Friday, November 9, 2007

Spooks Refuse To Toe Cheney's Line On Iran (Asia Times Online)

A number of sites have picked up this report by Gareth Porter that indicates that an NIE on Iran is being held up from release due to political reasons.

Comment: It can be difficult to determine the reliability of something like this if you are new to the topic or the process. On the one hand, the report reads like a typical news story. A very quick background check (which is often all anyone has time to do these days...) into the author and the source raises some reasons for concern but again, nothing to automatically disqualify all of the report.

Parts of it rings true: "...the Iran estimate was ready to be published a year ago but has been delayed because the director of national intelligence wanted a draft reflecting a consensus on key conclusions - particularly on Iran's nuclear program. "

It is actually fairly easy to imagine this happening and for very good reasons. It is virtually certain that the IC has been asked to write an NIE on Iran's nuclear capabilities. Given the press reporting on the issue, it is also not too hard to believe that there was no consensus within the intelligence community on the issue a year ago. Finally, the DNI or the White House has every right to ask the IC to come to some sort of useable conclusion on an issue of such importance (Everyone knows what the possibilities are; the decisionmakers need to know what is likely). Under this line of reasoning, the community is doing what it is supposed to do -- collect more information, resolve the inconsistencies and deliver an estimate that is actionable.

What is less believable is the cause of the delay: "The aim is to make the document more supportive of Vice President Dick Cheney's militarily aggressive policy toward Iran..." Given the post WMD report fallout, it is much harder to believe that the IC would actually get or cave into such pressure.

The real kicker, though, is the fact that all of this is based on hearsay -- "...according to accounts provided by participants in the NIE process to two former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officers." Kudos to Porter for identifying it as such but it makes the entire story much more questionable.

In the end, the story will likely get picked up by both conservative and liberal blogs (for different reasons, obviously) but, unless one of the major news sources spends the time to track it to ground, the overall reliability of the report will remain questionable but unresolved.

1 comment:

Hurst08 said...

According to the New York Times article "A Spy Chief's Political Education]" back on August 8, 2007, McConnell isn't much of a fan of Cheney and the neocons. From all I've seen, the DNI seems an unlikely ally of the warmongers. "Before accepting the intelligence post, Mr. McConnell criticized the administration’s handling of prewar intelligence on Iraq, telling an interviewer in November 2006 that it had diminished his view of senior officials like Vice President Dick Cheney.

“My sense of it is their political faith and convictions influenced how they took information and interpreted [it] as well as how they picked up and interpreted outside events,” Mr. McConnell is quoted as saying in “Cheney,” a new biography by Stephen F. Hayes.

Mr. McConnell is quoted in the book as saying that Mr. Cheney and others had “gotten results that in my view now have been disastrous.”

I see some value in Porter's article, though, in showing that the rumor mill and press leaks are active. The recent 60 Minutes piece on Curveball was obviously floated by an angry CIA. Asia Times Online might have just mistook a political jab by the CIA as warmongering by the by-and-large defanged neocons. I hope the Chinese intelligence services at least get it right.