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Monday, July 20, 2009

German spies refute 2007 NIE on Iran

I am sure you will all recall the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran that was conveniently discovered at the end of 2007, and which effectively took the military option against Iran out of the hands of then-US President George W. Bush. At the time, many people argued that the estimate was wrong and that it was a scam. Even Michael McConnell, then Director of National Intelligence, eventually retreated from the report. Israel rejected the report, and even tried arguing against it.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany's foreign intelligence agency, has amassed evidence to refute the National Intelligence Estimate (Hat Tip: Hot Air). Germany has much better sources in Iran than does the United States; as you may recall Germany has also brokered several 'prisoner exchanges' between Israel and Iran's client, Hezbullah.
In a 30-page legal opinion on March 26 and a May 27 press release in a case about possible illegal trading with Iran, a special national security panel of the Federal Supreme Court in Karlsruhe cites from a May 2008 BND report, saying the agency "showed comprehensively" that "development work on nuclear weapons can be observed in Iran even after 2003."

According to the judges, the BND supplemented its findings on August 28, 2008, showing "the development of a new missile launcher and the similarities between Iran's acquisition efforts and those of countries with already known nuclear weapons programs, such as Pakistan and North Korea."

It's important to point out that this was no ordinary agency report, the kind that often consists just of open source material, hearsay and speculation. Rather, the BND submitted an "office testimony," which consists of factual statements about the Iranian program that can be proved in a court of law. This is why, in their March 26 opinion, the judges wrote that "a preliminary assessment of the available evidence suggests that at the time of the crime [April to November 2007] nuclear weapons were being developed in Iran." In their May press release, the judges come out even more clear, stating unequivocally that "Iran in 2007 worked on the development of nuclear weapons."

The judges had been asked to consider an appeal in the case of a German-Iranian businessman accused of brokering supplies for Iran's nuclear weapons program. The Federal Prosecutor had charged the defendant, identified by the authorities only as "Mohsen V.," with violating Germany's War Weapons Control Law and the Foreign Trade Act. A lower court in Frankfurt refused to try the case on the grounds that it was unlikely that Iran had a nuclear program at the time of the defendant's activities in 2007, citing the NIE report as evidence.

That's why the Supreme Court judges had to rule first on the question of whether that program exists at all. Having answered that question in the affirmative, the court had to rule next on the likelihood of the defendant to be found guilty in a trial. The supreme court's conclusions are unusually strong.

"The results of the investigation do in fact provide sufficient indications that the accused aided the development of nuclear weapons in Iran through business dealings."
So how did the US miss this information? Just as we all suspected: The 2007 National Intelligence Estimate was politicized.
The court's decision and the BND's reports raise the question of how, or why, U.S. intelligence officials could have come to the conclusion that Iran suspended its program in 2003. German intelligence officials wonder themselves. BND sources have told me that they have shared their findings and documentation with their U.S. colleagues ahead of the 2007 NIE report -- as is customary between these two allies. It appears the Americans have simply ignored this evidence despite repeated warnings from the BND. This suggests not so much a failure of U.S. intelligence but its sabotage.

The politicized 2007 NIE report undermined the Bush Administration's efforts to rally international support for tough action against Iran. The world's best hope is that the Obama Administration is not being fed the same false sense of security.
Ouch. Of course, the same people who sabotaged the Bush administration's intelligence capabilities are likely now in charge of intelligence under the Obama administration. All of which means that we're likely to see the same misguided conclusions drawn again.

What could go wrong?

Read the whole thing.

2 Comments:

At 9:07 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

I don't expect American intelligence to make a case for acting against Iran. The evidence will be ignored for the comforting fantasy the mullahs can be won over with renewed conciliatory efforts.

What could go wrong indeed

 
At 3:04 AM, Blogger Captain.H said...

"which effectively took the military option against Iran out of the hands of then-US President George W. Bush." Mission accomplished.

As I see it, preventing Pres. Bush from using the military option was the sole purpose of the so-called NIE and it's leakage to the MSM, by the faction Carl notes is probably now probably in charge.

 

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