Alan Dershowitz rips the National Intelligence Estimate

posted at 5:30 pm on December 7, 2007 by Bryan

I’ve been writing all week about the 2007 NIE that alleges Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003. I see it as a mostly problematic document that throws up a great deal of fog on a very important question, though there are at least two positive aspects to it. Namely, if the Iranians really did halt the weapons side of their nuclear program, that’s good and a reflection that the use of force in Iraq won us two additional victories against rogue states in Libya and Iran. Second, we may have penetrated the upper echelons of Iran’s nuclear program. We’ve hinted as much, which may have some benefits.

That said, the NIE itself has spawned deeply negative reaction from John Bolton, a mind I trust on matters like these, and Alan Dershowitz, who I usually find annoying but who does tend to get national security questions right more often than wrong.

The recent national intelligence estimate that concluded that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 is just about the stupidest intelligence assessment I have ever read. It falls hook, line and sinker for a transparent bait and switch tactic employed not only by Iran, but by several other nuclear powers in the past.

The tactic is obvious and well-known to all intelligence officials with an IQ above room temperature. It goes like this: There are two tracks to making nuclear weapons: One is to conduct research and develop technology directly related to military use. That is what the United States did when it developed the atomic bomb during the Manhattan Project. The second track is to develop nuclear technology for civilian use and then to use the civilian technology for military purposes.

What every intelligence agency knows is that the most difficult part of developing weapons corresponds precisely to the second track, namely civilian use. In other words, it is relatively simple to move from track 2 to track 1 in a short period of time.

To me that argument carries a Captain Obvious quality about it, but it’s evidently not so obvious that any liberal other than Dershowitz has made it. They would rather accuse President Bush of lying, when the simple fact of the matter is that even when the president first learned of the new information that formed this NIE, he couldn’t publicly alter his rhetoric on the issue without inviting immediate scrutiny. The new information wasn’t verified yet. It would have been irresponsible to change course until the information had been verified, and until the NIE had been put together. And in any regard, the NIE itself only says with “high confidence” that the Iranians suspended their weapons program in 2003. Whether the program remains suspended gets the “moderate confidence” tag, which is pretty much a coin flip. And in addition to that, Iran is still running 3,000 centrifuges, it’s still building a heavy reactor at Arak and it is still enriching uranium all in the name of civilian energy, a curious use of funds for a state that rests on a massive reserve of oil. And Iran continues to threaten to wipe Israel off the map, an act that would presumably require nuclear weapons to pull off. The NIE doesn’t say that all of that isn’t a threat.

Returning to Dershowitz:

Whatever the agenda and whatever the motive this report may well go down in history as one of the most dangerous, misguided and counterproductive intelligence assessments in history. It may well encourage the Iranians to move even more quickly in developing nuclear weapons. If the report is correct in arguing that the only way of discouraging Iran from developing nuclear weapons is to maintain international pressure, then the authors of the report must surely know that they have single-handedly reduced any incentive by the international community to keep the pressure up.

I think that’s right and will be the effect of releasing this NIE. It has historically been very difficult to get other states to go along with us in putting a collar on rogues like Iran. We bark like the watchdog that we are and the rest of the world just wants to go back to sleep. This NIE probably won’t move the EU-3 much, but it does give the Chinese and particularly the Russians the excuse they may have been looking for to back away from sanctioning Iran. This is particularly useful for the Russians, as they have been selling nuclear technology to Iran for years.

Update (AP): The public’s not impressed with the NIE either, something the GOP must realize or else they wouldn’t be out on a limb pushing for a second look at the intel. Adm. Mullen’s going to Israel this weekend to see what they’ve got on the shelf.


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Whatever the agenda and whatever the motive this report may well go down in history as one of the most dangerous, misguided and counterproductive intelligence assessments in history.

Ouch. Taking body blows from all directions now.

peski on December 7, 2007 at 5:34 PM

Dershowitz always struck me as a typical lib, except when it comes to Israel. Then he’s a hawk. What’s up with this guy?

JiangxiDad on December 7, 2007 at 5:40 PM

Dershowitz is a consistant advocate for Israel, it doesn’t surprise me that he is responding to the NIE in this way.

However, it is more hartening that the IDF is willing to show some info to our CJCS. If Israel knows something they better show it.

bnelson44 on December 7, 2007 at 5:44 PM

Also in the JP today is the article with the Assistant SecDef of Israel saying the NIE means no attack by Israel.
Could that be the angle here? Forcing the dog off the scent?

Limerick on December 7, 2007 at 5:47 PM

This is getting very messy. I guess I would tend to go along with Israel on this one. Who can say that Iran is not developing weapons at another location. Case and point – Syria. I believe Israel knows more of what goes on in their backyard than anyone else. They have a bit more at stake.

oakpack on December 7, 2007 at 5:47 PM

It’s not the fault of those who drew up this recent report. It’s those that are reading their own agendas into the NIE. Nukes or no nukes, Iran is still a rogue.

mram on December 7, 2007 at 5:48 PM

After thinking on this for a couple of days… we REALLY have to take a look at who wrote these conclusions…

And that IS something that is under Congress’s oversite.

I also still wish to know how this became declassified so quickly…

This is a political document, making strategy decision… which are supposed to be left to the President.

Probably the biggest Beaurocratic backstab in American history…

Romeo13 on December 7, 2007 at 5:48 PM

It’s not the fault of those who drew up this recent report. It’s those that are reading their own agendas into the NIE. Nukes or no nukes, Iran is still a rogue.

mram on December 7, 2007 at 5:48 PM

Not sure about that either mram. The authors might have a bit of an agenda them selves.

oakpack on December 7, 2007 at 5:50 PM

It’s not the fault of those who drew up this recent report. It’s those that are reading their own agendas into the NIE. Nukes or no nukes, Iran is still a rogue.

mram on December 7, 2007 at 5:48 PM

Not according to the ‘stash:
http://hotair.com/archives/2007/12/05/video-john-bolton-debunks-the-nie-suggests-that-long-time-bush-critics-politicized-it/
Bolton’s whole point was that it’s a Clintonista agenda-driven hit-job.

At least that’s my reading.

peski on December 7, 2007 at 5:53 PM

Didn’t Dershowitz write something before 9/11 to the effect that in the case of a “ticking-time-bomb” scenario, that torture of a suspect would be more than justified, but should actually be expected? I recall being both surprised abd impressed with such clear-headedness from a liberal.

Frozen Tex on December 7, 2007 at 5:55 PM

Great minds think alike peski.
I wish the stashe were involved in this investigation.

oakpack on December 7, 2007 at 5:57 PM

I’ve been mulling over this for the better part of a week now. The Dems will blame Bush for anything and everything. The sad truth that I really hate to admit is that we’re going to have to face something far beyond 9/11 before the liberal half of this country wakes up. During the WW’s, we had sacrifice. People were rationing gas, steel, sugar, rubber, any materials that would help us win the war. You also didn’t have a mainstream media actively trying to blame the US for everything and tell us how bad life is. Anyone really think life is that bad compared to 100, 50, or even 20 years ago? Back then, you had women start up sports teams in place of men to try to get the people’s minds off the war and get some semblance of life back, while the media tried to show actual positive press. The newspapers actually had headlines that showed we’re winning. Now, as soon as we make any progress, the MSM goes silent.
You have a bunch of selfish liberals today who just care about their own little bubble and making themselves “feel good”, while trying to get people to into thinking they care. Hypocrites, the whole lot of them. I think it’s going to take something that causes us to go back to actually being impacted to make us really care again. What worries me is that Iran might actually be the ones that bring us in to that.

Tuari on December 7, 2007 at 5:58 PM

Heck with Bolton and Dershowitz ripping the NIE–I’m waiting for Ahmadinejad to weigh in. I’m sure he’ll set the record straight. I mean, the guy is constantly ranting quite openly about Iran’s plans to build nukes, destroy Israel, wipe the American infidels off the face of the earth, etc, etc, etc. Doesn’t take much sneaky spy-work to know where Iran’s collective head is since their president broadcasts it all the time. Gee, wonder why no-one believes the NIE is wrong on this one.

aero on December 7, 2007 at 6:05 PM

Yes, Iran is developing nuclear weapons

The NIE didn’t claim Iran ended it’s nuclear weapons program, it claimed it “stopped” it’s nuclear weapons program and ignored the liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq as the obvious reasons Iran might wish to be seen “stopping”. The NIE then concluded that Iran is still pursuing nuclear weapons.

The MainStreamMedia aren’t spinning… they are lying. They are siding with Iran and the results are that we will not be able to prevent Iran’s waging nuclear war as an extension of their ongoing terror war against us.

The stupidist thing about this whole fraud?

The informed point out Iran will have a bomb inside of two years. The Bush-basher Iran apologists concede Iran will have a bomb inside of 5 years.

Will that matter when Iran can produce 10 weapons every month?

They are enriching, they have no plants that need fuel, they don’t have the techical know-how to clad fuel rods, they have no generators, no transmission lines stretching past those anti-aircraft installations, so what are they enriching for except nuclear weapons?

Iran does have Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles that can carry 3-100 kilo payloads… like nuclear warheads… which they have the plans for courtesy of Pakistan.

DANEgerus on December 7, 2007 at 6:58 PM

Call it Joe Wilson II. He got way with it so Fingar thinks he can too…

DANEgerus on December 7, 2007 at 7:00 PM

There is no doubt that there are forces working within the State Department that are working for the demise of our nation. Weak leaders like the Clintons will only expedite that effort.

volsense on December 7, 2007 at 7:02 PM

There are forces determined to cause a weakening of the United States. Liberals must want our nation defeated, similar to the defeat of Russia in WWI. The idea is for them to be able to, while holding the office of President, declare a national emergency, curtailing all of our rights. Then we get to execise “the right of the people to keep and bear arms”. That is unless we are disarmed by the forces who would enslave us.

Zelsdorf Ragshaft on December 7, 2007 at 7:17 PM