Archive for the ‘National Intelligence Estimate’ Category

National Intelligance Estimate: Incomplete Snapshot?

December 18, 2007

NIE in the sky?
By James Zumwalt
The Washington Times
December 18, 2007

With the recent publication of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) suggesting Iran may have halted work on its nuclear weapons capability in 2003, we recalled the intelligence reporting received in 1991 as we prepared to advance into Kuwait during Desert Storm.

Assessments made it clear a formidable Iraqi army stood between us and our objective. Aerial photos revealed massive networks of bunkers.

Intelligence, from an array of other sources, supported the assessment thousands of enemy soldiers occupied the networks. But one very important intelligence input was missing from the assessment — human intelligence or “humint.” Absent the benefit of human eyes and ears on the ground, i.e., an observer, spy or defector providing timely,
subjective information, we lacked good intelligence on enemy troop levels, willingness to fight, their ability to fight, etc. Advancing into Kuwait, we encountered little resistance.

Unbeknownst to the analysts, many Iraqi soldiers deserted under cover of darkness. What Saddam Hussein predicted would be the “mother of all battles” became the mother of all defeats as U.S. ground forces routed the Iraqis in four days.

The science of analyzing intelligence is imperfect. Like modern art, it is subject to personal interpretation. At times, intelligence can provide clear evidence of enemy intent. In the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, it proved most embarrassing for the Soviet ambassador, after
being called in by the U.S. State Department and denying the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba, to be shown indisputable evidence of same in aerial photographs.

Edging toward war, Washington remained steadfastly firm, forcing Moscow to back down and remove the missiles.

Only later did we discover such U.S. steadfastness was the result of critical humint fed to Washington by a Soviet spy inside the Kremlin, thus providing Washington with a decided edge throughout the crisis.

In the Desert Storm example, no humint was available to indicate enemy levels and intentions; in the Cuban missile crisis example, enemy intentions were clear. Thus, intelligence assessments become a balancing act of trying to determine what elements should be given more weight and which should receive less.

Sometimes analysts give humint the wrong weight. In December 1941, as the Japanese navy silently approached Pearl Harbor bent on war-making, analysts felt war was not imminent, giving greater weight to the words and actions of Japanese diplomats in Washington they believed to be bent on peacemaking. Thus, even when humint is available, intelligence analysis is seldom perfect.

There are several reasons for concern about NIE’s about-face on Iran’s nuclear weapons capability.

The assessment appears to have been triggered primarily by recent humint input. Worrisome is the weight given to what may well be a counter-intelligence effort by Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The humint relied upon is a claim by senior IRGC official Ali Rez Asgari who defected during a February trip to Turkey. Mr.
Asgari told a foreign intelligence agency all activity on Iran’s nuclear weapons program stopped four years ago. His claim purported was supported by intercepted communications among Iranian officials.

Such information needs to be carefully scrutinized as we have learned
some lessons from the Cold War. We now know “critically timed”
defections as well as intercepted communications within a targeted
country could conceivably be a counter-intelligence initiative. The
Iranians are well aware of Moscow’s successful use in the past of
double agents — Soviet spies who defected to the West only to further
U.S.S.R. objectives in obfuscating Moscow’s sinister intent.

The role of one such Soviet double agent, Yuri Noshenko, remains a
mystery. His timely defection to the United States, shortly after
President Kennedy’s assassination as the Warren Commission began
investigating whether accused killer Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, has
long been cited as a disinformation effort to divert suspicion from
Moscow. While claiming coincidentally to have just reviewed the KGB’s
files on Oswald, who visited the U.S.S.R. prior to the assassination,
he said he found no evidence of Soviet complicity. Yet Noshenko later
failed two polygraph exams.

Surprisingly, the commission accepted the humint, finding Oswald did
act alone. Some critics believe the failed polygraphs cast questionable
light on the timing of Noshenko’s defection. Likewise, the timing of
Mr. Asgari’s defection must be questioned, coming at a time the
Iranians realized even America’s European allies were losing patience
with Tehran and considering more severe economic sanctions. Blindly
accepting Asgari’s claim is a “pie in the sky” approach to NIE

There are also major concerns about the experience and motivation of the U.S. analysts involved. Newsmax reports it was prepared by inexperienced State Department political and intelligence analysts who, as Democratic Party activists, politicized the assessment. Thus, it was either their political leanings or their inexperience that resulted in
several shortcomings in the NIE.

First, they relied upon humint unvetted by U.S. intelligence agencies.

Second, as pointed out by Iran expert Alireza Jafarzadeh, they failed to focus on actions of the IRGC — the military arm created in Iran by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979 to safeguard and export the Islamic Revolution. Mr. Jafarzadeh, who first revealed the existence of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, reports the IRGC holds the keys to the
country’s nuclear weapons program. IRGC leaders who are also nuclear scientists, in collaboration with Iranian universities, are fully committed to achieving what they believe is Tehran’s religious mandate to be so armed.

Yet the NIE makes little mention of the IRGC. Third, the acceptance of Mr. Asgari’s claims Iran’s nuclear weapons program ceased in 2003 conflicts with Iranian purchases two years later of 18 North Korean BM-25 long range, land-mobile missiles that are used to carry nuclear warheads.

A post-report concern is the effort just this month by Iran to secretly obtain uranium from Bolivia, through the good offices of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a dedicated follower of Khomeini and believes in the ayatollah’s assertion, “Islam makes it incumbent [for believers] to prepare for the conquest of countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country of the world … [by fulfilling Islam’s mandate to] kill all unbelievers.”

Devout believer Mr. Ahmadinejad has made clear, several times, his intention to wipe the U.S. and Israel off the map. So there should be no doubt his intentions remain focused on obtaining nuclear weaponry with which to make good on his threat.

Against this backdrop of declared Iranian intentions to destroy us, of past questionable U.S. intelligence assessments, of the timing of Mr. Asgari’s defection, of the inexperience and motivations of the analysts, can we afford to put the world at risk by blindly accepting
it? Previously, the U.S. was able to bounce back following flawed intelligence assessments.
But that will not be the case if we are wrong about Iran.

Therefore, the only assessment we can afford to accept is one obtained via verifiable inspection of a nuclear weapons development program Tehran keeps hidden deep beneath the Earth’s surface, while claiming peaceful intent.

James G. Zumwalt, a Marine veteran of the Persian Gulf and Vietnam
wars, is a contributor to The Washington Times.

National Intelligence Estimate 101


Estimate of Iran’s nukes reversed

December 4, 2007

By Bill Gertz and Jon Ward
The Washington Times
December 4, 2007

Iran halted a secret nuclear-weapons program in 2003 under international pressure but still can produce a nuclear bomb by 2010 to 2015, according to a new U.S. intelligence estimate released yesterday.

The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a consensus of analysts at the CIA and 15 other agencies, reverses a 2005 estimate that said Iran was bent on building nuclear arms.

“We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003 Tehran halted its nuclear-weapons program,” a brief summary of the formerly classified estimate said.

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Pakistan: No al-Qaida safe havens

August 6, 2007

 SADAQAT JAN, Associated Press ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan said Monday there are no al-Qaida or Taliban safe havens in its territory and that new laws tying U.S. aid to Islamabad’s performance in fighting militants threatens to harm security cooperation between the two countries.

Pakistani officials have grown increasingly annoyed at a wave of recent claims from Washington and U.S. presidential candidates that al-Qaida has regrouped in the tribal regions along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.

Washington has strongly criticized a September 2006 peace deal with pro-Taliban militants….

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Tougher U.S. Stance on Pakistan Took Months

August 5, 2007

By Karen DeYoung and Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, August 5, 2007

Last September, when Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf visited the White House to tout a controversial plan for driving al-Qaeda from his country, President Bush responded at a joint news conference with a trademark profession of faith. When Musharraf “looks me in the eye” and says there “won’t be a Taliban and there won’t be an al-Qaeda, I believe him,” Bush said.

Ten months later, the administration’s top terrorism official gave reporters a starkly different view of that plan, declaring that al-Qaeda had established a safe haven inside the very country that Bush had hailed as a “strong partner” in the war on terrorism. Musharraf’s anti-terrorism plan “hasn’t worked for Pakistan. It hasn’t worked for the United States,” Frances Fragos Townsend, White House homeland security adviser, said in late July.

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British Make Initial Gains Against Taliban

Congress ties Pakistan aid to terrorism progress

July 27, 2007

By Carol Giacomo, Diplomatic Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Congressional negotiators have agreed on legislation that would tie U.S. aid to Pakistan to significant progress by Islamabad in cracking down on al Qaeda, the Taliban and other militants, congressional sources said on Thursday.

The agreement, which must still be approved by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, reflects growing concern in Washington that al Qaeda has become entrenched in a safe haven in Pakistan’s tribal region near Afghanistan.

A new National Intelligence Estimate found a “persistent and evolving” threat to the United States from Islamic militant groups, especially ….

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Al Qaeda seen in search of nukes

July 26, 2007

By Bill Gertz
The Washington Times
July 26, 2007  

Al Qaeda terrorists are continuing to plan attacks against the United States and are seeking nuclear and other unconventional arms for the strikes, a senior Pentagon official told Congress yesterday.

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, told a joint House committee hearing that al Qaeda has conducted terrorist attacks against ….

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Muhammad’s Dispatch from Tribal Areas, Pakistan, Thursday, July 26, 2007

July 26, 2007

Note from Peace and Freedom: We have known Muhammad, a professional journalist working in the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan, for some time now. Yesterday we paid tribute to him, first among many who participate in our work for Human Rights and justice. Below you shall find his daily dispatch to us, as always, written in the form of a letter to Mr. John E. Carey.

Dear John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom

Dear Sir, Oh Sir!

Today I am really short of words to explain what is in my heart. Your kind words have really given immence pleasure and happiness. I shall repeat my words you are great. It is due to your kind cooperation that now the terrorists in the tribal areas are on the receiving end. The defeat of terrorism in the tribal areas will certainly have positive impact on war on terrorism in other parts of the world.

Though the situation in the tribal areas is still critical, but now I think the some tengible steps are being taken by the government of Pakistan. I firmly believe if Pakistan sincerely desires to eliminate terrorism then there will be no terrorism in Afghanistan and other parts of the world. Now the situation has been changing to the better.

There is still reports of violence in parts of Pakistan. I think this is the last desperate moves of the terrorists. According to report, at least nine people were killed and 41 others, including seven policemen, were injured when five rockets, fired by militants, hit heavily-populated parts of the city in early hours of Wednesday, officials and residents of the area said. At least five rockets, fired from different locations, hit two houses and a bookshop in the heart of the city. Police said that three rockets exploded, while two were defused.

Residents said that most of the casualties were caused by a rocket which fell and exploded in the middle of a crowd which had gathered in the Chai Bazaar area to carry out rescue in the house of Sher Daraz which was earlier hit by another rocket at about 1.30am that did not explode.
Flag of  Pakistan

The rocket, which fell in the middle of the crowd, left seven men and a woman dead, and 41 others wounded. “The rescue work was going on when the second rocket landed in the middle of the crowd, causing huge casualties,” said a resident.

The victims, including three students of a nearby madressah, have been identified as Farman, Qasim Khan, Imran, Shakirullah, Hafiz Roohullah, Umar Siddiq Khan, Zainullah and Farzana. The name of one victim could not be ascertained.

Hospital sources said that the condition of five injured men was critical and they had been shifted to Peshawar.

Witnesses said that shortly after the first two rockets, three more rockets landed in residential areas in the middle of the city. Two rockets, one of which failed to explode, hit a house in the Gohakhel locality, while the third landed on the upper storey of Rehmania Kutubkhana, a book shop, destroying it completely. The building immediately caught fire but no loss of life was reported.NWFP Chief Minister Akram Khan Durrani, who belongs to Bannu, condemned the attack and announced a compensation of Rs100,000 for each of the dead and Rs50,000 each for the injured. Residents said that fear and tension had gripped the Bannu city, which is situated near the tribal region.

On Wednesday, a religious organisation, Tahaffuz Khatm-i-Nabuwat, took out a procession to protest against the attack. The local leadership of the MMA on Wednesday announced that a strike would be observed in the city on Thursday to condemn the rocket attacks.

Dear Sir, I am really grateful for your kind words about me in your articles.

I prey to God Almighty to give me a chance to serve you further.

You have been great.

Your my brother and friend. Thank you very much.

Yours sincerely.

Muhammad Khurshid
Khar, Bajaur Agency,Tribal Areas, Pakistan

Defense Officials Testify on al-Qaeda in Pakistan

Defense Officials Testify on al-Qaeda in Pakistan

July 26, 2007

By William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The United States would be willing to launch a military strike against al-Qaeda in a tribal region in Pakistan if it had the information and opportunity to do so, U.S. defense and intelligence officials told a House panel today.

In testimony about a new National Intelligence Estimate on al-Qaeda, the officials were pressed on what can be done to eliminate what they conceded is a “safe haven” for the terrorist organization in the North Waziristan area of Pakistan, a rugged area that the Islamabad government does not control.

James R. Clapper Jr., undersecretary of defense for intelligence, told a joint hearing of the House Armed Services and Intelligence committees….

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US force not ruled out in Pakistan

July 22, 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S. would consider military force if necessary to stem al-Qaida‘s growing ability to use its hideout in Pakistan to launch terrorist attacks, a White House aide said Sunday.

The president’s homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend, said the U.S. was committed first and foremost to working with Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf, in his efforts to control militants in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region. But she indicated the U.S. was ready to take additional measures.

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Muhammad Reports from Tribal Areas, Pakistan

Al Qaeda Reconstitutes in Pakistan

July 18, 2007

By Bill Gertz
The Washington Times
July 18,  2007

Al Qaeda terrorists are rebuilding their capabilities and continuing to plan mass-casualty attacks inside the United States, according to an intelligence assessment made public yesterday.

“We assess [al Qaeda] has protected or regenerated key elements of its homeland attack capability, including a safe haven in … Pakistan [tribal areas], operational lieutenants and its top leadership,” according to the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a consensus analysis of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies.

“Although we have discovered only a handful of individuals in the United States with ties to al Qaeda senior leadership since 9/11, we judge that al Qaeda will intensify its efforts to put operatives here,” the report stated.

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