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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 pre-emptive 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 U.N. 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 surviving 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 made to the UN Security Council.
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 the 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 the Washington Post’s 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 not to use nuclear weapons against those signatories to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation 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 – 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 pre-emptive attack on Iraq.
Looks like they’re at it again.