Thursday, February 12, 2009

NIE, Reversed

Today, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Obama Administration believes there is "no question" Iran is pursuing a nuclear bomb. Both President Obama and Leon Panetta, tapped to head the CIA, have publicly said that they believe Iran is taking steps to develop a nuclear bomb.

This directly contradicts the National Intelligence Estimate from 2007, which famously derailed any progress the Bush Administration had achieved in building international support against Iran's nuclear program. But, the Times notes,

U.S. officials said that although no new evidence had surfaced to undercut the findings of the 2007 estimate, there was growing consensus that it provided a misleading picture and that the country was poised to reach crucial bomb-making milestones this year.

The NIE was released during campaign season, in December of 2007. According to NPR, Vice President Joe Biden (then running for President) said following the release of the report,

With all due respect to anybody who thinks that pressure [from Congress] brought this about, let's get this straight. In 2003, they stopped their program."

That month, according to Salon, Barack Obama had this to say on the NIE:

By reporting that Iran halted its nuclear weapon development program four years ago because of international pressure, the new National Intelligence Estimate makes a compelling case for less saber-rattling and more direct diplomacy. The juxtaposition of this NIE with the president's suggestion of World War III serves as an important reminder of what we learned with the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq: members of Congress must carefully read the intelligence before giving the President any justification to use military force.

While Vice President Biden was clearly wrong then, President Obama was right at the time (and now) about Members of Congress needing to read the intelligence information carefully. It appears now, though, that the Bush Administration had, surprisingly, been right all along. Though Obama advised that Members of Congress review the intelligence, it seems that these two Members of Congress didn't do so. This isn't surprising -- after all, they were on the campaign trail -- but it does lead one to believe that some Democrats' opposition to the Bush policy on Iran had more to do with President Bush than with the facts on the ground.

1 comment:

  1. When will there be Congressional hearings to determine how the December 2007 NIE came to be written and presented? The key question must be if our intelligence officials had a political agenda.