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Intelligence Failure – by Alan M. Dershowitz

Posted By Alan M. Dershowitz On October 1, 2009 @ 12:53 pm In FrontPage | 16 Comments

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.


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