The Army is accustomed to protecting classified information. But when it comes to the planning for the Iraq war, even an unclassified assessment can acquire the status of a state secret.
That is what happened to a detailed study of the planning for postwar Iraq prepared for the Army by the RAND Corp., a federally financed center that conducts research for the military.
After 18 months of research, RAND submitted a report in the summer of 2005 called "Rebuilding Iraq." RAND submitted an unclassified version of the report along with a secret one, hoping its publication would contribute to the public debate on how to prepare for future conflicts.
But the study's critique of the White House, Defense Department and other agencies was a concern for Army generals, and the Army has sought to keep the report under lock and key.
A review of the lengthy report - a draft of which was obtained by the New York Times - shows it identified problems with just about every organization that had a role in planning the war.
The study chided President Bush - and by implication Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was national security adviser when the war was planned - forfailing to resolve differences among rival agencies. "Throughout the planning process, tensions between the Defense Department and the State Department were never mediated by the president or his staff," it said.
Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Department was given the lead in overseeing the postwar period in Iraq despite its "lack of capacity for civilian reconstruction planning and execution."
Colin Powell's State Department produced a study on Iraq's future that identified important issues but was of "uneven quality" and "did not constitute an actionable plan."
Gen. Tommy Franks, whose Central Command oversaw military operation, had a "fundamental misunderstanding" of what the military needed to do to secure postwar Iraq, the study said.
The regulations governing the Army's relations with the Arroyo Center, the division of RAND that does research for the Army, stipulate that Army officials are to review reports in a timely fashion to ensure classified information is not released. But the rules also note that officials are not to "censor" analysis or prevent the dissemination of material critical of the Army.
The report was part of a seven-volume series by RAND on the lessons learned from the war. Asked why the report has not been published, Timothy Muchmore, a civilian Army official, said it ventured too far from issues that directly involve the Army.
"After carefully reviewing the findings and recommendations of the thorough RAND assessment, the Army determined that the analysts had, in some cases, taken a broader perspective on the early planning and operational phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom than desired or chartered by the Army," Muchmore said in a statement. "Some of the RAND findings and recommendations were determined to be outside the purview of the Army and therefore of limited value in informing Army policies, programs and priorities."
Warren Robak, a RAND spokesman, declined to talk about the study's contents but said the organization favored publication as a matter of general policy.
"RAND always endeavors to publish as much of our research as possible, in either unclassified form or in classified form for those with the proper security clearances," Robak said in a statement. "The multivolume series on lessons learned from Operation Iraqi Freedom is no exception. We also, however, have a long-standing practice of not discussing work that has not yet been published."