When the National Intelligence Estimate announced that, “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons pro­gram,” it was the lead story in the nation’s biggest newspapers. But following congressional testimony from Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell that only the “least significant” parts of Iran’s nuclear program had been halted, the nation’s paper’s either did not mention Iran’s nuclear threat, or buried it deep in the story.

McConnell’s retreat on the NIE’s conclusions validates many of the exact criticisms leveled against the report. Specifically McConnell admitted:

  • “Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.”
  • “Iranian entities are continuing to develop a range of technical capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons.”
  • “Iran continues to deploy ballistic missiles inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and to develop longer-range missiles.”
  • “Only an Iranian political decision to abandon a nuclear weapons objective would plausibly keep Iran from eventually producing nuclear weapons.”
  • “We judge with moderate confidence Iran probably would be technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon sometime during the 2010-2015 time frame.”

The original distorted NIE conclusions, and the disproportionate share of media coverage it received compared to McConnell’s much needed corrective, underscores the need for the de-politicization of NIEs. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, former US Representative to the UN John Bolton recommends McConnell: 1) explain how the NIE was distorted, and rewrite it objectively to reflect the status of Iran’s nuclear programs; 2) commit that NIEs will abjure policy bias; 3) reaffirm the existing policy that NIE key judgments should not be made public. Then, stick to it and enforce discipline against leaks.

Quick Hits:

  • Gay activists plan to introduce a bill in the Maryland General Assembly to ban all civil marriages. The legislation would replace the word “marriage” with “valid domestic partnership” in the state’s family law code.
  • The price tag on the Senate’s stimulus deficit spending fest is now up to $204 billion.
  • Iran is angry with India for launching an Israeli spy satellite a few weeks ago.
  • Defying MoveOn.org, Hillary Clinton has agreed to debate Barack Obama on Fox News.
  • Two Berkeley city councilwomen are trying to rescind a city-approved policy that calls Marines “uninvited and unwelcome intruders” in the city. The councilwoman only want to retract the city’s rhetoric; they still want to keep the new anti-Marine policies including an investigation into whether the Marines violate city laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation; and giving the protest group Code Pink a free weekly parking space and sound permit to protest in front of the Shattuck Avenue recruiting station.