The Joy of Cooking Intelligence

If an intelligence officer brought me a report that read like the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, he'd be picking it out of his next morning's constitutional. That NIE was one of the worst compendiums of unsupported summary judgment statements I've ever seen. Good golly; Charles Krauthammer supports his opinions better than that.

If, on the other hand, I'm in charge of Dick Cheney's Iranian Directorate, I'm reasonably happy with the NIE. In fact, maybe I'm downright ecstatic about it.

I'm thinking, of course, that it would have been better if the damn thing hadn't come out at all. Back in the Office of Special Plans days, during the run up to the Iraq invasion, when we owned the front page of the New York Times and had at least one leg-breaking jerk like John Bolton in every office at every level of every division of every department in the executive branch, there's no way an NIE that says Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapons program would have seen the light of day. But what's the point of dwelling on the past? Fond nostalgia doesn't solve today's challenges, does it?

The major media didn't give our efforts at successfully blocking the latest NIE much bandwidth, and we managed to keep it under wraps for almost a year before the alternative media floated the story above the ambient noise level. So it was inevitable, really, that the news we that we knew Iran doesn't have a nuclear weapons program was bound to come out. The important thing, I'm thinking, if I'm the head of Dick Cheney's Iranian Directorate, is that we managed to shoehorn enough Rovewellian bull pluck in to the NIE to maintain control of the spin vector.

This morsel, for example, I found positively delicious:

This NIE does not assume that Iran intends to acquire nuclear weapons. Rather, it examines the intelligence to assess Iran’s capability and intent (or lack thereof) to acquire nuclear weapons, taking full account of Iran’s dual-use uranium fuel cycle and those nuclear activities that are at least partly civil in nature.

Heh. In normal times, somebody might say, Hey, if you don't assume Iran intends to acquire nuclear weapons, don't you also have to assume that all of it's nuclear activities are entirely civil in nature?

But these aren't normal times, are they? Not by half, they're not.

Here's another tidbit I really liked:

Our assessment that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously.

Re-heh. According to the story we're telling now, we didn't start cranking up the international pressure until the program was already halted. That's why Iran may be more vulnerable to more international pressure, because everything we do is retroactive, right? Tee-hee! Now that's what I call creating your own reality.

This part completely cracked me up:

This Estimate does assume that the strategic goals and basic structure of Iran’s senior leadership and government will remain similar to those that have endured since the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989. We acknowledge the potential for these to change during the time frame of the Estimate, but are unable to confidently predict such changes or their implications. This Estimate does not assess how Iran may conduct future negotiations with the West on the nuclear issue.

Priceless. A big chunk of scary sounding noise that really says we don't know what the Iranians have been up to but we confidently assume they'll keep doing the same thing unless something changes. Propaganda in its purest form; foolproof, bulletproof, 151 proof.

There's just one aspect of the NIE that scares me, I'm thinking, if I'm head of Dick Cheney's Iranian Directorate. It's the bit at the top that says: "We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program."

I don't know for sure what we'll do if somebody with real clout demands to know how we judge that, or that we produce real evidence that Iran ever had a nuclear weapons program at all. If shove comes to biff, I'm thinking, we can have that schmuck Dick Armitage say he overheard it at an AEI cocktail party. He'll say anything we tell him to. If that doesn't work, yikes… Somebody might start asking even harder questions, like why the latest NIE on Iran only talked about its nuclear program and not about all those claims we've been making about Iran arming and training Iraqi militias and helping them kill American G.I.s.

If that happens, I'm thinking, if I'm the head of Dick Cheney's Iranian directorate, we revert to Plan B: everybody pulls up the pardon.doc file from their hard drives, global replaces Scooter Libby's name with theirs, e-mails it to White House Counsel Fred Fielding's office and hopes for the best.

Fortunately for me, I don't have to worry about begging for a pardon because I'm not the head of Dick Cheney's Iranian Directorate. Unfortunately, that also means I have no way of knowing what really happened in Iran in 2003. But I do know this: the Russians didn't begin construction on Iran's first nuclear reactor until September 2002, and the International Atomic Energy Commission concluded there was no evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program in October 2003. So what kind of nuclear weapons program could Iran have possibly had at any time in 2003 that it supposedly halted?

If it existed at all, I'm thinking, it must have been the kind that only exists on the back of a bar napkin.

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Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books) will be available April 1, 2008.

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