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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Ex-spy: U.S. didn’t get clear picture of prewar intelligence; A1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

WINCHESTER — The Bush administration didn’t fabricate intelligence to make the case for war with Iraq, but the nation didn’t get a clear picture of what the CIA knew in 2003, a former spy told a capacity crowd at Shenandoah University on Wednesday.

Lindsay Moran was a case officer with the CIA for five years until 2003, when she resigned out of frustration over the agency’s intelligence gathering efforts.

She is the author of “Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy.”

Moran said joining the nation’s intelligence community was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, but the dream started to sour not long after she began the job.

Stationed in Macedonia, in what was once part of Yugoslavia, Moran’s opinion of her employer began to shift dramatically after Sept. 11, 2001.

“This day was devastating to me personally … even more when I considered that I was working for the very agency that was to prevent something like this,” she said.

At first, it renewed her resolve to do her job well, she said.

She had started to develop a relationship with a source who had friends in militant Islam who may have had useful information for the fight against terrorism.

But “about halfway through the development,” she got orders to stop, she said.

“He may have at one time had terrorist ties,” orders from headquarters in Langley said. “They just wanted to wash their hands of him,” Moran said.

That reflects one of the agency’s major problems, according to Moran: It is still reacting to public outcry of the 1970s and ’80s over U.S. involvement with less than desirable groups.

Not long after, she was recalled to Langley, where she was pressed into service on Iraqi matters in the lead-up to what became Operation Iraqi Freedom.

At the lower levels, the prewar consensus was clear.

“To a person, they all told me that ‘We don’t have any evidence of [weapons of mass destruction],’” she said. But that didn’t square with what news reports said was coming out of the CIA.

Prewar Washington made much of the WMD justification for invading Iraq, she said, but “I don’t think I could make the case that the president or anyone on his administration invented intelligence.”

It may have happened at the lower levels, however.

Not long before the war started, Moran said, she overheard a “middle manager and bunch of his underlings” in a meeting talking about WMD.

“Let’s face it, the president wants to go to war and it’s our job to give him a reason to do so,” Moran said, quoting the “middle manager.”

“That was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back for me,” she said.

At higher levels, it may have been an instance of cherry-picking bits and pieces of information that supported the case for war, she said.

“It’s shockingly easy to do,” Moran said. “The CIA was relying on one source code named ‘Curveball’ who wound up being completely unreliable.”

“From my level, working in Iraqi operations, there was nobody there who was really gunning for this war,” she said.

Moran said frustration with the agency’s reluctance to change from a Cold War model of espionage is one of the reasons she left.

“In today’s climate … it doesn’t make sense to be training CIA agents to troll around the cocktail circuit” posing as a diplomat, she said. “You’re never going to find Osama bin Laden or any of his cohorts there.”

Meanwhile, John Walker Lindh, a teenager from California, “was able to infiltrate al-Qaida and wind up at a training camp,” Moran said. “The CIA hasn’t been able to do that.

“The situation has pretty much remained same old, same old at the CIA.”