Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 5, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

MORE NIE STUFF....In the Washington Post today, David Ignatius passes along what his sources are telling him about how the new Iran NIE was put together:

The secret intelligence that produced this reversal came from multiple channels — human sources as well as intercepted communications — that arrived in June and July. At that time, a quite different draft of the Iran NIE was nearly finished. But the "volume and character" of the new information was so striking, says a senior official, that "we decided we've got to go back."....A senior official describes the summer's windfall as "a variety of reporting that unlocked stuff we had, which we didn't understand fully before."

Ignatius also notes that the new attitude toward analysis the produced the NIE was largely the work of Deputy Director of National Intelligence Thomas Fingar. Fingar, you may recall, was formerly head of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), the one agency that mostly got Iraq right. Justin Rood's piece on INR and how it figured out things the other agencies didn't, from our January 2005 issue, is here. It's worth re-reading.

While I'm at it, take a look at the front page bug for the Post's editorial coverage of the NIE. It's classic. Everyone basically agrees that the NIE's assessment that Iran is probably not pursuing a nuclear bomb is good news and provides us with an opening. Everyone except for the editorial page itself, which can barely stand the thought. Hell, even Robert Kagan agrees that this means it's time to talk with Iran. Sure, he only says that because he thinks we need to demonstrate good faith to the world before we inevitably bomb Iran anyway, but from Kagan that's still a step in the right direction. Meanwhile, the editorial board can't even go that far. They're aghast at the very idea of talks, and are upset that the new NIE might give us talk-mongers fuel for our talk-mongering fire. Sheesh.

Kevin Drum 11:59 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (19)

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Comments

Goddamn liberal media, always weakening America's resolve!!

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on December 5, 2007 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe we shouldn't give Fingar the finger!?

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on December 5, 2007 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Everyone basically agrees that the NIE's assessment that Iran is probably not pursuing a nuclear bomb is good news and provides us with an opening.

Nonsense Kevin. That's not what our Commander-in-Chief George W Bush said. From the Washington Post

www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content//article/2007/12/04/AR2007120400172.html

"Bush defended his approach during a televised session in the White House briefing room, saying "our policy remains the same" regardless of the new intelligence."
""Look, Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous, and Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon," he said. "The NIE says that Iran had a hidden -- a covert nuclear weapons program. That's what it said. What's to say they couldn't start another covert nuclear weapons program?""

Posted by: Al on December 5, 2007 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

It's got to be obvious that those who choose war want to further the perpetuawar in the region. We've got Afghanistan in a lovely state and Iraq is simply awesome. Why not add Iran to the mess?

Look at the brazillians of dollars the US has spent to date. While I'm not sure how much a braziallian is, neither does our president.

In 1962 cooler heads prevailed during the Cuban Missle crisis. Back then the hawks were itching to nuke the Ruskies.

Any military excursion (by the US) into Iran just might trigger WW III. Is it worth it?

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on December 5, 2007 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Didn't Valerie Plame work on Iranian-relayed non-proliferation issues? I always wondered how much the outing of Plame and Jennings Brewster set back our intelligence-gathering capacity in Iran. I also wonder if it was done to send the CIA a message and make sure it toed the line.

Posted by: Jose Padilla on December 5, 2007 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Talk doesn't accomplish the goal of killing as many non-Christian brown people as possible.

Posted by: steve duncan on December 5, 2007 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

What's to say they couldn't start another covert nuclear weapons program?

And what's to say they couldn't start a program to build a death ray? And what's to say they couldn't start a program to turn our gasoline into gatorade? And what's to say they couldn't start a program to turn our president into an ex-drunk, ex-cokehead, AWOL, business-failing moron?

We are just so vulnerable in so many ways. Nuke 'em now before they strike us again!

Posted by: tomeck on December 5, 2007 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Meanwhile, the editorial board can't even go that far. They're aghast at the very idea of talks, and are upset that the new NIE might give us talk-mongers fuel for our talk-mongering fire.

No no no. You've failed to observe the official categories according to which such utterances must be construed. The proper formulation here is "Even the Liberal WaPo still thinks we should bomb Iran without giving it a second thought." You should not stray from the guidelines in these matters. People will get confused.

Posted by: DrBB on December 5, 2007 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Cognitive dissonance has a nice way of exposing fools and monsters.

Posted by: frankly0 on December 5, 2007 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

With 16 intelligence agencies involved in this effort, I haven't read any news reports citing the vote and breakdown. Was it 9 to 7 or 10 to 5 with an abstention? How can we judge how strongly the agencies agreed or disagreed? Where is the Zogby polling data, or Fox News?
If there isn't horse race data, how can the average US voter know what's going on? And, did any of those analysts think Iran had a nuke program when they were in 5th grade? Do they wear polo shirts?
None of the news reports have covered this vital information. Dammit, I need to know! Now!

Posted by: TJM on December 5, 2007 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

This one gets my award for dumb comment of the day:

"Iran has no legitimate use for enriched uranium"

Pure wingnut hokum. If Iran has no use for it, why is Russia sending it (under IAEA seal) to fuel an Iranian reactor?

The stuff is also worth a fortune on the international markets - which is one of the reasons Bush has suggested a cartel of Western producers (featuring all the usual Bush energy policy corporate welfare recipients). Iran and other nations going it solo on enrichment directly threaten that cartel's profits.

And finally - the IAEA have stated categorically that the EU from current iranian centrifuges cannot be diverted to a weapons program without the Agency's knowledge.

Regards, C

Posted by: Cernig on December 5, 2007 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Kagan is just trying to salvage what remains of his waning credibility. This "even-handedness" will play well for the time being, as his continuing prominence in the latest WPOST suggests.

As for the necon loonies on the editorial page, well, they still haven't retracted their "irrefutable" headliner that followed Colin Powell's UN speech.

Posted by: ats on December 5, 2007 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

How come the DNI McConnell has not resigned?

McConnell had to know that his release of the NIE would destroy whatever credibility this administration had left. The destruction would be so profound that the administration would be rendered ineffective, it would be unable to do its job--literally. Most basically, it is now unable to protect its citizens because no one can believe what they say about anything. We are actually left naked before our enemies.

McConnell had to know this would happen. Knowing what he has done, how can he not take the next step which is to resign and work for the impeachment of both Bush and Cheney, two people whose effectivenss he chose to destroy?

Dipsop

Posted by: Dipsop on December 5, 2007 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

The people at the WashPo aren't stupid (well, not too stupid). They know what they're doing. They have an agenda. Whether that is selling papers by pandering to their readers prejudices (Arabs bad!) or pushing their neo-con (I mean "liberal" hawk) narratives to influence the national dialogue, or something else, I don't know.

But they are pieces of shit, not to be trusted.

Posted by: luci on December 5, 2007 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

First, I am very liberal and I think war is rarely a good idea. However, I also love America and want to see her defended. That said...

Wake up knuckleheads! While you are busy scoring partisan political points, the Muslim world is preparing to smack us down with A-Bombs.

Consider:
When does research stop? When a solution is obtained!

So, is it Bush is right or Bush is wrong? Neither! While you focus on assessing blame, these Iranians are planning to wipe us off the face of the Earth!

Yes, they stopped researching. That is the fact.
Rather than wonder does that mean one party was right or the other, we should ask the obvious:

Would we have stopped the Manhattan project before we had a solution? No way!

Why would anyone stop critical research? - Because they have the solution and no longer need to do the research.

Now, as I said, I am a liberal and I do think that the USA starting wars for oil is evil and stupid, but I also think there are people and parties in this world that are more evil and more stupid.

This certainly includes people who publically avow their belief that they are the only important ones, favored by their God, and that anyone else should just be killed.

Bonus Points:

How could Iran have gotten the results of the research without doing the research themselves?

It is believed that the USSR obtained H-Bomb details from American spies in the fifties. If Iran had someonee elses' completed research, then they would no longer have to complete their own expensive research program.

My conclusion:

They quit because they were given the solution by someone else. Perhaps they bought it from Russian scientists. Maybe they got it through espionage.
But they sure did not quit because they decided to do something else. I would look towards Pakistan.

Look, I know you conservatives think us liberals want to give the country away, and set up some sort of socialist state, but that is not true and, if we could just talk to each other, there is a lot of common ground.

Lets quit clashing over the small differences (gays, abortion, death penalty, rebating corporate taxes) and start focusing on improving the best nation in the world. We can only make a safer world for our children is we do put aside our petty differences and take up our common concerns.

Thank you.

Posted by: Proud Liberal on December 5, 2007 at 7:34 PM | PERMALINK

Oh great, Proud Liberal has a conspiracy theory without any evidence. *yawn*

Posted by: Reality Man on December 6, 2007 at 2:33 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, thanks for the link to the 2005 article on INR. ONe question though, the end of the article posits the question of Rice sweeping out the "dissidents" and replacing them with more compliant analysts.

From the recent Iran NIE, it looks like this did not happen. Anyone know if Rice tried to clean house and failed, or was the effort never made?

Posted by: Todd on December 6, 2007 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

I've been away for several weeks. Is Proud Liberal the new concern troll around here?

Posted by: nemo on December 6, 2007 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

"It is believed that the USSR obtained H-Bomb details from American spies in the fifties."

Andrei Sakharov was a key scientist in the development of the Russian hydrogen bomb in the 1950s, before he became a noted dissident. He said that the spy data may have made the Kremlin happy, but it never provided anything very useful to the scientists and engineers who developed the Russian H-bomb.

He said the really useful information the Americans provided publicly. First, the Americans demonstrated that an H-bomb was even possible. Second, analyzing the radioactive fallout from the American H-bomb tests provided plenty of clues to confirm the Russian scientists' beliefs about how to go about building such a device.

Posted by: nemo on December 6, 2007 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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