A highly controversial, 150 page National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran’s nuclear programs was coordinated and written by former State Department political and intelligence analysts — not by more seasoned members of the U.S. intelligence community, Newsmax has learned.
Its most dramatic conclusion — that Iran shut down its nuclear weapons program in 2003 in response to international pressure — is based on a single, unvetted source who provided information to a foreign intelligence service and has not been interviewed directly by the United States.
Newsmax sources in Tehran believe that Washington has fallen for “a deliberate disinformation campaign” cooked up by the Revolutionary Guards, who laundered fake information and fed it to the United States through Revolutionary Guards intelligence officers posing as senior diplomats in Europe.
The National Intelligence Council, which produced the NIE, is chaired by Thomas Fingar, “a State Department intelligence analyst with no known overseas experience who briefly headed the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research,” I wrote in my book "Shadow Warriors: The Untold Story of Traitors, Saboteurs, and the Party of Surrender." [Editor's Note: Get "Shadow Warriors" free — go here now.]
Fingar was a key partner of Senate Democrats in their successful effort to derail the confirmation of John Bolton in the spring of 2005 to become the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations.
As the head of the NIC, Fingar has gone out of his way to fire analysts “who asked the wrong questions,” and who challenged the politically-correct views held by Fingar and his former State Department colleagues, as revealed in "Shadow Warriors."
In March 2007, Fingar fired his top Cuba and Venezuela analyst, Norman Bailey, after he warned of the growing alliance between Castro and Chavez.
Bailey’s departure from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) was applauded by the Cuban government news service Granma, who called Bailey “a patent relic of the Reagan regime.” And Fingar was just one of a coterie of State Department officials brought over to ODNI by the first director, career State Department official John Negroponte.
Collaborating with Fingar on the Iran estimate, released on Monday, were Kenneth Brill, the director of the National Counterproliferation Center, and Vann H. Van Diepen, the National Intelligence officer for Weapons of Mass Destruction and Proliferation.
“Van Diepen was an enormous problem,” a former colleague of his from the State Department told me when I was fact gathering for "Shadow Warriors."
“He was insubordinate, hated WMD sanctions, and strived not to implement them,” even though it was his specific responsibility at State to do so, the former colleague told me.
Kenneth Brill, also a career foreign service officer, had been the U.S. representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna in 2003-2004 before he was forced into retirement.
"Shadow Warrior" reports, “While in Vienna, Brill consistently failed to confront Iran once its clandestine nuclear weapons program was exposed in February 2003, and had to be woken up with the bureaucratic equivalent of a cattle prod to deliver a single speech condemning Iran’s eighteen year history of nuclear cheating.”
Negroponte rehabilitated Brill and brought the man who single-handedly failed to object to Iran’s nuclear weapons program and put him in charge of counter-proliferation efforts for the entire intelligence community.
Christian Westermann, another favorite of Senate Democrats in the Bolton confirmation hearings, was among the career State Department analysts tapped by Fingar and Brill.
As a State Department intelligence analyst, Westermann had missed the signs of biological weapons development in Cuba, and played into the hands of Castro apologist Sen. Christopher Dodd, D, Conn., by continuing to use impeached intelligence reports on Cuba that had been written by self-avowed Cuban spy, Ana Belen Montes.
“After failing to recognize the signs of biological weapons development in Cuba and Cuba’s cooperation with Iran, Westermann was promoted to become national intelligence officer for biological weapons,” I wrote.
“Let’s hope a walk-in defector from Iranian intelligence doesn’t tell us that Iran has given biological weapons to terrorists to attack new York or Chicago,” I added, “because Westermann will certainly object that the source of that information was not reliable — at least, until Americans start dying.”
It now appears that this is very similar to what happened while the intelligence community was preparing the Iran NIE.
My former colleague from the Washington Times, Bill Gertz, suggests in today’s print edition of the paper that Revolutionary Guards Gen. Alireza Asgari, who defected while in Turkey in February, was the human source whose information led to the NIE”s conclusion that Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003.
But intelligence sources in Europe told Newsmax in late September that Asgari’s debriefings on Iran’s nuclear weapons programs were “so dramatic” that they caused French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his foreign minister to speak out publicly about the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.
Sarkozy stunned his countrymen when he told an annual conference of French ambassadors on Aug. 27, 2007, that Iran faced a stark choice between shutting down its nuclear program, or tougher international sanctions and ultimately, war.
“This approach is the only one that allows us to escape from a catastrophic alternative: an Iranian bomb, or the bombing of Iran,” Sarkozy said.
Three weeks later, Foreign Minister Bernard Koucher warned in a televised interview that the world’s major powers needed to toughen sanctions on Iran to prevent Tehran from getting the bomb and to prevent war. “We must prepare for the worst,” Kouchner said. “The worst, sir, is war.”
Those comments were prompted by reports that were given to the French president about Iran’s nuclear weapons program derived from debriefings of the defector, Gen. Ashgari, a Newsmax intelligence source in Europe said.
Ashgari is the highest-level Iranian official to have defected to the West since the Islamic revolution of 1979. His defection set off a panic in Tehran.
As a senior member of the general staff of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, Asgari had access to highly-classified intelligence information, as well as strategic planning documents, as I reported at the time.
A damage assessment then underway in Tehran was expected to “take months” to complete, so extensive was Asgari’s access to Iran’s nuclear and intelligence secrets.
Asgari had detailed knowledge of Iranian Revolutionary Guards units operating in Iraq and Lebanon because he had trained some of them. He also knew some of the secrets of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, because he had been a top procurement officer and a deputy minister of defense in charge of logistics. But Asgari never had responsibility for nuclear weapons development, and probably did not have access to information about the status of the secret programs being run by the Revolutionary Guards, Iranian sources tell Newsmax.
In an effort to cover up the failure of Iranian counter-intelligence to prevent Asgari’s defection, a Persian language Web site run by the former Revolutioanry Guards Comdr. Gen. Mohsen Rezai claimed in March that Asgari was on a CIA “hit list” of 20 former Revolutionary Guards officers and had been assassinated.
The Senate intelligence committee will be briefed today on the NIE, and the House committee on Wednesday.
But already, the declassified summary has Republicans grumbling on Capitol Hill.
“We want to know why we should believe this,” one congressional Republican told Newsmax. “This is such a departure from the past and there are so many unanswered questions.”
While the intelligence community is supposed to report just the facts and its assessment of those facts and their reliability to policy-makers, this NIE clear advocates policy positions.
“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 that we judged previously,” the NIC wrote in the declassified “Key Judgments” of the NIE.
The NIE opined that the new assessment leads to the policy conclusion that the United States should offer “some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunites,” in order to lock in Iranian good behavior.
This carrot and stick approach has been the State Department’s preferred policy for the past 27 years, and has only strengthened the resolve of Iran’s leaders to continue defying the United States. “Those [countries that] assume that decaying methods such as psychological war, political propaganda and the so-called economic sanctions would work and prevent Iran's fast drive toward progress are mistaken," Ahmadinejad said in Tehran in September at a military parade.
By “progress” Ahmadinejad was referring to Iran’s recently-declared success at enriching uranium.
Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees “have been running around with big smiles on their faces,” a Republican source tells Newsmax.
Republicans on the committees intend to ask for more information on the sourcing of this latest NIE during closed door briefings today and tomorrow.
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