Bush on the NIE: “We haven’t had a very good presence in Iran since 1979.”

posted at 12:33 pm on December 4, 2007 by Bryan

Everyone is likely to pull their favorite quotes from President Bush’s presser today. Here’s mine, because it speaks to the history of our problems with Iran and how long those problems have actually festered and endangered us.

Notice what the president says at the end of the clip, about the US not having had a good intel presence within Iran since 1979. He’s obviously referring to the Ayatollah’s revolution that turned Iran from an American ally into an implacable enemy overnight. But the problems with intel collection in Iran actually go back to two years prior to the Iranian revolution, to 1977 and President Jimmy Carter’s “Halloween Massacre” at the CIA.

The new order at CIA under Turner was best known for what the clandestine services would call the “Halloween Massacre” of 1977, a purge attributed in part to budget cuts, but which also reflected a change of emphasis from paramilitary action to intelligence collection and analysis. Former CIA covert action chief Theodore Shackley has claimed that over 2,800 intelligence officers, many of them paramilitary specialists were fired or forced out of the CIA.28 Turner himself has given a figure of 820 staff positions cut from the clandestine service, but maintained that the tightening up of personnel policies had actually improved both human and technical intelligence collection capabilities.29 Turner’s critics also tended to be vociferous about the relative decline in the strength and status of the army Special Forces—the CIA’s partner in paramilitary action—which in fact began during the Nixon administration. Special Forces had diminished in number since their withdrawal from Vietnam in 1971, from a peak of 9,000 to about 2,000 in the late 1970s.30 The paramilitary side of covert action was indeed curtailed, if not to the extent suggested by Shackley and other ax-operatives.

That book has a pro-Carter bent, and doesn’t get at the nature of the 1977 CIA firings. The Carter administration eliminated about 820 overseas positions in friendly states as a gesture to show that his administration repudiated the bad old days of unsavory CIA clandestine activities in friendly and unfriendly states alike, as had been unearthed by the now infamous Church Committee. In 1977, Iran was a friendly state, and the Halloween Massacre had the effect of blinding US intel in the country at that time. This in turn led to a lack of solid information on the coming revolution, and with the revolution’s closing of Iran to the US, led to crippling US intelligence efforts in Iran ever since. Though I’m sure the intel community has tried to establish a reliable intelligence network in Iran ever since, it hasn’t recovered from the 1977 Carter administration’s unilateral gouging of its own eyes.

Fwiw, Iraq was also regarded mostly as a friendly state in 1977.

None of this is intended to excuse missteps made since 1977 or 1979, but I hope it does provide a little context to help explain why our intel agencies contradict themselves from one year to the next and often appear not to have any idea what’s going on. We once had a moralistic, somewhat naive president who took a well-intentioned action to reassure the world that the US is good. We’ve been living with the consequences of that boneheaded move ever since.

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Had an interesting idea a big ago…

The only way this NIE could flip flop that radicaly with the rhetoric we hear from Iran, and the fact that they have 3000 Centrifuges… is if we had flipped a highly placed Iranian source.

Like the EX Qud’s force General who disappeared a few months ago?

Problem is that we relied on a highly placed General for info once before… about WMDs in Iraq, and were wrong…

This flip flop in the NIE flys in the face of their actions, and rhetoric…

Why do I feel like I should be looking for the man behind the curtain?

Romeo13 on December 4, 2007 at 12:40 PM

You can trace all that is happening today back to the faithful year 1979 when Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski were the architechs of foreign policy.

RobCon on December 4, 2007 at 12:43 PM

reassure the world that the US is good. We’ve been living with the consequences of that boneheaded move ever since.

I prefer a policy of Oderint Dum Metuant to being cuddly.

Frozen Tex on December 4, 2007 at 12:49 PM

The only architectural success Brzezinski ever had was his daughter Mika, and he didn’t do that alone!

Dread Pirate Roberts VI on December 4, 2007 at 12:49 PM

The NIE report sounds, at least to me, like the collective intelligence community refusing to give that cowboy in the White House (as they no doubt percieve him) any excuse for military action to prevent Ahmanutjob from getting a nuke. They botched the intelligence in Iraq on WMD’s (maybe, or maybe they were moved), botched the predictions of the aftermath of taking down Saddam. Saying Iran is not a threat helps them to avoid being the catalyst for action against Iran.

But they also completely missed Pakistan and India going nuclear, and that was also a major black eye. I suppose it is their preference to be wrong by saying “no threat” rather than being wrong by overestimating the threat. The pussies.

iurockhead on December 4, 2007 at 12:54 PM

iurockhead on December 4, 2007 at 12:54 PM

Yes… and by what I’ve heard… this is the same group that had Valary Plame working Nuclear Nonproliferation for Syria…

You know… the Syria where Israel just bombed the crap out of the Reactor? The Reactor that had been built on HER watch?

Romeo13 on December 4, 2007 at 12:56 PM

I suppose it is their preference to be wrong by saying “no threat” rather than being wrong by overestimating the threat. The pussies.

iurockhead on December 4, 2007 at 12:54 PM

Wouldn’t it be safer for us to be wrong in the other direction (better safe than sorry)?

Frozen Tex on December 4, 2007 at 12:57 PM

I love the fact we can go back some 30 odd years to the Carter Admin. only to be asked if we’re crying wolf.

Carter was too concerned with being Larry Flint’s biotch

Kini on December 4, 2007 at 12:59 PM

Gee…lets see
Botched up Kim’s daddy’s intentions.
Botched up China’s Yalu river resolve.
Botched up Russia’s H-bomb.
Botched up Russia’s space program.
Botched up Ho Chi.
Botched up Cambodia.
Botched up the Pueblo.
Botched up Tet.
Botched up Panama. (76…..someone just elected put the breaks on it)
Botched up Iran.
Botched up USSR falling.
Botched up Kuwait.
Botched up Osama.
Botched up Towers 1.
Botched up African bombings.
Botched up Towers 2.
Botched up WMD.
Botched up Iraq.

I guess it is time they got it right. Iran has cancelled their nuke program. Bout time they got it right. Hat’s off to NIEs and the politicians that read them.

Limerick on December 4, 2007 at 1:29 PM

Limerick on December 4, 2007 at 1:29 PM

Missed my TWO favorites…

Missed the Letter which British intelligence leaked about U-boat bases in Mexico, which had a large part of getting us into WW1.

And at one time we estimated the Soviet Union had 600-1000 BISON bombers (Long range cold war bombers) when at the time… they had THREE…

Romeo13 on December 4, 2007 at 1:34 PM

Romeo13 on December 4, 2007 at 1:34 PM

Fire the lot. Ban Columbia, Harvard, and GWU grads from applying. Get em from the DIA and SpecOps. I have ZERO faith in the ‘spooks’.

Limerick on December 4, 2007 at 1:36 PM

Romeo13 on December 4, 2007 at 1:34 PM

I don’t think we can blame the CIA for WWI; we’re not tin-foil-hat-wearing loony-lefties, after all.

Frozen Tex on December 4, 2007 at 1:41 PM

Limerick on December 4, 2007 at 1:36 PM

Its actualy an interesting philisophical question…

Can a Western democracy based on Judeo Christian values such as Free Speech and privacy rights, ever have an effective Spy system?

Or, to put it another way, with our own self imposed rules, can any spy agency be any good?

Romeo13 on December 4, 2007 at 1:42 PM

Frozen Tex on December 4, 2007 at 1:41 PM

CIA didn’t exist back then… about all we had was anti spy FBI, and some military intelligence…

But the fact is that the Brits intercepted a letter between Mexico and Germany, basicly starting a negotiation to base Uboats in Mexico… Britain released that info right after an Ocean Liner with civilians got torpedoed, and it was one of the factors which got us into the war.

Up until that time, our “Intelligence Services” had no idea that the Kaiser was talking to Mexico…

Romeo13 on December 4, 2007 at 1:45 PM

Limerick on December 4, 2007 at 1:36 PM

In “Executive Orders” (I think) Tom Clancy touches on a great idea of hiring cops and training them to be intel officers. Cops, as in, detectives, the guys that are used to dealing with informants, instinctively know when they’re being lied to, etc.

Frozen Tex on December 4, 2007 at 1:45 PM

CIA didn’t exist back then

Romeo13 on December 4, 2007 at 1:45 PM

That was my point exactly.

Frozen Tex on December 4, 2007 at 1:47 PM

Romeo13 on December 4, 2007 at 1:42 PM

Yes we can….provided that the facts carry more weight then the opinions.

We haven’t had a significant success against the bad guys since ULTRA and MAGIC and JN25. We stumble, and cough, and out of serendipity sometimes get a win….but not because we are trying. There is COMMON SENSE, and not in the Thomas Payne way. Someone, a hell of a lot smarter then me, will someday put it all on paper, and us hairless monkeys will finally say ‘oh – stupid me’. When will that happen? Probably not until half the hairless monkeys are dead.

Limerick on December 4, 2007 at 1:50 PM

Limerick on December 4, 2007 at 1:50 PM

Key here is that ULTRA, MAGIC, and JN25 were all TECHNICAL breakthroughs… not “intelligence” breakthroughs.

Technicly we rock… I know… I used to be part of that community.

Problem is that this is not a technical issue, its HUMINT…

To get Human Inteligence you either have to threaten, lie, buy, or at least trick your opponents… things which are not condoned by a Judeo Christian set of morals and laws.

Add in the divisivness of our own internal politics, and these things quickly become opinion… but we take them as fact.

Anyone know who wrote this NIE?

Romeo13 on December 4, 2007 at 2:03 PM

We once had a moralistic, somewhat naive president who took a well-intentioned action to reassure the world that the US is good. We’ve been living with the consequences of that boneheaded move ever since.

So, pretend he hadn’t eliminated “spook” presence in Iran. Would it have really turned out any differently? Wouldn’t the revolution have closed the country to our intelligence services anyway?

Mark Jaquith on December 4, 2007 at 2:04 PM

Romeo13 on December 4, 2007 at 2:03 PM

Point taken Mr.R…..hat tip!

Limerick on December 4, 2007 at 2:09 PM

I question the timing of this new “intelligence.
December 1, 2007 7:59 AM
2 early predictors of Iran action
U.S. Central Command fuel orders ‘more than double’ the norm
U.S. Navy enhancing anti-mine capability to counter Iran operations in Gulf

abinitioadinfinitum on December 4, 2007 at 2:22 PM

From Rick Moran at Rightwing Nuthouse

For those disposed to disbelieve or reject this NIE, it would be well to remember that if a consensus about something this vital to our security was found among such a fractious, quarrelling, multi-agenda driven group of spooks, you can bet the information it’s based on is pretty solid.

Now we come to the distasteful question of what in God’s name the Bush Administration has been doing sitting on this damn thing for year? And beyond that, is there any Bush supporter out there who believes anything this president says about national security anymore?

We have been treated to the most bombastic rhetoric emanating from this White House for the last year especially – all the while they were sitting on this NIE and its conclusions about the Iranian bomb program. How do you square Bush’s “World War III” comment with what’s in the NIE? Or any other dire warning we’ve heard coming from the White House?

I understand the need for regime change in Iran. I am not naive enough to believe that the Iranian government doesn’t represent a threat to our friends, allies, and interests in the region – nukes or no nukes. But this Administration has made a nasty habit for 7 years now of employing rhetoric on national security matters that doesn’t match what the situation actually is.

MB4 on December 4, 2007 at 2:36 PM

Let me see…I’mmma just gonna buil me a ballistic missle and get me some of them there reactor things…now changed my spots in 2003 causin what I saw in Iraq so don’t get the wrong Idear ner nothin.

If you believe Iran isn’t trying to make Nuclear weapons your life is one of stupidity and has no meaning.

tomas on December 4, 2007 at 2:37 PM

Mark Jaquith on December 4, 2007 at 2:04 PM

Probably not. But are you seriously going to take the position that it’s a good idea for us to roll up our own intel networks just to make the world feel good about us? That’s a very Ronulan position to take.

Bryan on December 4, 2007 at 2:44 PM

We once had a moralistic, somewhat naive president who took a well-intentioned action to reassure the world that the US is good. We’ve been living with the consequences of that boneheaded move ever since.

This is why everytime I hear Obama, I think he sounds like the next Jimmy Carter.

clghitis on December 4, 2007 at 2:55 PM

I haven’t watched a presidential news conference or a speech for several years. CNBC went to the ‘presser’ when it started so I watched the first two questions which were (more or less) “Why should we trust you Mr President?” (You’ve been wrong, and dishonest for so long we can’t believe anything you say, being the implication behind the questions.)

I don’t have the stomach for that crap; it makes me want to strangle the reporter, and we’re not allowed to do that, so I turned it off.

Here’s the point; it doesn’t matter if Iran has nukes, wants nukes, or is trying to build nukes. What matters is Iran has made threats against us, against western civilization. What matters is Iran’s mad mullahs are attempting to rally Muslims world wide in a jihad against western civilization.

It doesn’t matter what weapon Iran intends to use; nuclear weapons, demographics, economics, or machetes and pitchforks.

What matters is Iran is making threats against us.

rockhauler on December 4, 2007 at 3:18 PM

rockhauler on December 4, 2007 at 3:18 PM

well said,
also they and/or their weapons have killed U.S. Troops in Iraq.

abinitioadinfinitum on December 4, 2007 at 3:31 PM

Bush has made himself the biggest loser in this day and age. He screwed the GOP, my party, has botched domestic policy, is aiding the Dumbs now… so add this vid to the one of “The View” as one I won’t watch.

Jerk.

madmonkphotog on December 4, 2007 at 3:48 PM

The only thing that distracts me is that scrunchy face of Helen Thomas off the side of the screen. Shivers!

Egfrow on December 4, 2007 at 4:21 PM

Once again I have to question what this Intelligence shift was.

There HAS to be either some new asset in place… or someone new in charge of deciding what it means. This is a MAJOR shift that must have caught the President by suprise…

My guess is that its all about that Qud’s force General who apparently “defected” a few months ago…

Now, the big question… why would they trust him?

Enquiring minds really want to know…

Its also interesting that this was DECLASSIFIED so rapidly…

Romeo13 on December 4, 2007 at 4:33 PM

clghitis on December 4, 2007 at 2:55 PM

Yup. And Obama isn’t the only one who fits that description. He’s just the most obvious one.

Bryan on December 4, 2007 at 4:34 PM

Moran:

Now we come to the distasteful question of what in God’s name the Bush Administration has been doing sitting on this damn thing for year?

MB4 on December 4, 2007 at 2:36 PM

Bush said specifically that he had just been briefed about the findings of the NIE a week ago. I believe that he was slapping down one Mr. Gregory at the time.

baldilocks on December 4, 2007 at 4:39 PM

baldilocks on December 4, 2007 at 4:39 PM

There are a lot of problems with Moran’s analysis.

Bryan on December 4, 2007 at 4:49 PM

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said-
“I am familiar with the American intelligence assessment,”… “Nevertheless, I say again that Iran is today a central threat on the world and the State of Israel.”

I’m quite sure Israel has more to worry about than the U.S., I personally do not take any comfort in this new report, if anything it just ties our hands more, militarily speaking.

abinitioadinfinitum on December 4, 2007 at 5:02 PM

There are a lot of problems with Moran’s analysis.

Bryan on December 4, 2007 at 4:49 PM

What specifically?

It seemed pretty balanced to me.

MB4 on December 4, 2007 at 5:30 PM

Count me in with the skeptics.

Hat tip: Rush Limbaugh

Norman Podhoretz

But I entertain an even darker suspicion. It is that the intelligence community, which has for some years now been leaking material calculated to undermine George W. Bush, is doing it again.

AND

American Thinker (with an update from Kenneth Timmerman at the end)

What does the fresh National Intelligence Estimate tell us? A secret Iranian nuclear project, one that we don’t know about, but which may already have produced a Bomb, is “plausible but unlikely.”

As Michael Ledeen just wrote, this is exquisite CYA. If Iran already has a nuke, the spooks can’t be faulted, because they said it was “plausible.” If it doesn’t have a nuke, they can’t be criticized either, because they said it was “unlikely.”

By God, it’s good to have a 100 billion dollar intelligence bureaucracy that can really protect us. Isn’t it, though?

Here’s the kicker: If Iran already has fissionable material, they are invulnerable to attack. So the spooks have thrown their hot potato right back at the White House and the Pentagon. Our soldiers’ lives are on the line, right next door in Iraq. “Plausible but unlikely.” I bet the Pentagon is really grateful.

No wonder A’jad is laughing.

Ken Timmerman says we may have been duped.

Its most dramatic conclusion — that Iran shut down its nuclear weapons program in 2003 in response to international pressure — is based on a single, unvetted source who provided information to a foreign intelligence service and has not been interviewed directly by the United States.

Buy Danish on December 4, 2007 at 5:32 PM

Its most dramatic conclusion — that Iran shut down its nuclear weapons program in 2003 in response to international pressure — is based on a single, unvetted source who provided information to a foreign intelligence service and has not been interviewed directly by the United States.

Hmmm…. kinda what I thought… its the only thing that made sense.

IMO we’re being played here folks… they get more time…

Remember, it only took us FOUR years to create the atomic bomb, with 1940s technology.

Romeo13 on December 4, 2007 at 5:50 PM

Romeo13 on December 4, 2007 at 5:50 PM

Lets not forget the past…
May 1998, when India and Pakistan conducted multiple nuclear weapons tests, stunning U.S. and Western intelligence agencies who had absolutely no idea either country was so close to getting the Bomb….Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), then the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called this a “colossal failure” of the U.S. intelligence community….(see CNN: “CIA caught off guard on India nuclear test.” and George Washington University national security archive of declassified documents: “U.S. Intelligence and the Indian Bomb: Documents Show U.S. Intelligence Failed to Warn of India’s Nuclear Tests Despite Tracking Nuclear Weapons Potential Since 1950s.”

complements Joel Rosenberg

abinitioadinfinitum on December 4, 2007 at 6:19 PM

Romeo 13:

Curveball is exatly the same scenario but the US players were diferrent. Mind you, the new guys could have worked for the earlier players and learn’t the wrong lesson.

davod on December 5, 2007 at 9:59 AM

are you seriously going to take the position that it’s a good idea for us to roll up our own intel networks just to make the world feel good about us?

As long as intel networks are just gathering intel and not engaging in any black ops stuff or interfering with the operations of other nations, I have no problem with them. It’s our military network and our tendency to interfere with foreign governments (Iran being a great example of an American sandbox gone wrong) that is making the world hate and distrust us (and attack us). I just don’t see how pre-revolution intel changes would have affected our ability to gather information from Iran. I’d think that the revolution would have wiped the slate clean regardless.

Mark Jaquith on December 5, 2007 at 2:31 PM