Syria: Obama and Cherry Picked Intelligence - Seymour Hersh
"Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August.
In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack.
In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity.
When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.
In his nationally televised speech about Syria on 10 September, Obama laid the blame for the nerve gas attack on the rebel-held suburb of Eastern Ghouta firmly on Assad’s government, and made it clear he was prepared to back up his earlier public warnings that any use of chemical weapons would cross a ‘red line’:
‘Assad’s government gassed to death over a thousand people,’ he said. ‘We know the Assad regime was responsible … And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike.’
Obama was going to war to back up a public threat, but he was doing so without knowing for sure who did what in the early morning of 21 August"
Hersh does not say that Assad did not launch the attack. Nor does he say al-Nusra carried out the attack. Rather, he shows that:
At some unidentified time since the beginning of the Civil War, Assad had discovered and neutralized wiretaps on his inner circle, leaving US intelligence blind to discussions happening among his top aides
Sensors planted to detect any movement of Assad’s CW immediately had not been triggered by the August 21 attack
By June, some intelligence entity had concluded that an Iraqi member of al-Nusra had the capability to manufacture sarin in quantity