Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 4, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

WHO'S THE SPY?....Three dots:

  • Yesterday Joe Klein quoted an intelligence source telling him that our "collection" capability in Iran had improved considerably over the past few years. In other words, we have better sources.

  • Walter Pincus reported today that although the NIE's new conclusions are based on years of evidence, briefings to Bush administration officials only began in July. This suggests that the key evidence that changed the intelligence community's opinion about Iran's nuclear program didn't fall into place until the middle of this year.

  • In February, a former Iranian deputy defense minister, Ali Reza Asghari, "disappeared" into Turkey and reportedly sought asylum in the U.S. According the The Australian, "General Asghari's crossing of the line, whether voluntary or not, is a resounding blow for the Iranian Government since he is privy to its most intimate secrets, particularly those concerning its nuclear capabilities and plans."

Italics mine. Juan Cole has much more on Asghari here, including speculation that Asghari might also have provided the information that led to the Israeli bombing of the suspected Syrian nuclear site in September.

At the moment this is just gossip. But interesting gossip!

Kevin Drum 1:52 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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Comments

Was the defection planned? Was Iran so worried about a real US attack that they sent someone over we knew they'd believe so that Bush would have no choice but to acknowledge the truth of the nuke program?

Posted by: MNPundit on December 4, 2007 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

President Bush's amen corner in the conservative commentariat is apoplectic over the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran. After all, the report's conclusion that Tehran suspended its nuclear weapons program inn 2003 knocked the legs out from their "World War III" rhetoric. And as you'd expect, the same people who helped bring you the war in Iraq are now quick to claim CIA incompetence and conspiracies are behind the new assessment.

For the details, see:
"Right Claims Iran NIE a CIA Plot Against Bush."

Posted by: Angry One on December 4, 2007 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't be surprised if the "NIE a plot against Bush" claims have a kernel of truth. That is, it looks to me like a rebellion by a combination of the intelligence community and the Pentagon forced the NIE release, and the motivation of this rebellion was to stop Dick Cheney from starting a new war.

So, more like a plot to stop Bush/Cheney from destroying the US military.

Posted by: Joe Buck on December 4, 2007 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

MNPundit sounds like Pudwhoretz in Commentary:

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/podhoretz/1474

these guys sound like they want to launch military strikes against the US intel community as much as they do against Iran. Pretty freakin scary really. Talk about anti-American elements destroying the country from within. I guess damaging our anti-nuclear-Iran intel capability by outing a clandestine operative for cheap political revenge just whetted their appetites. Now, the very people sworn to protect the US from the greatest threats are held by the wingnuts as at least as much of a threat as those nations they clamor for first strikes against. What a freak show.

Extree Extree! Intel Community says Iran has no Nuclear Weapons program! Republicans call for nuking intel Community! America yawns!

Posted by: Trypticon on December 4, 2007 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Does Ali Reza Asghari have a nickname, like "Curveball"?

Posted by: anonymous on December 4, 2007 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

Fuck Joe Klein. He just makes shit up to sound important and connected. I have neither the time or expertise to document all this, but see Atrios.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on December 4, 2007 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Do we need a 'Taunting' analysis?
It's interesting to remember that there were two parts to the then ...is there or is there ain't...WMD's in Iraq situation.
Part one was the Bushco drive and manipulation to say that they existed.
Part two was that our adversary, Saddam, for his own reasons, gave every indication that weapons of chemical, ballistic or nuclear nature could well exist.
Now Iran repeats the same game. Their body language states clearly, "If we want nukes we'll damn well have nukes." "What processes we're employing aren't exactly nuke forming but they may damn well lead to nuke forming."
We never knew that Saddam was posturing so as to lie.
Perhaps we should now understand and gain insider knowledge of what Iran's motives are or might be to so fabricate a situation that could set Bushco all a wacky-bombing, shock and awing.

Posted by: cognitorex on December 4, 2007 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

WHO'S THE SPY?....Three dots:

Shame, shame!

From listening to liberals, I have learned that if you reveal the identity of a covert agent, you will seriously harm the intelligence gathering capabilities of the United States. Why are you liberals trying to "reveal" the identity of one of our agents?

Someone want to 'splain that to me?

And I think it's pretty clear that the National Intelligence Estimate is just a polite way of saying "the Bush Administration needs to be Embarrased Estimate." There's nothing in that document that indicates to me that Iran has stopped being a threat to decency and safety. Now, I haven't read the whole thing (boring, sir!) but I can tell you, a man's hunch can be as good as gold.

I think what liberals don't want to trust is the hunch that Bush and Cheney have. They've been right before, and they're probably right this time as well. Too bad you liberals want to destroy our assets, trumpet phony-baloney intel, and ignore what our gut is telling us.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on December 4, 2007 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

"Now, I haven't read the whole thing (boring, sir!) but I can tell you, a man's hunch can be as good as gold." --Norman Rogers

"...[M]y name is Stephen Colbert and tonight it's my privilege to celebrate this president..[w]e're not so different, he and I...[w]e go straight from the gut, right sir? That's where the truth lies, right down here in the gut. Do you know you have more nerve endings in your gut than you have in your head? You can look it up. I know some of you are going to say I did look it up, and that's not true. That's cause you looked it up in a book. Next time, look it up in your gut. I did. My gut tells me that's how our nervous system works."

Debating Norman Rogers is like Barry Bonds playing T-ball. Dude isn't only a parody of the right-wing, he's a copy-cat parody. sometimes I think Norman Rogers might really be Steven Colbert. An unfunny version of Steven Colbert.

Good job - you are my favorite faux-towering pillar of finance.

Posted by: An Anonymous American Patriot on December 4, 2007 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

Colbert was definitely coming to mind...

: )

Posted by: Trypticon on December 4, 2007 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Debating Norman Rogers is like Barry Bonds playing T-ball. Dude isn't only a parody of the right-wing, he's a copy-cat parody. sometimes I think Norman Rogers might really be Steven Colbert. An unfunny version of Steven Colbert.

There's a funny version of Steven Colbert?

How about we debate, then? What say you, sir? Prove me wrong.

Prove that trying to discover who the "spy" is harmless fun. I submit to you that anyone trying to learn the identity of a covert agent who is working on behalf of this country is engaging in TREASON!

Or just keep whining and wringing your hands.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on December 4, 2007 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Juan Cole's explanation of Cheney's motivation to keep up the drumbeat on attacking Iran is far more interesting and tangible:

In short, regime change by force becomes impossible if Iran has the knowledge of how to make a bomb. And if you can't do regime change by force, you might well not be able to forestall a new Iran-China economic and military axis, in which the US increasingly risks being cut out of the petroleum not only in Iran but in the Oil Gulf more generally.

So from a hawkish Cheney point of view, it is irrelevant whether Iran has a weapons program. It cannot be allowed to develop enrichment capabilities even for civilian purposes.

If China found a way to monopolize Gulf petroleum, the US could be reduced to a third rate power during the next century. That's why Bushco invaded Iraq, and it is why they keep the pressure on Iran. They want to ability to maneuver and to use conventional force if necessary to secure US energy security.

Welcome to the resource wars I guess. But, problem is, we've seen that they don't work so swell...

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on December 4, 2007 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

Poppy and Billy Bubba Jefferson come to my mind.

Zip it junior

Posted by: professor rat on December 4, 2007 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

Norm

No one here is trying to out a spy. You'll know we're seriously trying to "reveal" the identity of one of our agents when one of us calls Robert Novak. Until then, don't worry about it.

Posted by: tomeck on December 4, 2007 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

I was half listening to Bush this morning while I waited for my car at the dealer. Did he really say that someone came in during the summer and told him that they had some new information on Iran "but they wouldn't tell me what it was."

C'mon, not even a hint? Do people really talk to the President like that?

Posted by: tomeck on December 4, 2007 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

Walter Pincus reported today that although the NIE's new conclusions are based on years of evidence, briefings to Bush administration officials only began in July. This suggests that the key evidence didn't fall into place until the middle of this year.


Hmm. Here's a bit from a Walter Pincus article from November that clearly states that the paradigm-shaking evidence was at hand in Spring of this year.

Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell said yesterday that a long-awaited intelligence estimate covering Iran’s nuclear program will be finished by the end of this month, attributing the delay to new information collected in late spring that caused a reconsideration of some elements of the assessment.

“We had more information that inserted some new questions, so the effort has been to sort that out,” McConnell said at a luncheon at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Following a recently announced policy, McConnell said he does not intend to release an unclassified version of the estimate’s key judgments.

The above makes clear that the information that the administration didn't want to hear was received way earlier than they are now claiming.

And that they weren't going to release the NIE because it was embarrassing to the White House.

And that Bush wasn't exactly being truthful this AM.

Posted by: Anon on December 4, 2007 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Do people really talk to the President like that?

If you were one of the truly in-the-know, would you tell that idiot anything you didn't absolutely have to? Or would you keep it under wraps as long as possible? Knowing this morons ability to fuck up a wet dream, I'd distract him with something shiny and make my exit.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 4, 2007 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

If I were one who truly knew anything, I wouldn't have been hired by that clown in the first place. But I see your point.

Whether it really happened that way, or whether Bush for some God-forsaken reason wants us to think it happened that way, what a sad commentary it is on this president.

One of the reporters at the press conference should have asked "Sir, can you give us a list of what else your Intelligence chiefs haven't told you?"

Posted by: tomeck on December 4, 2007 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

Prove me wrong.
Can't disprove a fever dream. If you want to advance a hypothesis that is based upon some actual facts, I'm sure one or more of us will take a crack at disproving it.

Posted by: chasmrich on December 4, 2007 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Prove me wrong.

Norm said it.

QED

Posted by: tomeck on December 4, 2007 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

Why does anyone read TIME's Joke Line?

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii, who's stuck in Chicago on December 4, 2007 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

Norman, I never said I wanted to out a spy. I don't want to out a spy. Any spy. I don't want to out republican spies, and I don't want to out democratic spies. I don't want to out male spies, or female spies. I don't want to out officially covert spies, or un-officially covert spies. I will not out a red spy, nor a blue spy, an old spy, nor a new spy. I will not a spy that is short, nor a spy that is small. I will respect the integrity of our spies, one and all.

And none of that changes the facts in the NIE.

Someone more skilled than you would have come up with a better red herring. But, as I said - and as I maintain - you're easy to out-debate.

Posted by: An Anonymous American Patriot on December 4, 2007 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

If Asghari entered Turkey in February 2007, there is no reason to rule him out as either the source or else a confirmer of already gathered intelligence. In either case, we have another example of "Bronco Billy" Bush's utter ineptitude and stupidity.

Posted by: Doug on December 4, 2007 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

Trypticon, that was pretty fucking insulting.

Where in what I wrote did you think I blamed the intel community for anything? Where did I advocate going after it?

My point was that Bush is so fucking NUTS that it is possible Iran was willing to actually lose a high ranking person to prove the truth of it. BECAUSE IT WAS ACTUALLY TRUE.

God damn you, you fucking apologize right fucking now.

Posted by: MNPundit on December 4, 2007 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK
....anyone trying to learn the identity of a covert agent who is working on behalf of this country is engaging in TREASON!....ab-Norman Rogers at 3:28 PM
Everyone understands that is the function of Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and George W. Bush Posted by: Mike on December 4, 2007 at 9:23 PM | PERMALINK

Seymour Hersh reported in 2006 that the Bush administration sat on CIA security estimates that went contrary to Bush's and Cheney's Iran war plans.

The truth, it seems, is no obstacle to this administration's relentless pursuit of its militaristic foreign policy agenda.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on December 5, 2007 at 4:24 AM | PERMALINK

With all the newsprint/video on the Plame-Wilson lawsuits, Congressional investigations, etc., maybe one of General Asghari's military or intelligence colleagues "put two and two together" and recognized one of the General blonde female friends.

Good news: a boost in the info about their nuclear program, bad news: with the General gone, future information is uncertain.

Posted by: Ray Waldren on December 5, 2007 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK
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