Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 7, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

ATTACKING THE NIE, PART 2....Speaking of conservative pushback against the Iran NIE, the Washington Post passes along the peculiar news that congressional Republicans who are unhappy with the NIE want to create a commission "modeled on a congressionally mandated group that probed a disputed 1995 intelligence estimate on the emerging missile threat to the United States over the next 15 years":

While other NIEs have been the subject of intense criticism....critics of the new assessment are modeling their response after the clash over a 1995 NIE on ballistic missile threats. That document concluded that no country other than the major declared nuclear powers "would develop or otherwise acquire a ballistic missile over the next 15 years that will threaten the contiguous 48 states or Canada."

....But a congressionally mandated commission, headed by Donald H. Rumsfeld, who would become President Bush's defense secretary, concluded in 1998 that the United States "might have little or no warning before operational deployment of a ballistic missile by a hostile Third World country." Its conclusions formed the basis for the Bush administration's push for a missile defense system.

This is their model? The 15 years are almost up, and, in fact, no country has developed a ballistic missile that threatens the United States or Canada. North Korea has been giving it a try, but the Taepodong-1 can barely reach Russia, let alone the United States, while the current version of the Taepodong-2 can't make it to Hawaii, let alone California. And as we all know, the most recent test of the Taepodong-2, back in 2006, failed spectacularly, which means that future versions with a longer range are almost certainly years away at best.

So: no ballistic missile threat by 2010? Check. "Little or no warning" before such a missile becomes operational? Completely wrong. We've had loads and loads of warning about North Korea's intentions, capabilities, and test firings. The intelligence community may have a mixed record on this kind of stuff, but in this case the NIE was right and the Team B hawks were wrong. Again. Pick a different model, guys.

Kevin Drum 2:22 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (35)

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Comments

You expect logic from that crew?

They're all out of their minds.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on December 7, 2007 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

The thing with me is once you separate all the various idealogies at play today the thing that continues to stand out is just how wrong the Bush administration has gotten just about everything and how wrong the neo-conservatives have been for the past couple of decades. I don't hate Bush, his administration, the talking heads who blindly follow or the neo-con think tanks...I hate them because they are incompetent in the extreme. I can say worst administration ever because to anyone with a brain and an open set of eyes it is plainly the truth. It still makes me shake my head that I pushed that button and voted for Bush in 2000.

Posted by: NOLATurk on December 7, 2007 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

"Little or no warning" before such a missile becomes operational? Completely wrong.

Well, sure. As far as we know....

Posted by: Mark on December 7, 2007 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

You had me at "headed by Donald H. Rumsfeld".


Posted by: bob on December 7, 2007 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

> North Korea has been giving it a try,
> but the Taepodong-1 can barely reach Russia,

Further keeping in mind that the time it almost hit Russia it had been _aimed_ somewhere in the general direction of New Zealand.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on December 7, 2007 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Our intelligence agencies have an impressively consistent record of getting it wrong. Their errors have been in both directions

They under-estimated Iraq's nuclear progress in 1991

They under-estimated India and Pakistan's nuclear weapons

They over-estimated Iraq's nuclear capacity in 2003

Now, between one day and the next, they flipped from high confidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons to high confidence of the opposite. Both can't be right.

We are spending a fortune on the CIA and getting less than we should in return. Meanwhile I have little confidence in their reports.

Posted by: ex-liberal on December 7, 2007 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

Another question that needs to be asked regarding the NIE. Is it mere coincidence that the Iranians suspended their nuclear weapons program back in 2003 and the decision by Cheney/Bush in 2003 to out one of the CIA's covert officers, Valerie Plame or did Cheney/Bush way back in 2003 know then that Iran's game was up?

All of this will someday make for one hell of a political novel, unfortunately it won't be classified as fiction.

Posted by: Tom In Maine on December 7, 2007 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

We are spending a fortune on the CIA and getting less than we should in return. Meanwhile I have little confidence in their reports.
Posted by: ex-liberal on December 7, 2007 at 2:41 PM

I dont think the issue is your confidence as it is they are not telling you what you want to hear.

These very same intelligence folks have been held up by the GOP as keeping us safe since 911, and I have heard many pundits parrot that very thing, now they are basically saying they dont trust the inteliigence community?

I have never seen anything like these GOP'ers they deny and defend at will with no real reasons, just baseless opinions they think is 'truth'

Posted by: Ya Know on December 7, 2007 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal, you misstate the circumstances of 1991: iraq's production capacity wrt to nuclear weapons in 1991 was further along than intel had suggested, but since they still didn't have the uranium, they weren't really any closer to a nuclear weapon than the intel had suggested. cheney, of course, has used this set of circumstances to invent his 1% solution, and i suspect that it's cheney behind the congressional gop here (no "dick" problem in the republican cacus: they all just stfu and do what "dick" tells them to do).

While we're on the subject, no, intel did not exaggerate where the iraqs were on nuclear weapons in 2003: cheney and his fellow travellers exaggerated the intel.

so i suspect you're wrong on india and pakistan, too, but i don't remember the circumstances clearly enough.

meanwhile, what fourlegsgood said.

Posted by: howard on December 7, 2007 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Nothing funnier than watching a wingnut try to use the gargantuan U.S. failure in Iraq as "proof" that the intel agencies can't be trusted with new information--always leaving the Bush White House and its massive program of lying, spin and completing ignoring intel recommendations out of the equation. ex-lib truly is the most intellectually dishonest and amoral poster we have here. You can't even get mad at him; he's too subhuman for that mark of respect.

But ex-lib, you never answered everybody's question a couple of threads below: How much did you put into the Iraqi bonds you swore you'd buy last summer?

Posted by: shortstop on December 7, 2007 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

Bush is strong on national security and has kept us safe since 911 with no attacks on America!
[Thanks to our intelligence community]

And now that intelligence community is somehow wrong?

The GOPs logic is highly illogical, If I follow it they are now saying Bush is weak on national security with his creation of the DHS, and the counter-terrorism center and the changes in the way the intelligence community communicates. I saw one poster, on Think Progress claim that the NIE is a campaign to undermine Bush.

Somebody get the tin-foil hats!!!

Posted by: Ya Know on December 7, 2007 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK
.... I have little confidence in their reports. ex-lax at 2:41 PM
It is understood that you have little confidence in reports that don't concur with your political agenda, like Cheney and the neo-cons, but you ignore the fact that the NIE is developed by 16 agencies. While you correctly condemn the CIA, you glide over the fact that the CIA's reports are strongly influenced by administration policies. Cheney, for example, visited CIA HQ several times. Wolfowitz ran a separate 'intelligence' interpreting group that was affiliated with Cheney. Cheney's team constantly stovepiped unverified data.

There is one agency, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research that is consistently more accurate that the CIA

...The fourth and most important reason for INR's success is that the agency has a culture that tolerates dissent. The lasting criticism of the CIA that the 9/11 Commission produced was of the Agency's tendency to shoehorn evidence to fit the results that the higher-ups desired. The commission criticized the CIA for having a culture of compliance, not disagreement. If anything, INR displays the opposite impulse: One INR official told me that the office is a "small band of curmudgeons."...

Posted by: Mike on December 7, 2007 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

As I stated in the thread below:

The "we don't trust the intel or the CIA" line coming from the wingnuts and neocons is total bullshit because they don't really care about the intel in the first place. The intel is irrelevant to them. Nuclear program or not their goal is a war with Iran.

Finding a fitting justification to sell to the country is just a nuisance to them which is why they are bent out of shape about the NIE.

Posted by: Condor on December 7, 2007 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Irony alert: "ex-liberal" criticizes someone else for getting things wrong.

And of course you have little confidence in their reports, you bloody-minded neocon jackass -- it just took away the causus belli for the war you've had a hard-on for. Poor baby.

Posted by: Gregory on December 7, 2007 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

Tell me ex-lib, how's your confidence in Bush, Cheney, neocons, and warmongering pundits holding up? I don't recall them being right about anything - yet you seem to continue to haul buckets of their piss.

Posted by: ckelly on December 7, 2007 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Of course it was headed by Don Rumsfeld!

I have read many books on politics the past year or so. And what blows my mind - but shouldn't - is that the same group of idiots is responsible for all this bullshit, every single time, going back decades. Yes, decades.

For decades, these fools and crooks have been screwing up, lying, proving themselves incompetent or worse, making spectacularly bad decisions, and yet they keep getting the power to do it. It's amazing.

Posted by: Joshua on December 7, 2007 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

shortstop: How much did you put into the Iraqi bonds you swore you'd buy last summer?

I'm embarassed to admit that I let my broker talk me out of it. From Bloomberg today:

Iraq Bonds Rally on U.S. Troop Surge, Oil Earnings (Update1)

By Lester Pimentel

Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Holders of Iraqi bonds are giving President George W. Bush a vote of confidence.

The country's $2.7 billion of 5.8 percent bonds due in 2028 returned 15.2 percent since July, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. index data. Only Ecuador's debt gained more, rising 18 percent. Iraq's securities yield 6.21 percentage points more than Treasuries, the most of any dollar-denominated government debt.

While the war in Iraq has dragged Bush's approval ratings lower, his policies in Iraq have turned around investor opinion on Iraqi debentures. The addition of 28,000 troops in the first half of the year has reduced terrorist attacks in the country by 55 percent, the U.S. embassy in Iraq said on Nov. 18.
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=aKEvYFp7._jg&refer=news

howard wrote: no, intel did not exaggerate where the iraqs were on nuclear weapons in 2003

George Tenet said it was a "slam dunk."

Posted by: ex-liberal on December 7, 2007 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

why pick a different model? notice who rules the country and keeps the Dems wimps?

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on December 7, 2007 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: "... while the current version of [North Korea's] Taepodong-2 can't make it to Hawaii, let alone California."

Much to the chagrin of the BCS conferences and the Sugar Bowl.

But that's OK, because they balanced that out by they taking away 4,000 of our allotted tickets, and gave them to the University of Georgia. That'll teach us to crash their party.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on December 7, 2007 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK
George Tenet said it was a "slam dunk." ex-lax at 4:02 PM
And, as noted above, Tenet was whoring for Bush. Posted by: Mike on December 7, 2007 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal: I'm embarassed to admit that I let my broker talk me out of it.

LOL. Who could have predicted that you wouldn't back up your talk with action?

Posted by: shortstop on December 7, 2007 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

The intelligence community may have a mixed record on this kind of stuff, but in this case the NIE was right and the Team B hawks were wrong.

Career intel officers are indeed sometimes wrong, but "Team B", in any of its guises has never. been. right. about. anything.

Posted by: kth on December 7, 2007 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal: I'm embarassed

If only that were so...

Posted by: craigie on December 7, 2007 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

Name one time our intel dept. got it wrong.Bush Cheney and company have gotten it wrong for the last 25 years, our intel dept, not once in the same 25 years.

Posted by: john john on December 7, 2007 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

Hi-lar-i-ous. The US wingnuts are totally on the run, from George to ex-liberal.

Posted by: Bob M on December 7, 2007 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

chimpy just needs a good man - where is gannon/guckert, the homosexual prostitute with fake press credentials and unlimited access to the White House when dur chimpfuhrer needs a little 'luvin'.

After all, butter-butt KKKarl is gone. Too bad they wouldn't welcome chimpy over at americablog.

Posted by: littlebear on December 7, 2007 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

All this worry that some rogue nation might develop a nuclear weapon, maybe even two or three. We can't be sure what's out there, but we and they know what's here: THOUSANDS of highly sophisticated, extremely accurate nuclear weapons. During the cold war the US/USSR offered a standoff of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). With one of these rogue states the destruction would not be mutual. Even the fools in North Korea, the fools in Iran, or possibly the fools in a Taliban controlled Pakistan cannot seriously believe that their nations could survive the retaliation that would surely follow an attack on the US. If they are, their neighbors should be worried, very worried.

Posted by: sparky on December 7, 2007 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK

Since when did the republiscum, and Rumsfeld inparticular, know anything about defence, the military, or real world threat?

When?

When?

Posted by: notthere on December 7, 2007 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

C'mon folks, give it a rest. ex-liberal was honest enough to come clean, on a blog, with the cover of anonymity, and with no need to respond, let alone admit the truth.

Posted by: has407 on December 7, 2007 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal: We are spending a fortune on the CIA and getting less than we should in return. Meanwhile I have little confidence in their reports.

Do well to note that NIE's are produced not just by the CIA, but by the entire intelligence community under the direction of the National Intelligence Council. There's a helluva lot of blood, sweat and tears that go into them, and a long history behind them, as well as efforts to improve their quality over decades of lessons learned. Perfection they may not be, but they're worth every dime we pay for them. For more information see here.

Posted by: has407 on December 7, 2007 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal, tenet did not say that having nuclear weapons was a slam-dunk; he said WMDs was a slam-dunk, in the promiscuous way that the bush administration treated WMDs.

hell, i thought there were probably some biological and/or chemical weapons likely still around, which by bush adminstration standards meant that i thought it was a slam dunk that iraq had wmds.

and second of all, when you look carefully at the context of the "slam dunk," the questions was not about the case for WMDs; the question was about the ability to make the case in public.

so nice try, ex-liberal, but as i say, the actual intel did not, in fact, say what you claim.

Posted by: howard on December 7, 2007 at 10:06 PM | PERMALINK

the current version of the Taepodong-2 can't make it to Hawaii, let alone California
What about Alaska?

Posted by: sc on December 7, 2007 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

What about Alaska?

Only if they aim it at Guam.

Posted by: tomeck on December 7, 2007 at 10:32 PM | PERMALINK

They are picking the right model, Kevin.

Right for them, that is.

IOW, they need a mechanism to put out the type of information they want, regardless of whether or not it's true.

Posted by: Horatio Parker on December 8, 2007 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

Unless I'm mistaken, Republicans still control the executive branch. It was the executive branch that prepared the Iran NIE. So what are the Republicans complaining about? That the Republicans in the executive branch weren't sufficiently Republican?

Posted by: raj on December 8, 2007 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK
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