His office really does run national security.
Feith had worked for Cheney—together with Scooter Libby—when he was secretary of defense in the administration of George H.W. Bush and, according to former administration sources, was even closer to Rumsfeld than Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was. After that outburst, Feith held up a piece of paper and read aloud an account of al-Qaida's ties with Iraq in the early 1990s. Then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, a man well-known and well-liked in Washington for his gentlemanly manners, looked on, aghast at the scene. Wilkerson told me that after the end of the meeting, he got a copy of the paper and determined it was a newspaper clipping that had been retyped in the vice president's office to be presented as "intelligence."
Browbeating intelligence officials, disregard for the National Security Council's traditional leadership of the interagency process—this kind of behavior, plenty of Bush administration officials privately attest, was typical as the Cheney-Rumsfeld axis that took the country to war. "Who knows," Larry Wilkerson wondered to me, "how many other people they intimidated."
Daniel Benjamin is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He served as director for counterterrorism on the National Security Council staff in 1998-99 and is the co-author ofThe Age of Sacred Terrorand The Next Attack.
Photograph of Vice President Cheney by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images. Photograph of Dick Cheney on the Slate home page by Todd Bennett/Getty Images.