fredag den 9. november 2007

Cheney Tried to Stifle Dissent in Iran NIE

By Gareth Porter

A National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran has been held up for more than a year in an effort to force the intelligence community to remove dissenting judgments on the Iranian nuclear program, and thus make the document more supportive of US Vice President Dick Cheney's militarily aggressive policy toward Iran, according to accounts of the process provided by participants to two former Central Intelligence Agency officers.

But this pressure on intelligence analysts, obviously instigated by Cheney himself, has not produced a draft estimate without those dissenting views, these sources say. The White House has now apparently decided to release the unsatisfactory draft NIE, but without making its key findings public.

A former CIA intelligence officer who has asked not to be identified told IPS that an official involved in the NIE process says the Iran estimate was ready to be published a year ago but has been delayed because the director of national intelligence wanted a draft reflecting a consensus on key conclusions – particularly on Iran's nuclear program.

The NIE coordinates the judgments of 16 intelligence agencies on a specific country or issue.

There is a split in the intelligence community on how much of a threat the Iranian nuclear program poses, according to the intelligence official's account. Some analysts who are less independent are willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the alarmist view coming from Cheney's office, but others have rejected that view.

The draft NIE first completed a year ago, which had included the dissenting views, was not acceptable to the White House, according to the former intelligence officer. "They refused to come out with a version that had dissenting views in it," he says.

As recently as early October, the official involved in the process was said to be unclear about whether an NIE would be circulated and, if so, what it would say.

Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi provided a similar account, based on his own sources in the intelligence community. He told IPS that intelligence analysts have had to review and rewrite their findings three times, because of pressure from the White House.

"The White House wants a document that it can use as evidence for its Iran policy," says Giraldi. Despite pressures on them to change their dissenting conclusions, however, Giraldi says some analysts have refused to go along with conclusions that they believe are not supported by the evidence.

In February 2007, Giraldi wrote in The American Conservative that the NIE on Iran had already been completed, but that Cheney's office had objected to its findings on both the Iranian nuclear program. and Iran's role in Iraq. The draft NIE did not conclude that there was confirming evidence that Iran was arming the Shi'ite insurgents in Iraq, according to Giraldi.

Giraldi said the White House had decided to postpone any decision on the internal release of the NIE until after the November 2006 elections.

Cheney's desire for a "clean" NIE that could be used to support his aggressive policy toward Iran was apparently a major factor in the replacement of John Negroponte as director of national intelligence in early 2007.

Negroponte had angered the neoconservatives in the administration by telling the press in April 2006 that the intelligence community believed that it would still be "a number of years off" before Iran would be "likely to have enough fissile material to assemble into or to put into a nuclear weapon, perhaps into the next decade."

Neoconservatives immediately attacked Negroponte for the statement, which merely reflected the existing NIE on Iran issued in Spring 2005. Robert G. Joseph, the undersecretary of state for arms control and an ally of Cheney, contradicted Negroponte the following day. He suggested that Iran's nuclear program. was nearing the "point of no return" – an Israeli concept referring to the mastery of industrial-scale uranium enrichment.

Frank J. Gaffney, a protégé of neoconservative heavyweight Richard Perle, complained that Negroponte was "absurdly declaring the Iranian regime to be years away from having nuclear weapons."

On Jan. 5, 2007, Pres. George W. Bush announced the nomination of retired Vice Admiral John Michael "Mike" McConnell to be director of national intelligence. McConnell was approached by Cheney himself about accepting the position, according to Newsweek.

McConnell was far more amenable to White House influence than his predecessor. On Feb. 27, one week after his confirmation, he told the Senate Armed Services Committee he was "comfortable saying it's probable" that the alleged export of explosively formed penetrators to Shi'ite insurgents in Iraq was linked to the highest leadership in Iran.

Cheney had been making that charge, but Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, as well as Negroponte, had opposed it.

A public event last spring indicated that White House had ordered a reconsideration of the draft NIE's conclusion on how many years it would take Iran to produce a nuclear weapon. The previous Iran estimate completed in spring 2005 had estimated it as 2010 to 2015.

Two weeks after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced in mid-April that Iran would begin producing nuclear fuel on an industrial scale, the chairman of the National Intelligence Council, Thomas Fingar, said in an interview with National Public Radio that the completion of the NIE on Iran had been delayed while the intelligence community determined whether its judgment on the time frame within which Iran might produce a nuclear weapon needed to be amended.

Fingar said the estimate "might change," citing "new reporting" from the International Atomic Energy Agency as well as "some other new information we have." And then he added, "We are serious about reexamining old evidence."

That extraordinary revelation about the NIE process, which was obviously ordered by McConnell, was an unsubtle signal to the intelligence community that the White House was determined to obtain a more alarmist conclusion on the Iranian nuclear program.

A decision announced in late October indicated, however, that Cheney did not get the consensus findings on the nuclear program and Iran's role in Iraq that he had wanted. On Oct. 27, David Shedd, a deputy to McConnell, told a congressional briefing that McConnell had issued a directive making it more difficult to declassify the key judgments of national intelligence estimates.

That reversed a Bush administration practice of releasing summaries of "key judgments" in NIEs that began when the White House made public the key judgments from the controversial 2002 NIE on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction program in July 2003.

The decision to withhold key judgments on Iran from the public was apparently part of a White House strategy for reducing the potential damage of publishing the estimate with the inclusion of dissenting views.

As of early October, officials involved in the NIE were "throwing their hands up in frustration" over the refusal of the administration to allow the estimate to be released, according to the former intelligence officer. But the Iran NIE is now expected to be circulated within the administration in late November, says Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst and founder of the antiwar group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

The release of the Iran NIE would certainly intensify the bureaucratic political struggle over Iran policy. If the NIE includes both dissenting views on key issues, a campaign of selective leaking to news media of language from the NIE that supports Cheney's line on Iran will soon follow, as well as leaks of the dissenting views by his opponents.

Both sides may be anticipating another effort by Cheney to win Bush's approval of a significant escalation of military pressure on Iran in early 2008.

(Inter Press Service)

The Impossibility of American Empire

By William Pfaff

Paris, October 30, 2007 – Since the return of democracy in Spain, Spain’s politica leaders and political society have demonstrated an extraordinary determination to star anew, after the crisis-afflicted 75 years that began with what the Spaniards have called “th catastrophe” – the collapse of the Spanish empire under blows from an exuberant an adolescent United States that believed it was coming of age as a world power. It’s evidenc that empires end, but nations don’t, and resurrection is possible

America’s transcontinental expansion following the Civil War and the garish joys of the Gilded Age gave Americans a taste for foreign adventure, whetted by the proximity and vulnerability of Cuba. And if Cuba, why not Puerto Rico, and the Philippines? Admiral Alfred Mahan, America’s prophet of naval power and of the economic necessity of colonialism, offered convincing economic reasons for American colonial expansion, and the failing Spanish empire was at hand.

A blow to it in the Caribbean, and another in Manila Bay, was enough for it to splinter and collapse. The Spanish Caribbean and the Philippines were ours.

Every empire has its day, and Spain’s phenomenal empire had its during the four centuries that followed the expeditions of Columbus, sailing westward. 1492, and the riches of South American gold, led eventually, and one can say inexorably, to failure in 1898. All things come to an end. You live to die, a principle unpopular among Americans.

The Empire of the United States was launched in 1898, and has since traversed a mere century, experiencing increasing ambition, and suffering increasing difficulties. Could it too last 406 years? The current evidence is not reassuring.

Take the capacity to rule. Take the current Republican party candidates for their party’s presidential nomination. The level of intelligence, emotional and intellectual maturity, and simple information about the subjects on which they discourse, would disqualify them from mainstream political rank in any other major democracy.

This is seriously distressing – although in principle a soluble problem, since there are plenty of intelligent people in the United States, as well as great universities and a rich culture. But elected U.S. government has been so debased by the national willingness to submit elections to the values and habits of a medium of entertainment, television, and to the corruptions of money, that it is hard to see that such a nation can indefinitely maintain representative government.

The Bush administration has demonstrated that major groups and forces in American society indeed do not wish that form of government to survive, and are deliberately engaged in destroying the constitutional order, undermining the powers of Congress and of the courts, so as to install unchecked executive power, rationalized by a novel and authoritarian legal ideology, and sustained by national security demagogy.

I have not spoken of the Democratic candidates for president in the same way because the party’s candidates and debate have not descended to quite the abysmal levels of the Republican pre-primary campaign. But the Democratic party is equally complicit in degrading and subverting the electoral debate and practice of the country, since its candidates are unwilling or unable to challenge the American imperial ideology that drives the country’s foreign policy, an ideology of permanent, unchallengeable global military supremacy.

This ideology is plainly written out in the American Defense Department’s periodical statements of U.S. National Security Strategy, in the latest of which the previously stated goal of “security” in space has now become “supremacy” in space (as everywhere else).

The most influential ground force doctrine foresees decades of American asymmetrical war against urban insurgents springing up in radicalized or “failed” states around the world (including Europe, which the authors of this ideology of an unending World War IV predict will soon be reduced to helotry in service to an “Islamofascist” Caliphate. This hysterical American dystopia feeds fantasies of conquest to its Islamic enemies that the enemies themselves could not imagine. Paranoia reigns in some American circles, close to leading Republican candidates.

All this might be taken as reason for American fear of what is to come. But the dystopic future thus described is impossible. What can come is a United States that burns itself out in the attempt to deal with its paranoid fantasies.

The United States already wages two wasting wars that make no sense. It will never, itself, dominate the disintegrative forces in Iraq today. In Afghanistan it will never succeed in defeating a Taliban radicalism that represents a real if obscurantist national affirmation by a 40-million strong Pathan ethnic community that has always been the dominant force in its historical homeland.

It is not a question of whether these American objectives should be done. That is irrelevant, since they can’t be done. They are impossibilities.

The United States government, in its effort to execute its national security strategy of dominating and defeating global radicalism and extremism, is currently directly attempting to manipulate and control the internal political processes of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Hezbollah, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya; and indirectly it attempts to exercise decisive influence on the affairs of Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Yemen, Libya, the Gulf Emirates, and a non-existent Kurdistan – and this is to take only a single zone of the world.

This is what the War on Terror has come to mean. It is an attempt to create a universal empire that exists only in the American imagination, by an effort that, because its aim is impossible to achieve, is unlimited in the damage it could do to Americans and others.

© Copyright 2007 by Tribune Media Services International. All Rights Reserved.

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