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NIE Report: Wrong Before or Wrong Now?

Monday, 10 Dec 2007 10:31 AM

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Dr. Walid Phares, director of Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, observes “The release to the U.S. Congress of the NIE Iranian threat report has unleashed a wave of discussions streaming directly into the debate about the war on terror.”

He goes on to outline talking points to demonstrate why the message of the recent NIE is flawed; how it is being used against U.S. national security interests; and what the consequences will be of this derailment in threat analysis. (Read his comments here: http://www.familysecuritymatters.org/terrorism.php?id=1385829.)

Years ago I was told of an alleged battle between two polar factions within the CIA. It was classic conspiratorial fodder (Robert Ludlum plot stuff) and may or may not have been credible. However, Operation Mockingbird was a CIA initiative that was very real and very clearly documented (more on Operation Mockingbird: http://www.newswithviews.com/metcalf/metcalf8.htm, http://www.whatreallyhappened.com/RANCHO/POLITICS/MOCK/mockingbird.html, http://www.grandconspiracy.com/library.html#operation).

Katherine Graham, the late matriarch of The Washington Post, once told a 1988 group of CIA recruits, “We live in a dirty and dangerous world. There are some things the general public does not need to know, and shouldn’t. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.”

The greatest challenge for us "normal folk" when it comes to interpreting what we are or are not told by the intelligence community (or the press) is to distinguish between what is real and what is not. Disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda are cornerstones of the intelligence pyramid, and for good or ill, the press if a frequent collaborator.

In addition to collecting and analyzing data, various intelligence agencies can and will engage in lying. Frankly, it is a key component of their skill set. I have been suspiciously critical of Russian honcho Vladimir Putin because of his deep KGB roots. I have observed (archaic reference to "West Side Story") that “When you’re a Jet you’re a Jet all the way . . . from your first cigarette to your last dying day . . .” That axiom is true for any intelligence operative.

The conventional wisdom of our premature entrance into Iraq suggests that President Bush, all those neo-cons, and the congressional libs, were provided with inaccurate and incorrect intelligence. Not surprisingly, like a computer: "garbage in garbage out" resulted.

The intelligence community (full of lifelong careerists) was pimp slapped over their alleged malfeasance in misdirecting policy decisions. Not surprisingly, they did not like the rebuke (individually or collectively).

Now, after years of beating the drum over Iranian imminent nuclear capabilities and the potential for a multi-megaton spark over oceans of oil, the spooks are calling "do over." “Whoops! We were wrong . . .”

However, the latest controversial NIE (National Intelligence Estimate), and yes, it is, by definition, an ESTIMATE, begs the seminal question that courtroom lawyers salivate over being able to deploy. “Are you lying now . . . or were you lying before?” Because clearly, they can’t have it both ways.

“In a background briefing, intelligence officials said they had concluded it was ‘possible’, but not ‘likely’ the new information they were relying on was deception,” said John Bolton to the Congressional Quarterly recently.

If you embrace the position that they made an error, and nobly admitted their error, it doesn’t obviate the empirical reality that they have admitted they are not omniscient or incapable of error. And if they admit they can (and have been) wrong . . . what evidence do they submit to counter critics that they could be wrong this time?

The consequences of being wrong are pretty significant. The epic scar of 9/11 will forever be testimony that there are consequences to what we do and don’t do.

Sun Tzu, in "The Art of War" says, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

It is becoming increasingly clear, the administration and their supporting intelligence community does not have a clear picture of our enemies or our own national identity. For sure, we are not that generation of melting pot survivors of the great depression that won World War II.

We as a country are so divided, sectioned, and parsed that the potential for consonance (on almost anything) is impossible. We are so diversified; PC-ized, fragmented, and accommodating that most of the preparation of the battlefield heavy lifting has already been done for any potential and patient enemy.

Walt Kelly, creator of the "Pogo" comic strip, nailed it in 1970 (he later used in a two panel 1971 version with Pogo and Porky in a trash filled swamp): "Yep, Son, we have met the enemy and he is us."

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