Tinkering with 'intelligence' nothing new in Washington

As Pat M. Holt points out in his March 4 Opinion piece "WMD joins the Hall of Intelligence-Twisting Fame," there is ample precedent for attempts by US administrations to manipulate "intelligence" to support and justify highly questionable military ventures.

In 1969, Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird was pushing for funding of an antiballistic missile (ABM) system, based on his assertion that the Soviet Union had recently begun developing a "first-strike capability," i.e., to so completely wipe out our nuclear arsenal that we couldn't retaliate. There had been no other official or intelligence-based warning of this major shift in the balance of terror that depended on Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD).

When Gen. Joseph F. Carroll, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, was called to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he refused to bow to Mr. Laird's pressure to support funding ABM, remaining steadfast in his (and the CIA's) analysis, which established that there was no evidence that what Laird said was true.

Within days, straight-arrow General Carroll (who had earlier discovered the Soviet missile silos in Cuba) was transferred and demoted, and his career in public service came to an abrupt end, according to the 1996 book "An American Requiem" by James Carroll, his son.

It is possible that General Carroll's experience weighed heavily on CIA Director George Tenet's decision to "fall on his sword" attempting to absolve President Bush and administration national security leaders from responsibility for the inaccurate State of the Union statement about Iraq's nonexistent (as it turned out) nuclear capacity.
M.M. Mendel
Ellenton, Fla.

Adjusting to circumstances

Regarding your March 11 article "Boots on ground, now also the eyes": Although the article does cover the use of American military and special units in Iraq and Afghanistan most effectively, the reader is left with the lingering doubt that command and control are problems. This is evident in comments like those of US Army Col. Kathryn Stone that the "policy of integrating operations together ... eroded [the] distinction between Special Operation Forces and CIA." This does blur the units' roles, but as long as they are functioning against a threat or an enemy, who cares? During special operations in the Korean War, I had occasion to be in charge as well as play host to CIA agents, British commandos, and underwater demolition units as we engaged in raids (special operations) against targets on a mission under the US Army's commanding general. I learned then what Colonel Stone may have missed in basic training: "Necessity is the mother of invention."
Lefteris Lavrakas
Costa Mesa, Calif.

A better diet of reading

Regarding Rondi Adamson's March 10 Opinion piece "Women's mags: proof misery sells": Ms. Adamson hit upon a favorite subject of mine: The media and their effect on behavior. These magazines could publish stories about successful women - college professors, writers, politicians, astronauts, managers, executives, doctors, secretaries, or saleswomen. But instead, editors prefer to make money from the unhealthy, unreal lives of female movie stars, battered wives, attractive women who kick and punch men, or smart-independent-divorced women in search of the perfect man.

The key here is you are what you believe. Or, in this case, you are what you read. A diet of misery will have people looking inward and considering their shortcomings instead of looking to the horizon and considering their possibilities.
James Collins
Rio de Janeiro

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