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June 03, 2008

Intelligence in the Post-Iraq World
Posted by Adam Blickstein

Matt Yglesias has a insightful look into how leaders from both political parties refuse to acknowledge our own intelligence community's assessment that Iran has "halted an effort to build a nuclear warhead in mid-2003." While it is more or less a matter of political convenience to downplay this crucial piece of analytical evidence, Yglesias fails to mention an important component of this rhetorical gamesmanship: namely, the degradation and politicization of our intelligence agencies before and after the Iraq war has given adequate political cover to either downplay or disown subsequent findings from our intelligence community.

Both Democrats and Republicans acknowledge the failings of our intelligence apparatus in the 2002-2003 run-up to war.  And while they may argue over whether it was at the hands of top-down manipulation from the White House or institutional failures from the ground up, the fact remains the same: any intelligence products can be, rightly or wrongly, dismissed as questionable due to our dismal intelligence record from the past decade.

A joint Wall Street Journal Op-Ed as well as exchange  on Fox News Sunday between Congressional intelligence leaders Reps. Jane Harman and Peter Hoekstra  from 2007 is instructive:

WSJ 12/10/2007:

The limitations of the intelligence community are unfortunately well known to us. As past leaders of the House Intelligence Committee, we both saw the intelligence on Iraq's WMD in the run-up to the war, as well as the failure to detect the 9/11 plot or predict India's rise to the ranks of nuclear-armed nations...

Still, intelligence is in many ways an art, not an exact science. The complete reversal from the 2005 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear-weapons program to the latest NIE serves as its own caution in this regard. The information we receive from the intelligence community is but one piece of the puzzle in a rapidly changing world. It is not a substitute for policy, and the challenge for policy makers is to use good intelligence wisely to fashion good policy.

Fox News Sunday 12/16/2007:

WALLACE: I have to ask you to follow up, Congressman Hoekstra. Do you have full confidence in Director Hayden?

HOEKSTRA: When you say that the community is incompetent, I'm telling you I don't have confidence in the community. You know, I have high confidence that the community continues to be broken and is not giving us, as policymakers, the information that we need to make good decisions.

HARMAN: Yes, I would distinguish the workforce of the community from the leadership of the community.

Peter and I have been all over the world talking to very capable people who are in austere locations, away from their families, trying to get it right. And I, frankly, think that the recent NIE on Iran was the best work product they've produced.

The leadership, in my view, becomes political. And that's wrong. Remember, there was a purge going on in 2005 by Porter Goss as the CIA director and his top staff of people, members of the community that they thought were leaning Democratic. I think that that is outrageous.

We need the best intelligence we can field. Then we need wise policymakers to use it as a tool to make wise policy. That part has been broken for many years, and we've all suffered from that.

Needless to say, a major task of our next President is to ensure that our intelligence community regains its credibility so that future intelligence assessments can't simply be dismissed by politicians, either implicitly, or as rogue documents, providing yet more evidence of a broken intelligence apparatus.

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Comments

It is a fantasy to believe that organs of the administrative branch of the US government, including the intelligence and military communities, would ever be divorced from executive control. It has never happened before and it ain't gonna happen now. Forget it.

The Congress, representatives of the people, is supposed to direct the policies of the US, including foreign policy. They are free to travel, investigate, question, fact-find and talk to anyone in the world, and then formulate policy. They don't do it. They have abrogated their role and have then blamed others, including the CIA, for their own shortcomings. I'm not the brightest light in the firmament and I knew what Bush and Cheney were up to in 2002. What's up with these clowns in Congress? Oh, that's right -- raising campaign funds is Job One.

"We need wise policymakers" says Rep. Harman. You got that right, Janey. Get her butt outa there and find someone who will do the job that the Constitution requires.

I am pretty sure Obama will restore our intellegince credibility with his GAFFES....

Just tonight, Gaffe Galore obama said: "John McCain has spent a lot of time talking about trips to Iraq in the last few weeks, but maybe if he spent some time taking trips to the cities and towns that have been hardest hit by this economy -- cities in Michigan, and Ohio, and right here in Minnesota -- he'd understand the kind of change that people are looking for."

Didn't Mccain just had a "Forgotten American" tour ??

Wasn't Obama himself who hardly bothered to tour Florida and Michigan an oh! kentucky??

Visit all obama's gaffes here

WWW.OBAMASGAFFES.BLOGSPOT.COM

More power to Hillary, she is probably the only Democrat that has not fallen in Obama's spell!

To Nina:

Who was more right about Iraq, Hillary or Obama? Obama in his 2002 speech stated that the result of the Iraq War will be a bloody and costly occupation while Hillary voted for the resolution giving president Bush authority for going to war in Iraq. It is because of voters like you that the neo-cons and liberal hawks can ignore the NIE report about Iran and refuse to talk to the Iranians about solving the problems in Iraq or their nuclear weapons program. Moreover John McCain has made many more gaffes on foreign policy as opposed to Obama. I wished that the Hillary supporters would at least unite around the Democratic nominee instead of spouting out Republican talking points.

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opposed to Obama. I wished that the Hillary supporters would at least unite around the Democratic nominee instead of spouting out Republican talking points.

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