“This legislation concerns the need to release military documents and photographs recovered in Iraq and Afghanistan. Specifically, the bill requires the Director of National Intelligence to make publicly available on an Internet website documents captured in Afghanistan or Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, or Operation Iraqi Freedom...This press release makes three things evident about the release of the Iraqi WMD documents:
“By way of background, The Weekly Standard published several articles detailing a number of these documents and the information contained within them which “connect the dots” between Saddam Hussein and the training of Islamic terrorists....
“Many of the translated and analyzed documents were entered into a government database known as “HARMONY.” It is now four years since these documents were captured. I understand that previous requests to release information from the HARMONY database have been rejected or delayed. It is reasonable to assume that over the course of the last four years any actionable intelligence contained within these documents has already been exploited.
“It is imperative that documents captured in Iraq which highlight the connections between Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime and Islamic terrorists be released as soon as possible. These documents are increasingly necessary to help the American people understand both the reasons for our involvement in Iraq and the challenge of defending freedom and democracy.
“However, in the interest of national security, the bill permits the Director of National Intelligence to withhold making a document publicly available--provided he informs the relevant congressional committees of the justification for not disclosing the document.”
1. The sole purpose for releasing the documents was to bolster the Republicans and the Bush Administration politically, in the hopes that there might be something in one of the documents that could justify the Bush Admistration's discredited rational for the Iraq war.
2. The bill passed by the Republicans "required" the CIA to release the documents. (See S. 2408, Section 1, (a))
3. The bill made it bureaucratically cumbersome for the CIA not to disclose the classified Iraqi documents about WMD. (See S. 2408, Section 1, (b))
Let's take a look at the big picture. The CIA does not have a sufficient number of Arabic trained analysts. This is a documented fact. Besides, the CIA has more than enough on its plate just combing through intelligence reports in an effort to head off possible terrorist attacks. Then in an election year, into the overburdened CIA offices storm Republican law makers. The Republican Congress, with the full support of the Bush White House, forced the CIA to immediately devote precious Arabic-speaking manpower to review a veritable mountain of captured Iraqi documents related to WMD. Just how many Arabic language documents?
As many as one million documents in Arabic. On March 27 2006 the NY Times reported "...the director of national intelligence has begun a yearlong process of posting on the Web 48,000 boxes of Arabic-language Iraqi documents captured by American troops." At that time, only "600 out of possibly a million documents and video and audio files" had been "posted" on the public website.
The Republican Congress gave the CIA six months to review and post 48,000 boxes of Arabic language documents on the Internet. All this extra work for the CIA, in the vague hope that amidst the mountains of documents might be some evidence that could redeem the Republicans for having supported a war based on false pretenses. What the CIA opted for was a a quick and -- as as we found out today -- careless review. For the CIA managers, the only alternative to releasing the WMD documents was a bureacratic nightmare -- informing "relevant congressional committees of the justification for not disclosing the document." Because we are talking about 48,000 boxes of Arabic-language documents here, this alternative would have strained both CIA management and its Arabic resources. So CIA was stuck between a rock and a hard place.
This was not only Mission Impossible, it was Mission Unneccessary: The time and expertise of the CIA hijacked by Republicans in their vain hopes of unleashing a pack of conspiracy-hounds on the data; the bill was a desperate party's prayer that amidst a million classified Iraqi documents a nugget of support might be found for the US decision to go to war in Iraq. But Mission Impossible backfired. Instead, Republican lawmakers created the context in which the CIA -- charged with an impossible and unneccessary task -- made instructions for manufacturing atomic bombs available to the general public.
Update: The text from Santorum's Press Release -- quoted above -- was taken from the statement in which he introducted bill S. 2408 on the floor of the US Senate. You can read the draft of the Santorum bill here.