Little-known documents link Rumsfeld replacement Robert Gates with the kind of trumped-up reports that unleashed the Iraq war.
By Mark Benjamin
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Dec. 4, 2006 | Robert Gates won't be forced to run much of a gauntlet Tuesday during his Senate confirmation hearing on the way to becoming the next secretary of defense. The former CIA director has bipartisan support. And during his interrogation, Washington's near-total preoccupation with the situation in Iraq will crowd out any serious probing of Gates' past, including his murky role in the Iran-Contra scandal and the cooking of intelligence on the Soviet Union during Gates' tenure at the CIA more than a decade ago.
Lawmakers from both parties seem to agree that Gates' speedy accession is owed to a key qualification -- that Gates is not Donald Rumsfeld. When he announced his support for Gates recently, incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that fact is "the one thing he has going for him."
But in the rush to discharge Rumsfeld, the Senate may not fully explore a blemish in Gates' dossier that seems particularly relevant now. A close examination of Gates' record, including little-known documents obtained by Salon from the National Security Archive, shows that as Gates was rising through the echelons of the CIA in the late 1980s to be CIA director in 1991, he was involved in the trafficking of intelligence reports that relied on compromised sources to show an exaggerated foreign threat. With the U.S. struggling for an exit strategy from Iraq and eyeing adversaries like Iran, President Bush has selected a man to head the Pentagon who was once in charge during an intelligence fiasco not unlike the one that unleashed the Iraq war.
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