Although he had to submit his speech to the CIA for approval, former CIA top lawyer Jeffrey Smith didn’t seem to pull any punches in criticizing the Bush administration in a speech at the Law School on Friday.

Smith, general counsel to the CIA for 16 months in the mid-1990s, criticized what he called “failures of integrity” by the Pentagon and Bush administration in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion.

A 1971 graduate of the University Law School, Smith was the keynote speaker at a two-day symposium sponsored by the Michigan Journal of International Law called “State Intelligence Gathering and International Law.”

He said the intelligence failures that led the Bush administration to argue that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction occurred because the government crossed the line between intelligence gathering and policymaking.

“Whether that was the result of poor tradecraft on the part of analysts or political pressure from the White House is debatable,” Smith said. “My own view is that it’s some of each, but at its base it’s a failure of integrity.”

Smith said the law ensures the integrity of the intelligence-gathering process.

“Lawyers and judges have a special responsibility to make the system work,” he said. “If our integrity fails, the system fails. If our system fails, our country fails.”

Smith stood tall and dignified at the podium. He chose his words more carefully than most – he has to have all public remarks approved by the CIA – but didn’t appear to be pulling any punches as he leveled his criticism at the Bush administration.

On the issue of detainees of the United States’s war on terrorism, Smith had direct condemnation for the President personally.

The Bush administration has held some detainees as “enemy combatants,” but hasn’t granted them the rights guaranteed by the Geneva Conventions. Some are held indefinitely without charge or the right to due process.

“In creating a new and previously unknown category of enemy combatants, the president acted outside the scope of international law and caused enormous harm to the United States,” Smith said.

Smith said the U.S. should give all detainees the rights granted by the Geneva Conventions.

“In the old days, if you wore a uniform you were entitled to protection, and if you didn’t, you weren’t,” Smith said. “That doesn’t work very well these days.”

Smith said that he hopes he has lived up to those ideals of integrity in his own work. He said his education at the University taught him the importance of those ideals.

“If I have learned one thing in all these years, it is that the single most important thing that anybody in intelligence business or in the law can do, is work as hard as we can every day to ensure the integrity of the process,” Smith said. “I learned that here at this great law school.”

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