Bush’s Empire: Making His Own Reality, NIE Edition

I’m interested in Michael Hirsh’s report that Bush trashed the key judgments of the NIE while in Israel for two reasons. First, WTF was the SAO who leaked the story trying to accomplish?

That NIE, made public Dec. 3, embarrassed the administration by concluding that Tehran had halted its weapons program in 2003, which seemed to undermine years of bellicose rhetoric from Bush and other senior officials about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But in private conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week, the president all but disowned the document, said a senior administration official who accompanied Bush on his six-nation trip to the Mideast. "He told the Israelis that he can’t control what the intelligence community says, but that [the NIE’s] conclusions don’t reflect his own views" about Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, said the official, who would discuss intelligence matters only on the condition of anonymity. [my emphasis]

The same article quotes Stephen Hadley, one of a limited number of Senior Administration Officials accompanying Bush on the trip, as saying that Bush said only that Iran remains a threat, regardless of what the NIE says.

Bush’s national-security adviser, Stephen Hadley, told reporters in Jerusalem that Bush had only said to Olmert privately what he’s already said publicly, which is that he believes Iran remains "a threat" no matter what the NIE says.

Was Hadley’s on the record quote a continuation of the earlier anonymous comment to Hirsh or, more likely, a response to the earlier leak, an alternate view of what the anonymous SAO was spinning to Hirsh? That is, did some SAO spin Bush’s fairly innocuous comment (at least as Hadley interpreted it) as a repudiation of the NIE, contrary to the official stance of the Administration? And if so, to what end? To support Dick Cheney’s campaign for war (Stephen Hadley is often considered a Cheney operative, though he was stuck playing the interlocutor between Cheney and the CIA leading up to the Plame leak)?

But I’m also struck by the timing of this quote. If I were one of the analysts who worked on this NIE–or even, say, one of the senior intelligence officers who threatened to go public with the key judgments of the NIE–I’d be pretty peeved to know that Bush was bad-mouthing my handiwork to allies, particularly after the apparent confrontation to get it declassified in the first place. And, as luck would have it, at least one or two of those senior intelligence officers are going to be called before Congress and questioned by DOJ in the inquiry into the terror tape destruction in the next several weeks (Steven Kappes comes to mind).

Particularly given the centrality of David Addington in discussions of whether or not to destroy the terror tapes, I wonder whether it’s really a good idea for the war-mongers to piss off the intelligence community, just as this thing begins to escalate.

But then, I guess I would cry no tears if the CIA happened to implicate David Addington in the destruction of evidence of torture.

35 replies
  1. Redshift says:

    I think that after the Iraq War intelligence, every politician and diplomat in the world knows that Bush thinks the appropriate function of intelligence is for him to “control what the intelligence community says.” I would hope that given the choice between Bush’s “views” and the considered judgment of the entire US intelligence community, they would also be smart enough to pick the one that is more likely to correspond to actual reality. Bush’s “views” may provide a useful indication of what he’s trying to do [shudder], but not about the state of the world.

    • brendanx says:

      That Bush is no longer even maintaining pretenses in his statements is an indication of weakness and frustration — humiliation, really — not self-confidence.

  2. JimWhite says:

    Iran’s response to Bush’s speech:

    Top Iranian officials heaped scorn on President Bush’s visit to the Middle East, with one of them saying the American leader was attempting to stir up “Iranophobia,” a state-run Iranian news agency reported Monday.

    Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency noted the comments of Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Ala’eddin Boroujerdi, head of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission.

    President Bush, in a speech Sunday in Abu Dhabi, labeled Iran as the “world’s leading sponsor of terror” and asked allies to join the United States in confronting Iran “before it’s too late.”

    But Mottaki — who made his remarks to Al-Jazeera news network Sunday — said the United States “was the main cause of extremism in the region as it has been supporting terrorist and extremist groups during the past six years.”


    Kinda hard to refute that bit about the US supporting “terrorist and extremist groups”. Truly sad that this is what we have become.

    • BayStateLibrul says:

      True. Watch out.. Bush alert…
      After his trip abroad, he’ll have delusions of adequacy, forgetting he has hit bottom, and has started to dig…
      Can’t wait for his State of the Union address and his Dow Jones Recovery Plan…

  3. brendanx says:

    The tenor of the article also indicates the author is an eager conduit for this unnamed SAO’s spin. Hirsh authoritatively concludes “(Bush) considers the document a dead letter”, which jarred me when I read it, even after the bullshit about how this NIE is “confusing” after 2005’s.

    I love that “Bush seemed almost apologetic”. It’s hard to picture a more degrading spectacle than watching him called on the carpet this way.

    The consolation is that Bush, and the Israelis, are just little dogs yapping on their leashes now.

  4. maryo2 says:

    Let’s hope they are reduced yapping dogs, but history says that when they get cornered in their march to doomsday or Zion (whichever comes first, I guess) they attack somebody.

  5. Hugh says:

    Bush listens to the intelligence community the way he listens to his generals. If they tell him what he wants to hear, he listens to them.

  6. JohnForde says:

    EW Stop it with the double negatives!

    “But then, I guess I would cry no tears if the CIA happened to implicate David Addington in the destruction of evidence of torture.”

    If the CIA implicates Addington I am sending you a Dairy Queen cake!

      • JimWhite says:

        Just make sure that TiVo’s running when BillO says “Filipino Monkey”. His head just might explode from the competing interests of really wanting to say it and realizing how stupid it makes Bush look.

        • bmaz says:

          Thank ya Jaysus! I have been jonesing for a Borat update; however I don’t know if Yahoo news counts as MSM. I will take anything I can get though; thank you…

          • emptywheel says:

            Here’s another one for you, bmaz.

            The small, boxlike objects dropped in the water by Iranian boats as they approached U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf on Sunday posed no threat to the American vessels, U.S. officials said yesterday, even as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff charged that the incident reflects Iran’s new tactics of asymmetric warfare.

            After passing the white objects, commanders on the USS Port Royal and its accompanying destroyer and frigate decided there was so little danger from the objects that they did not bother to radio other ships to warn them, the officials said.

            “The concern was that there was a boat in front of them putting these objects in the path of our ships. When they passed, the ships saw that they were floating and light, that they were not heavy or something that would have caused damage,” such as a mine, said Cmdr. Lydia Robertson, a spokeswoman for the Navy’s Fifth Fleet in the Gulf.

            Borat’s boxes were … boxes.

  7. Hugh says:

    The NIE put a roadblock in the Bush/Cheney march to war with Iran. Now they are trying to go around it. This is SOP for Dick Cheney. He wants a war with Iran. If he can’t push our military into it, then he will use his stooge Bush to push the Israelis to strike at the Iranians in its place.

  8. Mary says:

    I would cry no tears if the CIA happened to implicate David Addington in the destruction of evidence of torture

    I wouldn’t cry tears for that either (especially after the references in the Rosarch and Awe article to the approvals from WH lawyers to go ahead with live burial) but it’s not going to happen IMO. Right now, you have Democrats who don’t want to investigate torture (remember that Levin co-sponsored the McCain DTA that even Levin agreed was specifically intended to suspend habeas for all cases not currently pending and to allow for mass amnesty for Patriotic Besitality. Among those who have been in the “screw the pooch” camp, the goal remains what it always was – protect each other from the criminal aspects.

    No one nails Addington without also putting a list of others on the line with him. THe circular firing squad is only going to take the shape of the Goldsmith smarming. Fingerpointing for grousing and blame is one thing, but the central issue of making sure that no one is required to have real accountability is one on which they all agree because they all have centrality of interest (once the criminal responsiblity and conspiracy and obstruction dominos begin to fall, they all know they are standing in the line and part of the pattern)and if nothing else has been demonstrated, it is that as far as DOJ, DOD, State and CIA etc. stand, it is a brothers in arms, “us” against “them” battle, where you may not like the guy next to you in the bunker, but you’ll cover each other’s back if there is any real, serious skirmishing. The concern has never been with actually ending torture and in particular not with holding anyone accountable, but more a matter of who is going to get the bad PR for being a torture supporter and who gets to look their kids in the eye and hold bragging rights for which tortures they helped facilitate. From footnotes to testimony to self-serving books to disjointed “whistleblowing” by an ex-CIA guy who says waterboarding was absolutely necessary but we shouldn’t do it anymore — they have a lot of guys pissed at each other, but all of them still shoulder to shoulder on making sure that there is no cost, no accountability.

    And they also know that the Democrats don’t want to have the discussion and don’t want accountability or examination of what the Pelosis and Rockefellers didn’t do and more than that, they know the Dems will not protect a whistleblower in any way. Add in courts that are terrified to tell Jr. no, bc they are terrified that he and Cheney will blow off the court orders and rulings they way they have the law in general, with a Congress who won’t impeach – and the whole facade breaks down even more.

    I think you can wait a long time before you’ll see people like Kappes and Comey telling the truth about torture and exposing any of their “brothers in arms” to the periphery of criminal liability.

    • bmaz says:

      About right I am afraid. People keep waiting and clamoring for “the next John Dean”. The problem is that there were still a few real men in the Republilcan party in the Watergate era. John Dean was willing to go to prison to point the finger; there are no such men (you could argue no men at all) left in this day and age willing to put their own ass on the line for the good of the country. The best you get is a little bit of self serving tsk tsking and finger pointing like Captain Jack Goldsmith, he of the Chicken law of the sea.

      Jim White @21 – Thanks.

      EW @22 – Raisonettes and Junior Mints boxes I would imagine. The Wackiest Ships in the Iranian Navy were just enjoying the show like the rest of us….

  9. PJEvans says:

    It was mildly interesting that CNN.com’s poll asking people if they thought Shrub was trying to stir ‘Iranophobia’ had results running 70 percent ‘yes’. I guess that old Shrub BS isn’t so effective any more.

  10. whitebeard says:

    “Bush said only that Iran remains a threat, regardless of what the NIE says”

    This is faith-based foreign policy. In the faith-based mind facts are irrelevant. They already know, and no facts to the contrary will sway them.

  11. ralphbon says:

    I haven’t seen any speculation on whether Elliott Abrams was the SAO in question. He maintains a consistently low profile (as befits a convicted felon), and so would never communicate through anything but unattributed quotes.

    Moreover, like other neocons, he is so convinced of the rectitude of his fever dreams that I could readily imagine him speaking/leaking in a tone that assumes that anyone who knows anything holds the intelligence community in as much contempt as he.

    As for why he would leak a little dog whistling to the A*P*C crowd.

    • emptywheel says:

      I think that’s a good guess–I was wondering if it was him myself. Seems to me a responsible journalist could at least say, “one of the biggest neocon hacks leaked to me this spin…”

      • bobschacht says:

        I think that’s a good guess–I was wondering if it was him myself. Seems to me a responsible journalist could at least say, “one of the biggest neocon hacks leaked to me this spin…”

        I suppose it wouldn’t do one’s credibility much good to report that “A convicted felon told me…”

        I’m all for outing more of what Elliot Abrams is up to these days. I think he, as much or more than Cheney, specializes in crawling around under rocks. More sunlight, please.

        The maddening part is that he’s not that old. Per Wiki, he’s 60 years old this year. He could play Dick Cheney’s role in the next Republican White House, assuming there is one.

        Bob in HI

        Bob in HI

        • ralphbon says:

          Some version of the neoconservative agenda on Israel/Palestine will persist in the White House regardless of who gets in. As I used to note on the late-lamented Whiskey Bar’s even later-lamented comments pages, with the Democrats you get Likud Lite and with the Republicans Likud Dark.

          I’m still amazed at how few jaws dropped when Bill Clinton appointed the A*P*C-affiliated Martin Indyk, first to a position comparable to Abrams’s and then as Ambassador to Israel. Clinton presided over the vast expansion of settlements in the 1990s, plus such delights as the (first) Qana massacre. At least Bush, to his slack-jawed credit, is incapable of making even a show of even-handedness.

          Under HRC, Obama, or Edwards, advocates for genuine solutions will continue to get slammed as anti-Semites.

          Sigh. The best we can hope for are babysteps to rationality. (But watch where you step, baby — those cluster munitions can really smart!)

  12. Sedgequill says:

    Hopefully George W. Bush’s apparent decision to try to appear to go out as a peacemaker will preclude his doing anything precipitous against Iran.

    As to interrogation recordings, every officer of high rank in the CIA, in DoJ, and in the White House will have plausible zones of deniability in regard to the creation of the recordings or to their sharing, transmission, storage, and destruction or concealment. Investigators will need to go down the chain of command far enough to get highly specific information—information on the events and persons of the recordings, of course, but also information as to where the information flowed and in what form. Investigative efforts in those directions would not be easy, and the technical challenges would require that highly knowledgeable information technology experts be part of the team. On the hopeful side, it may be that intelligence agency records officers and information technology officers will be inclined to be forthcoming and truthful; hopefully they’ll have the legal protection they’ll need to ease their making full and truthful statements.

    Follow the bytes.

  13. masaccio says:

    My googling skilz are truly lacking. I wonder who is on this trip with the current inhabitant. I found two besides Hadley: Rice and Ed Gillespie.

  14. Leen says:

    Aipac does not care what the NIE says either
    AIPAC Briefs Hill Staffers on NIE
    U.S. Capitol Building

    AIPAC Policy and Government Affairs Directors Brad Gordon and Marvin Feuer recently briefed congressional staff about the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran and its potential impact on continuing efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. They highlighted the report’s findings that Iran has made significant progress in its ability to enrich uranium and that Tehran is susceptible to international pressure, suggesting that a strong international effort to sanction Iran could have an impact on the regime’s nuclear calculations. As part of the discussion, congressional staffers asked questions about the state of Iran’s missile capabilities and the status of U.S. and Israeli missile defense capabilities against the Iranian threat.

    # Support Sanctions Against Iran
    # Support Divestment from Iran

    Why? Based on what evidence?


    So does this mean that congressional staffers make decisions based on the NIE report or Aipac briefer’s claims?

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