MORE NIE STUFF….In the Washington Post today, David Ignatius passes along what his sources are telling him about how the new Iran NIE was put together:
The secret intelligence that produced this reversal came from multiple channels — human sources as well as intercepted communications — that arrived in June and July. At that time, a quite different draft of the Iran NIE was nearly finished. But the “volume and character” of the new information was so striking, says a senior official, that “we decided we’ve got to go back.”….A senior official describes the summer’s windfall as “a variety of reporting that unlocked stuff we had, which we didn’t understand fully before.”
Ignatius also notes that the new attitude toward analysis the produced the NIE was largely the work of Deputy Director of National Intelligence Thomas Fingar. Fingar, you may recall, was formerly head of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), the one agency that mostly got Iraq right. Justin Rood’s piece on INR and how it figured out things the other agencies didn’t, from our January 2005 issue, is here. It’s worth re-reading.
While I’m at it, take a look at the front page bug for the Post’s editorial coverage of the NIE. It’s classic. Everyone basically agrees that the NIE’s assessment that Iran is probably not pursuing a nuclear bomb is good news and provides us with an opening. Everyone except for the editorial page itself, which can barely stand the thought. Hell, even Robert Kagan agrees that this means it’s time to talk with Iran. Sure, he only says that because he thinks we need to demonstrate good faith to the world before we inevitably bomb Iran anyway, but from Kagan that’s still a step in the right direction. Meanwhile, the editorial board can’t even go that far. They’re aghast at the very idea of talks, and are upset that the new NIE might give us talk-mongers fuel for our talk-mongering fire. Sheesh.