Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Putting the NIE Out to Pasture

You think the media is giving you the full story about the NIE from April 2006, and what President Clinton did or did not do relating to counter terrorism? If you do, you'd be sadly mistaken.

The papers openly admit that they're publishing only portions of the NIE, but fail to mention that these portions happen to fulfill their selective worldview. You see, it's the portions that damn the current administration's strategies that the paper publishes, not the parts that suggest that the Bush Administration is doing good work in defending the country against terrorist attacks.

Former Spook has much more on the reporting, and notes that the papers had to do a whole lot of cutting and pasting to reach their conclusions. Here's a small sampling of what Former Spook has to say.
Yesterday, we noted that the MSM (along with their fellow travelers in the intel community), had apparently "cherry-picked" information from a recent National Intelligence Estimate, making their case that the Bush Administration's War on Terror had actually made the problem worse. In closing, we observed that if the NIE was that biased, it represented a grave disservice to both the community and the nation.

Thankfully, the actual NIE is not the harbinger of disaster that the Times and WaPo would have us believe. According to members of the intel community who have seen the document, the NIE is actually fair and balanced (to coin a phrase), noting both successes and failures in the War on Terror--and identifying potential points of failure for the jihadists. The quotes printed below--taken directly from the document and provided to this blogger--provide "the other side" of the estimate, and its more balanced assessment of where we stand in the War on Terror (comments in italics are mine).
Go forth and read the entire posting.

Today, the Administration is pushing back in a big way, with Condi Rice providing a cluebat to former President Clintons asinine assertions on Chris Wallace's show, and John Negroponte directly addressing the issue on the NIE, among others. And bloggers aren't sitting idly by either.

Also, note that this is yet another leak of classified information - both to undermine the Administration and to buttress it's positions against those attacking the Administration. Will these leaks be investigated? They are surely doing more harm to national security than Valerie Plame's non-outing and non-story.

This aspect of the story always seems to be underreported and overlooked, but it should be the biggest part of the story - who is leaking these classified documents at the CIA and what will be done to stop it. The media has no interest in stopping the leaks, but the federal government can't have classified documents released for general consumption when it could affect national security down the road. The reason behind those leaks appear clear enough - they're done for partisan political advantages, and politicizing the intel threatens national security. Period. Pushing back against selective reporting might be necessary politcally, but it is still leaking classified information unless that information has become declassified.

While Democrats seem to be putting quite a bit of stock into the NIE, it would be worth remembering that the NIE has gotten some of the biggest intel stories wrong. Not a little wrong. But completely wrong. Reading tea leaves might be more accurate in some instances, but that's an issue to be addressed by improving the intel gathering capabilities - especially human intelligence assets that penetrate terror regimes, groups, and other interests hostile to the US and its national interests.

Robert Kagan, writing at the WaPo questions the selective leaking, and wants to see the whole NIE. I don't blame him. I can't trust the media outlets to provide an objective take on the issues, especially when they're cherry picking details. Also, there are quite a few things that the NIE doesn't tell us, and that the Times and WaPo can't provide answers for.

Others blogging: My Pet Jawa, Powerline, Mein BlogoVault, AJ Strata, Michelle Malkin, Blue Crab Boulevard, QandO, Big Lizards, Belmont Club, and Gateway Pundit.

Michelle Malkin is reporting that the White House is considering declassifying the entire NIE. Call the bluff and let the public decide for itself. The political fallout from declassifying the NIE could be farreaching, and seriously undermine Democrat chances, especially since they've been harping on the selected texts to support their position. If the selected texts were indeed taken out of context, Democrats will have to find a fallback position. GOPers will be able to claim that the Democrats were playing politics with the NIE (and yes, GOPers will be doing the same though they'll have the entire NIE report to work from).

Not only has the White House considered declassifying the NIE, but they've gone ahead and declassified parts to rebut those portions leaked to the NYT and WaPo that dispute the Administration's stance on Iraq.

Make that all of the NIE will be declassified. Good for the White House. Get all this information out there, and make the NYT and WaPo explain themselves for publishing the classified information. Then, have the investigators go after the leakers in the CIA who provided the journalists with the leaked information.

Hot Air also has Hamid Karzai slamming those who think we should just sit back and let the terrorists operate with impunity. Karzai notes that the historical record is repleat with examples of the Islamic terrorists attacking the West, the US, and anyone that they find offensive, and have been doing so for decades. This didn't just start with 9/11/2001, or even the invasion of Iraq.

Others blogging: Sister Toldjah (and here), Hot Air

Flopping Aces provides a history lesson.

Watch for the declassification of the NIE to be published here. Still more reaction over at Hugh Hewitt, QT Monster, and Stuck on Stupid.

The NIE document can be found here or here. And for all those who were touting this particular NIE as a way to get after the Administration because it supposedly undermines the Adminstration's position on Iraq, the declassified sections torpedo those claims. As Charles at LGF notes, if you were touting the NYT and WaPo take, you've been PWNED.

Hugh Hewitt has more.

As some of you can tell, I've got two arguments wrapped up here, so for clarity's sake, I'll restate them for your convenience:

1) The NIE as released by the NYT, WaPo, and LAT was woefully incomplete and lacked any context. Democrats who were relying on the NYT position now find themselves out maneuvered because the declassified portions shoot the NYT excerpts full of holes. Holes that completely undermine the NYT position. Far from being a distraction, the NIE finds Iraq to be central to the WoT - and that winning in Iraq will have long lasting and far reaching implications.

2) NIEs - as a matter of fact - are not infalliable. We are relying upon the same documents that have been wrong about so many different national security issues that it would make your head spin. So, there is still a possibility that the NYT leaked portions could happen though the more that particular meme is repeated, the more likely it becomes true as support for the fight in Iraq would get undermined. There's also a possibility that the threats are not even on the threat assessment board. It could be some other Islamic terrorist group, like Hizbullah that hits the US domestically, not al Qaeda. The fight in Lebanon could be the pivotal field of battle, with its state sponsored terror army, Hizbullah, sharpening its claws against the Israelis.

Taking these two disparate issues together, and I find the whole issue rather distasteful. Between the leaks and counterleaks - followed by the declassification of portions of the NIE, we have not learned anything new about the situation in Iraq. However, we have found that the media still doesn't get that those leaking classified information to them are guilty of criminal acts. We have found that politics trumps national security time and time again. I can't fault Democrats for reaching for any life preserver on national security, but one can and should demand that the Democrats actually fact check before they go all in. Democrats and Republicans alike should not be playing politics with national security - the stakes are too high, and yet we see the Democrats doing just that so that they can win majorities in Congress - all in the name of personal power.

Now, I happen to concur with the general proposition of Iraq being central to the war on terror (as if that wasn't clearly stated in my blogging before) - and that it is the primary focus of the jihadis because US success there strikes at the heart of the Middle East and puts a huge dent in their visions for a renewed caliphate. Jihadis making their way to Iraq from all over the region - including Farouq (who escaped from Bagram AFB in Afghanistan earlier this year to go to Iraq only to die in a British raid yesterday) are finding that fighting the US on Iraqi soil isn't going very well for them.

Jihadis need to raise their armies, just as armies in the West need to be raised, but losing has a way of putting a crimp in recruitment. The loss of top level terrorists has a way of doing that. The top level terrorists are often in hiding and have to take elaborate precautions to avoid being killed or captured. If the leaders are captured, they've often revealed other terrorists' whereabouts and the terrorists losses get multiplied.

As for specific sections of the declassified NIE, here are a few bits and my analysis following:
United States-led counterterrorism efforts have seriously damaged the leadership of al-Qa'ida and disrupted its operations; however, we judge that al-Qaida will continue to pose the greatest threat to the Homeland and US interests abroad by a single terrorist organization.
Eliminating many al Qaeda on the field of battle has degraded the terrorist group's capabilities. However, I happen to think that Hizbullah poses just as great a threat - since the focus on that state sponsored terrorist group is not hunted to the same extent, and is able to regroup and rearm with impunity in Lebanon. Yet, it's the same jihadi ideologies that fuel the rage and terror attacks. And the war in Lebanon was not viewed as central to the conflict, when it was simply another facet of the same fight. Israel fought a limited war against a foe who wanted to wage an unlimited war, and Hizbullah managed to survive the fight to battle another day.

Another portion:
The jihadists greatest vulnerability is that their ultimate political solution an ultra-conservative interpretation of sharia-based governance spanning the Muslim world is unpopular with the vast majority of Muslims. Exposing the religious and political straitjacket that is implied by the jihadists propaganda would help to divide them from the audiences they seek to persuade.
This position is a combination of nation-building, which is something the Administration wanted to avoid in the pre-9/11 world, and also a notice that military action alone will not eliminate the threats. It's also a realization that the Islamic world needs to be opened up to daylight, and the stagnation and resentment (it's those root causes popping up) that are affecting enough extremists to take up arms and terror. Taking the fight to the jihadis is sure to stir up the hornet's nest, but sitting back and doing nothing is not a strategy.

Others blogging: Hot Air, Ann Althouse, The Anchoress, Rob at Say Anything, The Political Pit Bull, Rick Moran, and Security Watchtower.

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