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Bush intel in Iran weak
Posted by: derek
Date: March 8, 2005 04:18PM
"A presidential commission due to report to President George W. Bush this month will describe American intelligence on Iran as inadequate and not complete enough to allow firm judgments about that country's illicit weapons programs, according to people who have been briefed on the panel's work."
Re: Bush intel in Iran weak
Posted by: 277fia
Date: August 4, 2005 09:16PM
I posted this Newsday 5/21/2004 story by Knut Royce, "Agency: Chalabi group was front for Iran", in the Iraq forum but I think it contrasts nicely with your post. (Mr. Royce, a longtime Newsday reporter, is reliable in my opinion). Looks like the Iranians beat us hands down in the spy department because of Ahmad Chalabi, darling of the neocons, and the Iraqi National Congress.
"The Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that a U.S.-funded arm of Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress has been used for years by Iranian intelligence to pass disinformation to the United States and to collect highly sensitive American secrets, according to intelligence sources.
"Iranian intelligence has been manipulating the United States through Chalabi by furnishing through his Information Collection Program information to provoke the United States into getting rid of Saddam Hussein," said an intelligence source Friday who was briefed on the Defense Intelligence Agency's conclusions, which were based on a review of thousands of internal documents.
The Information Collection Program also "kept the Iranians informed about what we were doing" by passing classified U.S. documents and other sensitive information, he said. The program has received millions of dollars from the U.S. government over several years.
An administration official confirmed that "highly classified information had been provided [to the Iranians] through that channel."
The Defense Department this week halted payment of $340,000 a month to Chalabi's program. Chalabi had long been the favorite of the Pentagon's civilian leadership. Intelligence sources say Chalabi himself has passed on sensitive U.S. intelligence to the Iranians.
Patrick Lang, former director of the intelligence agency's Middle East branch, said he had been told by colleagues in the intelligence community that Chalabi's U.S.-funded program to provide information about weapons of mass destruction and insurgents was effectively an Iranian intelligence operation. "They [the Iranians] knew exactly what we were up to," he said.
He described it as "one of the most sophisticated and successful intelligence operations in history."
"I'm a spook. I appreciate good work. This was good work," he said.
An intelligence agency spokesman would not discuss questions about his agency's internal conclusions about the alleged Iranian operation. But he said some of its information had been helpful to the U.S. "Some of the information was great, especially as it pertained to arresting high value targets and on force protection issues," he said. "And some of the information wasn't so great."
At the center of the alleged Iranian intelligence operation, according to administration officials and intelligence sources, is Aras Karim Habib, a 47-year-old Shia Kurd who was named in an arrest warrant issued during a raid on Chalabi's home and offices in Baghdad Thursday. He eluded arrest.
Karim, who sometimes goes by the last name of Habib, is in charge of the information collection program.
The intelligence source briefed on the Defense Intelligence Agency's conclusions said that Karim's "fingerprints are all over it."
"There was an ongoing intelligence relationship between Karim and the Iranian Intelligence Ministry, all funded by the U.S. government, inadvertently," he said.
The Iraqi National Congress has received about $40 million in U.S. funds over the past four years, including $33 million from the State Department and $6 million from the Defense Intelligence Agency.
In Baghdad after the war, Karim's operation was run out of the fourth floor of a secure intelligence headquarters building, while the intelligence agency was on the floor above, according to an Iraqi source who knows Karim well.
The links between the INC and U.S. intelligence go back to at least 1992, when Karim was picked by Chalabi to run his security and military operations.
Indications that Iran, which fought a bloody war against Iraq during the 1980s, was trying to lure the U.S. into action against Saddam Hussein appeared many years before the Bush administration decided in 2001 that ousting Hussein was a national priority.
In 1995, for instance, Khidhir Hamza, who had once worked in Iraq's nuclear program and whose claims that Iraq had continued a massive bomb program in the 1990s are now largely discredited, gave UN nuclear inspectors what appeared to be explosive documents about Iraq's program. Hamza, who fled Iraq in 1994, teamed up with Chalabi after his escape.
The documents, which referred to results of experiments on enriched uranium in the bomb's core, were almost flawless, according to Andrew Cockburn's recent account of the event in the political newsletter CounterPunch.
But the inspectors were troubled by one minor matter: Some of the techinical descriptions used terms that would only be used by an Iranian. They determined that the original copy had been written in Farsi by an Iranian scientist and then translated into Arabic.
And the International Atomic Energy Agency concluded the documents were fraudulent.
Re: Bush intel in Iran weak
Posted by: 277fia
Date: August 23, 2005 09:27AM
By Dafna Linzer
Tuesday, August 2, 2005
Iran Is Judged 10 Years From Nuclear Bomb
U.S. Intelligence Review Contrasts With Administration Statements
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 bombmaking.
The estimate expresses uncertainty about whether Iran's ruling clerics have made a decision to build a nuclear arsenal, three U.S. sources said. Still, a senior intelligence official familiar with the findings said that "it is the judgment of the intelligence community that, left to its own devices, Iran is determined to build nuclear weapons."
At no time in the past three years has the White House attributed its assertions about Iran to U.S. intelligence, as it did about Iraq in the run-up to the March 2003 invasion. Instead, it has pointed to years of Iranian concealment and questioned why a country with as much oil as Iran would require a large-scale nuclear energy program.
The NIE addresses those assertions and offers alternative views supporting and challenging the assumptions they are based on. Those familiar with the new judgments, which have not been previously detailed, would discuss only limited elements of the estimate and only on the condition of anonymity, because the report is classified, as is some of the evidence on which it is based.
Top policymakers are scrutinizing the review, several administration officials said, as the White House formulates the next steps of an Iran policy long riven by infighting and competing strategies. For three years, the administration has tried, with limited success, to increase pressure on Iran by focusing attention on its nuclear program. Those efforts have been driven as much by international diplomacy as by the intelligence.
The NIE, ordered by the National Intelligence Council in January, is the first major review since 2001 of what is known and what is unknown about Iran. Additional assessments produced during Bush's first term were narrow in scope, and some were rejected by advocates of policies that were inconsistent with the intelligence judgments.
One such paper was a 2002 review that former and current officials said was commissioned by national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, who was then deputy adviser, to assess the possibility for "regime change" in Iran. Those findings described the Islamic republic on a slow march toward democracy and cautioned against U.S. interference in that process, said the officials, who would describe the paper's classified findings only on the condition of anonymity.
The new estimate takes a broader approach to the question of Iran's political future. But it is unable to answer whether the country's ruling clerics will still be in control by the time the country is capable of producing fissile material. The administration keeps "hoping the mullahs will leave before Iran gets a nuclear weapons capability," said an official familiar with policy discussions.
Intelligence estimates are designed to alert the president of national security developments and help guide policy. The new Iran findings were described as well documented and well written, covering such topics as military capabilities, expected population growth and the oil industry. The assessments of Iran's nuclear program appear in a separate annex to the NIE known as a memorandum to holders.
"It's a full look at what we know, what we don't know and what assumptions we have," a U.S. source said.
Until recently, Iran was judged, according to February testimony by Vice Adm. Lowell E. Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, to be within five years of the capability to make a nuclear weapon. Since 1995, U.S. officials have continually estimated Iran to be "within five years" from reaching that same capability. So far, it has not.
The new estimate extends the timeline, judging that Iran will be unlikely to produce a sufficient quantity of highly enriched uranium, the key ingredient for an atomic weapon, before "early to mid-next decade," according to four sources familiar with that finding. The sources said the shift, based on a better understanding of Iran's technical limitations, puts the timeline closer to 2015 and in line with recently revised British and Israeli figures.
The estimate is for acquisition of fissile material, but there is no firm view expressed on whether Iran would be ready by then with an implosion device, sources said.
The timeline is portrayed as a minimum designed to reflect a program moving full speed ahead without major technical obstacles. It does not take into account that Iran has suspended much of its uranium-enrichment work as part of a tenuous deal with Britain, France and Germany. Iran announced yesterday that it intends to resume some of that work if the European talks fall short of expectations.
Sources said the new timeline also reflects a fading of suspicions that Iran's military has been running its own separate and covert enrichment effort. But there is evidence of clandestine military work on missiles and centrifuge research and development that could be linked to a nuclear program, four sources said.
Last month, U.S. officials shared some data on the missile program with U.N. nuclear inspectors, based on drawings obtained last November. The documents include design modifications for Iran's Shahab-3 missile to make the room required for a nuclear warhead, U.S. and foreign officials said.
"If someone has a good idea for a missile program, and he has really good connections, he'll get that program through," said Gordon Oehler, who ran the CIA's nonproliferation center and served as deputy director of the presidential commission on weapons of mass destruction. "But that doesn't mean there is a master plan for a nuclear weapon."
The commission found earlier this year that U.S. intelligence knows "disturbingly little" about Iran, and about North Korea.
Much of what is known about Tehran has been learned through analyzing communication intercepts, satellite imagery and the work of U.N. inspectors who have been investigating Iran for more than two years. Inspectors uncovered facilities for uranium conversion and enrichment, results of plutonium tests, and equipment bought illicitly from Pakistan -- all of which raised serious concerns but could be explained by an energy program. Inspectors have found no proof that Iran possesses a nuclear warhead design or is conducting a nuclear weapons program.
The NIE comes more than two years after the intelligence community assessed, wrongly, in an October 2002 estimate that then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was reconstituting his nuclear program. The judgments were declassified and made public by the Bush administration as it sought to build support for invading Iraq five months later.
At a congressional hearing last Thursday, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, deputy director of national intelligence, said that new rules recently were imposed for crafting NIEs and that there would be "a higher tolerance for ambiguity," even if it meant producing estimates with less definitive conclusions.
The Iran NIE, sources said, includes creative analysis and alternative theories that could explain some of the suspicious activities discovered in Iran in the past three years. Iran has said its nuclear infrastructure was built for energy production, not weapons.
Assessed as plausible, but unverifiable, is Iran's public explanation that it built the program in secret, over 18 years, because it feared attack by the United States or Israel if the work was exposed.
In January, before the review, Vice President Cheney suggested Iranian nuclear advances were so pressing that Israel may be forced to attack facilities, as it had done 23 years earlier in Iraq.
In an April 2004 speech, John R. Bolton -- then the administration's point man on weapons of mass destruction and now Bush's temporarily appointed U.N. ambassador -- said: "If we permit Iran's deception to go on much longer, it will be too late. Iran will have nuclear weapons."
But the level of certainty, influenced by diplomacy and intelligence, appears to have shifted.
Asked in June, after the NIE was done, whether Iran had a nuclear effort underway, Bolton's successor, Robert G. Joseph, undersecretary of state for arms control, said: "I don't know quite how to answer that because we don't have perfect information or perfect understanding. But the Iranian record, plus what the Iranian leaders have said . . . lead us to conclude that we have to be highly skeptical."
Researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.
Re: Bush intel in Iran weak
Posted by: 277fia
Date: August 23, 2005 09:31AM
By Dafna Linzer
August 23, 2005
No Proof Found of Iran Arms Program
Uranium Traced to Pakistani Equipment
Traces of bomb-grade uranium found two years ago in Iran came from contaminated Pakistani equipment and are not evidence of a clandestine nuclear weapons program, a group of U.S. government experts and other international scientists has determined.
"The biggest smoking gun that everyone was waving is now eliminated with these conclusions," said a senior official who discussed the still-confidential findings on the condition of anonymity.
Scientists from the United States, France, Japan, Britain and Russia met in secret during the past nine months to pore over data collected by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, according to U.S. and foreign officials. Recently, the group, whose existence had not been previously reported, definitively matched samples of the highly enriched uranium -- a key ingredient for a nuclear weapon -- with centrifuge equipment turned over by the government of Pakistan.
Iran has long contended that the uranium traces were the result of contaminated equipment bought years ago from Pakistan. But the Bush administration had pointed to the material as evidence that Iran was making bomb-grade ingredients.
The conclusions will be shared with IAEA board members in a report due out the first week in September, according to U.S. and European officials who agreed to discuss details of the investigation on the condition of anonymity. The report "will say the contamination issue is resolved," a Western diplomat said.
U.S. officials have privately acknowledged for months that they were losing confidence that the uranium traces would turn out to be evidence of a nuclear weapons program. A recent U.S. intelligence estimate found that Iran is further away from making bomb-grade uranium than previously thought, according to U.S. officials.
The IAEA findings come as European efforts to negotiate with Iran on the future of its nuclear program have faltered, and could complicate a renewed push by the Bush administration to increase international pressure on Tehran.
U.S. officials, eager to move the Iran issue to the U.N. Security Council -- which has the authority to impose sanctions -- have begun a new round of briefings for allies designed to convince them that Iran's real intention is to use its energy program as a cover for bomb building. The briefings will focus on the White House's belief that a country with as much oil as Iran would not need an energy program on the scale it is planning, according to two officials.
France, Britain and Germany have been trying for two years to convince Iran that it could avoid Security Council action if it gives up sensitive aspects of its nuclear energy program that could be diverted for weapons work. Iran has said it has no intention of making nuclear weapons and will not give up its right to nuclear energy. Iran has offered to put the entire program under IAEA monitoring as a way of alleviating international concerns. But European and U.S. officials have rejected that offer because it would still allow Iran access to bomb-making capabilities.
Iran built its nuclear program in secret over 18 years with the help of Abdul Qadeer Khan, a top Pakistani official and nuclear scientist who sold spare parts from his country's own weapons program to Iran, Libya and North Korea. Khan's black-market dealings were uncovered in 2003. He confessed on national television, was swiftly pardoned by Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and is now under house arrest.
Pakistan has denied IAEA inspectors access to Khan and to the country's nuclear facilities, but earlier this year it agreed to share data and some equipment with the inspectors to expedite the Iran investigation. Among the equipment were discarded centrifuge parts that match those Khan sold to Iran.
John R. Bolton, now U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, served as the administration's point man on nuclear issuesduring President Bush's first term. He suggested during congressional testimony in June 2004 that the Iranians were lying about the contamination.
"Another unmistakable indicator of Iran's intentions is the pattern of repeatedly lying to and providing false and incomplete reports to the IAEA," Bolton said. "For example, Iran first denied it had enriched any uranium. Then it said it had not enriched uranium more than 1.2 percent. Later, when evidence of uranium enriched to 36 percent was found, it attributed this to contamination from imported centrifuge parts."
The IAEA, in its third year of an investigation in Iran, has not found proof of a weapons program. But a few serious questions, some connected to Iran's involvement with Khan, remain unanswered. While the investigation has been underway, Iran and the three European countries have been trying to reach a diplomatic accommodation. Their negotiations fell apart this month and Iran resumed some nuclear work it put on hold during the talks.
In the meantime, European officials convened an IAEA board meeting two weeks ago to discuss Iran's actions and sought a new report for this week on its program. But the report was pushed back to Sept. 3 so that the group of scientists, including officials from the Energy Department, could meet one last time to draft an account of its findings, according to U.S. and European officials.
The IAEA had put together the group of experts in an effort to foster cooperation but also to eliminate the possibility that its findings would be challenged by the White House, officials said. In the run-up to the Iraq invasion in March 2003, the White House rejected IAEA findings that cast doubt on U.S. assertions about then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's arsenal. The IAEA findings turned out to be correct, and no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq.
Researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.
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