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It was quite a spectacle: One "spy" who tried her best (but failed) to stop the Iraq war was giving the Sam Adams award to another, more senior intelligence official who, simply by adhering tightly to the professional ethos of following the evidence wherever it leads, played a huge role in stopping war on Iran.
Also "giving evidence" (in British parlance) on Jan. 23 at the Sam Adams Award evening at the Oxford Union were three other former awardees besides Gun and Rowley -- former U.K. ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray, former NSA executive Thomas Drake and, video-linked from asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Julian Assange of WikiLeaks.
Other Sam Adams associates also spoke briefly, including former U.K. MI5 officer Annnie Machon and two of the three U.S. diplomats who resigned on principle before the attack on Iraq -- Ann Wright and Brady Kiesling. Oxford Union President Maria Rioumine joined me in introductory remarks; still other associates made the trek across the Atlantic, at considerable personal expense, just to be there to honor Thomas Fingar.
Iran: Always Iran
There is yet another poignant back story here. In 2006, as Thomas Fingar was settling into his position as chief analyst for the entire U.S. intelligence community, the threats from the West and Israel directed at Iran were proliferating in an alarming way, and the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear program was just in the planning stage.
Amid the calls for military action against Iran, Katharine Gun came out of seclusion and wrote an op-ed titled "Iran: Time to Leak." Her article appeared on March 20, 2006, the third anniversary of the U.S./U.K. invasion of Iraq.
Apparently unaware of the paradigm shift toward honesty in drafting U.S. intelligence estimates, Ms. Gun drew on her own experience and tried to motivate analysts to blow the whistle when necessary, as she had done three years before:
"Truth telling and whistle blowing [continue to be] crucial after a war as ill advised as Iraq -- at least it allows us to piece together the facts -- but it's too late to save lives. Where are the memos and emails about Iran now?
"I urge those in a position to do so to disclose information which relates to this planned aggression; legal advice, meetings between the White House and other intelligence agencies, assessments of Iran's threat level (or better yet, evidence that assessments have been altered), troop deployments and army notifications. Don't let 'the intelligence and the facts be fixed around the policy' this time. ...- Advertisement -
"As the political momentum builds toward a military 'solution,' it would be wrong to wait until the bombs have fallen on Iran and families destroyed before finally informing the public."
Only when the Fingar-supervised NIE, Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities, emerged in November 2007 could Katharine Gun (and the rest of us) understand that integrity had been restored to the estimative analysis process. It would be extremely difficult to attack Iran with that NIE on the books. No need to leak this time.
Not to say pressures to attack Iran have disappeared. Ironically, it was Julian Assange, the Sam Adams award winner in 2010, who alerted the Oxford Union audience (via videolink from the Ecuadorian embassy) of a DreamWorks movie, "Fifth Estate," now in production. WikiLeaks somehow got hold of the script, which paints a much more ominous picture of Iran's nuclear intentions and capabilities and takes the customary U.S. mass-media potshots at WikiLeaks and Assange.
Not to over-use "ironic," the timely leak of that transcript to WikiLeaks will give those of us who remain committed to combating falsehood and pro-war propaganda advance time to expose the film for what it is and dissect its none-too-subtle objectives. No rest for the weary, as the expression goes.
Meanwhile, with the example set by Thomas Fingar, and the systems he has put in place to ensure intelligence assessments are not "fixed around the policy" -- as the 2002 Downing Street Memo famously depicted the fabrication of the case for war with Iraq -- there is reason to hope that yet another "war of choice" can be thwarted.
Following is the citation read by Katharine Gun to accompany the award to Thomas Fingar:
"Know all ye by these presents that Thomas Fingar is hereby awarded the Corner-Brightener Candlestick, presented by Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence.
"In 2005, when Tom Fingar assumed responsibility for supervising the preparation of National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs), the discipline of intelligence analysis had been corrupted on both sides of the Atlantic. We know from the Downing Street Minutes of July 23, 2002 that 'the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy' prior to the US/UK attack on Iraq.
"Integrity and professionalism were the only cure. Dr. Fingar oversaw the landmark 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran, which concluded with 'high confidence' that Iran had halted its nuclear weapon design and weaponization work in 2003. That NIE was issued with the unanimous approval of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies. Its key judgments have been revalidated every year since by the Director of National Intelligence.