Monday, October 09, 2006

Poster French Illusionist 1920

National Intelligence Estimates: Myth, Magic and Manipulation

There has been a national flash point stemming from a recently leaked national intelligence estimate (NIE) that was published in April 2006 with parts leaked in September 2006. Thrust of paper was that as a result of the invasion of Iraq, the insurgents are expanding, winning the war on terror, and the US is not. The US has killed Jihadists in the thousands, yet terrorist capabilities have increased against the US. Five years ago there were an estimated 20,000 Jihadists – now they are estimated at 50,000.

Unless you are a moron or a passionate GW Bush acolyte, you do not need the NIE, TRENDS IN GLOBAL TERRORISM: IMPLICATIONS AGAINST THE US to spell out that the US policy in Iraq is a bloody and expensive failure. Recent polling data in Iraq indicates that 71% of of the Iraqi want the Yankee to go home and 61% want the Americans killed on the spot. The roughly 30% not included are Kurds who need the US to survive independently. And that was the Kurdish situation before the US invasion and occupation, so there is no hearts and minds progress, certainly no gratitude for taking Saddam out among the Sunnis and the Shiites. As far as democracy in Iraq flourishing, it is a mirage that keeps moving out of GW Bush's grasp every time he lunges for it.

Republican Senator DeWine, staunch ally of GW Bush, on MEET THE PRESS on Sunday, confronted with this hostile Iraqi poll by the narrator, could not provide a rational argument for a continued US military presence in Iraq against the wishes of the populace. Pressed, he justified continued US presence to develop regional stability in the Middle East – implicitly whether the Iraqis like it or not. IS THAT SO? Glad he dropped the mask; it clarifies the issues. US is admittedly in a colonial war and the Iraqis are fighting a war of national liberation. Historically, the West never wins those.

NIEs usually take about a year to formulate; this one took longer as drafting started in 2004. NIEs are not anything to shed serious bureaucratic blood over, nor are they an up-to-date document on which to base policy. There are much more important intelligence instruments that really make policy makers jump. NIE seems to make Congress happy and titillate journalists when leaked, as they are always classified; that is, until GW Bush or VEEP Cheney arbitrarily and selectively declassify them to use them politically to buttress a choice political issue. Trapped by the fact there were no WMDs, the White House released parts of the perfidious WMD NIE to justify the invasion of Iraq. This move was major league hubris – they used a doped intelligence document to mislead and defend themselves against their catastrophic invasion.

You probably heard that 16 US government agencies participated when the NIE was written – most of these agencies have different expertise, but get the same basic collected intelligence with exceptions involving intelligence of extreme sensitivity. For that reason, the document, in addition to not being timely, is not based on all source material and as such, is on a lower scale of importance than other intelligence products. The most interesting point of NIEs always involves disagreements between the agencies which show up as footnotes or phraseology such as: "Some say, others believe". These show friction, self interest or in many cases the insistence on truth and refusal to accept compromise. The finished product is maddening to read as every judgement appears hedged. With 16 players to reach compromise, what do you expect?

CIA, historically every Administration's plaything, is the grand master in the document's preparation. Political appointee Negroponte, the recently appointed national intelligence czar, has final approval. Like the attorney general, he delivers for the Administration, so he in the end can limit damage for Administration policy by inserting ambiguities; for example: THE INVASION OF IRAQ HAS EXPANDED TERRORISM AGAINST THE US AND DEVELOPED A DEADLY INSURGENCY. A possible Negroponte waffle is: BUT IF THE US RETREATS IT MAY MAKE MATTERS WORSE. Why does he not add: OR BETTER? Because objectivity is not his function; he must protect the president's policy or find other work.

Even when the Director of Central Intelligence signed off on the NIE, before the advent of Negroponte, the final document was controlled and slanted. Let us not forget Slam Dunk Tenet’s WMD NIE that took us to war in Iraq... When SECSTATE Powell prepared for his notorious speech before the UN, he wisely rejected faith based trash intelligence notes prepared by Scooter Libby, but foolishly accepted equally baseless information, from Slam Dunk's NIE. Of the points in Powell’s UN speech, none proved later to have merit. It was a hoax. Powell's own intelligence staff at INR could have told him that, but Powell was a team player; he provided Bush momentary credibility to go to war and as such is now going down with the infected Bush herd.

Apart from other government agencies, each military service staff, Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Defense Intelligence Agency had a role in the preparation of the WMD NIE, but no military agency saw fit to foot note or challenge Slam Dunk’s disgraceful product. You can bet there were military intelligence officers involved in the process who knew the conclusions were bullshit.

To explain this military ethos, salute of acquiescence, and their eagerness to step into the abyss syndrome, you must understand that in the military services there is always confusion over loyalty, sycophancy and integrity – you see it every day now as many former generals shed their skins in retirement and come out against SECDEF Rumsfeld's management of the wars unlike Army General Shenseki, who was fired for telling the truth. Where were they when they had power and could have made a real impact?

Before an NIE is submitted, all services and other participants in the drafting process must sign off on the final draft. This is the critical time for footnotes or dissent, if they are to be to be included in the document. Once, I presented the final draft to an Army Major General for final approval. It was flawed with a bad judgments. I provided him with the intelligence to prove that the document was flawed. He agreed with me that there were spurious conclusions, but refused to footnote the NIE with the Army's dissent. Asked him why he rejected my prepared footnote, he replied: "I refuse to be the conscience of the Intelligence Community". I replied YES SIR and saluted. This happened over 20 years ago. So what is new? Our compromised generals still have a tough time winning wars. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA RET


Blogger Vulgorilla said...

An excellent and insightful synopsis of the political maze associated with the NIE that I was totally unaware of.

Thanks for the education, and I will certainly be back for more.

Anonymous W.LindsayWheeler said...

Thanks for your comment on the war. I am a former Marine who volunteered for Desert Storm. But if I was in today and was going to be sent to Iraq, I would have to decline and be sent to Leavenworth. I am thankful that I am not put in that predicament.

It is sad when men can not stand up and speak up but are afraid. This is the end of Western civilization. Our whole society is effeminate and manliness is NOT found in the Officer corps. Retirement with benefits is better than poverty with honor.

As Socrates said, "Where money is prized, virtue is despised."

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article, good to see you have some more visitors. I think it is a matter of time.



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