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Perhaps the Jerusalem Post should have stopped there. Rather, in a highly suggestive sentence, it went on to suggest that "intelligence supplied by the US, Israel, and other IAEA member states on Iran's attempts to use the cover of a civilian nuclear program to move toward a weapons program was compelling."

Compelling? Not so much. It beggars belief that Israel would withhold such "intelligence" from the U.S. And judging from the Congressional testimony of National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair on Feb. 2, the U.S. intelligence community sees the evidence as neither new nor compelling.

The analysis and judgments of the Nov. 2007 NIE were a product of the original ethos of CIA's intelligence directorate where the premium was on speaking without fear or favor--speaking truth to power. That Estimate was like a breath of fresh air for those of us aware of the importance of that kind of integrity. Some of us proudly bear the retaliatory scars from administration officials, pundits, and academics pushing agenda-shaped, alternative analyses.

The supreme indignity was former CIA Director George Tenet's tenet that intelligence should be cooked to order--as was done in the September 2002 NIE regarding WMD in Iraq. That was, pure and simple, prostitution of our profession, and not very different from what John Yoo and his lawyer accomplices did to the legal profession in finding waterboarding and other acts of torture not torture.

An Honest Estimate

After a bottom-up investigation of all evidence on Iran's nuclear activities and plans, the November 2007 Estimate boldly contradicted what President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and their Israeli counterparts had been claiming about the imminence of a nuclear threat from Iran.

Happily, courage was not limited to Tom Fingar, then chair of the National Intelligence Council, and those working under his supervision on the Estimate. The most senior U.S. military officers took the unusual step of insisting that the essence of the Estimate's key judgments be made public.

They calculated, correctly, that this would put a spike in the wheels of the juggernaut then rolling toward a fresh disaster--war with Iran. Recall that Adm. William Fallon, who became CENTCOM commander in March 2007, leaked to the press that there would be no attack on Iran "on my watch."

Fallon was fired in March 2008. While not as outspoken as Fallon, his senior military colleagues shared his disdain for the dangerously simplistic views of Bush and Cheney on the use of military power.

Among a handful of Key Judgments of the November 2007 NIE were these:

"-We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program;

"-We also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons".

"-We assess with moderate confidence Tehran has not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons."

But that was more than two years ago, you say. What about now?

February 2010

In formal testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee on February 2, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair wore out the subjunctive mood in addressing Iran's possible plans for a nuclear weapon. His paragraphs were replete with dependent clauses, virtually all of them beginning with "if."

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Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)

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