Bush: Don’t Blame Me

BUSH: DON’T BLAME ME….The Washington Times, based on leaked information about some recent intelligence reports, says the intelligence community badly screwed up its assessment of North Korea:

The officials said there were as many as 10 failures related to intelligence reporting on North Korean missile tests and the suspected nuclear test that harmed administration efforts to deal with the issue.

According to officials familiar with the reports, the failures included judgments that cast doubt about whether North Korea’s nuclear program posed an immediate threat, whether North Korea could produce a militarily useful nuclear bomb, whether North Korea was capable of conducting an underground nuclear test and whether Pyongyang was bluffing by claiming it could carry one out.

This is via Instapundit, who seems oddly unconcerned with this particular pre-election leak of our nation’s secrets. (Compare to “we should fire the leakers on general principles” from a couple of weeks ago when someone leaked intelligence info to the New York Times that was damaging to the administration. I guess pro-Bush leaks are different.)

Snark aside, though, here’s the really odd thing: what failures are we talking about? There’s no way to know without seeing the reports in question, but it strikes me that (a) it’s not clear if North Korea’s nuclear program poses an immediate threat, (b) North Korea’s weapon did appear to be something of a dud, (c) they don’t seem very good at this underground testing thing, and (d) they might very well have been bluffing. What’s more, given how hermetically sealed North Korea is, I assume the NIE was practically bursting with caveats that no one really knows for sure what they’re up to.

All in all, a pretty transparent effort at buck passing. I don’t have any special brief for the intelligence community, which has made its share of mistakes in the past, but the fact is that Bush has spent more than four years waving his arms manically but doing absolutely nothing of any substance about the North Korean threat. Now he’s trying to blame his lack of policy on the intelligence community? Pathetic.

POSTSCRIPT: As an added bonus, note the attempt to specifically blame the “failures” on Thomas Fingar, formerly of the State Department’s intelligence service, and the one guy who had the gall to get it right on Iraq. I guess this is payback for arguing with Dick Cheney three years ago.