Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

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Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) is a group of former officers of the United States Intelligence Community. It was formed in January 2003 when the group issued a statement accusing the Bush Administration of misrepresenting U.S. national intelligence information in order to push the US and its allies toward that year's US-led invasion of Iraq. The group issued a letter stating that intelligence analysts were not being heeded by policy makers. The group initially numbered 25, mostly retired analysts.[1]

February 2003 memo[edit]

On February 7, 2003, on the eve of the Iraq War, VIPS released a "Memorandum for The President" criticizing U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's speech before the United Nations (UN), and warning against "a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic":

Your Pentagon advisers draw a connection between war with Iraq and terrorism, but for the wrong reasons. The connection takes on much more reality in a post-US invasion scenario. Indeed, it is our view that an invasion of Iraq would ensure overflowing recruitment centers for terrorists into the indefinite future. Far from eliminating the threat it would enhance it exponentially. ... With respect to possible Iraqi use of chemical weapons, it has been the judgment of the US intelligence community for over 12 years that the likelihood of such use would greatly increase during an offensive aimed at getting rid of Saddam Hussein."[2]

VIPS followed up with ten further memos throughout 2003 and early 2004, "assessing what the Bush Administration knew about Iraq before, during, and after the war, and how that intelligence has been used–and misused."[3] In May 2003, The New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof said that widespread outrage among intelligence professionals had led to the establishment of VIPS.[4] After the CIA chief weapons inspector David Kay in 2004 announced no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction could be found in Iraq, Michael W. Robbins opined in the magazine Mother Jones that VIPS "produced some of the most credible, and critical, analyses of the Bush Administration's handling of intelligence data in the run-up to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq."[3]

August 2010 memo[edit]

On August 3, 2010, VIPS publicly released another "MEMORANDUM FOR: The President" claiming that the government of Israel has a record of deceiving the U.S. government and estimated that Israel would unilaterally attack Iran "as early as this month."[5][6]

September 2013 memo[edit]

After the Ghouta chemical attack in Syria, VIPS issued an "open letter" to President Obama stating that "former co-workers" and "numerous sources in the Middle East" had informed them that Syrian government forces were not responsible for the attack, contrary to the position of the US government and foreign intelligence agencies. The letter stated that there was instead "a strong circumstantial case" that the incident was a "pre-planned provocation by the Syrian opposition and its Saudi and Turkish supporters".[7] Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, writing in The New Republic, criticized the letter's reliance on anonymous sources.[8]

The purpose of the letter was to urge President Obama against using the Ghouta incident to justify military action against the Syrian government because the signatories of the letter "are unaware of any reliable evidence that a Syrian military rocket capable of carrying a chemical agent was fired into the area [Ghouta]. In fact, we are aware of no reliable physical evidence to support the claim that this was a result of a strike by a Syrian military unit with expertise in chemical weapons."[7] Nearly 5 years later, in response to a question about whether the Syrian government had ever used sarin gas (the chemical alleged to have been used in the Ghouta attack at the time the open letter was written) U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis responded "[w]e have no evidence of it."[9]

December 2016 and July 2017 memos[edit]

In December 2016, VIPS released a memorandum criticizing allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections as "evidence-free". The memorandum asserted that the 2016 Democratic National Committee email leak was the result of an internal leak and not a Russian hack.[10]

On July 24, 2017, VIPS released another memorandum which also argued that the DNC was not hacked, this time based on a forensic analysis conducted by the anonymous entity "Forensicator" with whom they communicated via retired IBM employee Skip Folden. This analysis was based on DNC files released by Guccifer 2.0.[11] According to Patrick Lawrence's article in The Nation, the memorandum argued that the metadata in these files were altered to add Russian fingerprints, and that file transfer rate proved they were transferred locally.[12] Brian Feldman, writing in the New York Magazine, criticized the report for relying on "the 'metadata' of 'locked files' that only [Forensicator] had access to" pointing out that these phrases were meaningless. Feldman described the claims in Patrick Lawrence's article as "too incoherent to even debunk" and criticized its use of "techno-gibberish".[13]

According to John Hultquist of FireEye: "The author of the report didn't consider a number of scenarios and breezed right past others. It completely ignores all the evidence that contradicts its claims." Rich Barger, director of security research at Splunk, pointed out that the VIPS theory "assumes that the hacker downloaded the files to a computer and then leaked it from that computer" but overlooks the likelihood that the files were copied several times before they were leaked, potentially creating new metadata each time. Barger's comments were echoed by other cyber-security experts.[14] The Guardian Project founder Nathaniel Freitas independently reviewed Lawrence's article on behalf of The Nation, concluding that while "the work of the Forensicator is detailed and accurate," it did not prove the conclusions VIPS and Lawrence derived from it. Freitas stated that the high throughput suggested by the relevant metadata could have been achieved by a hacker under several different scenarios, including through the use of a remote access trojan, and that the leak hypothesis also requires "the target server ... to be physically on site in the building": "If the files were stored remotely 'in the cloud,' then the same criticism of 'it is not possible to get those speeds' would come into play." In sum: "At this point, given the limited available data, certainty about only a very small number of things can be achieved."[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Ex-CIA Accuse Bush of Manipulating Iraq Evidence". Associated Press. March 17, 2003.
  2. ^ "Powell's UN Speech and the Case for War". Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity via Consortium News. February 5, 2003. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Michael W. Robbins, The Skeptical Spy, Mother Jones, March 10, 2004.
  4. ^ "Save Our Spooks". The New York Times. May 30, 2003.
  5. ^ Lahav Harkov, Obama misplaced trust in Netanyahu, Jerusalem Post, August 5, 2010.
  6. ^ Dana Karni, Will Israel Bomb Iran This Month? Archived August 15, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, Fox News, August 5, 2010.
  7. ^ a b "Obama Warned on Syrian Intel". September 6, 2013. Retrieved August 23, 2017.
  8. ^ Ahmad, Muhammad Idrees (September 12, 2013). "The New Truthers: Americans Who Deny Syria Used Chemical Weapons". The New Republic. ISSN 0028-6583. Retrieved October 22, 2019.
  9. ^ "U.S. has no evidence of Syrian use of sarin gas, Mattis says". PBS NewsHour. February 2, 2018. Retrieved October 22, 2019.
  10. ^ "US Intelligence Agencies Disagree on Russian Hacking in Presidential Poll". CNN-News18. December 15, 2016. Retrieved August 18, 2017.
  11. ^ Ryan, Danielle (August 15, 2017). "What if the DNC Russian 'hack' was really a leak after all? A new report raises questions media and Democrats would rather ignore". Salon. Retrieved August 18, 2017.
  12. ^ Lawrence, Patrick (August 9, 2017). "A New Report Raises Big Questions About Last Year's DNC Hack". The Nation. Retrieved August 11, 2017.
  13. ^ Feldman, Brian (August 10, 2017). "The Nation Article About the DNC Hack Is Too Incoherent to Even Debunk". New York Magazine. Retrieved August 18, 2017.
  14. ^ Uchill, Joe (August 14, 2017). "Why the latest theory about the DNC not being hacked is probably wrong". The Hill. Retrieved August 17, 2017.
  15. ^ Various Contributors (September 1, 2017). "A Leak or a Hack? A Forum on the VIPS Memo". The Nation. Retrieved September 2, 2017.