WHY WAS THE NIE RELEASED?….PART 3….A couple more theories on why yesterday’s NIE on Iran was released just weeks after Mike McConnell said it wasn’t going to be. First, there’s this brief aside tossed in at the tail end of a Wall Street Journal piece:
Officials at U.S. spy agencies came to believe after their 2005 report was issued that Iran had suspended its weapons program. The differences between this assessment and the administration’s public comments prompted them to make the report public, officials say.
So the intelligence community was directly responding to the fact that Bush and Cheney were continuing to make hawkish statements even when they knew the evidence didn’t back it up. Interesting. Over at Mother Jones, though, Laura Rozen suggests something different:
The NIE released today had been held up for more than a year. At a House Armed Services Committee hearing on global threats this summer, the CIA’s top intel analyst indicated to Mother Jones during a break that the delay was due in part to new intelligence that the United States had obtained. The source of that intelligence has not been revealed, but comments by national security advisor Stephen Hadley today suggested the United States had received new information a few months ago and that a conclusion on the NIE’s findings was reached only last Tuesday.
If this is true, McConnell changed his mind because the reporting from Iran changed, first over the summer and then more definitively within the last couple of weeks. “The primary, number one judgment — that military efforts have apparently been discontinued in 2003 and still discontinued as of middle of this year, it is impossible for the community to sit on a judgment like that,” said Paul Pillar, a former top National Intelligence Council officer for the Middle East. “That they have high confidence suggests they have some fairly good reporting. That is pretty significant.”
I expect considerably more speculation on this subject over the next few days. Stay tuned.