The NIE Do-Over (Updated)

Surprise, surprise:

U.S. Intel Links Iran With Nuke Bomb Bid

VIENNA, Austria — The U.S. has recently shared sensitive information with the International Atomic Energy Agency on key aspects of Iran’s nuclear program that Washington says shows Tehran was directly engaged in trying to make an atomic weapon, diplomats told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The diplomats said Washington also gave the IAEA permission to confront Iran with at least some of the evidence in an attempt to pry details out of the Islamic republic on the activities, as part of the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s attempts to investigate Iran’s suspicious nuclear past.

The decision by the U.S. administration to declassify its intelligence and indirectly share it with Iran through the IAEA was a clear reflection of Washington’s’ drive to pressure Iran into admitting that it had focused part of its nuclear efforts toward developing a weapons program.

…..Shared in the past two weeks was material on a laptop computer reportedly smuggled out of Iran, said another diplomat, accredited to the IAEA. In 2005, U.S. intelligence assessed that information as indicating that Tehran had been working on details of nuclear weapons, including missile trajectories and ideal altitudes for exploding warheads.

He said that after declassification, U.S. intelligence also was forwarded on two other issues – the “Green Salt Project” – a plan the U.S. alleges links diverse components of a nuclear weapons program, including uranium enrichment, high explosives testing and a missile re-entry vehicle, and material in Iran’s possession showing how to mold uranium metal into warhead form.

The material followed up on information on the projects shared by the Americans with key allies and the agency last year, said the diplomat

Iran is under two sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, which it started developing during nearly two decades of covert nuclear activity built on illicit purchases and revealed only five years ago.

Since then, IAEA experts have uncovered activities, experiments and blueprints and materials that point to possible efforts by Iran to create nuclear weapons, even though Tehran insists its nuclear project is peaceful and aimed only at creating a large-scale enrichment facility to make reactor fuel. Its leaders consistently dismiss allegations that they are interested in enrichment for its other use – creating fissile material suitable for arming warheads.

Instead of heeding Security Council demands to freeze enrichment, Iran has expanded its program. On Wednesday, diplomats told the AP that its new generation of advanced centrifuges have begun processing small quantities of the gas that can be used to make the fissile core of nuclear warheads.

http://www.newsmax.com/newsfront/U.S._Intel_Links_Iran_Wit/2008/02/14/72641.html

According to the bumbling morons who wrote the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear capabilities and intentions, Tehran had ceased operations in 2003.

But, guess what:

Give Admiral Michael McConnell credit for trying to walk back the cat. Questioned this week by the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Director of National Intelligence defended the “integrity and the professionalism” of the process that produced last December’s stunning National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran’s nuclear program. Yet his testimony amounts to a reversal of the previous judgment.

The December NIE made headlines the world over for its “key judgment” that in 2003 “Tehran halted its nuclear weapons programs” — programs that previously had been conducted in secret and in violation of Iran’s Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligations.

This was a “high confidence” judgment, though the intelligence community had only “moderate confidence” that the program hasn’t since been restarted. The NIE also waded into speculative political and policy judgments, such as that “Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs.”

So it was little wonder that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad quickly called the NIE a “declaration of victory” for Iran’s nuclear programs. Diplomatic efforts to pass a third round of U.N. economic sanctions ground to a crawl, though another weak draft resolution is currently making the rounds. Russia decided to ship nuclear fuel to the reactor it has built for Iran at Bushehr, a move it had previously postponed for months and which has worrisome proliferation risks.

Elsewhere, the NIE complicated U.S. efforts to deploy an antiballistic-missile shield in Central Europe. The Israelis worried that the report signaled the death of American seriousness on Iran, possibly requiring them to act alone. At home, Democrats used the NIE to accuse the Administration of hyping intelligence. “It’s absolutely clear and eerily similar to what we saw with Iraq,” said John Edwards.

The comment by John ‘hairboy’ Edwards is an example of how the Democrats will use the initial NIE to beat the dead Iraq horse. The difference is that we found  the WMDs in Iraq that Hussein was hiding.
In this case, the old NIE claimed Iran had stopped production, but as evidenced by the proof, they have not.

Now Admiral McConnell is clearly trying to repair the damage, even if he can’t say so directly. “I think I would change the way that we described [the] nuclear program,” he admitted to Evan Bayh (D., Ind.) during the hearing, adding that weapon design and weaponization were “the least significant portion” of a nuclear weapons program.

He expressed some regret that the authors of the NIE had left it to a footnote to explain that the NIE’s definition of “nuclear weapons program” meant only its design and weaponization and excluded its uranium enrichment. And he agreed with Mr. Bayh’s statement that it would be “very difficult” for the U.S. to know if Iran had recommenced weaponization work, and that “given their industrial and technological capabilities, they are likely to be successful” in building a bomb.

The Admiral went even further in his written statement. Gone is the NIE’s palaver about the cost-benefit approach or the sticks-and-carrots by which the mullahs may be induced to behave. Instead, the new assessment stresses that Iran continues to press ahead on enrichment, “the most difficult challenge in nuclear production.” It notes that “Iran’s efforts to perfect ballistic missiles that can reach North Africa and Europe also continue” — a key component of a nuclear weapons capability.

Then there is the other side of WMD: “We assess that Tehran maintains dual-use facilities intended to produce CW [Chemical Warfare] agent in times of need and conducts research that may have offensive applications.” Ditto for biological weapons, where “Iran has previously conducted offensive BW agent research and development,” and “continues to seek dual-use technologies that could be used for biological warfare.”

All this merely confirms what has long been obvious about Iran’s intentions. No less importantly, his testimony underscores the extent to which the first NIE was at best a PR fiasco, at worst a revolt by intelligence analysts seeking to undermine current U.S. policy. As we reported at the time, the NIE was largely the work of State Department alumni with track records as “hyperpartisan anti-Bush officials,” according to an intelligence source. They did their job too well. As Senator Bayh pointed out at the hearing, the NIE “had unintended consequences that, in my own view, are damaging to the national security interests of our country.” Mr. Bayh is not a neocon.

Admiral McConnell’s belated damage repair ought to refocus world attention on Iran’s very real nuclear threat.

Too bad his NIE rewrite won’t get anywhere near the media attention that the first draft did.

Link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120243182629452341.html?mod=opinion_main_review_and_outlooks

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei’s complicity:

IAEA technical experts have complained anonymously to the press that the latest report on Iran was revamped to suit the director’s political goals. In 2004, Mr. ElBaradei sought to purge mention of Iranian attempts to purchase beryllium metal, an important component in a nuclear charge, from IAEA documents. He also left unmentioned Tehran’s refusal to grant IAEA inspectors access to the Parchin military complex, where satellite imagery showed a facility seemingly designed to test and produce nuclear weapons.

The IAEA’s latest report leaves unmentioned allegations by an Iranian opposition group of North Korean work on nuclear warheads at Khojir, a military research site near Tehran. It also amends previous conclusions and closes the book on questions about Iran’s work on polonium 210 — which nuclear experts suspect Iran experimented with for use as an initiator for nuclear weapons, but which the regime claims was research on radioisotope batteries. In 2004, the IAEA declared itself “somewhat uncertain regarding the plausibility of the stated purpose of the [polonium] experiments.” Today it finds these explanations “consistent with the Agency’s findings and with other information available.”

The IAEA director seems intent on undercutting Security Council diplomacy. Just weeks after President George Bush toured the Middle East to build Arab support for pressure on Tehran, Mr. ElBaradei appeared on Egyptian television on Feb. 5 to urge Arabs in the opposite direction, insisting Iran was cooperating and should not be pressured. And as he grows more and more isolated from Western powers intent on disarming Iran, Mr. ElBaradei has found champions in the developing and Arab world. They cheer his self-imposed mission — to hamstring U.S. efforts to constrain Iran’s program, whether or not the regime is violating its non-proliferation obligations or pursuing nuclear weapons.

In working to undermine sanctions, however, Mr. ElBaradei demeans the purpose of his agency and undercuts its non-proliferation mission. He also makes military action all the more likely.

Link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120389990086289395.html

The tendency of Ivy League liberal intel analysts to undermine security for the sake of their BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome) is nothing new.
I’ve long held that the State Department, CIA, DIA, NSA, and every other three-letter acronym’ed agency needs to be purged of their hostile anti-American elements. It’s clear by the way some of them deliberately sabotage foreign policy, that they are determined to affect the outcome of Presidential elections, or worse, have more of an interest in promoting the cause of America’s enemies.

They need to get back into the business of collecting and analyzing classified information to find the truth about enemy capabilities. Threat evaluations have never been immune from political bias, but the common purpose of every intelligence analyst from the bottom up should be the goal of preserving the security of the United States.

America needs a President who will not hesitate to call every intelligence chief on the carpet, grab them by the short and curlies, and tell them to either show loyalty to this country as prescribed in their oath, or they will be replaced with someone who can.

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