WASHINGTON, D.C. -- When Secretary of State Colin Powell went before the United Nations Security Council last February to display the evidence against Saddam Hussein, pundits applauded the eloquence of his long and detailed indictment of the Iraqi dictator. Using highly classified satellite imagery, transcribed recordings of conversations among Iraqi officials and information derived from allied human intelligence sources, the Secretary laid out the case for war.
At the time, many of those who are in the business of gathering and analyzing national security intelligence expressed astonishment and anxiety that America's methods for collecting, evaluating and disseminating intelligence were being aired live, on international television, for the world to see.
After Secretary Powell's U.N. exposition, a former senior intelligence official told me that "we gave away the store" and that he was "astounded at what the presentation revealed about our intelligence wherewithal." Sen. Pat Roberts, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee voiced concern saying, "They frankly revealed more intelligence capabilities and assessment and sources and methods than I've ever seen."
Senior Bush administration national security officials apparently believed that the unprecedented display of intelligence would persuade global skeptics at the United Nations that the Americans and British were right about the threat Saddam posed. There was also a belief shared in Washington and London that such a presentation of "the facts" -- proffered by an official as admired as Powell -- would help convince uneasy electorates in both nations that a pre-emptive war was the only sensible course.
Someone must have determined that these considerations were more important than what the briefing would reveal to our adversaries -- not just in Iraq -- but in Jihadist terror cells from Indonesia to the Bekka Valley of Lebanon. Those who made such a calculation added up the costs and benefits -- and came up with the wrong answer. The televised U.N. briefing on Feb. 5, 2003 was a mistake.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.