Cheat-Seeking Missles

Sunday, September 24, 2006

NIE: What Was Leaked And Why

There's one thing you can conclude about the National Intelligence Estimate report that's top-lining papers around the country today: What's being written about with great definitiveness is actually about as trustworthy as yesterday's reports of Osama bin Laden's death.

Update: The White House says what I say -- news reports do not reflect the full content of the NIE report. Did none of the media think to call the White House for comment before publishing their reports?

I've read the reports in NYT, WaPo and LAT, and they're all remarkably similar: They summarize the report's "findings," even though none of the papers has seen the full report or even its executive summary, then they compare those "findings" to recent speeches by military, intelligence and administration officials.

That the story broke nationally caused the papers to go through machinations to make it look like hard reporting -- not politically motivated leaking -- was behind the news. Here's how NYT painted the picture:
More than a dozen United States government officials and outside experts were interviewed for this article, and all spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a classified intelligence document.
It's obvious that all the twelve-plus calls (I'm guessing 13) were made yesterday, as the papers scrambled to fluff up the leak. WaPo and LAT were also busy calling sources.

Curiously, not one of the sources the NYT said it talked to makes it into the NYT article, which pulls most of its quotes from earlier speeches and intelligence assessments. LAT quotes only one "official familiar with the document":
"It paints a fairly stark picture of what we all know, and that this is a movement that is spreading and gaining momentum around the world. Things like the Iraq war have given the terrorists recruiting tools and places to ply their trade and a training ground."

The official said the estimate touches on a number of factors fueling the jihadist movement, but that "the reference to Iraq was the main one."
WaPo also only quotes one secret intelligence source:
"It's a very candid assessment. It's stating the obvious."

"What these guys at NIC are supposed to do is to lay it out in very clear, understandable terms. It's not the role of the NIC to offer recommendations."
"These guys" is a clear admission that the official quoted is not NIC and was not involved in preparing the report.

So what we have is the orchestrated leaking of nothing more than the alleged themes of a classified document. Such high quality leaking typically means a political organization is hard at work, and this campaign almost certainly is the work Dem electeds who wanted to put an end to the bump in the polls Bush has enjoyed since going to the people to explain the war on terror. How else to explain that the report has sat unleaked ever since it was completed in April -- only to be released now, less than six weeks before the election?

The articles create a Dem talking points memo for countering the war: Iraq generates Jihadist recruits, there are many more Jihadists today than five years ago, the threat has become more decentralized. Look to hear these points next week from Palosi, Kennedy, Murtha and Kerry -- and their editorial friends at the papers, networks and cable outlets.

What's not addressed

The NIE -- what we know if it anyway -- does not answer "so what?" or "now what?" That's not its job.

So what: Too much is made of Iraq in the story as reported. Jihadism was growing before Iraq; otherwise there would have been no 9/11. If there were not a war in Iraq, there would not be nothing. Saddam would be in power funding terrorism, we would be in Afghanistan generating Jihadist recruits, and our intelligence and military community would be attacking terrorism, causing it to become more decentralized.

Now what: If we run from Iraq, will recruiting stop or become energized, and will they not apply whatever they've learned there (or from Dem/media leaks of classified documents) elsewhere? If we run from the place where terrorists are most concentrated, how will we deal with the supposedly more decentralized terrorist organizations? Will Iran stand idle if there's a power vacuum in Iraq? Will the terror states feel less empowered if we leave?

Don't look for any of that to surface in any of the Dem talking points. There's nothing for them there, so they'll stick to the NIE report they selectively leaked.

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