A National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran has been held up for more than a year in an effort to force the intelligence community to remove dissenting judgments on the Iranian nuclear program, and thus make the document more supportive of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s militarily aggressive policy toward Iran, according to accounts of the process provided by participants to two former Central Intelligence Agency officers.The current dispute over the Iran NIE bears striking resemblance to the controversies that played out over pre-war Iraq intelligence in at least two important ways:
1. Administration Stifling Dissent
NOW: According to IPS, the draft Iran NIE was reportedly completed a year ago, but the White House rejected it because it contained dissenting views. A former intelligence officer said, “They refused to come out with a version that had dissenting views in it.”
THEN: Prior to the Iraq war, the Air Force, Energy Department, and State Department all issued dissenting views on the state of Iraq’s progress towards a nuclear program. Those dissenting views later turned out to be correct, and in the process, greatly undermined the administration’s credibility. The lesson learned by the White House apparently is that this time they need to demolish dissent.
2. Administration Pressuring Analysts
NOW: Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi told IPS that “intelligence analysts have had to review and rewrite their findings three times, because of pressure from the White House.” The draft Iran NIE, for example, did not conclude that there was confirming evidence that Iran was arming the Shiite insurgents in Iraq, according to Giraldi.
THEN: Prior to the Iraq war, Cheney and his chief of staff Scooter Libby visited the CIA headquarters approximately a dozen times to engage the CIA analysts directly on the issue of Iraq’s nuclear development, “creating an environment in which some analysts felt they were being pressured to make their assessments fit with the Bush administration’s policy objectives.”
The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh has reported that, despite there being very little evidence that Iran is developing a nuclear bomb, the White House is “stovepiping” intelligence and hiding information from the CIA that makes a case for war.
In February, the intelligence community released a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq that reported Iran was not “a major driver of violence” inside Iraq, disputing administration claims to the contrary. Former CIA officer Giraldi says the the White House is looking for “a document that it can use as evidence for its Iran policy.” Fortunately, not all analysts are willing to “fix the facts around the policy.”