Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: CIA VS. THE WHITE HOUSE — Rick Moran @ 1:16 pm

How many times can one agency be so wrong about so many things while at the same time selectively leaking classified data in order to put themselves in the best possible light and engage in partisan back stabbing?

The list of events and trends that the CIA has failed to either alert the government to or analyzed incorrectly in their capacity as the nation’s foreign watch dogs is astonishing. Over the past quarter century, they have proven themselves to be not just inept but also foolish, arrogant, corrupt, and incompetent as the forces of history and the machinations of evil men escaped their myopic gaze resulting in the injury and death to thousands of United States citizens. Their mistakes have also cost the US in the arena of diplomacy as faulty - sometimes ludicrous - analysis regarding both our friends and enemies has placed our diplomats and negotiators on unsound footing.

We are not talking about some Mickey Mouse third world assassination squad. We are talking about an agency with a classified budget that some have estimated to be as high as $70 billion dollars. It is an agency that is supposed to be staffed by our best and brightest minds. They have at their disposal some of the most mind-blowing gadgetry ever dreamed up - euphemistically referred to as “National Technical Means - that can see and even hear what our enemies may be up to.

What they cannot do is peer into the minds and hearts of people who would do us harm. For that, our leaders depend on the judgment of an army of analysts. With access to intelligence from thousands of sources both overt and covert, these career employees are supposed to leave their own ideological biases at home in order to give the most intelligent and thoughtful analysis based on the facts available that they can.

Instead, the safety and security of our country has been held hostage by a group of ideologues - of both the left and right - who seek to advance their partisan and ideological agendas while the crazies of the world plot to destroy us.

A short list of “missing the big picture”:

* An analysis by the newly minted agency in 1949 assured President Truman that the Soviets were a decade away from building an atomic weapon. Before the end of that summer, the Soviets had tested their first nuclear device.

* The CIA failed to anticipate the invasion of South Korea by North Korea despite a massive buildup of NoKo forces. They also failed to anticipate the entry of China into the war 6 months later.

* The CIA was wildly off target in their estimate of China’s nuclear potential, believing that the Reds were 5 years away from having the bomb the same year - 1964 - that China exploded its first nuclear device.

* An analysis in 1989 found the collapsing Soviet Union was planning a “manned mission to Mars” sometime after 2000.

* The agency missed the invasion of Kuwait in 1991, calling Saddam’s massive build-up on the border “saber rattling.”

* The CIA consistently failed in the 1990’s to penetrate the #1 enemy of the United States - al Qaeda. The results of which were catastrophic.

* Despite warnings, the CIA failed to anticipate the 9/11 attack.

And now we can add to this list the fact that the CIA was wildly off target in its estimate of when the mad mullahs in Iran would have their hands on a nuclear weapon.

Last summer in a leak designed to undermine the Administration’s case for sanctions against Iran, cherry-picked facts from a National Intelligence Estimate showed that the consensus in the government was that Iran was more than a decade away from being able to build a nuclear weapon:

A major U.S. intelligence review has projected that Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years, according to government sources with firsthand knowledge of the new analysis.

The carefully hedged assessments, which represent consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies, contrast with forceful public statements by the White House. Administration officials have asserted, but have not offered proof, that Tehran is moving determinedly toward a nuclear arsenal. The new estimate could provide more time for diplomacy with Iran over its nuclear ambitions. President Bush has said that he wants the crisis resolved diplomatically but that “all options are on the table.”

The new National Intelligence Estimate includes what the intelligence community views as credible indicators that Iran’s military is conducting clandestine work. But the sources said there is no information linking those projects directly to a nuclear weapons program. What is clear is that Iran, mostly through its energy program, is acquiring and mastering technologies that could be diverted to bomb making.

Even at the time I thought that was a ridiculous statement. So did the Israelis:

Israeli intelligence officials estimate that Iran could be capable of producing enriched uranium within six months and have nuclear weapons within two years. Earlier this month, head of Israeli military intelligence Maj. Gen. Aharon Ze’evi said that while Iran was not currently capable of enriching uranium to build a nuclear bomb, “it is only half a year away from achieving such independent capability – if it is not stopped by the West.”

Guess who was closer to being right - Mossad or CIA? It turns out that according to the UN nuclear watchdog group, the International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA) and the IAEA chairman Muhammad ElBaradei, Iran is 6 months away from having their hands on the bomb:

IAEA chairman Muhammad ElBaradei on Monday confirmed Israel’s assessment that Iran is only a few months away from creating an atomic bomb.

If Tehran indeed resumed its uranium enrichment in other plants, as threatened, it will take it only “a few months” to produce a nuclear bomb, El-Baradei told The Independent.

As it turns out, the CIA’s “analysis” of Iranian nuclear capability was ludicrously wrong.

How can we continue to put up with this incompetence? Anyone who believes that a nuclear Iran is not a threat to the very existence of the United States is massively fooling themselves. While the mullahs wouldn’t give a nuclear weapon to al Qaeda (we think - that analysis also comes from the CIA) there are any number of fanatics who would be glad to set off a couple of nukes on US soil. And if Iran believed that whoever was President wouldn’t retaliate massively, they would be more than willing to take the chance in order to have the US descend into an economic and social chaos we would be a decade or more recovering from.

In order to imagine a nuclear device going off and destroying a major American city, think New Orleans then multiply by ten. The economic shock alone would throw millions out of work. And the social cost of millions of refugees fleeing both the blast and fallout would throw American society into chaos. The demand for safety and security would put pressure on lawmakers to enact restrictions on our freedoms that would make the Patriot Act look like a walk in the park by comparison.

And suppose we did retaliate against Iran? Have you noticed who is cozying up to the radicals in Tehran recently?

The statement appeared timed to head off the heated reaction expected from the United States after Russian media reported Friday that officials had signed contracts in November that would send up to 30 Tor-M1 missile systems to Iran over the next two years.

The Interfax news agency said the Tor-M1 system could identify up to 48 targets and fire at two targets simultaneously at a height of up to 20,000 feet.

Putin has also offered to enrich Iran’s uranium as part of a deal involving the EU. The problem with this “deal” is that once the Iranians get their hands on even partially enriched uranium, it is not a big deal to further enrich the nuclear material to make weapons grade uranium.

Suppose we were to retaliate against an Iranian sponsored terrorist nuclear attack by leveling Tehran and a few other Iranian cities? The outcry against us would make criticism of our Iraq policies seem tame. And that fallout cloud could very well drift into Russian territory - something that Mr. Putin would frown on and may feel compelled to respond to.

There is no getting around it. Iran must be stopped and soon. We know it. The Israelis know it. The Europeans know it. The UN knows it.

The question that must be asked is anyone going to do anything about it? Iran is betting that the world will fiddle while they build. They have indicated that they will not stop enriching uranium regardless of what the Europeans or Americans think.

And given the recent track record of the CIA’s analysis on Iran, the frightening prospect of agency blunders leading us toward a nuclear precipice is a real possibility.


  1. Looks like we’ll have to send John Kerry over there to negotiate with the mullahs. By the time he gets done flip flopping and droning they’ll have forgotten what their original intent was.

    Comment by Santay — 12/5/2005 @ 1:30 pm

  2. The CIA also didn’t know Libya had a nuclear program.

    Comment by Doss — 12/5/2005 @ 2:31 pm

  3. Santay-The Democratic party ran out of ideas and has been running on empty for decades, on that I assume we can agree. Your response to Mr. Moran’s post on a serious threat to America is a smart ass, politicized comment. This knee jerk Rush Limbaugh-type thinking is why I am not a Republican. The party is filled with people who cannot look at any issue without trying to find how to use it against Democrats, in a pissy, condescending, dismissive manner. It is as if making a point in the above manner is more important than the actual point being made.
    The CIA is very ineffective in its primary mission of protecting the United States through covert means. The Republican’s primary response is to worry about how CIA leaks damage the party, instead of the real risk America is placed in with a primary spy agency that cannot do its job.
    Republicans have been in the majority and in control for decades. Act like a governing party, not a poor, picked on, petulant child. Some of us independent types might wish to join you if the grown ups were in charge.

    Comment by ed — 12/5/2005 @ 3:13 pm

  4. When I mention stuff like this in certain circles I get the “this is a smoke screen and it’s all about petrodollars” argument. Iran’s intent to sell oil for euros (instead of the OPEC-mandated US Dollars) is the real cause of all this saber-rattling, they claim.

    Anyone have thoughts on this?

    Comment by goy — 12/5/2005 @ 3:25 pm

  5. A few thoughts spring to mind off the top of my head. I’m no expert, this is all just a hunch, but here are my suspicions:

    1. The CIA is like any government agency, a bureaucracy. For the most part, its personnel remain the same regardless of which political party controls the White House or the Hill. There are reasons for this, damned good ones, but pitfalls as well. Remember, a bureaucracy will do everything it must to propagate itself, and nothing more. That’s a s true of the CIA as it is of the Post Office or the DMV.

    2. The CIA was created to fight a different war. Like the military, the culture and structure of the CIA is based in the Cold War, to play the spy game against the Soviets. Like the Military, much of what the CIA learned about how to do its job against the KGB is completely useless in its efforts against our current enemies. Unlike the Military, when the CIA screws up, CNN isn’t usually rolling. When the military makes an operational mistake based on outdated doctrine, the results are usually apparent, painfully so, and thus more quickly and effectively addressed. When the CIA makes such mistakes, they can usually cover it up, at least long enough so that those responsible are long gone. The immediate motivation to fix it rather than CYA is diminished. It takes a mind-bogglingly spectacular disaster, like passenger planes flying into skyscrapers, before anyone really takes notice.

    3. While the CIA as an agency is an (ostensibly) apolitical bureaucracy, its poersonnel, like the personnel of ANY bureaucracy, are human beings, and by nature have political leanings. The difference is that in the CIA, these individuals are often equipped with job-related skills and resources that allow them to use their positions politically. I’ve heard rumblings that many at Langley are no fans of the current party or administration, and the number of tears they’ve shed over these intelligence “failures” is mitigated by the damage they’ve done politically.

    Comment by Brian B — 12/5/2005 @ 5:35 pm

  6. ed, you’re right. It was a smart ass comment to an extremely serious subject. My only defense is that I had just finished reading an article about some speech Kerry made in a lame attempt to remain relevant. The one good thing about this is that, unlike some of the other instances Rick mentioned, the government is aware of the problem in Iran. What they’ll do about it remains to be seen.

    Comment by Santay — 12/6/2005 @ 6:49 am

  7. A thought-provoking article!

    However, I must address a couple of factual errors and erroneous assumptions.

    First, the CIA wasn’t far off with their assessment of the Soviet atomic weapon program in 1949. The problem was that traitors in our program gave the Soviets enough info to make their own bomb. We had won the “war” with the Soviets of capturing the most Scientists (including those that immigrated before the WWII), so we had a large technical and scientific head start. That was all for naught though, as we gave the Soviets a complete bomb design plus a lot of technical information on uranium enrichment and plutonium production. So the blame for this really belongs to the FBI, not the CIA.

    The same could be said for China in many respects. They received a lot of outside assistance which we weren’t aware of until after the fact.

    Finally, a NIE is not a CIA document, so any conclusions in one cannot be blamed solely on the CIA. An NIE is a document representing the views of all the players in the intel community, of which is the CIA is now a small part. Other parts of the intelligence community came to the wrong conclusion as well. If you want to see wildly off-base capability and intent analysis, read what the state department puts out.

    Third, you make a conclusions Iran will use nukes against us that I feel are way off base. The primary motivation for Iranian nuke development is self-preservation. After Bush’s “axis of evil” speech, and the subsequent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq (both of which border Iran), Iran feels cornered and they view the nuclear option as a way to guarantee their security. They are not stupid, “crazy” people as many portray them - they are calculating and very smart. The idea they would cause a global economic meltdown and ensure the destruction of their own government by pre-emptively nuking the US is ludicrous. The fact is, the Iranian nuclear program went into high gear after Bush’s Axis speech. I think this will be seen as a major foreign policy blunder.

    Fourth, your mention of the Tor-m1 systems doesn’t belong in this article and really has no bearing. The Iranians have been buying weapons from the Russians since the early 1980’s. As their US equipment starts to fail due to age and lack of spare parts, the Iranians replace it. The Tor-m1 is not a major upgrade to their air defense.

    Fifth, Russia selling the Iranians nuclear fuel is a good thing. Under international law and treaty, the fuel would be used and monitored in Iran, then returned to Russia for reprocessing. The IAEA and other organizations ensure that the fuel isn’t used for plutonium production or reprocessed before it gets returned. Both the US and Russia use this method to provide nuclear fuel to “non-nuclear” countries, and it’s perfectly legitimate and legal. So your contention that once Iran had the fuel they could use it make weapons is innacurate.

    The danger we’re facing now is that Iran does NOT want to buy fuel from Russia, because they know they couldn’t reprocess it or spike it with uranium for plutonium production. That’s why they want an indigenous fuel supply with the ability to enrich it - it won’t be subject to international oversight. In fact, it’s a lot more expensive for them to develop and maintain an indigenous supply as nuclear fuel is fairly cheap on the international market.

    Comment by Andrew — 12/6/2005 @ 10:51 am

  8. Santay-thanks for the explanation. Kerry blew his chance at relevancy, but I have to admit to cringing every time the man speaks. The man can burn up massive amounts of words w/o saying anything.

    Comment by ed — 12/6/2005 @ 11:54 am

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