Morning Report: December 6, 2007

Estimated prophets: A round-up of reactions to the controversial National Intelligence Estimate (NIE).

Belmont Club: Less than moderate confidence. The more Wretchard reads about the sources and methods of the NIE, the less confident he feels:
Hmmm. The US has a source who has access to the minutes of meetings by Iranian military officials "involved in the weapons development program". How many persons had this access? Thousands, hundreds? Or maybe a half dozen whose names are on an Iranian counterintelligence list now?

These findings were corroborated, we're told, by communications which conveniently were vulnerable to our interception. Go to the post to find out why, after a careful reading of the public disclosures, Fernandez discerns a calculated efforet " to sell the public on the authenticity of the intelligence finding that the Iranians have stopped their nuclear weapons program."

In from the Cold: More eyes needed. Spook86 at In from the Cold writes:
This much we know: the full version of the NIE covers 150 pages, including appendices and other supporting documentation. The report's key judgments section, declassified earlier this week, runs only four pages, including a chart that highlights key changes between the latest assessment and the 2005 version. Without the declassification of some supporting data, we can only accept the conclusions of an intelligence community with a poor track record on WMD matters, particularly among rogue states.

As with any National Intelligence Estimate, we assume the new Iran assessment makes use of the full array of intel sources and methods--SIGINT, HUMINT, IMINT, MASINT and even open-source reporting. But we also recognize that information from these same sources led to a dramatically different conclusion just two years ago. Moreover, the volume and quality of collection from these platforms has not improved dramatically--as far as we can tell. Technological refinements in our intel systems are offset by the adversary's own advances, and their attempts at denial and deception. ...

Obviously, any intelligence estimate is only as good as the information it's based on. Political agendas and personal biases aside, it's clear that the bottom-line assessment of the new NIE raises questions about the quality and reliability of its source data. No one can reasonably expect the intel community to reveal all sources and methods that were used in generating the report. However, it is not unreasonable for lawmakers--and the public--to demand a more detailed explanation as to how intelligence analysts arrived at their astounding conclusion, and the data they used to support that assessment.

Cliff May: Ask yourself. Clifford D. May invites you to ask yourself three questions about Iran, America, and the NIE. How you answer could affect your career options.
Ask yourself a simple question: Why is Iran still violating international law by enriching uranium? Do you think Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and associates worry that more electricity may be needed to keep air conditioners humming in Tehran? Or do you think perhaps they want highly enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons?

If your answer is: “Gee, I dunno,” you may be qualified for a job in the American intelligence community — along with all the CIA analysts who in the past came to erroneous conclusions about the nuclear-weapons programs of Iraq, Libya, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Syria. ...

Second question: If Tehran's rulers did suspend its nuclear weapons program - a big if - what caused them to do that? (Hint: Think back to 2003, the year Iran allegedly suspended - not "abandoned" - its nuclear weapons program.) Cliff May's third and final question is your take-home assignment.

JINSA: Estimative language. JINSA, thinking along the same lines as May, offers the following:
Most prominently in the news, the NIE asserts with “high confidence” that Iran shut down its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and has “moderate confidence” that it has not restarted. “Our assessment that the program probably was halted in response to international pressure suggests Iran might be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously.”

Let us assume for the moment that the NIE is entirely correct. (We know, we know. Hold the nasty e-mails; just suspend disbelief and follow the first train of thought.)

-Question: What international pressure?

-Answer: The American invasion of Iraq in May 2003 followed by the interception through the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI, the brainchild of John Bolton) of an illegal shipment of uranium-enrichment equipment bound for Libya in October. Iran’s nuclear weapons program began in the early days of the Revolution and continued unabated through periods of relative freeze and thaw with the United States. The Iraq war and the PSI, however, certainly convinced Libya and may have convinced Iran that the United States had become serious about stopping proliferation.

-Implication: The NIE doesn’t do implications, but we do. That might change the answer to the question, “Was the invasion of Iraq ‘worth it’?”

Before the invasion, the UN was convinced - through intelligence estimates, including British inspectors’ field reports - that Iraq had a hidden nuclear and chemical/biological weapons program. Even countries strongly opposed to the American invasion [mainly because they were making millions of dollars on the UN Oil for Food (read weapons) Program], agreed with the intelligence assessment that Saddam had non-conventional programs in defiance of UN demands for transparency.

Full post at the link.

Arutz Sheva: Israel intel chiefs unhappy with report. Israel National News:
Israel's intelligence and military leaders are disappointed and feel isolated by the American intelligence assessment that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons, the Associated Press reported. "With the U.S. now less likely to take military action, an increasingly nervous Israel might feel compelled to strike out on its own if it perceives a dangerous threat," according to the report.

President Shimon Peres also expressed concerns about the American assessment when he met on Wednesday with former American Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who is visiting Israel. He noted that American intelligence reports have been wrong in the past but did not specifically refer to the Americans' mistaken report that Iraq had developed a mass destruction program.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak responded, "We cannot allow ourselves to rest just because of an intelligence report from the other side of the Earth, even if it is from our greatest friend."

Gateway Pundit: NIE authors' about-face. Gateway Pundit quotes a Wall Street Journal editorial (correct link is here):
Our own "confidence" is not heightened by the fact that the NIE's main authors include three former State Department officials with previous reputations as "hyper-partisan anti-Bush officials," according to an intelligence source. They are Tom Fingar, formerly of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research; Vann Van Diepen, the National Intelligence Officer for WMD; and Kenneth Brill, the former U.S. Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

GP has an excellent round-up, documenting just how recent is this reversal on Iran.

Neocon Express: A train wreck, etc. Neocon Express oberves: "the US steps all over it's own %$#!, shoots itself in the foot", which is quite a colorful metaphor as well as an excellent way to get gangrene. The Matrix also posts a clip from Fox News of an interview with Dan Gillerman, the Israeli ambassador to the UN. Key concept: One report doesn't change Ahmadinejad's nature.

American Thinker: Disinformation? Finally, Ed Lasky at American Thinker speaks the unspoken question: "Given that the Iranians knew we were trying to uncover as much information as we could regarding their nuclear program, is it to be believed that they were incapable of planting written notes and engaging in over the air conversations that would mislead America?"

Commentary. No remarks this morning.