Attacking the NIE, Part 2

ATTACKING THE NIE, PART 2….Speaking of conservative pushback against the Iran NIE, the Washington Post passes along the peculiar news that congressional Republicans who are unhappy with the NIE want to create a commission “modeled on a congressionally mandated group that probed a disputed 1995 intelligence estimate on the emerging missile threat to the United States over the next 15 years”:

While other NIEs have been the subject of intense criticism….critics of the new assessment are modeling their response after the clash over a 1995 NIE on ballistic missile threats. That document concluded that no country other than the major declared nuclear powers “would develop or otherwise acquire a ballistic missile over the next 15 years that will threaten the contiguous 48 states or Canada.”

….But a congressionally mandated commission, headed by Donald H. Rumsfeld, who would become President Bush’s defense secretary, concluded in 1998 that the United States “might have little or no warning before operational deployment of a ballistic missile by a hostile Third World country.” Its conclusions formed the basis for the Bush administration’s push for a missile defense system.

This is their model? The 15 years are almost up, and, in fact, no country has developed a ballistic missile that threatens the United States or Canada. North Korea has been giving it a try, but the Taepodong-1 can barely reach Russia, let alone the United States, while the current version of the Taepodong-2 can’t make it to Hawaii, let alone California. And as we all know, the most recent test of the Taepodong-2, back in 2006, failed spectacularly, which means that future versions with a longer range are almost certainly years away at best.

So: no ballistic missile threat by 2010? Check. “Little or no warning” before such a missile becomes operational? Completely wrong. We’ve had loads and loads of warning about North Korea’s intentions, capabilities, and test firings. The intelligence community may have a mixed record on this kind of stuff, but in this case the NIE was right and the Team B hawks were wrong. Again. Pick a different model, guys.