The Magazine

If Michael Moore Had a Security Clearance

How did the rabid ideologue Richard Immerman get put in charge of the 'standards and integrity' of the intelligence community?

Mar 3, 2008, Vol. 13, No. 24 • By GABRIEL SCHOENFELD
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With "insidious" intent, these morbidly suspicious "Bushites" leaned on the CIA to find a nuclear program in Iraq when there was none. Indeed, Cheney, Immerman writes, "went so far as to camp out at Langley to watch over analysts' shoulders" as they performed their work. Though the CIA had biases of its own that led to its erroneous prewar assessment that Iraq was acquiring WMDs, Bush and his subordinates ultimately caused the larger scandal. Indeed, they made "every effort to 'cook the books,' they 'hyped' the need to go to war, and they lied too often to count." What drove the policies of these government officials was not intelligence but sheer "dogma."

One especially dangerous consequence of an administration in the grip of ideological delusions, writes Immerman, is that it has rendered the benefits of intelligence reform almost completely nugatory. While the radical reorganization undertaken since September 11 might have been expected to produce "dramatic and positive" results, the fact is that "the effect on policy is likely to be slight so long as the makers of that policy remain cognitively impaired and politically possessed."

This is but a sampling of the scholarship of Professor Immerman. What are we to make of such Michael Moore-like thinking coming from the lips of a ranking U.S. intelligence official, the very official in charge of maintaining the "integrity and standards" of our intelligence community? And, more important, what does Mike McConnell make of it?

The problem is not merely that someone who is himself so clearly a "rabid ideologue" might have been responsible for vetting the Iran NIE and then letting a skewed declassified summary of it out the door. Given how recently Immerman took his job, his precise role in the fiasco is unclear, although it is suggestive that his direct supervisor is Thomas Fingar, one of the authors of the controversial document. The real problem is that someone like Immerman, nakedly contemptuous of the administration in which he nonetheless sought a job, was appointed to a position of such high responsibility--or any responsibility--in the first place. Who made that decision and why?

The Bush administration has been repeatedly condemned for politicizing intelligence. But the shoe is being tied on the wrong foot. The politicization of the intelligence community comes from within. Indeed, those responsible for maintaining analytic integrity are themselves generally lacking in the very quality. We can reform and reshuffle the intelligence community from now until kingdom come, but, as long as such types remain fixed in place, the politicization of intelligence will persist.

Gabriel Schoenfeld, senior editor of Commentary, writes daily at connectingthedots.us.com.