Who Cares About Politicizing Intelligence Now?

Washington was plunged into sleepy apathy this week as ABC News reported that the  Bush Administration  ingored, then  failed to act on intelligence about  nuclear proliferation and potential terrorism that could have endangered  millions of lives.  The report claims that the Secretary of State and the President  received credible reports that North Korea transferred nuclear technology to Syria,  but suppressed the information  to save a troubled diplomatic deal, and even  sought to tip  the Syrians off. 

The latest report follows  a  previous Washington Post report that the Administration restricted the evidence — including “dramatic” satellite images  —  to only a few senior Administration officials, thus withholding it from U.S. intelligence agencies.

The revelations will not be followed by  outcries for  congressional hearings or the appointment of an independent counsel.  Journalists will not go to jail when subpoenaed to testify, and John Bolton will not do a beefcakey photo spread for Vanity Fair after being presented to us  as a whistle-blowing martyr, persecuted for speaking truth to power. 

Still, I thought some of  you might be interested anyway:

The September Israeli airstrike on a suspected nuclear site in Syria had been in the works for months, ABC News has learned, and was delayed only at the strong urging of the United States.  In early July the Israelis presented the United States with satellite imagery that they said showed a nuclear facility in Syria. They had additional evidence that they said showed that some of the technology was supplied by North Korea. 

You will recall that I’ve presented several theories about just what the Israelis struck in Syria in September, where, and why.  Some claim it was missiles or missile tech, others claim that it was chemical warfare equipment.   The theories aren’t mutually exclusive, but the preponderance of publicly available  evidence  suggests that nuclear techology or material was at least one of the targets, no matter how desperately proponents of declawed and neutered diplomacy desperately wish it to be not  so (for the benefit of  Leon  Sigal, who  must have been  serving on a sequestered jury  last month,  allow me to link to  reports in the New York Times; Washington Post; Washington Post; Sunday Times, London; Haaretz; and  Fox News). 

The desperation is understandable if you exclude the grave realities and think only of what an embarrassment it could be for Mr. Sigal, Selig Harrison, David Albright, and their  strange new bedfellows  at State.  If true, this would be a flagrant violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718.  You will  answer by telling me  that nothing the U.N. says is worth a warm pitcher of spit.  Point taken.  Ditto the NPT.   

Less clear is whether it would be  a flagrant violation of the Bush Administration’s vague new deal with North Korea, a/k/a Agreed Framework 2.0.  Not that it matters.  If this blatant  act of proliferation is a violation,  it’s just  the latest example of “before the ink is even  dry” that proves (again)  the  inescapable truth about dealing with Kim Jong Il.  But if one can say that such an act as this is permissible under AF 2.0 and consistent with its continuation, the deal and the diplomatic process in which it’s being baked are so deathly  flawed  as to  have no value for our nation’s security.   This is  the diplomatic equivalent of Willie Horton getting away with raping his parole officer.

One U.S. official told ABC’s Martha Raddatz the material was “jaw dropping” because it raised questions as to why U.S. intelligence had not previously picked up on the facility.  Officials said that the facility had likely been there for months if not years.  “Israel tends to be very thorough about its intelligence coverage, particularly when it takes a major military step, so they would not have acted without data from several sources,” said ABC military consultant Tony Cordesman.

A senior U.S. official said the Israelis planned to strike during the week of July 14 and in secret high-level meetings American officials argued over how to respond to the intelligence.  Some in the administration supported the Israeli action, but others, notably Sect. of State Condoleeza Rice did not. One senior official said the U.S. convinced the Israelis to “confront Syria before attacking.”  Officials said they were concerned about the impact an attack on Syria would have on the region. And given the profound consequences of the flawed intelligence in Iraq, the U.S. wanted to be absolutely certain the intelligence was accurate.

Initially, administration officials convinced the Israelis to call off the July strike. But in September the Israelis feared that news of the site was about to leak and went ahead with the strike despite U.S. concerns.  [ABC News]

So why would the Bush Administration tolerate a risk this grave, a leap this profound across the storied Red Line?  Set your  Wayback Machine for July 16th.  On that day, three months behind schedule, and after getting the Federal Reserve to launder $25 million  of its  drug and counterfeiting money, North Korea finally shut down its worn-out plutonium reactor at Yongbyon, moments before it would have collapsed from age and overuse.  Now  do this Google search:  “Bush and  ‘rare diplomatic success.'” 

So I ask:  whose legacy matters more than the security of the American people?

11 Comments

  1. I’ve still not seen anything other than suggestions and rumors about a nuclear facility in Syria – there simply is not enough information available to come to that conclusion, yet. Very possible, but not very probable. As a general principle, however, I’m for bombing sites in Syria regularly.

  2. Could it be that the Bush administration really thinks that North Korea is interested in getting rid of all of its nukes? Do they actually think that this latest deal is going to produce something substantive rather than symbolic? I tended to like Richardson’s “giving KJI enough rope theory” because it seemed so implausible to me that the Bush administration could be that delusional. Now I its is looking like not only was the Bush administration not “giving KJI enough rope to hang himself with,” but is actually doing everything it can to protect a deal that it must know is meaningless. If the administration has gone so far as to keep information from the intelligence community, and try to downplay actual threats to our allies as part of its legacy building, that is truly shocking and disgusting.

  3. “Could it be that the Bush administration really thinks that North Korea is interested in getting rid of all of its nukes? ” No….

    I also tend to doubt the legacy idea, because I probably naively believe presidents are not that shallow.

    What makes sense to me is what I’ve been saying before….that intel – and intel from multiple sources – like China – has made the different policy oriented organs of the US government believe collapse of North Korea was very likely in the short term (year to two years), and they convinced the Bush White House this must be avoided at all costs to avoid a high potential for armaggedon….

    I think we are sticking to this deal to make sure NK doesn’t collapse…

  4. Stewart,
    I’ve not given up on the “giving Kim Jong-il enough rope” notion, yet anyway. I’m waiting to see what level of verification we get, particularly for the HEU program.

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