Intelligence: May 31, 2001

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Under heavy pressure from Congress, the CIA agreed to form an outside committee of 12 security experts who would review the CIA's analyses of China over the past decade and either confirm they are realistic or condemn them as politically-motivated fantasies. The commission is reportedly divided and unable to reach an agreement on the basic questions. There is a reason for this, in that all 12 members of the commission were picked by Dennis Wilder, the senior China analyst who wrote the reports being reviewed. Wilder is known to view China as a strategic partner and to reject any analysis that names China as a potential threat to US interests; some of the members he picked are paid CIA consultants who are hardly the kind of outsiders the CIA promised to use. The assigned advisor to the panel is James Harris, himself once head of the China Division and an avowed enemy of any report questioning Chinese motives or listing China as a threat. Congress is threatening to form their own commission to get to the bottom of the question (or perhaps to find the pro-China reports faulty, even if they aren't). The White House is also concerned, since the CIA's China division was consistently wrong in predicting Chinese responses during the EP-3 spy plane crisis. Wilder has more than professional pride at stake; if his work is confirmed by the commission he appointed, his promotion to head the Asia-Pacific & Latin America division of the CIA is all but assured.--Stephen V Cole

 


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