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Politicizing Intelligence

10:37 PM, Feb 12, 2009 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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The LA Times reports:

Little more than a year after U.S. spy agencies concluded that Iran had halted work on a nuclear weapon, the Obama administration has made it clear that it believes there is no question that Tehran is seeking the bomb.

In his news conference this week, President Obama went so far as to describe Iran's "development of a nuclear weapon" before correcting himself to refer to its "pursuit" of weapons capability.

Obama's nominee to serve as CIA director, Leon E. Panetta, left little doubt about his view last week when he testified on Capitol Hill. "From all the information I've seen," Panetta said, "I think there is no question that they are seeking that capability."

The language reflects the extent to which senior U.S. officials now discount a National Intelligence Estimate issued in November 2007 that was instrumental in derailing U.S. and European efforts to pressure Iran to shut down its nuclear program. ...

U.S. officials said that although no new evidence had surfaced to undercut the findings of the 2007 estimate, there was growing consensus that it provided a misleading picture and that the country was poised to reach crucial bomb-making milestones this year.

Panetta's testimony isn't the first time Obama has indicated that he discounts the 2007 NIE. In December 2007, he appeared to believe the report, saying, "By reporting that Iran halted its nuclear weapon development program four years ago because of international pressure, the new National Intelligence Estimate makes a compelling case for less saber-rattling and more direct diplomacy." But just last month, Obama told ABC News that Iran is "pursuing a nuclear weapon" (as early as his June 2008 AIPAC speech, Obama said that Iran "pursues a nuclear capability that could spark a dangerous arms race and raise the prospect of a transfer of nuclear know-how to terrorists.")

As Allahpundit notes, this LA Times story makes it all the more obvious that from the very beginning the NIE was used as a "political tool, to make sure Bush couldn't take any drastic action to stop the program (which was unlikely anyway)." Just to reiterate: The Obama administration hasn't relied on any new information to conclude as false the 2007 NIE's claim that Iran halted its nuke program. If Obama and his advisers now think that the 2007 NIE is a sham, don't they have an interest in firing the people who wrote faulty intelligence? Presumably Obama believes that the role of intelligence agencies is to collect and relay accurate intelligence, and the role of political leaders is to make political decisions.