John Bolton Pwns NIE

An obviously outraged John Bolton is making the rounds this week pounding the intelligence community for putting politics before intelligence gathering in reporting on the Iranian nuclear threat.
Today Former UN Ambassador John R. Bolton takes the NIE’s intelligence officers to the woodshed.
The Washington Post has his analysis of the “flawed Iranian report”:

…All this shows that we not only have a problem interpreting what the mullahs in Tehran are up to, but also a more fundamental problem: Too much of the intelligence community is engaging in policy formulation rather than “intelligence” analysis, and too many in Congress and the media are happy about it. President Bush may not be able to repair his Iran policy (which was not rigorous enough to begin with) in his last year, but he would leave a lasting legacy by returning the intelligence world to its proper function…

First, the headline finding — that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 — is written in a way that guarantees the totality of the conclusions will be misread. In fact, there is little substantive difference between the conclusions of the 2005 NIE on Iran’s nuclear capabilities and the 2007 NIE…

The real differences between the NIEs are not in the hard data but in the psychological assessment of the mullahs’ motives and objectives. The current NIE freely admits to having only moderate confidence that the suspension continues and says that there are significant gaps in our intelligence and that our analysts dissent from their initial judgment on suspension. This alone should give us considerable pause.

Second, the NIE is internally contradictory and insufficiently supported…

Third, the risks of disinformation by Iran are real. We have lost many fruitful sources inside Iraq in recent years because of increased security and intelligence tradecraft by Iran. The sudden appearance of new sources should be taken with more than a little skepticism. In a background briefing, intelligence officials said they had concluded it was “possible” but not “likely” that the new information they were relying on was deception. These are hardly hard scientific conclusions. One contrary opinion came from — of all places — an unnamed International Atomic Energy Agency official, quoted in the New York Times, saying that “we are more skeptical. We don’t buy the American analysis 100 percent. We are not that generous with Iran.” When the IAEA is tougher than our analysts, you can bet the farm that someone is pursuing a policy agenda…

Fourth, the NIE suffers from a common problem in government: the overvaluation of the most recent piece of data…

Fifth, many involved in drafting and approving the NIE were not intelligence professionals but refugees from the State Department, brought into the new central bureaucracy of the director of national intelligence…

That such a flawed product could emerge after a drawn-out bureaucratic struggle is extremely troubling. While the president and others argue that we need to maintain pressure on Iran, this “intelligence” torpedo has all but sunk those efforts, inadequate as they were. Ironically, the NIE opens the way for Iran to achieve its military nuclear ambitions in an essentially unmolested fashion, to the detriment of us all.

Well, there you have it.
The NIE report authors get a thrashing.
But, unfortunately, we all lose when the NIE puts “policy formation before intelligence analysis.”

In related news… The UAE impounded the cargo of a vessel bound for Iran after discovering that “hazardous materials” aboard contravened UN sanctions placed on the Islamic republic, The Financial Times reported.

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