NIE: Normalizing Idiocy and Exaggeration

By David Swanson

Remember the last NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) that made really big news? Remember how it helped defraud a nation into an aggressive war and occupation that has left nearly a million Iraqis and 4,000 Americans dead? Remember how the declassified bits distorted the truth much further than the full report?

If you do remember that document, one thing is certain: You are not Senator Jay Rockefeller. While the Democrats were in the minority in 2005 and 2006, Rockefeller led the griping brigade. When, oh when!, would the Republicans running the Senate Intelligence Committee investigate and produce a report on how we were misled into a war? After six and a half months of Democratic rule, with Senator Rockefeller chairing the committee, guess what? You guessed it: no report, no hearings, and no griping – from anyone.

Perhaps that helps explain the audacity of the Orwellian fiends who on Tuesday released declassified bits of a new NIE that reads like that classic invade-Iraq NIE, only dumbed down for people who have normalized the kind of bull the White House has been feeding us for six and a half years. This one has been in the works since April and, as far as we know, just like the insights of Michael Chertoff’s gut, is based on no evidence whatsoever.

This is not an NIE about why we should start a new war in Iran. In fact, it says that “Lebanese Hizballah…may be more likely to consider attacking the Homeland [that means the United States for those of you still talking English] over the next three years if it perceives the United States as posing a direct threat to the group or Iran.”

So I guess standing on a ship off the coast and threatening to nuke the place would be an undesirable move?

The purpose of this NIE appears to have little to do with Iran. It’s about Iraq, and its timing may be related to the current Congressional debate. But it’s even more so about the general fear of terrorism. According to this NIE we need to be very afraid, and at the same time we need to understand that what the leader of our “Homeland” is doing is working.

“We judge…” the first paragraph begins, that the terrorists are out to get us.

“We assess…” begins paragraph 2, that we’re defeating the terrorists.

According to former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, assertions of “judging” and “assessing” used to be laughed out of reports, and a demand made for actual evidence. Paragraph 2 concludes with this sentence: “These measures have helped disrupt known plots against the United States since 9/11.” Bush made a similar assertion in his State of the Union speech this year, specifying four plots, each of which turned out to be fictional: Several others have turned out to be fictional as well. The NIE does not produce a real one for us. Perhaps it’s referring to “plots” where you and I would refer to “Democratic electoral campaigns.”

The NIE does, however, mention 9/11 repeatedly and attempt to connect it to the occupation of Iraq. The paragraph on Iraq is, as Spencer Ackerman has pointed out, an amazing example of contorted English. There are words there, to be sure, but coherent ideas are hard to squeeze out of it. The paragraph appears to say that the evil global empire of al qaeda is benefiting from its association with people in Iraq who call themselves al qaeda. And, somehow, this is supposed to convict those Iraqis of evilness by association.

But, of course, what terrorist groups are actually benefiting from is the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The question of whether that occupation is helping or hurting a campaign to reduce terrorism is not addressed in any straightforward way in the NIE. But, as Ackerman points out:

“The National Intelligence Council in 2005, for instance, called Iraq the new ‘breeding ground’ for ‘professionalized’ terror. An April 2006 NIE, which remains classified, plainly said the war ‘has made the overall terrorism problem worse,’ as one intelligence official told the New York Times. It’s hard to see how this could be controversial: there would be no al-Qaeda in Iraq — which the National Intelligence Estimate today says ‘energize(s) the broader Sunni extremist community’ — had there been no invasion.”

But that’s not the worst of the new NIE. The worst is the all-too familiar idiocy of this sentence:

“We assess that al-Qa’ida will continue to try to acquire and employ chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear material in attacks and would not hesitate to use them if it develops what it deems sufficient capability.”

Is this news? A terrorist organization that the United States is working so hard to antagonize and strengthen might try to get some type of weapon (we’re not sure what type, but one of the existing types), and if they do get it they might use it. All this AND Chertoff’s gut for a mere $80 billion?

For free, gratis, for NOTHING, I can offer you this intelligence assessment: The United States Congress will continue to try to find its testicles, a backbone, some nerves, or an ounce of decency, and would not hesitate to impeach Dick Cheney if it develops what it deems sufficient balls.

Isn’t July 18th the deadline for compliance with White House subpoenas? Wasn’t an article of impeachment passed by the Judiciary Committee against President Nixon for refusal to comply with subpoenas? Just asking.

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