Douglas Feith

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Douglas J. "Doug" Feith is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for National Security Strategies at the Hudson Institute. He is also a Belfer Center Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

In the George W. Bush Administration, he was Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from July 2001 until August 2005, he helped devise the U.S. government's strategy for the war on terrorism and contributed to policy making for the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars.

Law practice

A graduate of Harvard and Georgetown Law, he was, for fifteen years, the managing attorney of the Washington, D.C. law firm Feith & Zell, P.C. While a junior attorney, Fred Ikle, for whom he had worked in the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, asked him to speak against the SALT II treaty. Ikle tutored him in the issues, and introduced him to Eugene Rostow. [1]

Isakoff & Korn state his firm was heavily involved in work for Israel. They called him a "consultant" on the 1996 "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm" paper prepared for Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, authored for an Israeli think tank, The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (IASPS), by David Wurmser. They state the paper called for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Feith accepts the term consultant, but in the sense of "simply someone with whom the author consulted in the course of his work." [2]

Ronald Reagan Administration

From his law practice, he became a National Security Council specialist on the Middle East in the Reagan Administration, and then moved to the Pentagon as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Negotiations Policy, working for Richard Perle.

George W. Bush Administration

In the George W. Bush Administration, other officials found him intent on injecting ideology into policy discussions, as abstractions rather than as specific proposals as did Dick Cheney and others. "All he did was sput rhetoric...he would launch into these diatribes about neofascism...he had no interest in problem solving. According to the same NSC official, he seemed more concerned with protecting Donald Rumsfeld's opinions than formulating policy. [3]

Intelligence interpretation

In the summer of 2001, Rumsfeld had complained about the quality of CIA intelligence, and said "I'm going to create my own intelligence agency." While the Defense Intelligence Agency officially reported to him, it also was part of the United States intelligence community, then headed by the Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet. He wanted not the policy-neutral analysis of professional analysts, but work that challenged current axioms, trying to find justification for a thesis rather than synthesizing from bottom-up data. Rumsfeld gave this function to Feith.

Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group

Feith's new unit, initially called the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group, had a professional staff of two. It was a different entity than the Office of Special Plans. One, David Wurmser, came from the American Enterprise Institute. The other was a Defense Department staffer and protege of Richard Perle, Michael Maloof.[4] Maloof said

First of all, I went into our classified system to see whether we know about terrorist groups and the relationships, as well as their connections with not only Al Qaeda, but also with state sponsors. I really didn't find that much finished analysis. Almost immediately we began to see the resistance, particularly from the intelligence community, simply because their impression of our work was to second-guess them. Based upon that, part of my recommendation was to include such an analysis, not only on terrorist groups and how they related to one another, but also the relationship to Al Qaeda and then to state sponsors, and then how to then identify what I refer to as checkpoints. Where are they anywhere in the world? Where do we find their concentrations? And then the fifth recommendation was to eliminate those threats.

They worked on creating "wiring diagrams" showing relationships among terror groups. To do this, they wanted raw intelligence from the major intelligence agencies, and met resistance. With top-level support, they eventually got the access to begin filling out their details. For example, they concluded

Iraq trains Palestinian terrorists associated with PFLP, PIJ, Hamas, ANO, PLF, Ansar al-Islam which has direct ties to al-Qaeda[5]

Their work gained the interest of others in the Administration. Samantha Ravich, a foreign policy assistant to Cheney, studied the charts and reported back to Scooter Libby. Wolfowitz personally studied them, and was especially impressed by the role they had assigned to the Abu Nidal organization, which the intelligence community believed no longer was operational. Perle established a liaison for Maloof to Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, an INC staffer named Nibras Kazimi. Maloof said of some of his data, "...we heard it from some people from the INC, the Iraqi National Congress....I basically asked for help in giving us direction as to where to look for information in our own system in order to be able to get a clear picture of what we were doing. They were quite helpful." They basically told me, "We have a war room in London. We're gearing up for war ourselves, and all of our information that's coming in now is oriented to trying to identify these facilities," [4]

Maloof left when he lost his security clearances in January 2002, having formed a relationship with a woman in the nation of Georgia. Wurmser transferred to work for John Bolton at the State Department. Feith replaced them with Chris Carney, an academic political scientist and naval reservist, and Tina Shelton, a DIA analyst. [6]


On his website, Feith said that he reported on a relationship between al-Qaeda and Iraq. [7] He speaks of contacts, but the more general concern in the United States intelligence community was whether any operational relationship exists, or if Iraq directed al-Qaeda.

He also was concerned about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capability. Feith points out

...Saddam was doing a complex deception where he wanted to make sure that the people against whom he had used WMD in the past, the Iranians and his own Kurds and Shi'ites believed that he had it and so he persuaded people throughout his own government and he persuaded people around the world that he had it but at the same time, he wanted to be able to have an inspection that would not find the stockpiles so that he could eventually get out from under the UN sanctions which were crumbling in -- at the beginning of the Bush Administration.[8]

Office of Special Plans

For more information, see: Office of Special Plans.

While the Office was run directly by Abram Shulsky, who reported to William Luti, Feith's deputy, retired LTC Karen Kwiatkowski, wrote that she "had a clear sense that Abe [Shulsky] ranked high in the organization, although ostensibly he was under Luti. ... Shulsky's real boss was somebody like Douglas Feith or higher" [9]

Office of Strategic Influence

War planning

LTG Greg Newbold, a Marine lieutenant general who retired in protest, as operations director of the Joint Staff, had been in Britain, discussing Operation NORTHERN WATCH and Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, when the 9-11 attack struck. On his return, he said Feith asked him "why are you working on Afghanistan? You ought to be working on Iraq." Feith denied this, saying he had been conveying Rumsfeld's thinking about considering the war on terrorism in a broader context. [10] Feith advocated invading Iraq.

Newbold was especially critical of Feith's team, whom he said "were essentially an extra-governmental organization, because many of their sources of information and much of their work was in the shadows. It was also my sense that they cherry-picked obscure, unconfirmed information to reinforce their own philosophies and ideologies."[11]

GEN Tommy Franks, commander of United States Central Command, told his planning staff, in January 2002, that the Office of the Secretary of Defense was demanding much, but "I'll worry about OSD, all of them — including Doug Feith, who's getting a reputation as the dumbest f*****g guy on the planet. Your job is to make me feel warm and fuzzy. Look, we're all professionals. Let's earn our pay." [12] Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired colonel and chief of staff to Colin Powell, confirmed Franks' opinion of Feith: "He was. Let me testify to that. He was. Seldom in my life have I met a dumber man."[13]

Post-combat situation in Iraq

Feith said the President hurt his own credibility, when he changed his position from "Before the war, what the president explained to the public in speech after speech, as the rationale for the war in Iraq was a range of threats that the Saddam Hussein regime posed; threats of aggression, threats of support for various terrorist groups, threats of WMD. An element of the WMD threat was the belief that we would find chemical and biological weapon stockpiles as the CIA said we would after the overthrow of Saddam." to "There was a shift from discussing the threats that the Saddam Hussein regime posed to discussing only the future and the promotion of democracy and I think there were some terrible consequences that flowed from that shift in rhetoric. One of them was the president undermined his own credibility 'cause he was seen to be changing, you know, apparently the rationale for the war and the public noticed it. And so, I think it hurt the president's credibility. Secondly, by making it clear that he wanted to focus only on the future, he induced the critics of the war to focus exclusively on the past"[14]

He wrote that no agency had expected the Iraqi regime to conduct a prolonged insurgency after it was overthrown, although individual and sectarian violence were to be expected. He saw the insurgency as fundamentally against the Ba'athists. [15]

Feith had called Garner to organize ORHA; he said Garner was not interested in the diplomatic aspects. In the last week of April 2003, Rumsfeld decided diplomatic skills were critical; he asked Feith if he knew L. Paul Bremer. Feith knew him, but not well. The new appointment, to Rumsfeld, was not a rejection of ORHA, which became part of CENTCOM, which, at the time, was the top US agency in Iraq. Bremer insisted that he be the top leader for Iraqi affairs, and, as CPA head, he superseded GEN Tommy Franks in that role. [16]

While Bremer said he had been given minimal policy information,[17] Feith said his staff had briefed Bremer extensively about the interagency work on de-Ba'athification, which had been approved, in draft form, by the President on March 10. Bremer asked for a delay, wanting yo make he announcement. Walter Slocombe, who had drafted Orders 1 and 2 with Bremer, showed them to Feith on May 9. Bremer mae the announcements on May 16.[18]

Early career

Feith grew up in suburban Philadelphia, the son of a Polish immigrant who had been captured and tortured by the Nazis while trying to emigrate to Palestine, and who lost nine of his family in Holocaust. He had an early interest in international relations, and grew up in a politically liberal environment.

He studied international relations at Harvard, graduating in 1975, and, "came to distrust the conventional wisdom, with its optimistic assumption that negotiation and treaty relations could produce peace between deadly enemies." After graduating from Harvard, he attended a speech by Leslie Gelb, at which he criticized detente. Gelb introduced him to Richard Perle, and Perle took him on as a summer intern in the office Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson. (D-Washington (U.S. state))

He then took a law degree from Georgetown, spending the summer working on the Senatorial campaign of retired ADM Elmo Zumwalt. Zumwalt became a mentor. From the campaign, he took an internship at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, then headed by Fred Ikle. Paul Wolfowitz was a colleague there.

In turn, he joined a group called the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, which was supportive of a support among Jews of an American policy of peace through strength, and appreciating Israel as a key ally in the Middle East.[19]


  1. Douglas J. Feith (2008), War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism, Harper, ISBN 9780060899738, pp. 29-30}}
  2. MYTH #4: CLEAN BREAK — Did I co-author the "Clean Break" paper, an essay which some writers have described as a neoconservative "manifesto" or "master plan?"
  3. Isakoff, Michael & David Corn (2006), Hubris: the Inside Story of Spin, Scandal and the Selling of the Iraq War, Crown, ISBN 0307346811, p. 109
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Interview: F. Michael Maloof", Frontline, Public Broadcasting Service, January 10, 2006
  5. Isikoff & Corn, p. 107-111
  6. Isikoff & Corn, p. 111-112
  7. [ MYTH #1: CIA ON IRAQ AL-QA'IDA RELATIONSHIP Is it true that my Pentagon office claimed there was an Iraq-al Qaida relationship and that the CIA had determined there was not?]
  8. War Policy with Douglas Feith, Hoover Institute, Stanford University, April 03, 2008, p. 2
  9. Karen Kwiatkowski, "The New Pentagon Papers",, March 10, 2004).
  10. Michael R. Gordon, Bernard E. Trainor (2006), COBRA II: the inside story of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, Pantheon, ISBN 0375422625, p. 15
  11. Thomas E. Ricks (2006), FIASCO: the American Military Adventure in Iraq, Penguin, ISBN 159320103X, p. 55
  12. Franks, Tommy & Malcolm McConnell (2004), American Soldier, Regan, p. 362
  13. "Transcript: Colonel Wilkerson on US foreign policy", Financial Times, 20 October 2005
  14. War Policy, pp. 8-9
  15. Feith, War and Decision, p. 415
  16. Feith, War and Decision, p. 422
  17. COBRA II, pp. 480-481
  18. Feith, War and Decision, p. 428
  19. Feith, War and Decision, p. 24-27