Dumb thinking on intelligence

Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) thinks the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran ain’t right. “We just see politics injected into this,” his spokesman, Tory Mazzola, says. “When it comes to national security we really need to remove politics.” The way Ensign plans to “remove politics” is by—wait for it—creating a panel of politicians, House and Senate members, to rewrite the ...

597604_nie1_05.jpg
597604_nie1_05.jpg

Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) thinks the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran ain't right. "We just see politics injected into this," his spokesman, Tory Mazzola, says. "When it comes to national security we really need to remove politics." The way Ensign plans to "remove politics" is by—wait for it—creating a panel of politicians, House and Senate members, to rewrite the intelligence community's work. Only in Congress, friends, only in Congress.

It's always struck me as funny that people get all worked up over the NIEs in the first place. As anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the intelligence community will tell you, they are notoriously flawed. Remember the U.S.-Soviet "missile gap"? That was a bunch of nonsense cooked up in an NIE in 1958. The Iranian revolution of 1978? An NIE predicted it wouldn't happen. Then, of course, there's the now infamous NIE 2002-16HC, which made it sound as though Saddam Hussein was weeks away from having nukes.

NIEs are guesses, plain and simple. Just ask the Bush Administration. Even they agree that Ensign's plan is silly. "The President respects sixteen of the intelligence agencies got together to produce the National Intellligence Estimate. I don’t believe that there's any need to have an additional one," White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino told John Gizzi of the ultra-conservative rag Human Events.

Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) thinks the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran ain’t right. “We just see politics injected into this,” his spokesman, Tory Mazzola, says. “When it comes to national security we really need to remove politics.” The way Ensign plans to “remove politics” is by—wait for it—creating a panel of politicians, House and Senate members, to rewrite the intelligence community’s work. Only in Congress, friends, only in Congress.

It’s always struck me as funny that people get all worked up over the NIEs in the first place. As anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the intelligence community will tell you, they are notoriously flawed. Remember the U.S.-Soviet “missile gap”? That was a bunch of nonsense cooked up in an NIE in 1958. The Iranian revolution of 1978? An NIE predicted it wouldn’t happen. Then, of course, there’s the now infamous NIE 2002-16HC, which made it sound as though Saddam Hussein was weeks away from having nukes.

NIEs are guesses, plain and simple. Just ask the Bush Administration. Even they agree that Ensign’s plan is silly. “The President respects sixteen of the intelligence agencies got together to produce the National Intellligence Estimate. I don’t believe that there’s any need to have an additional one,” White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino told John Gizzi of the ultra-conservative rag Human Events.

Exactly. What is conveening a panel of politicians going to accomplish? The de-politization of the process? Um, right. I’m all for Congressional oversight. Too bad, for instance, that Ensign and his colleagues weren’t equally worked up over the 2002 NIE on Iraq, or we might not be in the mess we’re in now. But Ensign’s plan to waste a bunch of Congress’s time and money politicizing the latest NIE will accomplish nothing. I’m nominating this as the dumbest Congressional idea of 2007.

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