In September, armchair Gen. Sean Hannity detailed on his Fox News show “what a U.S. strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities would look like.” He called Iran a “ticking bomb.”
Armchair intellgence analyst Hannity is now refusing to accept the recent National Intelligence Estimate, which concludes that Iran has halted its nuclear weapons program. Interviewing John Bolton yesterday, Hannity argued that it “is not the case” the the administration overinflated the Iranian threat. “The headlines that we’re reading about the NIE are misleading,” he argued.
Hannity then claimed the 2005 NIE — which falsely concluded that Iran was “determined to develop nuclear weapons” — was “basically the same” as the 2007 NIE:
HANNITY: Because substantively you’re pointing out that the NIE report in 2005 and the one in 2007 are basically the same. And you say, moreover, the distinction between military and civilian programs is highly artificial. Explain why that’s the case.
In this NIE, the intelligence community makes clear that the new report is an “extensive reexamination of the issues in the May 2005 assessment.” It explicitly states, “Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005.” Some key differences between the two NIEs:
|2005 NIE||2007 NIE||“Assess with high confidence that Iran currently is determined to develop nuclear weapons.”||“Judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.”|
|“Iran could produce enough fissile material for a weapon by the end of this decade.”||“[T]his is very unlikely.”|
Bolton never disputed Hannity’s false judgments. “They’re still doing it, building up an inventory” he maintained. Indeed, Iran is still enriching uranium for civilian purposes, as the NIE states, but it is unlikely to achieve nuclear capability until after 2015 “because of foreseeable technical and programmatic problems.”
The 2005 NIE’s conclusions “appeared to have been thinly sourced and were based on methods less rigorous than were ultimately required.” The 2007 NIE is “one of the most well-sourced” ever. Yet even this isn’t good enough for Hannity or Bolton.
HANNITY: I want our public and our viewing audience out there to understand something here, because you infer this very clearly in this piece here. And that is the headlines that we’re reading about the NIE are misleading, that it was meant for people to draw a certain conclusion, is that, quote, our intelligence got it wrong again, and they misread the facts, and they made a mistake just like on weapons of mass destruction. That is not the case.
BOLTON: Right. There’s — there’s a lot in these two or three pages, much of which I agree with. But the thing that has grabbed all the headlines is the suspension of the weapons program in 2003, very narrowly defined.
The report goes on to say Iran has been enriching uranium steadily since then. That’s critical to a weapons program, just as it is to a civil program.
HANNITY: Because your knowledge here is so important. Because substantively you’re pointing out that the NIE report in 2005 and the one in 2007 are basically the same. And you say, moreover, the distinction between military and civilian programs is highly artificial. Explain why that’s the case.
BOLTON: To either get fuel to power reactors or to have nuclear weapons, you need enriched uranium. Different levels, but you need to enrich uranium. So every intelligence analyst would tell you, the long pole in the tent, in assessing how long it takes to get weapons, is enriching uranium. They’re still doing it, building up an inventory.
HANNITY: Thank you.
COLMES: They’re very clear. They halted their covert weapons program in 2003. It’s very clear.
HANNITY: He doesn’t get it.
BOLTON: What part of the weapons program? The weaponization design. And this same judgment says we have only moderate confidence that that suspension is still in place.
COLMES: We’ve got to run.