Those of you who read with interest the recent, lengthy New York Times piece on the flawed intelligence on the Iraqi nuclear program, will remember this passage about the Energy Department's then chief of intelligence ...
Some laboratory officials blamed time pressure and inexperience. Thomas S. Ryder, the department's representative at the meetings, had been acting director of the department's intelligence unit for only five months. ''A heck of a nice guy but not savvy on technical issues,'' is the way one senior nuclear official described Mr. Ryder, who declined comment.
Mr. Ryder's position was more alarming than prior assessments from the Energy Department. In an August 2001 intelligence paper, department analysts warned of suspicious activities in Iraq that ''could be preliminary steps'' toward reviving a centrifuge program. In July 2002 an Energy Department report, ''Nuclear Reconstitution Efforts Underway?'', noted that several developments, including Iraq's suspected bid to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger, suggested Baghdad was ''seeking to reconstitute'' a nuclear weapons program.
According to intelligence officials who took part in the meetings, Mr. Ryder justified his department's now firm position on nuclear reconstitution in large part by citing the Niger reports. Many C.I.A. analysts considered that intelligence suspect, as did analysts at the State Department.
But perhaps that's not the whole <$Ad$>story.
Longtime readers of this site will remember that we discussed Ryder a year ago with respect to this same incident. And the information we discussed came from what may seem like an unlikely source, two columns by Paul Sperry in WorldNetDaily.
The Times refers to Ryder's 'inexperience' and quotes an Energy Department official saying he was "not savvy on technical issues."
But, according to Sperry's article from August 6th of last year, that understates the matter. He referred to Ryder as "a human resources manager with no intelligence experience" who was "close to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham."
More disturbing were revelations contained in an article Sperry wrote six days later.
Sperry notes that Ryder directly overruled his technical experts who wanted to dissent from the NIE findings on an Iraqi nuclear program.
Then after the NIE was published and just before the war began, Abraham awarded Ryder a $13,000 bonus for "exceeding performance expectations."
This was in addition to an earlier $7,500 bonus he awarded Ryder prior to the NIE's publication.
According to the last section of Sperry's second article ...
Bonuses that big are rare, and Energy insiders say they cannot recall previous intelligence chiefs receiving as much bonus money as Rider, who is said to be close to Abraham.
Yet despite Rider's alleged outstanding performance, Abraham didn't keep him in the top position. In February, he was replaced by CIA official John Russak. By July, Rider had been relocated to another department â energy assurance.
So Spencer Abraham taps a friend for a position for which he seems to have no qualifications whatsoever. Then that friend overrules his technical experts to greenlight a finding that Iraq is building nuclear weapons. Then Abraham gives him a big bonus for outstanding performance -- performance so outstanding that he doesn't keep him on in the job.