Yale President Richard Levin is in Washington, D.C. joining a group appointed to investigate U.S. intelligence on Iraq by U.S. President George Bush ’68.
The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, which is holding its sixth meeting since it was formed late last winter, includes Senator John McCain, MIT President Charles Vest and former CIA Director William Studeman.
According to Bush’s executive order creating the commission, the panel is charged with comparing intelligence on pre-war Iraq to the findings of the Iraq Survey Group that has been searching for weapons of mass destruction within the country. Though specifics of each meeting are not shared with the media until after the session ends, Public Affairs Officer for the commission Carl Kropf said at the two-day meetings, commission members “receive updates on a range of intelligence topics and meet with some pertinent intelligence officials.”
Levin said his commitment to the commission — roughly two days a month, plus preparative reading — has not interfered with his responsibilities at the University.
“It’s been quite manageable,” Levin said. “The two co-chairs [Charles Robb and Judge Laurence Silberman] are really devoting their main time to the commission.”
While some members of the Yale community questioned Levin’s appointment to the committee last March because of his lack of intelligence-related experience, Levin said he has been impressed by the contributions from those on the commission who come from backgrounds that, like his, do not require specific knowledge of intelligence.
“I think there has been a very good dialogue,” Levin said. “People with experience in the area and without it have both made contributions.”
Even though some members of the commission do not have a background in intelligence, Kropf said they have learned quickly by interviewing important intelligent officials.
“They’re all good people in their own rights,” Kropf said. “They have some very probing questions. It’s interesting to see how much they understand about the intelligence community.”
On a personal level, Levin said he has found his time on the commission worthwhile and educational. He particularly enjoyed interviews conducted with intelligence officials, and he said their comments were helpful.
The goal of the commission, after reviewing the materials and information presented to them, is to suggest reforms to the intelligence community, Levin said. From his experience so far, Levin said he feels that the commission will highlight areas where reform is needed.
“I found a number of people to be very perceptive and to have good insight about possible reforms within intelligence,” Levin said.
The looming presidential election will not affect the commission, Levin said, because the committee is not aligned with one party.
“The commission is bi-partisan,” Levin said. “Recommendations will be taken seriously by either party.”
A final report from the commission is due in March of 2005.