Schwarzkopf assails data in gulf war Intelligence slow, 'watered down,' Congress is told

June 13, 1991|By Michael Wines | Michael Wines,New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf complained to Congress yesterday about the quality and timeliness of intelligence given his forces during the Persian Gulf war.

The general was especially critical of the analyses of intelligence provided to his staff by specialists in Washington on the Iraqi military, saying that they had been "caveated, footnoted and watered down" to the point of being useless.

"There were so many disclaimers that by the time you got done reading many of the intelligence estimates you received, no matter what happened, they would have been right," he said. "And that's not helpful to the guy in the field."

Other analyses were so cautious that had the Pentagon relied on them to choose the right moment to attack, he said, "we would still be sitting over there waiting."

General Schwarzkopf urged the intelligence agencies and the Pentagon to devise a single method of preparing analyses of data and photos to prevent wartime disputes over the meaning of intelligence information.

He also complained that field commanders were unable to get reconnaissance photos of potential Iraqi military targets that were less than a day old. Having the most current photographs was important, he said, because pilots needed an exactrendering of the areas they planned to attack if their bombs were to be precisely aimed. And such scenes can rapidly change in battle, he said.

It was not clear whether General Schwarzkopf's remarks were directed at the CIA, which coordinated the wartime intelligence effort, or the Defense Intelligence Agency and the rest of the Pentagon's espionage apparatus, which provided most of the direct support to U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf.

Some administration officials have said that discontent over the quality of intelligence on Iraq may have played a role in President Bush's decision last month to accept the retirement of William H. Webster as director of central intelligence.

Mr. Bush has proposed replacing Mr. Webster with Robert M. Gates, a career intelligence official who held senior posts at the CIA before moving to the White House as deputy national security adviser in 1989.

During the 1980s, Mr. Gates made major changes in both the operations and the personnel of the CIA's analytical division, and analysts working there today are largely a product of that overhaul.

A CIA spokesman declined to comment on General Schwarzkopf's remarks but noted that President Bush last month rejected assertions that U.S. intelligence had not performed well during the war. Mr. Bush called the agencies' work outstanding and said he had "no complaints whatsoever."

A spokesman for the Defense Intelligence Agency did not return a phone call yesterday seeking comment on the Schwarzkopf remarks.

The comments on intelligence were virtually the only cutting words in a day of flowery tributes and patriotic celebrity for the general, who was making final visits to the House and Senate military affairs committees before his scheduled retirement from the Army in August.

Throngs of tourists and federal workers spilled out of congressional hearing rooms and lined up down the hallways, waiting to get aglimpse of the general, chief of the Pentagon's Central Command, seated alone at a wooden table in a starched Army-green dress uniform spangled with ribbons.

General Schwarzkopf took pains to praise the overall efforts of intelligence agencies during the conflict and the quality of the PTC satellites, aircraft and eavesdropping equipment they used against Iraq. His complaint, he said, was with the way the information was later handled.

General Schwarzkopf also said he favored at least a limited combat role for women in future wars, provided that the individual military services could define those roles based on their own requirements, rather than on a concept of women's rights.

He said he did not believe that women should be allowed to conduct trench warfare, where great strength is required, but he left open the question of whether they could be pilots of jet fighters or attack helicopters.

He also rejected reports that he disagreed with the decision of President Bush and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Colin L. Powell, to end the ground war in Iraq after a few days.

He said he told General Powell in a phone conversation the day before the war was halted that he believed the military objectives of the allied coalition had been achieved but that "my plans are to continue the attack for probably one more day."

When General Powell later instructed him to end the conflict in 12 hours, he said, he agreed, saying, "That's as good a time as any other."

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