Former Terrorism Czar Richard Clarke examines the latest National Intelligence Estimate

July 19th, 2007

“Bush made them stronger: New intel report ignores 3 inconvenient truths about terror”

NY Daily News
July 18, 2007

By Richard A. Clarke

The U.S. Intelligence Community, which is reported to cost taxpayers more than $40 billion a year, yesterday produced its flagship report, the National Intelligence Estimate, or NIE. Many in Washington first heard about NIEs in 2003, when one said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

The new NIE says something more credible, and more obvious: that Al Qaeda “is and will remain the most serious terrorist threat to the homeland, as its central leadership continues to plan high-impact plots, while pushing others in extremist Sunni communities to mimic its efforts and to supplement its capabilities.”

But what the NIE does not say is more interesting than this anemic wording about indisputable facts.

First, it fails to note that the intelligence community's judgment has changed significantly since its last report in 2006. Back then, they were saying that Al Qaeda was suffering. Not any more. “[W]e judge that Al Qaeda will intensify its efforts to put operatives here,” says the report.

In other words, Al Qaeda has been recovering on President Bush's watch, particularly these last two years. The President rushed to point out that while that may be true, Al Qaeda is still not as capable as it was on 9/11. Is that all he can say he has accomplished against the organization that attacked us nearly six years ago, the organization he said he would destroy?

Second, the NIE notes that Al Qaeda may use “regional terrorist groups” and cites, as an example, “Al Qaeda in Iraq.” What it does not say, but can be read between the lines: “Al Qaeda in Iraq” is a different organization than the folks in Pakistan and Afghanistan who attacked us. Put another way, the President is wrong when he claims that we are fighting in Iraq the people who attacked New York and Virginia. “Al Qaeda in Iraq” did not even exist until after we invaded Iraq.

Third, the NIE slides quickly over the fact that the reconstituted Al Qaeda is in Pakistan – which is supposedly our ally in the war on terrorism. We have reportedly given the Pakistani government more than $10 billion since 9/11. Yet, while the Pakistanis have cooperated in going after some Al Qaeda leaders who were holed up in their big cities, they also signed a written agreement that effectively created a sanctuary for terrorists in their northwest territory.

Bush says if we leave Iraq it might become a sanctuary for Al Qaeda. Pakistan already is.

Most people in Washington think talk of impeachment of Vice President Cheney and then Bush is hyperventilating political hyperbole. But what will they all say the day after another Al Qaeda attack on the U.S.?

Maybe that Bush ignored warnings about the first attack six years ago and then, after half measures, pulled some intelligence and military resources off the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda and shifted them to Iraq, then needlessly attacked Iraq, thereby creating a second Al Qaeda group, and funded the Pakistani government, which created a sanctuary for Al Qaeda where the group reconstituted.

The NIE doesn't say any of that either, but unfortunately it is all true.

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