Page 1 of 2 Spooks refuse to toe Cheney's line on Iran
By Gareth Porter
WASHINGTON - The US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran has been held
up for more than a year in an effort to force the intelligence community to
remove dissenting judgments on the Iranian nuclear program. The aim is to make
the document more supportive of Vice President Dick Cheney's militarily
aggressive policy toward Iran, according to accounts provided by participants
in the NIE process to two former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officers.
But this pressure on intelligence analysts, obviously instigated by Cheney
himself, has not produced a draft estimate without those
dissenting views, these sources say. The White House has now apparently decided
to release the "unsatisfactory" draft NIE, but without making its key findings
A NIE coordinates the judgments of the US's 16 intelligence agencies on a
specific country or issue.
A former CIA intelligence officer who has asked not to be identified told Inter
Press Service (IPS) that an official involved in the NIE process says the Iran
estimate was ready to be published a year ago but has been delayed because the
director of national intelligence wanted a draft reflecting a consensus on key
conclusions - particularly on Iran's nuclear program.
There is a split in the intelligence community on how much of a threat the
Iranian nuclear program poses, according to the intelligence official's
account. Some analysts who are less independent are willing to give the benefit
of the doubt to the alarmist view coming from Cheney's office, but others have
rejected that view.
The draft NIE, first completed a year ago, which had included the dissenting
views, was not acceptable to the White House, according to the former
intelligence officer. "They refused to come out with a version that had
dissenting views in it," he says.
As recently as early October, the official involved in the process was said to
be unclear about whether a NIE would be circulated and, if so, what it would
Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi provided a similar account, based on his own
sources in the intelligence community. He told IPS that intelligence analysts
have had to review and rewrite their findings three times, because of pressure
from the White House.
"The White House wants a document that it can use as evidence for its Iran
policy," says Giraldi. Despite pressures on them to change their dissenting
conclusions, however, Giraldi says some analysts have refused to go along with
conclusions that they believe are not supported by the evidence.
In October 2006, Giraldi wrote in The American Conservative that the NIE on
Iran had already been completed, but that Cheney's office had objected to its
findings on both the Iranian nuclear program and Iran's role in Iraq. The draft
NIE did not conclude that there was confirming evidence that Iran was arming
Shi'ite insurgents in Iraq, according to Giraldi.
Giraldi said the White House had decided to postpone any decision on the
internal release of the NIE until after the November 2006 congressional
Cheney's desire for a "clean" NIE that could be used to support his aggressive
policy toward Iran was apparently a major factor in the replacement of John
Negroponte as director of national intelligence in early 2007. Negroponte had
angered neo-conservatives in the administration by telling the press in April
2006 that the intelligence community believed that it would still be "a number
of years off" before Iran would be "likely to have enough fissile material to
assemble into or to put into a nuclear weapon, perhaps into the next decade".
Neo-conservatives immediately attacked Negroponte for the statement, which
merely reflected the existing NIE on Iran issued in spring 2005. Robert G
Joseph, the under secretary of state for arms control and an ally of Cheney,
contradicted Negroponte the following day. He suggested that Iran's nuclear
program was nearing the "point of no return" - an Israeli concept referring to
the mastery of industrial-scale uranium enrichment.
Frank J Gaffney, a protege of neo-conservative heavyweight