Remember this moment from President Bush’s Dec. 4 2007 press conference?
[The President]: People said, well, why is it that you can’t get exact knowledge quicker? Well, the answer is, is because we’re dealing with a regime that is not very transparent and, frankly, we haven’t had a very good presence in Iran since 1979. And that’s why I instructed the intel community to beef up its intelligence on Iran, so we could have a better sense for what they’re thinking and what they’re doing. And this product is a result of intelligence reform and, more importantly, the good, hard work of our intelligence community.
Yeah. Well. Look at what we see in this morning’s LA times. Turns out that when Bush came into office, he gutted Iranian intelligence operations, to boost intelligence on Iraq. He partially, but only partially, revived intelligence work on Iran in 2005.
In the Dec. 4 press conference, Bush was implicitly blaming previous Presidents for his own decision to gut intelligence on Iran. Further, the 2005 NIE was based on relative bupkes, it appears.
In an LA Times story devoted to recent CIA efforts to get Iranian nuclear scientists to defect, we read this little piece of info a ways down the first page.
White House reversal
The administration’s decision to step up intelligence collection on Iran in 2005 was a reversal from a position the White House took after President Bush was first elected. Former CIA officials said that the agency had built up a large Iran Task Force, made up of nearly 100 officers and analysts at headquarters, by the end of the Clinton administration. But that office shrank to fewer than a dozen officers early in the Bush administration, when the White House ordered resources shifted to other targets.
Keep in mind, Bush did this gutting of Iranian intelligence before Iran shut down that covert nuke program in 2003. That’s how impressed the White House was with Iran’s nuclear ambitions back when it had its sights set on Iraq.
“When Bush came in, they were totally disinterested in Iran,” said a former CIA official who held a senior position at the time. “It went from being a main focus to everything being switched to Iraq.”
— snip —
Even as the task force shrank, officials said, other CIA units, including its counter-proliferation division, continued to track Iran’s procurement networks and other targets.
Some of that reduced task force capacity has been restored, former CIA officials said. Two years ago, the agency created an Iran division within its overseas spying operations, applying to a single country resources and emphasis usually reserved for multinational regions.
Now, let’s return to that White House Press conference on Dec. 4th. I’m requoting, with more stuff:
Q Mr. President, Iraq’s WMD turned out not to be there, and now Iran halted its nuclear program in 2003. Are you concerned that the United States is losing credibility in the world, and now may be seen as the boy who cries — who called wolf?
THE PRESIDENT: Actually, I am — I want to compliment the intelligence community for their good work. Right after the failure of intelligence in Iraq, we reformed the intel community so that there was a lot of serious considerations of NIEs in a way that would give us confidence.
No . . . at best, Mr. Bush, you partially restored intelligence activity on Iran that you yourself had previously gutted. You were hoping to get intelligence that Iranian President Ahmadinejad had a suitcase nuke in his beard, or something. You didn’t do this because of “the failure of intelligence in Iraq”, you were, or rather Cheney was, I assume, just greedy for another target.
And here’s a, I think, a very important product that is a result of the reforms we’ve put in place. As a matter of fact, the American people should have confidence that the reforms are working, and that this work on the intel community is important work.
The implicit “blame Clinton” here is just disgusting.
People said, well, why is it that you can’t get exact knowledge quicker? Well, the answer is, is because we’re dealing with a regime that is not very transparent and, frankly, we haven’t had a very good presence in Iran since 1979. And that’s why I instructed the intel community to beef up its intelligence on Iran, so we could have a better sense for what they’re thinking and what they’re doing. And this product is a result of intelligence reform and, more importantly, the good, hard work of our intelligence community.
Now, I don’t know what to make of this, entirely. But it seems that we have to view the 2005 NIE in a new light, now. Was it based on bupkes?
Was Bush so afraid of Iranian nukes from 2000 to 2005 that he gutted intelligence on Iran . . . until he wanted a new target?