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    Middle East
     Nov 10, 2007
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 public.

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 say.

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 elections.

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

Continued 1 2

Crisis of opportunity for Iran and the US
Nov 3

Decoding the enigmatic Republic of Iran
Nov 3

Iran simmers as a hot US political potato
Nov 2


 

 
 



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