Takedown: Inside the Hunt for Al Qaeda

By Philip Mudd | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
A NEW VIEW AT CIA: DEPUTY DIRECTOR
OF THE COUNTERTERRORIST CENTER

THE IRAQ-AL QAEDA story crept into our work occasionally after secretary of state Colin Powell’s speech to the United Nations in February 2003, but never with the same intensity. As war loomed and then the initial Shock and Awe strikes hit Baghdad in March, media coverage and public interest shifted quickly to the invasion, to the emerging shock at the lack of WMD, to the hunt for Saddam, to the infusion of foreign fighters heading to Iraq as suicide bombers, and to the bloodshed in the middle of the decade as Iraq descended into chaos. The prewar intelligence issue was focused on WMD; the post-invasion after-action work, including the endless studies about what had happened with the faulty WMD analysis, consumed Iraq watchers, partly because of the massive intelligence effort— in both resources and high-level attention—involved in supporting the series of officials who went to Baghdad to lead the hunt for WMD. Over time, too, attention shifted, as the violence grew and inter-ethnic clashes left countless Iraqis dead, to what had happened with postwar planning. The issue of possible Iraqi links to Al Qaeda, never a focus for the UN anyway, slipped into the background.

Meanwhile, I had gotten a promotion, a couple of steps up. As secondin-charge of analysis in the Counterterrorist Center, I had worked for Pattie overseeing a group of analysts and managers that numbered in the low hun-

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