Monday, January 22, 2007

Ken Silverstein: Intelligence Community to Congress: “The dog ate my national intelligence estimate"

Intelligence Community to Congress: “The dog ate my national intelligence estimate”

Posted on Sunday, January 21, 2007. By Ken Silverstein. Back in July, I reported that, in spite of pressure from CIA analysts, intelligence czar John Negroponte was blocking a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq. The CIA describes an NIE as “the most authoritative written judgment concerning a national security issue,” and a fresh one was badly needed because the last one on Iraq, which was compiled between 2004 and 2006 and leaked to the New York Times last September, had become outdated. Negroponte was said to fear that given the worsening situation in Iraq a new NIE would, of necessity, be deeply pessimistic, and that such an assessment might get leaked and embarrass the Bush Administration during last fall's elections.

Soon after that story was posted, six U.S. senators called for a new NIE on Iraq, and in August the Senate passed an amendment demanding that one be prepared. I've just learned that—months later and to the immense frustration of Congress—the new NIE is still not ready.

The situation came to a head last week, during a closed-door session of the Senate Armed Services Committee. This committee expected to be briefed on the long-awaited NIE by an official from the National Intelligence Council (NIC), which coordinates NIEs by gathering input from all of the nation's various intelligence agencies. But the NIC official turned up empty-handed and told the committee that the intelligence community hadn't been able to complete the NIE because it had been dealing with the many demands placed upon it by the Bush Administration to help prepare the new military strategy on Iraq. He then said that not all of the relevant agencies had contributed to the NIE, which has made it impossible to put together a finished product.

Apparently these “dog ate my homework” alibis were badly received by both the Democrats and the Republicans on the Committee, and those in attendance now believe that senior intelligence officials are stalling because an NIE will be bleak enough to present a significant political liability. Given the Bush Administration's “surge” policy and the extraordinary danger faced by U.S. troops in Iraq (27 U.S. servicemembers died there this weekend), the need for a new NIE is urgent. The intelligence community is doing the nation a disservice by making Congress wait for the truth.

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