On CNN, New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh reported that a new CIA assessment concludes that “there’s no evidence Iran is doing anything that puts them close to a bomb.” Despite the intelligence agency’s conclusion, Hersh reports that the White House is still aggressively moving ahead with preparations for a military conflict with Iran.
As part of the White House’s preparations for Iran, Hersh says President Bush and Vice President Cheney are “stovepiping” intelligence and keeping information provided by the Israelis hidden from the CIA.
The Israelis are telling the White House, according to Hersh’s new article “The Next Act,” that they have a reliable agent inside Iran who reports that the nation is working on a trigger for a bomb. “Of course the people in the CIA want to know who [the agent] is, obviously,” Hersh said. “They certainly want to know what other evidence he has of actual making of a warhead. This is the internecine fight that’s going on — the same fight, by the way, that we had before Iraq.” Watch it:
Prior to the Iraq war, the White House set up intelligence stovepipes to “get information they wanted directly to the top leadership.” Cheney and company relied on information provided by the Iraqi National Congress, an exile group headed by Ahmad Chalabi. “Chalabi’s defector reports were…flowing from the Pentagon directly to the Vice-President’s office, and then on to the President, with little prior evaluation by intelligence professionals.”
State Dept. intelligence expert Greg Thielmann said that prior to the Iraq war that “garbage was being shoved straight to the President.” A U.S. official confirmed that defectors from Chalabi’s organization “had provided suspect information to numerous Western intelligence agencies. ‘It’s safe to say he tried to game the system,’ the official said.”
Hersh’s article suggests a similar breakdown in the intelligence process is happening with regards to Iran and may open to door to possible intelligence manipulation.
HERSH: We can’t find, the new assessment says, we cannot find — the CIA says there’s no evidence that Iran is doing anything that puts them close to a bomb. There’s no secret program of significant bomb making.
BLITZER: The Israelis have a different assessment.
BLITZER: They think the Iranians may be within a year of getting to the threshold of having a point of no return, if you will, from having a bomb. When I was there in July, I had briefings. That’s what they suggested.
HERSH: They’ve been saying for, as you know, for five or ten years. The fact is Israelis have coming up with new human intelligence, sort of the counter CIA assessment, they’ve come up with an agent inside Iran. They have more than one. And this agent is — who’s been reliable so the Israelis claim in the past — who now says the Iranians are secretly working on making an actual trigger for a bomb. Even though they may not — we don’t have any specific evidence of a facility where they’re doing this work, the Israelis say yes they are, they’re getting ready to start detonating a weapon. Once they get the fissile material, the enriched material. Now, that information is being handled pretty much by the white house and various offices in the pentagon. And the CIA isn’t getting a good look at the Israeli intelligence. It’s the old word stovepiping. It’s the President and the Vice President, it’s pretty much being kept in the White House.
BLITZER: They’d like to get more access to this Israeli agent, is that what you’re saying?
HERSH: Of course, the people in the CIA want to know who he is, obviously. They certainly want to know what other evidence he has of actual making a warhead. This is the internecine fight that’s going on — the same fight, by the way, that we had before Iraq.