Video: John Bolton debunks the NIE, suggests that long-time Bush critics politicized it

posted at 1:14 pm on December 5, 2007 by Bryan

If you’d like to have your confidence in the CIA and in National Estimates in particular shattered, go read this:

In 1986 I was working for the Kissinger Commission on Central America and as such I was allowed to see the NIEs on all the relevant countries in the circum-Caribbean. I vividly recall the one on Mexico. Among other things it claimed that the foreign minister of that country was an embittered leftist married to a Soviet citizen. As it happens, I knew the son of the couple (he has since become foreign minister of Mexico in his own right) and I knew for a fact that his mother was not a Soviet citizen. Far from it. She was a nice Jewish lady who lived in New York and grew up in Brooklyn. It is, I suppose, possible that she was brought to the US in the 1920s from the Soviet Union–at age 3. But there is a crucial difference between that and what was in the NIE. The implications for our foreign policy were very different.

If that’s indicative of the quality that goes into the NIE year in and year out, the average blog is more accurate and relevant than the National Intelligence Estimate. That ought to be a scandal.

As the former Under Secretary for Arms Control and past US Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton is in a position to know much of the back story behind the National Intelligence Estimate that was released this week. Perhaps not surprisingly, Bolton is as skeptical of the NIE as Israel’s Dan Gillerman is.

Bolton drops a hint at the politics built into the NIE when he notes that he knows who was behind the change in tone from 2005′s NIE, which alleged an ongoing Iranian nuclear weapons program, with this year’s, which alleges that the Iranians shut their nuclear weapons program down in 2003.

In the clip, Bolton doesn’t name the people he suspects of politicizing the NIE to suit their own agendas. Kenneth Timmerman does.

The National Intelligence Council, which produced the NIE, is chaired by Thomas Fingar, “a State Department intelligence analyst with no known overseas experience who briefly headed the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research,” I wrote in my book “Shadow Warriors: The Untold Story of Traitors, Saboteurs, and the Party of Surrender.”

Fingar was a key partner of Senate Democrats in their successful effort to derail the confirmation of John Bolton in the spring of 2005 to become the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations.

As the head of the NIC, Fingar has gone out of his way to fire analysts “who asked the wrong questions,” and who challenged the politically-correct views held by Fingar and his former State Department colleagues, as revealed in “Shadow Warriors.”

In March 2007, Fingar fired his top Cuba and Venezuela analyst, Norman Bailey, after he warned of the growing alliance between Castro and Chavez.

Collaborating with Fingar on the Iran estimate, released on Monday, were Kenneth Brill, the director of the National Counterproliferation Center, and Vann H. Van Diepen, the National Intelligence officer for Weapons of Mass Destruction and Proliferation.

“Van Diepen was an enormous problem,” a former colleague of his from the State Department told me when I was fact gathering for “Shadow Warriors.”

“He was insubordinate, hated WMD sanctions, and strived not to implement them,” even though it was his specific responsibility at State to do so, the former colleague told me.

In his book (which I highly recommend), Bolton does call out Brill for attempting to weaken Iran-related IAEA work in June 2003 and Brill comes across in the book as insubordinate and driven by his own agendas, whatever they were, rather than acting on the clear instructions from his superiors in the administration including Bolton and then National Security Advisor Rice. This isn’t a smoking gun that Brill is guilty, but does demonstrate at least to me that there’s an established pattern on the part of one of the named figures that have turned up in association with the NIE.

My working take on this is that, first, anything that has the Iranians crowing about a victory over us is either being greatly misunderstood or mischaracterized or it’s very problematic for us. Second, I’d like to know why this NIE is more believable than the one that it contradicts from two years ago. That’s not snark; it just reflects the fact that we don’t know the underlying facts that have driven this reversal. Those facts weren’t released, while the open source facts (some of which turned up in the NIE itself) still point to a weapons program. The Washington Post hints at it, but doesn’t deliver enough to reassure.

Communications intercepts of Iranian nuclear officials and a stolen Iranian laptop containing diagrams related to the development of a nuclear warhead for missiles both yielded valuable evidence about Iran’s nuclear past as well as its decision in 2003 to suspend the weapons side of its program.

But there was no “eureka” moment, according to senior officials who helped supervise the collection efforts. The surge in intelligence-gathering helped convince analysts that Iran had made a “course correction” in 2003, halting the weapons work while proceeding with the civilian nuclear energy program.

The result, ironically, was a new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran that reached conclusions far different from what many intelligence officials expected.

Betrayed here is the fact that we still don’t know enough to know what we don’t know about Iran’s intentions. It’s the old unknown unknowns problem. We know they’re enriching uranium because they say they are. If they’re not doing that to build a weapon, then what is the purpose?

I also share Jonah Goldberg’s distaste for putting the intelligence process of reform above the actual results that our intelligence community produces. This tendency to put process and consensus ahead of results has been a problem across the board in the US government for quite a few years now. We’re at war, and Iran is a dangerous player in the wider war. We need reliable data, not glad happys and grins that, gee, we may not be right about anything but by golly, we all had a good group hug after the meeting.

Speculating a bit, if it’s true that Iran shelved its nuclear weapons program in 2003 (and I’m by no means convinced that it did), they would obviously have done so in response to US action in Iraq and Afghanistan plus US-led diplomatic moves afterward. Coupled with the recent detente with North Korea, it’s possible (though again, I’m far from convinced on this, and I’m also far from convinced that North Korea’s turn is going to hold) that Bush administration policies have succeeded in taming two of the most notoriously hostile countries on the planet. If that turns out to be the case, the historic assessment of the Bush presidency will be much more positive than its present approval rating suggests is even possible.


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I soooo wish Bolton would run for president. Love that man!

aero on December 5, 2007 at 1:16 PM

Funny how the Dems totally support this “report,” yet said that McBushitlercheney cooked the previous ones on Iraq.

Sir Loin on December 5, 2007 at 1:20 PM

Bolton is the quintessential Intellectual Statesman.

I hope he winds up in the Thompson/Hunter administration cabinet.

TheSitRep on December 5, 2007 at 1:28 PM

Bush’s greatest failure was not cleaning out all of these Clintonista lib’tards from positions of power. At the very least, ALL of Reno’s and Albright’s appointees should have been dumped in January of 2001.

Bolton needs to be appointed Secretary of State by a President willing to back up his decisions regarding personnel.

Kristopher on December 5, 2007 at 1:32 PM

Thompson / Hunter in 2008 … for this is Bat country.

Kristopher on December 5, 2007 at 1:33 PM

Bolton needs to be appointed Secretary of State by a President willing to back up his decisions regarding personnel.

Kristopher on December 5, 2007 at 1:32 PM

Agreed. Although I had high hopes for Powell and Condi as people that could make State function as it should, they ended up “captured by the system” and ended up useless. I really don’t see the same happening to Bolton, if he were given the chance. It would be a great day for US foreign policy.

Frozen Tex on December 5, 2007 at 1:37 PM

Here’s an interesting take on the NIE.

desertdweller on December 5, 2007 at 1:38 PM

I have stated here since I was permitted to leave my comments here that the State department was fraught with Clintonistas and conservative haters. It is no small mystery that the NIE would have the same type of people, as Mr Bolton and Mr Timmerman have so accurately revealed. Were I in Pres. Bush’s shoes I would purge the entire system as best I could without harming national security. What could happen, not get elected?

MNDavenotPC on December 5, 2007 at 1:40 PM

Thompson / Hunter in 2008

Kristopher on December 5, 2007 at 1:33 PM

Bolton needs to be appointed Secretary of State by a President willing to back up his decisions regarding personnel.

Kristopher on December 5, 2007 at 1:32 PM

NOW we’re talking!

peski on December 5, 2007 at 1:42 PM

Frozen Tex on December 5, 2007 at 1:37 PM

“The system” isn’t strong enough to capture John Bolton. We might need a John Bolton Facts list one of these days.

Bryan on December 5, 2007 at 1:44 PM

Bolton needs to be appointed Secretary of State by a President willing to back up his decisions regarding personnel.

Kristopher on December 5, 2007 at 1:32 PM

He won’t be approved by the Senate. Bush couldn’t get him permanent at UN. Bolton can get a job if he is voted in. Otherwise he wouldn’t be confirmed without a REp controlled Senate.

JiangxiDad on December 5, 2007 at 1:45 PM

“The system” isn’t strong enough to capture John Bolton. We might need a John Bolton Facts list one of these days.

Bryan on December 5, 2007 at 1:44 PM

Iranian assassins wanted to take out Bolton before too many people listened to his opinion on the NIE, but his mustache foiled the attempt.

(A little weak, I know. But it’s a start…)

Frozen Tex on December 5, 2007 at 1:47 PM

We might need a John Bolton Facts list one of these days.
Bryan on December 5, 2007 at 1:44 PM

Chuck Norris and John Bolton have agreed never to try to stare each other down, as one of them could win only with the death by old age of the other.

eeyore on December 5, 2007 at 1:52 PM

I simply LOVE Bolton. President Bolton has such a nice ring to it !

Or maybe Thompson / Bolton?

stenwin77 on December 5, 2007 at 2:03 PM

One of the problems with the NIE is that its conclusions are the result of a ‘consensus’ of a rather small group of people. In addition, the conclusions are produced without proper review. This is a very important and damning problem, and it affects all such NIE conclutions, not merely those on Iran (e.g., the NIE conclusions about the state of the Iraq nuclear weapons program in 2003). The whole procedure is designed in such a way that a very small number of people can, without effective challenge, dictate the conclusions.

The result is that any such intelligence estimates are seriously suspect. This is very bad for the U.S. no matter what political leaning one may have. The U.S. needs good intelligence, but, because of the procedural manner in which the NIE is developed, it is unlikely to get good intelligence estimates. Major disasters could well result.

Such problems could be minimized with effective review. There is an amazingly large number of very well-informed intel folks who are rarely if ever consulted about the topics the NIE considers. These people could be used to properly [and formally] review most of the NIE conclusions — there is usually plenty of time for such review.

Henry Bowman on December 5, 2007 at 2:08 PM

We might need a John Bolton Facts list one of these days.
Bryan on December 5, 2007 at 1:44 PM

Many in the UN have talked about their fear of the actions of the “800 lb. gorilla in the room”. Most thought they were referring to the United States. They were actually referring to their fear of John Bolton.

eeyore on December 5, 2007 at 2:16 PM

John Bolton for SECSTATE in the next administration! The man should be given the keys to Foggy Bottom and the freedom to go in and clean house of all those Clinton-era bureaucrats that currently infest it. I’m thinking they’ll need to tent the whole building to do the job properly.

Reminds me of a story about Alexander Haig. When he was SECSTATE he met with the newly-appointed ambassadors headed out and asked them to point out their country on the globe he had in his office. They’d cheerfully point to their assignment and Haig informed them that they had failed their first test: Their country is the United States and they shouldn’t ever forget that fact.

highhopes on December 5, 2007 at 2:17 PM

Dang I wish I had the time to make a quality post.

Personally, I prefer a Cold War appraoch to Iran. Too much rhetoric. I mock liberals continually for creating a “Bush is going to bomb Iran” boogeyman. The report is what it is, go with and make sure no matter what the press says we are doing what we need to do to prevent Iran from getting the bomb.

Theworldisnotenough on December 5, 2007 at 2:25 PM

We might need a John Bolton Facts list one of these days.
Bryan on December 5, 2007 at 1:44 PM

When the General Assembly met to name the successor to Kofi Annan, someone brought up John Bolton’s name. Peals of laughter erupted across the room, led by those who had unsuccessfully tried to get John Bolton to go on the take.

(I know, the US is not eligible for the SG, but this is a Facts list!)

eeyore on December 5, 2007 at 2:44 PM

Isn’t there a book or two recently published that talks about the rampant activism against Bush on the part of some in the intelligence agencies and at the state department?

davenp35 on December 5, 2007 at 3:37 PM

The NIE is just cooked up BS to try to stop W from taking on Iran. We need to clean house at State and CIA, from top to bottom.

dogsoldier on December 5, 2007 at 3:58 PM

Speculating a bit, if it’s true that Iran shelved its nuclear weapons program in 2003 (and I’m by no means convinced that it did), they would obviously have done so in response to US action in Iraq and Afghanistan plus US-led diplomatic moves afterward.

Agreed.

Buy Danish on December 5, 2007 at 4:00 PM

OK, Superman may Chuck Norris pajamas…

But Chuck Norris wears John Bolton PJ’s.

Bolton for SOS would be fine. But even better:

How about Bolton/Hunter 08?

LegendHasIt on December 5, 2007 at 4:02 PM

Bolton / Petraeus ’08

You feelin’ lucky, world? Well, are ya?

drunyan8315 on December 5, 2007 at 4:16 PM

We might need a John Bolton Facts list one of these days.
Bryan on December 5, 2007 at 1:44 PM

At night, the Boogeyman checks his closet for Chuck Norris. At night, Chuck Norris sleeps tight, knowing John Bolton is on the hunt.

eeyore on December 5, 2007 at 4:31 PM

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines desperately wants John Bolton’s mustache; it’s the only thing in the world that can simultaniously remove a landmine, detonate it, contain the explosion, and rake the ground it was removed from.

Frozen Tex on December 5, 2007 at 4:36 PM

The chief export of Chuck Norris is pain. John Bolton tells Chuck where to send it.

Frozen Tex on December 5, 2007 at 4:38 PM

The Good News: Chuck Norris’ tears cure cancer.
The Better News: John Bolton can make Chuck Norris cry.

Frozen Tex on December 5, 2007 at 4:41 PM

Awesome, so we’re still invading Iran? Cool.

Titus Flavius on December 5, 2007 at 4:41 PM

OK, Superman may Chuck Norris pajamas…

OK, Superman may WEAR Chuck Norris pajamas…

DOH!

LegendHasIt on December 5, 2007 at 4:42 PM

Why Bush didn’t gut the CIA his first day in office is still beyond reason.

**facepalm**

liquidflorian on December 5, 2007 at 4:51 PM

People.

Everyone wishing that Bolton or Bush or someone else could “clean up” State forgets one thing: State personnel, like most CIA and other agencies, are General Services (GS)personnel, not political appointees.

While hiring decisions are quite likely affected by the politics of the current Administration and personal political leanings of the hiring manager or his/her superiors, these people are hired into their Government jobs.

They are not appointed into those jobs.

HUGE difference.

As GS employees, they are protected legally from “retaliation” for their political leanings, regardless of which party or person they support. Therefore no politician or political appointee is able to “clean house” based on what may appear to be deadwood left over from the previous Administration. If someone so much as suggests they will try to do such a thing, the employees can sue on the basis of retaliation, and (as I understand it) the penalties of law for someone retaliating against a GS employee on the basis of personal political preferences is severe.

So what you have is groups of people hired into these agencies during the Clinton Administration who rely on their political dislike of the Bush Administration to color their performance. If you had superiors in these agencies who were willing to actually, you know, rate their teams on the basis of merit – that is, their individual performance – only then would you be able to “clean house”, as so many of these dolts allow their personal political leanings to influence their work, which is by all appearances, shoddy and unprofessional.

But if the agency managers themselves are acting out of political motives as well, then, you have very few options left, and those options are difficult to action.

For example, you could suggest that the entire agency, or significant parts thereof, fail to perform. Your only option then is to use the power of the purse to reduce or defund the agency, and create a new one in its stead.

Otherwise your only hope is to find agency managers and directors who are aligned with your own political leanings.

And as that great philosopher Spongebob Squarepants once said, “Good Luck with that…”

Wanderlust on December 5, 2007 at 4:59 PM

“The system” isn’t strong enough to capture John Bolton. We might need a John Bolton Facts list one of these days.

Bryan on December 5, 2007 at 1:44 PM

John Bolton doesn’t read NIE reports or other government documents. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.

The eternal conundrum “what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object” was finally solved when Chuck Norris punched John Bolton in the face.

Chuck Norris is the only person in the world who can actually give 110%. John Bolton is the only person in the world that can make Chuck Norris give 110%.

Chuck Norris does not sleep; he waits. He knows that John Bolton is out there.

Mallard T. Drake on December 5, 2007 at 5:03 PM

Otherwise your only hope is to find agency managers and directors who are aligned with your own political leanings.
And as that great philosopher Spongebob Squarepants once said, “Good Luck with that…”
Wanderlust on December 5, 2007 at 4:59 PM

I say we take off and nuke the State Department and the CIA from orbit.

It’s the only way to be sure.

/ripley
/hicks

LegendHasIt on December 5, 2007 at 5:10 PM

Wanderlust on December 5, 2007 at 4:59 PM

I think Bolton addressed this in one of his book promo interviews, and that it has been going on like this for many years. And like the leftization of American universities, it’s becoming a self-perpetuating phenomenon.

eeyore on December 5, 2007 at 5:11 PM

While all eyes are on Iraq and Iran, meanwhile … 中国

MB4 on December 5, 2007 at 5:21 PM

Chuck Norris understands the ending of “2001: A Space Odyssey” because John Bolton Explained it to him.

Frozen Tex on December 5, 2007 at 5:34 PM

Let’s throw caution to the winds because the group that got the Iraq WMD’s wrong now tells us that Iran is no threat.

A CO/FI doctrine.

Caution- Out.

Faith- In.

profitsbeard on December 5, 2007 at 6:37 PM

if Timmerman is right, these partisan Democrats have committed a palpable act of treason desiged to sabotage the President, during war, to advance THEIR party.

I remind everyone that the penalty for treason is death. If an iranian built nuke goes off and kills Americans, then the diservice done by these traitors warrants the strongest punishment.

The sole purpose of this NIE is to undermine this President and does NOT represent reality, So, should We, The People, get hurt by their machinations, the maximum penalty should be imposed: death.

For the sake of our deceased citizens, we would owe them justice. For the sake of the future, we must not permit GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES to sabotage the wars we are fighting, or assist any future enmies.

Call me hardcore; I don’t care. If we don’t prosecute such people, who take the oath, the the incidents of saboage WILL get worse.

georgej on December 5, 2007 at 8:24 PM

LegendHasIt on December 5, 2007 at 5:10 PM

I keep having this dream where Bolton becomes National Security Adviser under a strong Republican president and revitalized, conservative Republican party.

In the dream, Bolton issues his own national security statement that declares Foggy Bottom and the CIA to be a threat to the national security of the United States and its interests abroad.

Despite the bleatings of Foggy Bottom and Langley, and over the protests of the DNI, the new President appeals directly to the public to support legislation to dissolve the Department of State, National Security Agency, National Reconnaissance Office and Central Intelligence Agency, and creates a new agency that is broken into SIGINT, HUMINT, and ELINT work and is also liaised with a new Diplomatic Corps. First persons accepted for application into the new agency are former SOCOM, Police detectives, and IT professionals.

Oddly enough, when I wake from that dream, I need a cigarette – and I don’t smoke.

/sarc, just a tiny bit

Wanderlust on December 5, 2007 at 8:25 PM

Wanderlust on December 5, 2007 at 8:25 PM

I left out one detail: anyone hired into the new agency is required to give a Loyalty Oath to the US Government, US Constitution, US Flag, and the US President.

/sigh

Wanderlust on December 5, 2007 at 8:26 PM

John Bolton always uses the perfect amount of cowbell.

ReubenJCogburn on December 5, 2007 at 11:39 PM

Bolton has such a great mind!

He KNOWS what “it” is and tells it straight.

Time to expose the Fingar–keep it up on board.

maverick muse on December 6, 2007 at 7:21 AM

“I have a man-crush on O’Bolton.”

Tzetzes on December 7, 2007 at 8:46 AM

Bolton / Petraeus 2012. After 4 years of Clinton/Hussein we will be in one giant funk.

James on December 7, 2007 at 10:08 AM

Everyone wishing that Bolton or Bush or someone else could “clean up” State forgets one thing: State personnel, like most CIA and other agencies, are General Services (GS)personnel, not political appointees.

Reno replaced all of the prosecuting attorneys in the DOJ.

After she did that, there was suddenly no support or protection when, in 1993, the Hatch act was sh*tcanned and Clinton’s appointees started purging supposedly GS protected federal workers who failed to contribute to the Dems.

If the next President is willing to play as fast with the law as the Clintonistas, it can be done.

Kristopher on December 7, 2007 at 11:09 AM