The controversial National Intelligence Estimate on Iran should have emphasized that Iran continues to engage in centrifuge uranium enrichment activities that lead to developing nuclear weapons, Sen. Kit Bond, the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, tells Newsmax.
“The NIE was based on very in-depth, very good intel work on what happened in 2003 [when Iran is said by the CIA to have halted its nuclear weapons program],” says the Missouri Republican, who has read the classified portion of the NIE. But, Bond notes, the NIE’s first point was: “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons...”
"I would have written it a lot different,” Bond says. “The key factors were, number one, that we confirmed that Iran did have a nuclear weapon program. Number two, while they had stopped the program to weaponize nuclear material, we believe they’re continuing to enrich uranium, which is a long pole in the tent of getting towards having a nuclear weapon, and they are continuing to work on the missile program which could conceivably be used to deliver a nuclear weapon by missile.”
Despite what Democratic presidential candidates say, “This doesn’t mean all of a sudden we should treat Iran as a good guy,” Bond says. “We need to continue to push for sanctions. They’re continuing to enrich uranium. They promised to wipe Israel off the face of the earth and take on others of us who are non-believers. They supported Hezbollah in Lebanon, in killing Marines and attacking our embassy. They have continued to provide Improvised Explosive Devices to kill our servicemen and women and coalition forces in Iraq.”
Moreover, while Bond is convinced that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003, “We do not know whether they have restarted. Probably not, but we don’t know for certain.”
At the same time, Bond says he does not buy a claim by some that elements of the CIA are trying to undermine Bush administration policies.
“The Washington Post referred to ‘the spy empire striking back,’ but I don’t sense that there’s that motivation,” Bond says.
Nor does he think NIEs should be released publicly.
“The NIEs are supposed to inform policy makers in the executive branch and members of Congress as well as strategic planners,” he says. “We’ve gone way too far in politicizing intel. Every time we talk about it, our enemies learn a little bit more and get reminded of what our capacities are.”
While the CIA made a “mistake” in destroying video tapes of harsh interrogations, enhanced interrogation techniques may be necessary to stop the next attack, Bond says.
“Were the CIA to be limited to what is in the Army Field Manual, we would not get the kind of information that we’ve gotten from previous high-value detainees who told us about other members of al Qaeda, their locations, operations, and specific plots directed against our troops and against the United States,” Bond says.
If Congress outlaws such techniques, as it is now trying to do, President Bush will veto the bill, he says.
Even more disturbing to Bond are votes by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama last August against revising the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to take account of technological changes.
“The country was at risk last summer,” Bond says. “We were not able to go up on new targets and obtain new information. The FISA court said in a classified letter to the intelligence community—and I was authorized to say it on the floor—that the FISA process for intercepting communications had been brought to a stop.”
As a result, if Clinton and Obama had prevailed, “We would not have been able to collect signals intelligence from key al Qaeda and other terrorist leaders abroad, calling to their allies in Iraq or perhaps in the United States. Essentially they would’ve shut down the program,” Bond says. “We’d have been out of business.”
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