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Schooling NeoCons on Intelligence Analysis
Monday, 10 December 2007 01:09
by Larry C. Johnson

Listening to the howls and foot stomping tantrums from Newt Gingrich and John Bolton this past week as they reacted to the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear weapons program, one would think that communist jihadists bent on raping Mother Teresa on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier arrived in Washington. Gingrich called the estimate a “coup d’etat” by former State Department officials. And Bolton insists that the intelligence community engaged in policymaking rather than analysis. Harumph!!

Leave it to Newt Gingrich to believe that providing people with truth is the equivalent of a coup. And John Bolton – a black pot if ever there was one – is angry that intelligence is being used to fix a policy. That’s like listening to John Wayne Gacy complaining about men who get their jollies by raping and murdering teenage boys. Save the faux outrage Bolton.

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Folks like Gingrich and Bolton only accept intelligence if it corresponds to their preconceived prejudices. Truth is largely irrelevant in their worldview. Just as long as the story line adheres to neocon orthodoxy, they are happy campers.

Where is the “politicization” or “policymaking” in the current NIE?

It does not exist. As someone who has worked and lived in both worlds it is easy to distinguish between intelligence analysis/assessment and making policy. Asking whether Iran has a nuclear weapons program or capability is an intelligence question. Deciding what to do (or not do) about an Iranian nuclear weapons program is the realm of policy making.

Intelligence analysts describe the threat based on existing intelligence. Policy makers in turn have the burden of deciding whether the threat is worthy of attention and, if so, what to do about it. If the Intelligence Community believes that Iran is well on its way to building a nuke, then policymakers must first decide if that is a threat to our nation. If the answer is yes, then the next set of decisions is to figure out what to do.

The Intelligence Community’s latest NIE on Iran is not based on opinion. It is based on information developed since the publication of the last NIE on Iran in 2005. The neocons’ panties are in knot because the Intelligence Community – specifically the CIA, DIA, FBI, NSA, INR, and DOE – concluded unanimously that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

This is not policymaking. This is fact presentation. Gingrich and Bolton are pissed because their well-honed propaganda campaign to persuade the American people that there was no alternative but war with Iran was destroyed by the Intelligence Community’s inconvenient truth. They understand that it is easier to make policy as long as the public is given the mushroom treatment (i.e., keep the people in the dark and feed them shit).

The Neocon Intelligence Cookbook is pretty simple. First, you must persuade people that Saddam Hussein was collaborating with Osama Bin Laden. Once you close that deal then the next step – whipping up public furor to attack Iraq as part of the war on terrorism – is easy. If the intelligence community tells you there is no such relationship, you ignore the community and produce your own information. Then you give it to political hacks like Stephen Hayes, who help spread the propaganda and convince the public that war with the enemy is the only logical choice.

It is the public release of the NIE that has Gingrich and Bolton seething. During the build up to the war with Iraq, the objections of the intelligence community about the alleged links between Osama and Saddam were not made public. With respect to Iran the American people now know that Iran is not on the verge of producing a nuclear weapon. Iran is not pushing for a new World War. Iran’s actions are the opposite of a Nazi Germany seeking to gain more territory and subjugate nations.

It also is important to note what the NIE does not contain. It does not call for more sanctions or less sanctions. It does not encourage or discourage the President from seeking Congressional support for military action against Iran. It says nothing about what the policy of the United States should be toward Iran.

In 2005 the Intelligence Community believed that Iran was determined to build nuclear weapons. Now the analysts who wrote and coordinated on the NIE:
Judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program. Judge with high confidence that the halt lasted at least several years. (DOE and the NIC have moderate confidence that the halt to those activities represents a halt to Iran’s entire nuclear weapons program.)
The analysts also concluded that that Iran probably would have the technical means to produce highly enriched uranium in four to six years. The State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research is the most skeptical of the analysts in the community, and believes that technical and program problems will delay Iran until at least 2013.

Worth noting that the Intelligence Community does not instruct policymakers what they should or should not do. George Bush is still free to advocate for going to war with Iran. Getting this information in front of the public has pulled the rug out from under the Bush hypnotism show. The President and his neocon buddies have been busy laying the groundwork for attacking Iran. Their case was based on a lie. But they were doing a good job of selling the lie to the American people. Repeat ad nauseum – Iran is building nukes. . . .Iran is building nukes.

Only this time, the fix is not in and the neocons don’t have full access to pull the strings. This time the intelligence community offered its factual judgments. The analysts do not infringe on the President’s right to decide what kind of policy he wants. They simply make it more difficult for him to pretend that the moon is made of green cheese and the earth is flat. George Bush is no longer entitled to only rely on his own misguided set of personal beliefs.  He is constrained from telling Americans that Iran is building nukes.  The Intelligence Community did its job – they gave the President their best judgment.  Will George Bush persist in building his Iranian fantasy?  That is the key question.
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