The Wall Street Journal yesterday published an important op-ed by a distinguished intelligence specialist, Fred Fleitz, that alleges that the U.S. intelligence community remains in denial about Iran’s accelerating drive for nuclear weapons.
Fleitz noted that Iran has accumulated over 4,000 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, enough to arm four nuclear weapons if it is further enriched to weapons grade. Tehran has accelerated its uranium enrichment efforts and recently announced plans to install more advanced centrifuges in a fortified facility build deep inside a mountain.
Yet despite mounting evidence that Iran’s nuclear efforts have a military dimension—including allegations made last month by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran has developed technology needed to build nuclear warheads—the U.S. intelligence community produced a classified 2011 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that reiterated the controversial assessment of a flawed 2007 NIE that maintained that Tehran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and did not restart it.
Fleitz, who retired this year after a 25-year career in the CIA, DIA, State Department, and House Intelligence Committee staff, wrote that the 2007 NIE was a politicized effort to minimize alarm over Iran’s nuclear program by intelligence officials who feared how the Bush Administration might respond to Iran’s growing threat. He charged that the officials arranged a “skewed set of outside reviewers” that they knew would endorse the flawed analysis of the NIE.
It is unacceptable that Iran is on the brink of testing a nuclear weapon while our intelligence analysts continue to deny that an Iranian nuclear weapons program exists. One can’t underestimate the dangers posed to our country by a U.S. intelligence community that is unable to provide timely and objective analysis of such major threats to U.S. national security—or to make appropriate adjustments when it is proven wrong. If U.S. intelligence agencies cannot or will not get this one right, what else are they missing?