Intelligence Failure – by Alan M. Dershowitz


In December of 2007, I wrote an article about the National Intelligence Estimate that had just concluded that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program back in 2003. The immediate effect of this Pollyannaish report was to diminish the need for tough sanctions against Iran and to take the military option off the table.

We now know that the conclusion reached in the report was categorically false and that those who issued the report knew it was false. I titled my December 2007 article “Stupid Intelligence,” because, as I argued, its author had fallen hook, line and sinker for a transparent bait and switch tactic employed by Iran.

“The tactic is obvious and well-known to all intelligence officials with an IQ above room temperature. It goes like this: There are two tracks to making nuclear weapons: One is to conduct research and develop technology directly related to military use…[T]he second track is to develop nuclear technology for civilian use and then to use the civilian technology for military purposes.”

It was clear to many perceptive readers of the report, and to most other intelligence agencies, that Iran had simply and deceptively opted for the second track, and had certainly not abandoned its nuclear weapons program.

It now turns out that at the time this “stupid intelligence” estimate was released, our intelligence agencies were aware that the Iranians were building a secret military facility buried deep in the mountains near the holy city of Qom.

The United States recently disclosed the existence of this facility (after Iran was forced to acknowledge its existence) and concluded that it could be used only for the development of a nuclear weapons program. If the intelligence community knew then what they know now, then its 2007 National Intelligence Estimate was not only stupid. It was dishonest.

It seems clear in retrospect, as it seemed clear to me at the time, that those who released this deeply flawed report had a political agenda. As I wrote two years ago:

My own view is that the authors of the report were fighting the last war. No, not the war in Iraq, but rather what they believe was Vice President Cheney’s efforts to go to war with Iran. This report surely takes the wind out of those sails. But that was last year’s unfought war. Nobody in Washington has seriously considered attacking Iran since Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates replaced Cheney as the foreign policy power behind the throne.

Whatever the agenda was, it is improper – indeed it is illegal – for intelligence agencies to try to influence policy through a hidden agenda. Their job is to report truthfully to the elected policy makers so that they can make policy.

The time has come to withdraw the false and dangerous 2007 report, to admit it was wrong, and to substitute an intelligent, honest, objective and up-to-date report on how close Iran now is to being able to construct a deliverable nuclear bomb. The issue of how to deal with the threat posed by an apocalyptic, terrorist nation about to obtain nuclear weapons is too important to be left to politicized intelligence agencies with hidden agendas.

  • Proxywar

    I don't have any proof but in my opinion I do believe the National Intelligence Estimate report which found Iraq had WMD was politicized by CIA democrat left-overs. It was set up to make bush look dishonest and stupid.

  • brenanc

    The NIE Dershowitz refers to was pushed by Tom Fingar in the DNI's office. Fingar, like Dershowitz, is a leftist and was considered for high level post in the Obama Administration, according to press reports.

    As long as Alan's on the warpath over stupid intelligence, he ought to reappraise his continued support for the Obama Administration. I hope we don't see it, but one wonders what conclusion Alan might draw when Obama's policies facilitate Iran's making Israel a smoking hole.

  • WestWright

    Dersh, repeat after me, This is TREASON!

  • salty

    I believe our intelligence knew all along, but as always they did not want the American citizen to know our government was going to sit by and let this go on until it was too late to do anything.

  • AmericanExceptionalism

    Hey Dersh,

    Your Guy Obama is siding with the Iranian regime. When will you finally repudiate him?

  • brenanc

    I'll be even more pointed in my criticism of Dershowitz. He represents the type of American Jew we saw in the 1960s and 1970s–full support for Israel–in fact unquestioning support for Israel, but going full-tilt to undermine the United States.

    People with these views engendered a lot of anti-Semitism amongst the Americans who supported the war in Vietnam.. I'm not going to blame Pat Buchanan's anti-semtism on Jewish anti-Vietnam war protesters that happened to be virulently pro-Israel, but it certainly gave him an issue on which to hammer his bullshit home.

    What's ironic is that most of Dershowitz's 60s and 70s fellow travelers have come around to hating Israel too. He must be getting lonely. Such a pity…

  • michael85

    Professor,it is your's beloved LIEberals doing this!

  • rabergq

    You are assuming we have the capability of gathering any intelligence on Iran.
    Only Israel knows for sure and we won't believe them

  • LucyQ

    I happen to be an American who is Jewish, virulently pro-Israel, was against the govt policy regarding the war in Vietnam and have fortunately always been a tax-paying citizen. What do you find about my position that is anti-American, according to you?

  • brenanc

    Good question.

    At the time–in the late 1960s–I found it troubling that Americans were more supportive of Israel than their country of birth. I supported Israel and I supported the US fight against Communism in Vietnam. I'll concede that we didn't fight very intelligently, but I think the war's aftermath proves the justness of our cause.

    While the enemies weren't the same (the Arab world and Communists), they both represented (in my opinion) totalitarian ideologies, and for want of a better term–evil.

    That's my opinion and I know a lot of others shared it–with the unfortunate use of a lot more use of ethnic epithets and generalities.

    I still support Israel. I wish Dershowitz could see his way clear to see the danger Obama is bringing to the the US and support the US with equal fervor.


  • gfw88

    “Stupid Intelligence” is Mr. Dershowitz's middle name (or ought to be). The arrogant fools responsible for the NIE he sites are all leftists, and are all members of the Democratic Party. The intent of that estimate was disarm US policy in regards to Iran, which is against the interests of the US, and is especially harmful to Israel. The Democratic Party proves time-and-time-again that it is the most anti-semetic political organization in the US. Even so, his devotion to that revolting enterprise is absolute.

    “Stupid Intelligence” indeed.

  • LucyQ

    You didn't answer my question.

    Do you also believe some US Christians who are virulently pro-Palestian and against the war in Iraq are anti-American?

    Just because I love and support Israel does not mean I love America any less. That's a problem with your type of logic. Just because I love my father does not mean I love my mother or my husband any less. In fact, because I do love Israel, my love for America has deepened.

    “I still support Israel. I wish Dershowitz could see his way clear to see the danger Obama is bringing to the the US and support the US with equal fervor.”

    What makes you think Dershowitz doesn't support the US with equal fervor?

  • JohnnyRingo

    Anybody with shit for brains knew in 2007 that the intelligence report was a bogus document. It was written as Timmerman would put it by “Shadow Warriors” who deliberately wanted to sabotage George Bush. There is a 1946 Intelligence Report that was classified which identified the Muslim world as a threat. It was declassified in 1979. For Prof Dersshowitz who supported left wing causes all of his life, “the chickens have come home to roost”.

    Here is an excerpt from that report in 1946, two years beforethere was an Israel. Don't forget on whose side Arabs fought in WWII. Some things do not change.

    “The Moslem world sprawls around half the east, from the Pacific across Asia and Africa to the Atlantic, along one of the greatest of trade routes; in its center is an area extremely rich in oil; over it will run some of the most strategically important air routes.

    With few exceptions, the states which it includes are marked by poverty, ignorance, and stagnation. It is full of discontent and frustration, yet alive with consciousness of its inferiority and with determination to achieve some kind of general betterment.

    Two basic urges meet head-on in this area, and conflict is inherent in this collision of interests. These urges reveal themselves in daily news accounts of killings and terrorism, of pressure groups in opposition, and of raw nationalism and naked expansionism masquerading as diplomatic maneuvers. The urges tie together the tangled threads of power politics which—snarled in the lap of the United Nations Assembly—lead back to the centers of Islamic pressure and to the capitals of the world's biggest nations.

    The first of these urges originates within the Moslems' own sphere. The Moslems remember the power with which once they not only ruled their own domains but also overpowered half of Europe, yet they are painfully aware of their present economic, cultural, and military impoverishment. Thus a terrific internal pressure is building up in their collective thinking. The Moslems intend, by any means possible, to regain political independence and to reap the profits of their own resources, which in recent times and up to the present have been surrendered to the exploitation of foreigners who could provide capital investments. The area, in short, has an inferiority complex, and its activities are thus as unpredictable as those of any individual so motivated.

    The other fundamental urge originates externally. The world's great and near-great powers cover the economic riches of the Moslem area and are also mindful of the strategic locations of some of the domains. Their actions are also difficult to predict, because each of these powers sees itself in the position of the customer who wants to do his shopping in a hurry because he happens to know the store is going to be robbed.

    In an atmosphere so sated with the inflammable gases of distrust and ambition, the slightest spark could lead to an explosion which might implicate every country committed to the maintenance of world peace through the United Nations Organization. An understanding of the Moslem world and of the stresses and forces operative within it is thus an essential part of the basic intelligence framework.”

  • brenanc

    True enough, I did not answer, “What do you find about my position that is anti-American, according to you?”

    Why? I don't know you. My original statement is a generalization. I cannot divine a person's motives, I can only judge what effect other people's actions have on things I care about. My judgment may be incorrect.

    I was expressing my opinion. I can tell you that even outside of the Klaverns and skinhead shitholes I frequent (kidding) that many people were nonplussed by this apparent dichotomy. We may have all been wrong. We only made judgments based on what we perceived. The only way we could judge motives was by the actions we observed.

    I'm glad you love America and your husband.

    Why do I doubt Mr. Dershowitz? Because aside from his support for Israel, his positions regarding US Foreign policy from 1981-93 and 2001-2009 were generally in opposition. His virtually unqualified support for Obama's policies, in my opinion, is further proof that he supports a future US that I find horrific.

  • LucyQ


  • CowboyUp

    President Bush should have thuroughly purged the clinonistas from the DoD, Justice, NSA, and CIA. right offf the bat, starting with the firing of every US Attorney (as wild bill did). That was the biggest mistake President Bush made, other than mistaking the dp for loyal opposition (but then what GOP politician doesn't make that mistake?).

    The ones that politicise intel and national defense get away with it, and these same traitors will be waiting to boobytrap the next President that isn't of the dp.

    Dersh has passionately defended the indefensible, he has no credibility with me, and I don't trust a word he says.