12 October 2006


Two weeks ago I posted about portions of an April 2006 NIE that were declassified due to aspects of the NIE that were leaked to the media by some in the intelligence community. An article in today's Washington Times looks at some of the intelligence analyses surrounding North Korea. This time the sources of the information are apparently from within the Bush administration.

Recent U.S. intelligence analyses of North Korea's nuclear and missile programs were flawed and the lack of clarity on the issue hampered U.S. diplomatic efforts to avert the underground blast detected Sunday, according to Bush administration officials.

Some recent secret reports stated that Pyongyang did not have nuclear arms and until recently was bluffing about plans for a test, according to officials who have read the classified assessments.

The analyses in question included a National Intelligence Estimate a consensus report of all U.S. spy agencies produced several months ago and at least two other classified reports on North Korea produced by senior officials within the office of the Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte.

It looks like the Bush administration may be taking a one-two punch at its detractors; hitting both the intelligence community and those who have attacked the administration's handling of North Korea. It's hard to call the right shots when the intel you have is vague or even inaccurate.

DNI Negroponte has defended the analyses and various agencies. Representative Hoekstra (R-MI), Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said that he wasn't surprised by the nuclear test following a review of the intelligence on North Korea. Hoekstra also indicated, however, that the intelligence community might not be as willing to make detailed assessments following the criticism of the Iraq WMD analyses.

Mr. Hoekstra said his panel would conduct a review of intelligence analyses before North Korea's recent reported weapons test, but he noted that intelligence analysts have difficulty in making clear predications about the future, and that past failures, such as those on Iraq's weapons programs, affected current reporting.

"I think the community is a little bit gun shy," Mr. Hoekstra said. "They're being held to a strict standard and as a result are going to caveat everything in the aftermath of Iraq."

According to officials familiar with the reports, the weak analysis on North Korea is being blamed on Thomas Fingar, the most senior U.S. intelligence analyst within the office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Mr. Fingar, now deputy Director of National Intelligence for analysis, was the lone dissenter in a 2002 national intelligence assessment that stated Iraq had large stockpiles of chemical weapons and carried over the skeptical viewpoint to North Korea's arms programs.

According to that, it would appear that the one analyst who would be held up as right on the Iraqi WMD intel was wrong on the North Korean nuclear weapons intel.

I think that this goes to show that the intelligence community needs to zip their collective lips. Our intelligence will be much more effective if it isn't broadcast through the media, and our allies will be more confident to work with us and share intelligence assets if they know that they do not need to worry about public disclosure of any aspect of their assistance.

Not only do leaks expose what we know, but they may also help to expose the sources of that intelligence and/or the methods used to obtain it. Our nation loses when pundits within the intelligence community, or pundits with access to our intelligence, reveal portions of it in order to score political points.


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