Yet some of us noted at the time that the NIE added, in a crucial footnote, that by “nuclear weapons program” it meant “weapon design and weaponization work and . . . uranium enrichment-related work,” rather than Iran’s “declared” nuclear facilities. The NIE’s main authors—including former intelligence official Tom Fingar and other internal critics of Bush Administration policies—downplayed this critical detail. Never mind that it was precisely Iran’s “declared” nuclear facilities that constituted the core element of any nuclear-weapons program.

Fast forward to the present, and it turns out the NIE was misleading even on its own terms: Iran did have a covert facility, perhaps for enrichment, and the intelligence community knew or at least strongly suspected it. We are also learning that the NIE’s judgment puts the U.S. intelligence community at odds with its counterparts in Britain, Germany and Israel, which have evidence to show that Iran resumed its weaponization work after 2003…

It’s of course possible that the U.S. has it right and everyone else has it wrong. But given the stakes if Iran does get the bomb, and given everything we know about Iran’s history of deception, the obligation of intelligence agencies is not to issue politically skewed “estimates” that derail U.S. policy to stop the Iranian program. Getting it wrong on Iran—the most crucial intelligence question of the decade—would be no small footnote in the CIA’s history of intelligence blunders.