"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)
Thursday, November 10, 2005
In the 1970s, when President Richard Nixon's policy of detente was under attack by some former military officials and conservative policy intellectuals, Ford administration officials Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were among those challenging as too soft the CIA's estimate of Moscow's military power.
Rumsfeld and Cheney wanted to create a "Team B," which would have access to the CIA's data on the Soviets and issue its own conclusions. Cheney, as White House chief of staff, and Rumsfeld, as secretary of Defense, championed Team B, whose members included the young defense strategist Paul Wolfowitz, who a quarter-century later would be one of the chief architects of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
CIA Director William Colby rejected the Team B idea and was fired. Colby's successor as head of the spy agency, George H.W. Bush, the current president's father, accepted it.
Team B's conclusion that the CIA was indeed soft on the Soviets was leaked to sympathetic journalists and generated public support for a new round of military spending, particularly on missiles. Team B's conclusions turned out, years later, to be false.
"In retrospect, and with the Team B report and records now largely declassified, it is possible to see that virtually all of Team B's criticisms ... proved to be wrong," Raymond Garthoff, a former U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria, wrote in a paper for the CIA's Center for the Study of Intelligence three years ago. "On several important specific points it wrongly criticized and 'corrected' the official estimates, always in the direction of enlarging the impression of danger and threat."