Hmm. Could it be that Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell is trying to signal his opposition to a war with Iran?
This morning, the intelligence community released
the key judgments of a National Intelligence Estimate concluding "with high confidence" that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003. Yet, just weeks ago
, McConnell announced
that the NIEs -- assessments of a given national-security or foreign-policy priority across all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies -- would no longer be available to the general public. The Iran NIE, McConnell said, would be no exception. Here's how AP intelligence reporter Pamela Hess reported
McConnell's decision on November 13:
McConnell also said a new national intelligence estimate on Iran should be complete in about a month, but its key findings will not be released publicly. He says doing so could alert Iran to its intelligence vulnerabilities.
How quickly times change! Credit McConnell and the intelligence community for the public disclosure: after all, its previous estimate on Iran, completed in 2005, judged that Iran had an active nuclear-weapons program, so keeping the new NIE secret would have amounted to letting an inaccuracy stand. Indeed, that's how McConnell's deputy, Donald Kerr, described the motivation behind disclosure in a statement to reporters:
The decision to release an unclassified version of the Key Judgments of this NIE was made when it was determined that doing so was in the interest of our nationâs security. The Intelligence Community is on the record publicly with numerous statements based on our 2005 assessment on Iran. Since our understanding of Iranâs capabilities has changed, we felt it was important to release this information to ensure that an accurate presentation is available. While the decision to release the declassified Key Judgments was coordinated in discussion with senior policy makers, the IC took responsibility for what portions of the NIE Key Judgments were to be declassified.
Still, it's hard to escape the suspicion that McConnell is wading into the Iran-war debate by violating his non-disclosure policy. We've got a request for comment out to McConnell's office; more soon.