The Office of Special Plans, which existed from September, 2002, to June, 2003, was aPentagon unit created by Donald Rumsfeld and led by Douglas Feith, dealing with intelligence on Iraq. An allegedly similar unit, called the Iranian Directorate, was created in 2006 to deal with intelligence on Iran.
In an interview with the Scottish Sunday Herald, former CIA officer Larry C. Johnson said theOSP was "dangerous for US national security and a threat to world peace. [The OSP] lied and manipulated intelligence to further its agenda of removing Saddam. It's a group of ideologues with pre-determined notions of truth and reality. They take bits of intelligence to support their agenda and ignore anything contrary. They should be eliminated." (Mackay, 2003)
Seymour Hersh writes that, according to an unnamed Pentagon adviser, "[OSP] was created in order to find evidence of what Wolfowitz and his boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, believed to be truethat Saddam Hussein had close ties to Al Qaeda, and that Iraq had an enormous arsenal of chemical, biological, and possibly even nuclear weapons that threatened the region and, potentially, the United States. [...] 'The agency [CIA] was out to disprove linkage between Iraq and terrorism,' the Pentagon adviser told me. 'Thats what drove them. If youve ever worked with intelligence data, you can see the ingrained views at C.I.A. that color the way it sees data.' The goal of Special Plans, he said, was 'to put the data under the microscope to reveal what the intelligence community cant see.'" (Hersh, 2003)
These allegations are supported by an annex to the first part of Senate intelligence committee's Report of Pre-war Intelligence on Iraq published in July 2004. The review, which was highly critical of the CIA's Iraq intelligence generally but found its judgments were right on the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship, suggests that theOSP, if connected to an "Iraqi intelligence cell" also headed by Douglas Feith which is described in the annex, sought to discredit and cast doubt on CIA analysis in an effort to establish a connection between Saddam Hussein and terrorism. In one instance, in response to a cautious CIA report, "Iraq and al-Qa'eda: A Murky Relationship", the annexe relates that "one of the individuals working for the [intelligence cell led by Feith] stated that the June  report, '...should be read for content only - and CIA's interpretation ought to be ignored.'" (Report, 2004)
In another instance, an "Iraqi intelligence cell" briefing to Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz in August 2002 condemned the CIA's intelligence assessment techniques and denounced the CIA's "consistent underestimation" of matters dealing with the alleged Iraq-al Qaeda co-operation. In September 2002, two days before the CIA's final assessment of the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship,Feith briefed senior advisers to Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice, undercutting the CIA's credibility and alleging "fundamental problems" with CIA intelligence-gathering. As reported in the conservative British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, "Senator Jay Rockefeller, senior Democrat on the [Senate] committee, said that Mr Feith's cell may even have undertaken 'unlawful' intelligence-gathering initiatives." (Coman, 2004)
Journalist Larisa Alexandrovna of The Raw Story reported in 2006 that the OSP "deployed several extra-legal and unapproved task force missions" in Iraq both before and after the beginning of combat. The teams operated independently of other special forces operations, occasionally causing confusion on the battlefield. The teams appear to have had a political rather than military mission; specifically, to find Iraqi intelligence officers willing come up with evidence of WMD in Iraq whether or not such weapons actually existed:
"They come in the summer of 2003, bringing in Iraqis, interviewing them," [a source close to the UN Security Council] said. "Then they start talking about WMD and they say to [these Iraqi intelligence officers] that 'Our President is in trouble. He went to war saying there are WMD and there are no WMD. What can we do? Can you help us?'"
According to the UN source, the intelligence officers did not cooperate with theOSP forces because they were aware that forged WMD evidence "would not pass the smell test and could be shown to be not of Iraqi origin and not using Iraqi methodology."
Larry Franklin, an analyst and Iran expert in theFeith office, has been charged with espionage, as part of a larger FBI investigation (see AIPAC espionage scandal). Douglas Feith's role is also being investigated. Allegations have also been made that Pentagon employees in the Feith office have been involved in plans for overthrowing the governments of Iran and Syria.
When Former NSA Chief General Michael Hayden testified before the Senate Hearing on his nomination as Director of Central Intelligence in May 2006, he was questioned by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) on the pressure exerted by theOffice of Special Plans on the intelligence community over the question of Saddam's links to al-Qaeda. Hayden explained that he was not comfortable with the OSP's analysis: "I got three great kids, but if you tell me go out and find all the bad things they've done, Hayden, I can build you a pretty good dossier, and you'd think they were pretty bad people, because that was I was looking for and that's what I'd build up. That would be very wrong. That would be inaccurate. That would be misleading." He also acknowledged that after "repeated inquiries from the Feith office" he put a disclaimer on NSA intelligence assessments of Iraq/al-Qaeda contacts.
Alexandrovna, Larisa. "Pentagon confirms Iranian directorate as officials raise new concerns about war", The Raw Story, June 15, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-06-17.
Alexandrovna, Larisa. "Secretive military unit sought to solve political WMD concerns prior to securing Iraq, intelligence sources say", The Raw Story, January 5, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-06-16.
Bender, Bryan. "2d probe at the Pentagon examines actions on Iraq", The Boston Globe, August 31, 2004. Retrieved on 2006-06-16.
"NOMINATION OF GENERAL MICHAEL V. HAYDEN", Federation of American Scientists, May 25, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-06-17.
Coman, Julian (July 11, 2004). Fury over Pentagon cell that briefed White House on Iraq's 'imaginary' al-Qaeda links. news.telegraph.co.uk. (registration required for full article)
Hersh, Seymour M. (May 5, 2003). Selective Intelligence. Newyorker.com.
Mackay, Neil (June 8, 2003). Revealed: The secret cabal which spun for Blair. sundayherald online. (also about the British Operation Rockingham)
Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq. (July 9, 2004). United States Select Senate Committee on Intelligence.
Kooper, Marc. Soldier for the truth. LA Weekly reprinted at AlterNet (February 25, 2004). [Interview with Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski]
Kwiatkowski, Karen (March 10, 2004). The New Pentagon Papers. salon.com.
Office of Special Plans. Disinfopedia.
Jim Lobe on OSP and wider neo-con network
The Lie Factory article by Robert Dreyfuss and Jason Vest in Mother Jones
Agents of Influence, by Robert Dreyfuss in The Nation (September 2004)
Detailed timeline of the Office of Special Plans - Center for Cooperative Research
Drinking the Kool-Aid article by Ret. Col. W. Patrick Lang in Middle East Policy Journal (Summer 2004).
OSP Douglas Feith
October 5, 2006