From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]

“A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly,
without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to
our intelligence agencies,” Cheney told Americans just after 9/11. He
warned the public that the government would have to operate on the
“dark side.”

In “The Dark Side,” FRONTLINE tells the story of the vice president’s
role as the chief architect of the war on terror, and his battle with
Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet for control of the “dark
side.” Drawing on more than 40 interviews and thousands of documents,
the film provides a step-by-step examination of what happened inside
the councils of war.

Early in the Bush administration, Cheney placed a group of allies
throughout the government who advocated a robust and pre-emptive
foreign policy, especially regarding Iraq. But a potential obstacle was
Tenet, a holdover from the Clinton administration who had survived the
transition by bypassing Cheney and creating a personal bond with the

After the attacks on 9/11, Cheney seized the initiative and pushed for
expanding presidential power, transforming America’s intelligence
agencies and bringing the war on terror to Iraq. Cheney’s primary ally
in this effort was Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

“You have this wiring diagram that we all know of about national
security, but now there’s a new line on it. There’s a line from the
vice president directly to the secretary of defense, and it’s as though
there’s a private line, private communication between those two,”
former National Security Council staffer Richard Clarke tells

In the initial stages of the war on terror, Tenet’s CIA was rising to
prominence as the lead agency in the Afghanistan war. But when Tenet
insisted in his personal meetings with the president that there was no
connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq, Cheney and Rumsfeld initiated a
secret program to re-examine the evidence and marginalize the agency
and Tenet. Through interviews with DoD staffers who sifted through
mountains of raw intelligence, FRONTLINE details how questionable
intelligence was “stovepiped” to the vice president and presented to
the public.

From stories of Iraq buying yellowcake uranium from Niger to claims
that 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta had met with an Iraqi agent in Prague,
“The Dark Side” dissects the now-familiar assertions that led the
nation to war. The program also receounts the vice president’s
unprecedented visits to the CIA, where he questioned mid-level analysts
on their conclusions. CIA officers who were there at the time say the
message was clear: Cheney wanted evidence that Iraq was a threat.

At the center of the administration’s case for war was a classified
October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate that found evidence of an
Iraqi weapons of mass destruction program. But Paul Pillar, one of the
report’s principal authors, now admits to FRONTLINE that the NIE was
written quickly in a highly politicized environment, one in which the
decision to go to war had already been made. Pillar also reveals that
he regrets participating in writing a subsequent public “white paper”
on Iraqi WMD. “What was the purpose of it? The purpose was to
strengthen the case for going to war with the American public. Is it
proper for the intelligence community to publish papers for that
purpose? I don’t think so, and I regret having had a role in it,”
Pillar says.

For the first time, FRONTLINE tells of George Tenet’s personal struggle
in the run-up to the Iraq war through the accounts of his closest

“He, I think, asked himself whether or not he wanted to continue on
that road and to be part of it. And I think there was a lot of
agonizing that George went through about what would be in the best
interest of the country and national interest, or whether or not he
would stay in that position and continue along a course that I think he
had misgivings about,” says John Brennan, former deputy executive
director of the CIA.

Tenet chose to stay, but after the failure to find Iraqi WMD, the
tension between the agency and Cheney’s allies grew to the point that
some in the administration believed the CIA had launched a covert war
to undermine the president. In response, Cheney’s office waged a
campaign to distance itself from the prewar intelligence the vice
president had helped to cultivate. Under pressure, Tenet resigned.
Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, would later admit to leaking
key sections of the NIE — authorized, he says, by Cheney. Libby also
stated that the vice president told him that President Bush had
declassified the material. Insiders tell FRONTLINE that the leak was
part of the battle between the vice president and the CIA — a battle
that many believe has destroyed the CIA.