That CIA analyst may have been Michael Leiter, Acting Director of the National Counterterrorism Center who paid WINEP a visit in February 2008 to discuss the "looming challenges in the war on terror." Ray believes that this level of interaction by the agency with WINEP is "Very irregular."On May 29, 2008, Donald Kerr, the Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence delivered a remarkable presentation to WINEP.
Speaking at a program entitled Emerging Threats, Challenges, and Opportunities in the Middle East, Kerr explained that the Presidents Daily Brief (PDB) was one of their most privileged documents read by only a handful of people and delivered to the president by either the Director of National Intelligence or himself. He added "They are based on some of our best collection capabilities, coupled with our most exacting analysis."
Then Donald Kerr announced "This evening, I’m going to give you a notional view of some of the issues that will be raised in the Oval Office PDB on January 21, 2009."
"We’ll give you a snapshot of where things stand now and some of the overarching thoughts as to potential future developments...Iran, for example, continues to provide weapons, funding, and training support to certain Iraqi Shi’a militants designed to increase Tehran’s influence over Iraq and ensure the United States suffers setbacks."
He offered a taste of the intelligence analysis on the state of Iran when the next president takes office. The level of authenticity or sincerity is not clear. Was what he provided his own personal conclusion or based on combined intelligence and analysis? Certainly, it would be improper for someone in his capacity to fabricate information about such a sensitive matter. No heavily guarded secrets were shared it seems, but the presentation did appear to be tailored to his audience. With Congress fighting for more access to intelligence information it does seem "very irregular" that a think tank with a clearly pro-Israel viewpoint that regularly discusses a military attack on Iran would be hand-fed information of any level directly from the ODNI.
What follows are highlights, including a jab at the NIE, from Kerr’s prepared speech on his mock PDB on Iran:
"The regime has become more authoritarian …Despite rising oil income, Iran’s economy is plagued by high inflation and unemployment…Iran’s foreign activities constitute a direct and immediate threat to American interests.
Iran is pursuing a range of efforts to undermine U.S. influence…The U.S. military continues to find caches of Iranian-made weapons in Iraq, including rockets, small arms, and explosively formed penetrator devices, including some manufactured in the past year.
We must also talk about the nuclear issue. Over the past year, we have gained important new insights into Iran’s activities related to nuclear weapons, and in November 2007, the Intelligence Community published a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iranian intentions and capabilities...we also judged that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons design and weaponization activities…But given that the halted activities were part of an unannounced secret program that Iran attempted to hide, we do not know whether it has been restarted since our last assessment…A number of countries in the region have recently expressed renewed interest in nuclear power."
These remarks fit like a glove to WINEP’s Last Resort hand.
A Q&A followed with at least one member of WINEP pretending he was the president, pushing the envelope in his questions to Donald Kerr to the great amusement of the audience. But, there was no joke about the information he was trying to elicit – target intelligence on Iran.
Michael Stein asked "Do you know exactly where those production facilities are and how we can target them or what kind of weaponry will produce the result we want? I would hope also that you have some boots on the ground and you’ve done some mapping for us and can give us precise directions of where to go and what to do. And, finally, at what point would you suggest to me that the Iranians have gone too far in this development and that I better do something about it before we pass the point of no return?" [Laughter, applause.]
You can read Donald Kerr’s response to those questions here as well as questions posed by R. James Woolsey, Martin Gross and others.
Priming the Incoming President
Mentioned earlier was WINEP’s Presidential Study Group that "drafts a blueprint for the next administration’s Middle East policy." One of the task forces is the "Future of the U.S.-Israeli Relations." This group convened several times throughout 2007 and 2008 including a retreat with ten Israeli counterparts.
Their final product is a Statement on "How to Deepen U.S.-Israel Cooperation on the Iranian Nuclear Challenge." It states that Iran’s nuclear weapons capability "hovers above all other items on the U.S.-Israel agenda."