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National Intelligence Estimate
The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), prepared by or at the direction of the National Intelligence Council , is defined by the U.S. Department of Defense as a "strategic estimate of the capabilities, vulnerabilities, and probable courses of action of foreign nations produced at the national level as a composite of the views of the intelligence community. Also called NIE."
The 2007 NIE
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released the "Unclassified Key Judgments of the National Intelligence Estimate, 'Prospects for Iraq's Stability: A Challenging Road Ahead'" on its website on Friday, February 2, 2007. 
The NIE, presented February 1, 2007, to President George W. Bush "by the intelligence community", "outlines an increasingly perilous situation in which the United States has little control and there is a strong possibility of further deterioration," Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus reported for the Washington Post.
"In a discussion of whether Iraq has reached a state of civil war, the 90-page classified NIE comes to no conclusion and holds out prospects of improvement. But it couches glimmers of optimism in deep uncertainty about whether the Iraqi leaders will be able to transcend sectarian interests and fight against extremists, establish effective national institutions and end rampant corruption," DeYoung and Pincus wrote.
The NIE "emphasizes that although al-Qaeda activities in Iraq remain a problem, they have been surpassed by Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence as the primary source of conflict and the most immediate threat to U.S. goals. Iran, which the administration has charged with supplying and directing Iraqi extremists, is mentioned but is not a focus," they wrote.
NIE Act of 1994
The National Intelligence Estimate, according to the National Strategic Intelligence Act, 1994, "means the product of the process of considering and weighing the possibilities, probabilities and facts disclosed by national security intelligence with regard to any situation, and of drawing conclusions from such possibilities, probabilities and facts."
According to the CIA
The CIA says that a "National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) is the most authoritative written judgment concerning a national security issue prepared by the Director of Central Intelligence. Unlike 'current intelligence' products, which describe the present, most NIEs forecast future developments and many address their implications for the United States. NIEs cover a wide range of issue--from military to technological to economic to political trends.
"NIEs are addressed to the highest level of policymakers--up to and including the President. They are often drafted in response to a specific request from a policymaker. Estimates are designed not just to provide information but to help policymakers think through issues. They are prepared by CIA with the participation of other agencies of the Intelligence Community and are coordinated with these agencies. When there are alternative views about a subject within the Intelligence Community, the NIEs include such views."
The 2003 NIE
The June 5, 2003, issue of Pakistan's The Nation contained the article (inactive link) "CIA reviewing Iraqi arms report" by Humayun Akhtar Khan (bio), Minister of Commerce in Pakistan. Both the original link and a subsequent archive link to the article are inactive. Therefore, the majority of the article is posted below.
Akhtar wrote that, according to the New York Times, a "top secret United States intelligence report last fall is now at the center of an internal CIA review to determine whether American intelligence miscalculated the extent of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's weapons programmes .... The report concluded that Baghdad had chemical and biological weapons and was seeking to reconstitute its nuclear program. ...
"The document, which was described by intelligence officials familiar with the review, provided President George Walker Bush with his last major overview of the status of Iraq's program to develop weapons of mass destruction before the start of the war. ... It is significant because it provided the White House with the last attempt by the entire intelligence community to reach a consensus concerning Iraq's weapons programs before the war started in March.
"The national estimate has been an early focus of attention for a small team of retired CIA analysts who have been brought in by the agency's director, George J. Tenet, to assess the accuracy of the intelligence reports produced before the war, according to officials familiar with the review. Separately, the CIA is now in the process of turning over to Congress the underlying documents that were used by analysts to prepare the national estimate, just as lawmakers in both the House of Representatives and the Senate are preparing for their own reviews of the prewar intelligence.
"The review of the intelligence estimate made last fall comes as the failure to find Iraq's weapons of mass destruction so far is flaring into a major political issue for the Bush administration. Both Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Mr. Tenet have been forced in recent days to defend their handling of intelligence in the months that lead up to the war. At the same time, intelligence analysts inside the government continue to complain about the role played over the past year by a special Pentagon unit that provided policy makers with an alternative, and more hawkish, view of intelligence related to Iraq. [? .. Office of Net Assessment .. ?]
"In a prepared statement issued by the CIA late last week, Mr. Tenet denied that the intelligence on Iraq was warped in order to satisfy the Bush administration's desire to find evidence to support its policies. "The integrity of our process was maintained throughout, and any suggestion to the contrary is simply wrong," Mr. Tenet said. But several CIA officials interviewed by the NYT recently declined to comment on or defend the actions over the past year of the Pentagon's special intelligence unit, which sought to highlight information from Iraqi exiles and other sources that had frequently been dismissed by CIA analysts. And some CIA analysts have said they felt pressure to make their reports conform to the Bush administration's Iraq policy.
"Now, officials say that the CIA review team examining prewar intelligence plans to ask the Pentagon for documents from the special intelligence unit to try to determine what its role was in shaping the intelligence during the months leading up to the war.
"In Congress, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Armed Services Committee have announced plans to conduct a joint inquiry into the prewar intelligence, while the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence plans its own examination.
"In a May 22[, 2003] letter, the leaders of the House panel asked Mr. Tenet to provide answers to a series of questions on the issue, including whether the "sources and methods that contributed to the community's analysis on the presence and amount of W.M.D. in Iraq were of sufficient quality and quantity to provide sufficient accuracy."
"One official familiar with the CIA review said the answer to that fundamental question may be no. The official said it appeared that the CIA and other intelligence agencies had developed fairly solid intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs after the Persian Gulf war in 1991 and through much of the 1990's, as United Nations inspectors scoured the country.
"During that time, the United States grew convinced that Iraq had chemical weapons, was trying to develop biological agents and was seeking to reconstitute a nuclear program that had been disrupted by the war. But the official said it now appeared that the quality of the intelligence concerning Iraq's weapons programs subsequently declined, particularly after the inspectors were withdrawn in 1998.
"Without conclusive new intelligence to the contrary, it appears that the intelligence community continued to make projections assuming a continued Iraqi weapons effort, in line with its earlier assessments, the official said. The fragments of intelligence that came in periodically after the inspectors were withdrawn were never enough to prove that Mr. Hussein had abandoned his weapons programs, and so the natural inclination was to assume that those programs were still under way.
"United States intelligence officials still caution that American forces may yet find conclusive evidence of Iraq's chemical or biological weapons. Mr. Bush has pointed to the discovery of two suspected mobile labs as evidence that Iraq was trying to develop biological weapons.
"However, officials now acknowledge that at least some of the pre-war analysis was inaccurate, states the NYT.
"The United States had, for example, received reports indicating that Iraqi military units had received the authority to deploy and use chemical weapons against advancing American troops. But postwar searches of Iraqi military facilities and interrogations of Iraqi officers have failed to turn up any evidence that chemical weapons were deployed.
"It was perhaps inevitable that the national estimate on Iraq's weapons programs would receive special scrutiny. Even as it was being produced last fall, the estimate was already at the center of a political struggle between Democrats in Congress and the CIA and the Bush administration over the threat posed by Mr. Hussein's government.
"Last summer, Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, including Bob Graham of Florida and Dick Durbin of Illinois, asked the CIA to produce a national intelligence estimate that would review all of the major policy issues related to Iraq. The intelligence community resisted, agreeing instead to produce one that was more narrowly focused on the status of Iraq's weapons programs.
"When Mr. Graham, then the intelligence committee's chairman, finally saw the report, he asked that its findings be declassified in time for the Senate debate on a resolution to support the war in Iraq. When Mr. Tenet provided a letter to Mr. Graham that included some of the report's findings, Mr. Graham complained that only those findings that supported the administration's position on Iraq had been declassified, while others that raised questions were not.
Criticism of the 2003 NIE
Josh Marshall, observed October 29, 2003, in The Hill, that the NIE was only put together when the policy was being sold, not when it was being put together. So the administration could not have been misled or ill-served by it because it was never used to formulate policy. The administration only used it to sell the policy to a skeptical Congress.
- "We know that the Bush administration specifically resisted calling for an NIE until very late in the game because it didn't want the results and findings getting in the way of the policy the administration had already decided on. The reason an NIE was finally pulled together is that Senate Democrats wanted some sense of what the evidence was for all the White House's claims about Iraqi WMD and ties to international terrorism."
See Walter Pincus and Dana Priest, "Bush, Aides Ignored CIA Caveats on Iraq. Clear-Cut Assertions Were Made Before Arms Assessment Was Completed," Washington Post, February 7, 2004.
Resources and articles
Related SourceWatch articles
- civil war in Iraq
- cooked intelligence
- House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations
- intelligence community
- National Intelligence Council
- National Intelligence Reform Act of 2004
- National Security Council
- Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI)
- Office of the Director of National Intelligence
- Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive
- Operation Iraqi Freedom: Year Five
- President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board
- Raymond McGovern
- regime change
- stay the course
- troop surge in Iraq
- Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
- violence in the Middle East
- war in Iran
- war in Iraq
- Weapons of mass destruction investigation
- Warren P. Strobel and Jonathan S. Landay, "Intelligence agencies warned about growing local insurgency in late 2003," Knight-Ridder Newspapers, February 28, 2006.
- Murray Waas, "Libby Says Bush Authorized Leaks," National Journal, April 6, 2006.
- emptywheel, "The NIE Leak Gets Interesting (Again)," The Next Hurrah Blog, May 12, 2006.
- Ken Silverstein, "'Fairy Tales'. The (lack of) intelligence underpinning Bush's Iraq policy," Harper's Magazine, May 18, 2006.
- Ken Silverstein, "Sources: Negroponte Blocks CIA Analysis of Iraq 'Civil War'," Harper's Magazine, July 21, 2006.
- Ken Silverstein, "Six Senators to Negroponte: Produce a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq Now," Harper's Magazine, July 26, 2006.
- Ken Silverstein, "Followup: Senate Passes National Intelligence Estimate Amendment," Harper's Magazine, August 4, 2006.
- Karen DeYoung, "Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Hurting U.S. Terror Fight," Washington Post, September 24, 2006.
- "Intelligence Report Finds War Increasing Terrorist Threat," PBS Online NewsHour, September 25, 2006.
- "Bush to Declassify National Intelligence Estimate," NewsMax, September 26, 2006.
- News Release: "The Rest of the Story: The NIE Reflects Previous Statements About the War on Terror," Office of the White House Press Secretary, September 26, 2006.
- "Intel Chief: U.S. Not At Higher Risk. Negroponte Rejects Claims Terror Threat Is Worse Than In 2001," Associated Press (CBS News), September 26, 2006.
- "Amid furor over Iraq report, calls to release another," CNN, September 27, 2006.
- Matthew Rothschild, "A Closer Reading of the National Intelligence Estimate: Iraq a Bigger Factor in the Rise of Terror than Reported. Plus, Anti-Globalization Forces Equated with Terrorists!" The Progressive, September 27, 2006.
- Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, "Selective Intelligence. The National Intelligence Estimate doesn’t say what Bush says it does. How will he handle upcoming secret reports on Iran and Iraq?" Newsweek (MSNBC), October 18, 2006.
- Jeff Huber, "Bush Administration: New Names, Same Old Games," ePluribus Media (Daily Kos), January 4, 2007.
- Ray McGovern and W. Patrick Lang, "CIA Immune System Still Working," TomPaine.com, January 4, 2007; AlterNet, January 5, 2007.
- Larisa Alexandrovna, "Officials believe White House chose new Intelligence chief in effort to darken Iran Intelligence Estimate, broaden domestic surveillance," The Raw Story (AlterNet), January 8, 2007: "Officials believe the White House chose new Intelligence chief in effort to darken Iran Intelligence Estimate, and broaden domestic surveillance."
- Mary Louise Kelly, "Timing of Iraq Intelligence Estimate Questioned," Morning Edition/NPR, January 9, 2007.
- Jonathan Stein, "Another NIE, Another Round of Shenanigans and Lies," MoJoBlog, January 9, 2007.
- Larry Johnson, "Enough of the Terrorism Canard," TPMCafe, January 10, 2007.
- "Negroponte: New Iraq NIE by month end," UPI, January 18, 2007.
- Ray McGovern, "Show Me The Intelligence," TomPaine.com, January 19, 2007; Antiwar.com, January 20, 2007.
- BarbinMD, "Escalation Cart Before the NIE Horse," Daily Kos, January 22, 2007. re McCain doctrine
- Nico Pitney, "NPR’s Rehm: Delayed Iraq NIE Will Undermine Case For Escalation," Think Progress, January 25, 2007.
- Paul Kiel, "Negroponte: Iraq NIE Coming 'First Thing Next Week'," TPMmuckraker, January 30, 2007.
- "The dog ate my national intelligence estimate," The Carpetbagger Report, January 22, 2007.
- Spencer Ackerman, "No Public Iraq NIE?" TPMmuckraker, February 1, 2007.
- Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus, "Iraq at Risk of Further Strife, Intelligence Report Warns," Washington Post, February 2, 2007.
- "Report: More peril, little U.S. control in Iraq," Associated Press (Army Times), February 2, 2007.
- "Report: NIE says Iraq getting worse," UPI, February 2, 2007.
- "National Intelligence Estimate Cites Internal Fighting as Chief Source of Violence in Iraq," Fox News, February 2, 2007.
- Mark Mazzetti, "Intelligence Report Predicts Worsening Cycle of Violence," New York Times, February 2, 2007.
- David Morgan, "U.S. intelligence calls Iraq violence 'civil war'," Reuters (Boston Globe), February 2, 2007.
- Katherine Shrader, "Intel Pessimistic On Stable Iraq," Associated Press (TIME), February 2, 2007.
- Tom Regan, "US intelligence report projects deteriorating situation in Iraq. Analysts and Mideast media are also tracking Iran's involvement in the conflict, amid reports of Israeli covert operations against Tehran's nuclear program," Christian Science Monitor, February 2, 2007.
- Jonathan Karl, "Quick Highlights of the National Intelligence Estimate Report," ABC News, February 2, 2007.
- "The Analysis: On the 'Polarization' of Iraqis and Their 'Ready Recourse to Violence'," New York Times, February 3, 2007.
- Mark Mazzetti, "Analysis Is Bleak on Iraq’s Future," New York Times, February 3, 2007.
- Dafna Linzer, "Iraq, and Analysis, Revisited. Intelligence Community Took New Approach After 2002 Errors," Washington Post, February 3, 2007.
- William E. Odom, "Victory Is Not an Option. The Mission Can't Be Accomplished -- It's Time for a New Strategy," Washington Post, February 11, 2007.
- Jeff Lomonaco and Murray Waas, "The United States v. I. Lewis Libby," Union Square Press, Feb. 2, 2007.
- Mike Allen, "New Iraq report to warn of attack," The Politico, August 11, 2007.
- National Intelligence Estimate in the Wikipedia.
- "National Intelligence Estimates," Council on Foreign Relations, July 15, 2004.
- The Soviet Estimate: U.S. Analysis of the Soviet Union, 1947-1991 from the Digital National Security Archive.
- National Intelligence Estimate, NIE-15, "Probable Soviet Moves to Exploit the Present Situation," 11 December 1950.
- Special National Intelligence Estimate 1962: Cuban Missile Crisis.
- National Intelligence Estimate/1/ NIE 62-64, Washington, December 23, 1964.
- CIA's National Intelligence Estimate 1967.
- CIA National Intelligence Estimate for Israel, April 11, 1968.
- FOREIGN MISSILE THREATS. Analytic Soundness of National Intelligence Estimate 95-19, Statement of Richard Davis, Director, National Security Analysis, National Security and International Affairs Division, December 4, 1996.
- National Intelligence Estimate (April 1998): Vietnamese Intentions, Capabilities, and Performance Concerning the POW/MIA Issue (U) Produced by the National Intelligence Council. DECLASSIFIED. APPROVED FOR RELEASE 7/19/2000.
- Joseph Cirincione, Assessing the Assessment: The 1999 National Intelligence Estimate of the Ballistic Missile Threat.
- National Intelligence Estimate: The Global Infectious Disease Threat and Its Implications for the United States(cache file) by David F. Gordon, Donald Noah, and George Fidas, The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, January 2000.
- John Prados, ed., U.S. Analysis of the Soviet War in Afghanistan: Declassified, October 9, 2001. Documents.
- US National Intelligence Estimate on the Ballistic Missile Threat: 'Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat Through 2015,' Unclassified Summary of a US National Intelligence Estimate NIE) approved for publication in January 10, 2002 by the National Foreign Intelligence Board [i.e. President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board] under the authority of the Director of Central Intelligence."
- Threat Assessments 1993-2002, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
- NTI: Source Documents 1999-2003 from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
- Excerpts from the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate. Varlet, Federation of American Scientists, Official US Govt.publication, July 23, 2003. Also see DOE Role in Iraqi National Intelligence Estimate Disputed by Steven Aftergood, Federation of American Scientists, August 13, 2003.
- National Intelligence Estimate: Iraq's Continuing Programs For Weapons of Mass Destruction: "Six agencies of the US Intelligence Community (15 agencies), National Intelligence Estimate: "Iraq's Continuing Programs For Weapons of mass destruction" (October 1 2002, 90 pages), secret, authorship/responsibility unknown, these excerpts released July 18, 2003, in an off-the-record White House press briefing by a "senior administration official" who subsequently identified himself on-the-record (July 22) as Dan Bartlett, White House Director of Communications." Document also found at FAS.org and Ocnus.net.
- Declassified Key Judgments of the National Intelligence Estimate "Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States" dated April 2006.