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The Big "Never Mind." [updated]

Different takes on the "never mind" National Intelligence Estimate.

Here's one:

The real story behind this NIE is that the Bush Administration has finally concluded Iran is a bridge too far. With Iranian-backed Shi'a groups behaving themselves, things are looking up in Iraq. In Lebanon, the anti-Syrian coalition and pro-Syrian coalition, which includes Iran's surrogate Hizballah, reportedly have settled on a compromise candidate, the army commander General Michel Suleiman. Bombing Iran now would upset the fragile balance in these two countries. Not to mention that Hizballah has threatened to shell Israel if we as much as touch a hair on Iran's head.
Here's another:
I think I may be able to help clear this up. My impression is that NIE’s aren’t findings of fact, they are estimates of likelihood. And, equally importantly, they are consensus documents. Consensus is a human political process not a binary choice. No new data need have come up to change the consensus. The consensus will change as personnel are hired, retire, move on, or merely as people re-evaluate the data at hand through reflection and discussion with their peers. If I’m wrong about this perhaps some more knowledgeable person will correct me.

Saying that “such and such lied in 2005” or “so and so is distorting policy with politics” are off-base. An NIE can say that the consensus in the U. S. intelligence community of something is highly probably in 2005 and the consensus about its opposite highly probable in 2007 and both be true since it’s measuring the consensus. It’s sticking a toe in the water. You can stick your toe in the water in 2005 and say “it’s warm” and stick it back in in 2007 and say “it’s cold” and neither your toe nor the water need have changed—only the perception.
Here's a third:
Newly declassified portions of the latest National Intelligence Estimate, which indicate that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, prove that the US intelligence community is finally showing some spine, according to one nuclear analyst.

Appearing on the BBC World news program, Joseph Cirincione (above right), the director of nuclear policy at the Center for American Progress, said that the US military and intelligence agencies were reasserting themselves as President Bush enters the final year of his administration. Cirincione agreed with the BBC host that intelligence had "rediscovered its spine."
Here's mine:

Between the "Oh, Sweet Christ, They're Building a Nuke!" NIE of 2005 and the "Never Mind," NIE of 2007, here are some things that happened:

1) The Democrats took Congress, which means that they took over appropriations for the intelligence community and acquired the power to launch investigations of said agencies.

2) Donald Rumsfeld -- the least-deservedly smug person on planet earth -- was booted out and replaced by Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense. Gates is a Bush 41 guy, not one of Bush 43's coterie of nitwit Machiavellis. Gates either has integrity, (I know, it's an archaic word, look it up,) or perhaps just the native good sense not to let himself be carried down beneath the cold, cold waves by this Titanic of an administration.

3) President Bush and Vice President Cheney achieved Nixonian levels in the polls.

Which means that if you're a lifer in one of the civilian intelligence agencies you are wise enough to know that your future is much more about getting along with Congressional chairman than with dead-in-the-water, cherry-picking, war-is-always-the-answer chief executives.

And, if you are a lifer in one of the military intelligence agencies your new boss has made clear that he has precisely zero interest in bombing Iran.

And, lo! A 180 was executed. A somersault. A death-defying mid-air reversal the likes of which we haven not seen since 1989 when the CIA was forced to retract its report entitled, "Russians: Ten Feet Tall!" and replace it with, "Russians: Pffft!"

Right now I don't have a clue in hell whether Iran is or is not building a nuke. Neither do you. Nor do we know whether the intelligence community is incompetent, dishonest, misunderstood, or just the world's largest boondoggle. To American voters trying to decide what to support and what to allow, the intelligence community is useless. That's right: useless. Of no use. A nullity.

Given the Bush administration's absolute lack of credibility, and the intelligence community's absurd record of failure, we are left with only one sensible conclusion as American citizens: nobody bombs anybody until George W. Bush is permanently back clearing brush on his little Potemkin ranch in Crawford.

Mr. President, step away from the bombs.

Jesus H. Christ: will November never come?

[update] Some other POV's:

Here:
It troubles me that both sides in the debate over this document are cherry picking information to buttress their cases. Seen in its totality, I believe this NIE is cautious (perhaps overly so), prudent – in that it takes into consideration what we might not be able to see, – and careful in drawing conclusions. It’s main point – that Iran halted its dual use program in 2003 – appears solid as does its warning that we don’t know if that is still true today. In retrospect, I was too harsh on the Administration yesterday (thanks to my new Watchers Council colleague GW of Wolfs Howling for pointing this out) when I took them to task for their rhetoric. The fact that the White House is still warning the world about possible Iranian nukes is a sound policy that this NIE does nothing to undermine.
Here:

America’s spooks have put together a truly pathetic record over the years, ranging from failing to anticipate the collapse of the Soviet Union and the 9/11 threat to being diddled by Saddam over what turned out to be his nonexistent nukes program, as well as willingly allowing themselves to be used as political pawns.

And so while I would like to share the sense of relief many people seem to feel, I am unable to do so. Besides which, Iran could restart its nuclear weapons program tomorrow — or maybe already did yesterday amid great glee with the release of the intelligence report — since it continues to enrich uranium.

Congress, of course, was dithering while all of this was going on. If there are any good guys, it may be those weapons inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency who had it right with Iraq and apparently had it right with Iran, as well. Nevertheless, the agency has been viewed as demon spawn by the U.S., which intercepted dozens of its director general’s phone calls with Iranian diplomats in an unsuccessful effort to have him ousted.

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“The Big "Never Mind." [updated]”

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