Fingar, the U.S. government's top intelligence analyst, in a public speech on
Sept. 4, repeated the intelligence community's key judgment that Iran's work
on the "weaponization portion" of its nuclear development program
"was suspended" in 2003.
Not that the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) has exactly
trumpeted this important conclusion. One has to read down to paragraph 16 of
an article titled "Reduced Dominance Is Predicted for the U.S.,"
but there it is, right there on an inside page of Sept. 10's Washington
It is the 64-dollar question whether or not
there is evidence that Iran has resumed work on the weapons part of its nuclear
program, since the startling judgment of the National Intelligence Estimate
(NIE) of November 2007 that it had stopped.
The Post's Joby Warrick and Walter
Pincus quote Fingar as saying there is no evidence that Iran has resumed the
For those who do not remember, Fingar was head of
the State Department's intelligence unit in 2002, when he courageously
resisted the efforts of super-analyst Dick Cheney and his tool, then-CIA Director
George Tenet, to manufacture out of whole cloth a "reconstituted"
Iraqi nuclear weapons program.
Despite Fingar's resistance, that judgment
appeared in the Oct. 1, 2002, NIE on Iraq's "continuing" weapons
of mass destruction programs an estimate dubbed "The Whore of
Babylon" by those intelligence analysts powerless to stop it.
Fingar, who is now head of the National Intelligence
Council and supervises the preparation of NIEs and the President's
Daily Brief, spoke in Orlando at a conference organized by the Intelligence
and National Security Alliance, an association of public and private sector
leaders of the intelligence and national security fields.
His remarks, particularly those during his evening
keynote address on Sept. 4, are well worth a read particularly for
those numerous observers who have concluded that articulate, trenchant analysis
of world trends is a thing of the past.
In remarks made earlier that day, Fingar made it
clear that he had set a new tone when he took over as chief substantive analyst
for the intelligence community. No longer would he tolerate using quantity
of intelligence products as a measure of effectiveness.
The intelligence he was/is determined to provide
had to be, in his words, "more useful...It had to be on target...It
had to be there at the right time, in the right place, with the right information,
with important insights...We had to know exactly what our customers needed."
Even if they did not want to hear it, he might have
The gutsy NIE of November 2007 stated that, contrary
to what President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney had been saying
throughout 2007, the nuclear weapons-related portion of Iran's nuclear
program had been stopped in the fall of 2003, and as of mid-2007 had probably
not been restarted.
The good news was that, at the insistence of our
most senior military, who realize what a debacle it would be to attack Iran,
the NIE judgments were made public. More good news: Fingar was not summarily
The Bad News
Tom Fingar plays second fiddle to Director of National
Intelligence Mike McConnell and his principal deputy, Donald Kerr. It is those
two (God help us) who brief the president six mornings a week with the President's
On a substantive sophistication scale of 1 to 10,
Fingar has earned a 10, in my view; McConnell and Kerr are between a 3 and 4.
They spent their previous intelligence careers running satellites and surveillance
McConnell, while testifying before Congress shortly
after being confirmed in his new job, seemed mystified as to why Israeli intelligence
on Iran's nuclear program should be more alarmist than U.S. intelligence judgments.
As for Donald Kerr, one need only read his vapid
prepared remarks before the pro-Israel
Washington Institute for Near East Policy on May 29, 2008, to get a sense of
what he brings to the substantive table.
Kerr took an interestingly different line on Iran,
consistent with talking points handed out to the New York Times and
other FCM two days earlier. Rather than repeating what the NIE of November 2007
said, Kerr was agnostic about whether the Iranians had restarted weapons-related
activities ("we do not know" became the phrasing).
The relevant NIE key judgment reads: "We assess
with moderate confidence Tehran has not restarted its nuclear weapons program
as of mid-2007..." (And that appears to be precisely what Fingar
said on Sept. 4.)
The Kerr kind of fudging makes it easier for not
only Bush and Cheney, but also lesser lights like Defense Secretary Robert Gates
and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen to obfuscate on this key question.
Gates claims Iran is "hell-bent" on developing
nuclear weapons; Mullen and others have been slightly more discreet.
Although Cheney (and presumably Bush) no doubt would
like them to be more alarmist, Mullen and other more sober characters have settled
on the curious formulation that Iran is "on a path" to nuclear weapons.
Strange path, with Iran's weapons-related activity
stopped. At very least, it would appear to be a Road Less Traveled to nukes.