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The Analysts Who Say NIE — Why Now?
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The Analysts Who Say NIE

The Analysts who say NIE [warning: video] have gotten a little tired of being blamed for every screw up of the Hedgemony.

The Hedgemony doesn’t like releasing the entire reports, because then people would see all of the dissent and qualifications that the intel community attached to every claim made by the Shrubbery, Darth Cheney, and the neonitwits.

Dafna Linzer, Washington Post Staff Writer wrote this August 2, 2005 piece, 2005 NIE on Iran

A major U.S. intelligence review has projected that Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years, according to government sources with firsthand knowledge of the new analysis.

The carefully hedged assessments, which represent consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies, contrast with forceful public statements by the White House. Administration officials have asserted, but have not offered proof, that Tehran is moving determinedly toward a nuclear arsenal. The new estimate could provide more time for diplomacy with Iran over its nuclear ambitions. President Bush has said that he wants the crisis resolved diplomatically but that “all options are on the table.”

Notice the characterization, “carefully hedged assessments,” that usually means the intel is single or double sourced at best and is more in line with rumors that intelligence. The Hedgemony has played this game from the beginning, cherry picking the reports that agree with its desires and ignoring everything that contradicts their preferred scenario.

Now look at this segment from Danger Room, Intel Report: Iran Halted Nuke Arms Program in 2003

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 judge with high confidence that the halt, and Tehran’s announcement of its decision to suspend its declared uranium enrichment program and sign an Additional Protocol to its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Safeguards Agreement, was directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure resulting from exposure of Iran’s previously undeclared nuclear work.

Confidence levels mean something, they aren’t just words. They tell people about the number and types of sources for the conclusions. “High confidence” means that they have the same information from multiple independent sources, which is as close to a fact as you are going to get without mind reading.

Almost every claim made about the Iraqi WMD program was single-sourced. Intel from a single source is a “rumor” until there is independent confirmation.

Juan Cole writes about a possible confirming source in Did an Iranian Spy Clear Tehran of Nuclear Ambitions?

The NIE is not based solely on the information from Ali Reza Asghari, but his information may have confirmed other sources which resulted in the elevated confidence levels in the new report.

Laura Rozen provides the Likud response which boils down to “you can’t trust anything that comes from the US.”

Well, they’re busy trying to find some excuse for bombing that building in Syria that everyone now recognizes wasn’t a nuclear reactor being built, but probably just another ammo dump and to explain why they didn’t have a clue as to what Hezbollah had been up to along their northern border for a decade.

I would like to join the intel community in saying “NIE! NIE!” to the Shrubbery.


1 Michael { 12.05.07 at 1:00 am }

This is quality, Bryan. NIE!

2 Fallenmonk { 12.05.07 at 6:01 am }

Good post Bryan. Good round up of the pertinent information. People that haven’t been involved in the intelligence world need to be educated on the ways it is presented to the upper echelons and how important consensus is between sources before you can make intelligent decisions. Most people don’t realize that there are dozens and dozens of sources for small bits of information that has to be rationalized and contrasted before you can really assess the overall picture. Back before PC’s and internet the simple little 3×5 card was the major way we kept track of the little bits of info gathered from various sources. Sooner or later the stack of 3×5 cards on a certain subject reached critical mass and you could begin to have confidence that you were putting together a clear picture. Ahh the good old days! How much easier it must be today with hypertext and the internet.

3 ellroon { 12.05.07 at 12:24 pm }

Now we just need a path right back to the Shrubbery… that will lead to impeachment and a war crimes trial…

(Python reference intended.)

4 Bryan { 12.05.07 at 1:05 pm }

Thank you, Michael.

That’s one of the reason I became involved in computers in 1970, setting up a database to replace some the card systems and to maintain continuity when analysts were transfered. People think all you need it one well-placed spy and you know everything. They need to know that intel isn’t and has never been that sloppy. There were all sorts if things that I “knew” were true, that never made the cut because there was no confirmation, but I got a few points confirming other people’s work.

The path goes back to Darth. He has been playing the system since Vietnam.

5 andante { 12.05.07 at 4:12 pm }

He’s been changing his story, subtly for him, for months. Not quite as blatant as the Iraq goalpost-moving, but still…..

Impeachment would be nice, but it’s probably too late for that process (but what do I know? I’ll be happy to be corrected.). It’s all about stopping the unjustified rush to bomb, bomb, bomb until (and if) we can get some sane leadership.

6 Bryan { 12.05.07 at 4:44 pm }

Hopefully the reign of “King” George has been reined in. They are wasting more money on this madness than any other war in US history.