Det var president George W. Bush selv som ga støtet til at amerikansk etterretning gjorde en ekstra innsats for å trenge til bunns i det iranske atomprogrammet. Da resultatet viste seg å være det motsatte av 2005-analysen, var det profesjonelle nok til å stå for det. For presidenten var det vanskeligere å ta.
Så sent som i 2005 het det i en tilsvarende Nationale Intelligence Estimate, at Iran var fast bestemt på å skaffe seg atomvåpen. Det var ikke manipulert etterretning, men det man trodde den gang. Men kunnskapen var foreldet.
In 2005, a National Intelligence Estimate had said Iran was «determined» to acquire nuclear weapons, a view that meshed with the foreign policy of an administration that in 2002 declared Iran to be part of an «axis of evil.» But former and current U.S. intelligence officials said the flaws in that report reflected only the extreme difficulty of penetrating Iran’s nuclear program.
«It’s the hardest damn target out there — harder than North Korea,» said an intelligence official who contributed to the report. «This is a program they tried very hard to hide from us, and it was hard even to fathom who was in charge.»
The 2005 report’s assertions that Iran was secretly working on nuclear weapons turned out to be accurate, but dated. Ellen Laipson, former vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council, said the earlier judgment was based on credible information that may have been the best available at the time.
«It’s not getting it wrong, it’s that [the intelligence] collection may have been insufficient,» said Laipson, now president of the Henry L. Stimson Center, a defense think tank. «It takes years to know the truth.»
Det var Bush selv som påpekte problemet med å skaffe pålitelig informsjon om Iran. Han ville ha sikrere viten.
A pivotal moment occurred in early summer 2005, when President Bush discussed the new Iran NIE with advisers during a routine intelligence briefing. Why, he asked, was it so hard to get information about Iran’s nuclear program?
The exchange, described by a senior U.S. official who witnessed it, helped instigate the intelligence community’s most aggressive attempt to penetrate Iran’s highly secretive nuclear program. Over the coming months, the CIA established a new Iran Operations Division that brought analysts and clandestine collectors together to search for hard evidence.
The result, ironically, was a new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran that reached conclusions far different from what many intelligence officials expected.
«One reason this is actually an intelligence success is that when we got additional information that could lead to a different conclusion, we had an ability to move in that direction,» said a senior intelligence official involved in the drafting process.
Former and current intelligence officials say the new NIE reflects new analytical methods ordered by McConnell — who took the DNI job in January — and his deputies, including Thomas Fingar, a former head of the State Department’s intelligence agency, and Donald M. Kerr, a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and an expert on nuclear weapons technology.
Besides requiring greater transparency about the sources of intelligence, McConnell and his colleagues have compelled analysts working on major estimates to challenge existing assumptions when new information does not fit, according to former and current U.S. officials familiar with the policies.
Det tjener USAs regjering til ære at de har dyktige tjenestemenn som våger å stille de kritiske spørsmålene og ikke gi seg før de kommer til bunns, og så stå for resultatet, selv om det utløser politiske jordskjelv for den øverste ledelsen. Det gjorde Iran-rapporten. Bush må se seg om etter en annen Iran-strategi. Det var neppe hva han hadde tenkt seg i 2005 da han etterlyste bedre informasjon.
Men at han fortsetter å gjenta de samme posisjonene samme dag som rapporten legges frem, er med å svekke han autoritet ytterligere.
Lessons of Iraq Aided Intelligence On Iran
Officials Cite New Caution And a Surge in Spying
By Joby Warrick and Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, December 5, 2007; P