analyst.

From 2000 to 2005, Pillar was the CIA's national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia. He also served as deputy chief of the agency's Counterterrorist Center.

When his book Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy came out in April 2001, it was hailed as a lucid, comprehensive overview of terrorism and the policies meant to fight it. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Pillar's work became required reading for many U.S. lawmakers and officials -- and provided proof that Osama bin Laden was seen as a threat before those deadly attacks.

Currently, Pillar is a visiting professor at Georgetown University's Security Studies Program. A veteran of the U.S. Army and Reserve, Pillar's active duty included a tour in Vietnam.

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