A former senior administration official told me that in the run-up to the 2002 mid-term election, he remembers being horrified at how the CIA was leaking qualified intelligence estimates “like a sieve” for political effect. He thinks that the CIA and the State Department are both political assets for the Democrats, but unlike the State Department, which more often undermines the president quietly, the CIA actively intervenes in national elections by systematically leaking stuff calculated to have an adverse political impact on Republicans.
That this latest “secret” report (Iraq-makes-terrorism-worse) was leaked for political effect is obvious in the “conclusion” of the report, which turns on a philosophical (and policy) question that no intelligence credential makes one particularly qualified to address: Is Iraq part of the War on Terror, and will fighting them over there keep us from having to face them here? If you think the campaign in Iraq is part of the War on Terror, then examining whether terrorist recruitment has increased as a result is like measuring public opinion polls in Germany in the days after D-Day to see if the invasion is succeeding.
Attacking your enemies can be expected to make them angrier. Hitting the beaches at Normandy is going to increase your casualties. Those are things you’ll see on your way to victory.
The New York Times commonly sites the anger of our enemies and our increased casualties as evidence that we are losing, and cites CIA “estimates” (political opinions, really) in support. This tells you much more about the NYT and the CIA than about whether we are headed for victory or defeat in the Middle East.