I remember thinking it was pretty suspicious at the time. Now, thanks to our friends at the Wall Street Journal*, I know why:
When it comes to politicized intelligence in the Bush years, the critics may finally have a point. Perhaps the work of America's intelligence agencies was manipulated to suit the convenience of a small group of willful officials, intent on getting their way against the better judgment of their colleagues.That timeline is significant. Indeed. And there's more:
Except the intelligence was about Iran, not Iraq, and the manipulators weren't conniving neocons but rather the Administration's internal critics on the left.
That's one way to look at last month's revelation that Iran is building a secret second site to enrich uranium, among other emerging intelligence details. The Qom site—too small for civilian purposes but ideal for producing weapons-grade uranium—is supervised by Iran's Revolutionary Guards and was only declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency after Tehran got wind that the nuclear watchdogs knew about it.
But the more telling detail, as a recent White House "guidance paper" acknowledges, is that the U.S. has been "carefully observing and analyzing this facility for several years." That timeline is significant, because it was less than two years ago, in December 2007, that a National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear programs asserted with "high confidence" that Tehran had "halted its nuclear weapons program" in the fall of 2003.
Yet some of us noted at the time that the NIE added, in a crucial footnote, that by "nuclear weapons program" it meant "weapon design and weaponization work and . . . uranium enrichment-related work," rather than Iran's "declared" nuclear facilities.
And who decided to write the NIE the way it was written? The WSJ fingers Tom Fingar:
The NIE's main authors—including former intelligence official Tom Fingar and other internal critics of Bush Administration policies—downplayed this critical detail. Never mind that it was precisely Iran's "declared" nuclear facilities that constituted the core element of any nuclear-weapons program.Wouldn't you like to know why Tom Fingar and his colleagues did this? I surely would.
*Anticipating the inevitable "this is an editorial, not a news story" cavil, I would remind my readership that the WSJ editorial page does its own reporting and has broken any number of important stories over the years.