Cooking Intelligence Again

Four years ago, President Bush ordered Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet to prepare a National Intelligence Estimate to be used to "justify" to Congress the preemptive war against Iraq we now know he had already decided to launch.

Two years later, the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that "Most of the major key judgments in the Intelligence Community’s October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate – ‘Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction’either overstated, or were not supported by, the underlying intelligence reporting."

In particular, the assessment that Iraq “is reconstituting its nuclear program” was "not supported by the intelligence provided to the Committee."

The Committee noted that prior to 1999 our intelligence community had been heavily dependent upon information obtained from United Nations inspectors.

True, in December 1998, President Clinton had warned all UN inspectors to get out of Iraq or risk getting killed during Operation Desert Fox.

However, after Clinton quit bombing, International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors had been allowed back into Iraq (in 2000, 2001, and 2002) to inspect all the remaining nuclear-related sites in Iraq – including Kuwaitha, where our "intelligence" had suggested the Iraqis might be doing something untoward – and found nothing untoward.

But Tenet’s 2002 NIE didn’t even mention those IAEA inspections, much less the subsequent "null" reports the IAEA regularly made to the UN Security Council.

Why not?

Well, obviously the Cheney Cabal didn’t want Congress to know – at least officially – that by 1994 all Saddam’s nuclear programs had been verifiably destroyed and that he had made no attempt whatsoever to reconstitute them.

Inexplicably, the Senate Intelligence Committee did not even mention – much less decry – the failure of the intelligence community to base their 2002 NIE "assessments" of Saddam’s nuclear program on those IAEA "null" reports.

There were, however, cries of anguish from those sent to Iraq on a fool’s errand by Tenet: Never again produce an NIE that completely ignores the best intelligence, that of on-the-ground inspectors!

Last year, Dafna Linzer reported that the intelligence community had produced an NIE – still highly classified – about Iran.

"A major U.S. intelligence review has projected that Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years, according to government sources with firsthand knowledge of the new analysis.

"The carefully hedged assessments, which represent consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies, contrast with forceful public statements by the White House. Administration officials have asserted, but have not offered proof, that Tehran is moving determinedly toward a nuclear arsenal. The new estimate could provide more time for diplomacy with Iran over its nuclear ambitions. President Bush has said that he wants the crisis resolved diplomatically but that “all options are on the table.”

Linzer doesn’t say whether the 2005 NIE on Iran’s nuclear programs took into account at all – much less was largely based upon – the quarterly reports the on-the-ground IAEA inspectors had been making to the IAEA Board and to the Security Council.

And a year later, IAEA inspectors have yet to see any indication – much less evidence – that Iran has engaged in any activity involving the use of any amount of proscribed nuclear materials in furtherance of a military purpose.

Furthermore, if IAEA inspectors are allowed to continue safeguarding Iran’s nuclear facilities, the Iranians will never succeed in producing any amount of weapons-grade enriched uranium, much less enough to make a nuclear weapon.

Nevertheless, the members of the Cheney Cabal continue to forcefully assert – without offering any proof whatsoever – that Iran has a nuclear weapons program that has already "reached a point of no return."


Apparently because we have pledged to not use nuclear weapons against those signatories to the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons who don’t already have nukes.

So, when Bush says "all options are on the table," he’s telling the Iranians that our no-nuking pledge won’t keep him from nuking them because he has it on authority – God Almighty, apparently – that the Iranians have nukes.

Now comes Linzer to tell us the House Intelligence Committee has just issued a staff report [.pdf] – authored principally by Frederick Fleitz – that uses information contained in the IAEA "null" reports to come to conclusions diametrically opposed to those of the IAEA.

You may recall that Undersecretary Bolton and his chief of staff Fleitz were point-men in the largely successful attempts by the Cheney Cabal to cook the intelligence in the run-up to the preemptive attack on Iraq.

Looks like they’re at it again.

Author: Gordon Prather

Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.