Politics

Obama Administration Cherry-Picked Syria Intelligence, Journalist Says

| by Allison Geller

Seymour Hersh, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who exposed Abu Ghraib, has bad news for the Obama administration. He just published an in-depth story claiming that the administration fudged intelligence to justify an attack on Bashar al-Assad following Syria’s now infamous nerve gas attacks.

Reported by Yahoo News and The Wire, Hersh’s article, published yesterday on the London Review of Books with the title “Whose sarin?”, contends that the Obama administration cherry-picked intelligence after the fact to justify their military intervention in Syria, while telling Americans that they had proof that Assad was the only one in possession of the toxic nerve gas known as sarin.

Hersh writes that the U.S. was aware that Assad’s regime was not the only one in possession of sarin: An al-Nusra member was able to make and use sarin. But al-Nusra (an al-Qaida-affiliated rebel opposition group) was not considered a suspect in the attacks.

Hersh found out that the Defense Intelligence Agency received a top-secret cable in June about al-Nusra’s capabilities with sarin, but subsequently were unable to produce the document.

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“Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, told a press conference: ‘It’s very important to note that only the [Assad] regime possesses sarin, and we have no evidence that the opposition possesses sarin.’” Hersh writes.

“It is not known whether the highly classified reporting on al-Nusra was made available to Power’s office, but her comment was a reflection of the attitude that swept through the administration.”

Additionally, the Obama administration didn’t use advanced intelligence about the Syria situation to warrant the planned attack, as it claimed. While President Obama issued a warning to Syria much earlier, in December of 2012, when intelligence sensors revealed sarin production (possibly simulated) at a chemical weapons depot in Syria, the administration was mum three days before the actual attack, when daily intelligence briefings included no mention of Syria despite the shocking photos and videos that were circulating around the internet for all to see.

Hersh writes, “A former senior intelligence official told me that the Obama administration had altered the available information — in terms of its timing and sequence — to enable the president and his advisers to make intelligence retrieved days after the attack look as if it had been picked up and analysed in real time, as the attack was happening.”

“The cherry-picking was similar to the process used to justify the Iraq war,” Hersh added.

Meanwhile, the Huffington Post reported that The New Yorker and The Washington Post refused Hersh’s Syria report. They did not explicitly state their reasons.

Sources: The Wire, London Review of Books, Huffington Post