Ex-CIA Director cautions Israel against attacking Iran

Michael HaydenBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The former Director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency has warned that an Israeli attack on Iran would likely backlash and might actually push Tehran to build nuclear weapons earlier than currently projected. General Michael Hayden, the only person to lead both the CIA and the US National Security Agency, told Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz on Monday that Iran is not yet close to building a nuclear weapon and that Israel should carefully consider how to respond to its neighbor’s alleged nuclear weapons ambitions. During his CIA tenure, General Hayden supervised the 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate, produced cooperatively by all 16 agencies of the US intelligence community, which concluded that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons activities. In his interview on Monday, Hayden said that, in his view, the conclusion of the 2007 NIE “still holds”, as Tehran has not yet made the decision to weaponize its missile and fissile material. Hayden, who was recently appointed as national security adviser to Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, said that, by rushing to attack Iran now, Israeli military leaders would “actually push [Tehran] to do that which [an attack] is supposed to prevent: getting nuclear weapons”. The retired General added that any military attack on Iran would “pose a difficult challenge” in terms of its strategic outcome, since “there is no absolute certainty that all targets are known” inside Iran. Furthermore, he said, even if Israel decided to attack Iran militarily, it would have to go beyond mere air raids, and would soon discover that its resources were limited. Read more of this post

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Mossad, CIA, ‘agree Iran has no active nuclear weapons program’

Iran's Natanz nuclear enrichment facilityBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
Quoting American intelligence sources, The New York Times reports that intelligence agencies from the United States and Israel agree that Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program years ago, and that Tehran is not currently attempting to revive it. As intelNews has been reporting consistently since 2009, the overwhelming consensus in the US intelligence community is that the Iranian regime suspended all efforts to build a nuclear bomb in 2003. Furthermore, the US intelligence community maintains that the decision to turn Iran into a nuclear power has yet to be conclusively taken in Tehran. This was first outlined in the 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), an annual report cooperatively authored by the heads of all US intelligence agencies. This consensus appears even wider after Sunday’s New York Times report, which maintains that, even though many hawkish Israeli politicians advocate aggressive action against Iran, Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, is in broad agreement with the premise of the 2007 NIE. The Times cites an anonymous “former senior American intelligence official”, who says that, although Israeli intelligence planners direct “very hard questions” to their American counterparts, the “Mossad does not disagree with the US on the [Iranian] weapons program”, and that “there is not a lot of dispute between the US and Israeli intelligence communities on the facts”. Undeniably, the 2007 NIE has its detractors, including some who accuse the US intelligence community of refusing to realize “that Iran now has the capability to change the balance of power in the Gulf”. The latest report in The Times does not deny that there are “significant intelligence gaps” in Washington’s ability to understand Iran’s intentions. Iran, argues the report —correctly— is “one of the most difficult intelligence collection targets in the world”. Read more of this post

US spy agencies see no clear evidence of Iran building nukes

Cover of the 2007 National Intelligence EstimateBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
The United States intelligence community still believes Iran has no immediate goals to produce nuclear arms, and says that Tehran terminated its atomic weapons program in 2003, according to American officials. This is not to say that Iran is not interested in potentially building nuclear weapons. Most intelligence analysts agree that Iran’s long-term goal is to explore the possibility of establishing a nuclear arsenal. However, putting aside the broad concurrence of opinion about Iran’s long-term goal, very little is clear about the current state of Tehran’s nuclear program. Iran maintains that its goal is peaceful, namely to invest in nuclear energy so as to free up large quantities of oil for exports. It is important to stress that the consensus among America’s intelligence agencies is that this is in fact Iran’s immediate goal. This was pronounced in the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a publicly available annual report cooperatively authored by the heads of all 16 US intelligence agencies. The 2007 report stated “with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program”. The US intelligence community has come under sustained criticism from many who have denounced the 2007 and subsequent NIEs as mistaken, or even reckless. Last Friday, however, a New York Times article citing “current and former American officials” said that the consensus among US intelligence analysts remains “that there is no hard evidence that Iran has decided to build a nuclear bomb”. According to the article, the US intelligence community’s consensus remains “broadly consistent” with the 2007 and 2010 NIEs. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #467

  • Ex-Mossad chief says Iran nuke program behind schedule. Meir Dagan, Israel’s recently retired spy chief, thinks Iran will not be able to build a nuclear bomb before 2015, further pushing back Israeli intelligence estimates on the subject. Time for critics of the 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate to reconsider their views?
  • NSA breaks ground on Utah cybersecurity center. Ground was broken last Thursday on the Utah Data Center, a $1.2 billion, 1 million-square-foot cybersecurity center being built for the US National Security Agency at Camp Williams, near Salt Lake City. Secrecy is expected to shroud the center, with the groundbreaking being one of the public’s last chances to take an open look at the project.
  • Colombian judge orders arrest of ex-spy chief. Colombia’s Prosecutor General has ordered the arrest of Jorge Noguera, a former director of the country’s DAS intelligence agency, for his alleged involvement in the spying on government opponents. This is not the first time Noguera, who was director of the DAS between 2002 and 2006, has been sent to jail. He was imprisoned and released twice for his alleged involvement in allowing members of paramilitary organization United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia to infiltrate the intelligence agency.

News you may have missed #0253

  • Iran undecided on nukes, says US military spy chief. The US Pentagon’s top intelligence official, Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, has said what intelNews has been pointing out again and again, namely that the key finding of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, that Iran has not yet committed itself to nuclear weapons production, is still valid.
  • Nobel winner demands Germany uncover Romanian ex-spies. Herta Mueller, the Romanian-born German winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature, has called on Germany to find and prosecute former agents of Romania’s Securitate secret police, large numbers of whom have resettled in Germany after communism ended in Romania 20 years ago.

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News you may have missed #0132

  • Emirates to deport Syrian ex-spy and witness in Hariri assassination probe. A Syrian former spy was on Monday sentenced to six months in jail and deportation for entering the United Arab Emirates on a forged Czech passport. Interestingly, Mohammed Zuhair Siddiq, was a prosecution witness in the inquiry into the assassination of Lebanon’s ex-premier Rafiq Hariri. In 2005, Siddiq claimed that Lebanon’s former pro-Syrian president, Emile Lahoud, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, gave the order to kill anti-Syrian Hariri. It is not clear to which country Siddiq will be deported.
  • US national security advisor insists Iran cannot currently build the bomb. US National Security Advisor General James Jones has rejected claims by The New York Times that Iraq has enough information to design and build a functional nuclear bomb. Jones also stood by the conclusions of the 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate, which said Iran’s nuclear arms program is inactive.
  • Book claims CIA-linked network killed anti-drugs campaigner. A new book by Australian researcher John Jiggens claims that a CIA-linked drug smuggling network was responsible for the 1977 murder of Australian anti-drugs campaigner Donald Mackay.

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Analysis: Spy agencies disagree on status of Iran’s nuclear program

M. Ahmadinejad

M. Ahmadinejad

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Western intelligence agencies agree that Iran’s ultimate aim is to fortify its military posture with nuclear weapons. Putting aside, however, the broad concurrence of opinion about Iran’s long-term goal, very little is clear about the immediate status of the country’s nuclear program. Iran maintains that its goal is peaceful; namely to invest in nuclear energy so as to free up large quantities of oil for exports. It is important to stress that the consensus among America’s intelligence agencies is that this is in fact Iran’s immediate goal. This was pronounced in the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a publicly available annual report cooperatively authored by the heads of all 16 US intelligence agencies. The 2007 report stated “with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program”.  The reality is that the existence of Iran’s second uranium enrichment plant –of which, incidentally, Western and Israeli intelligence agencies have been aware for years– does not necessarily contest the findings of the 2007 NIE. IntelNews editor Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis explains why this is so on the website of the Research Institute for European and American Studies. Read article →

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