The Classified NIE

One issue that came up in the debate was whether or not reading the classified version of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq would have given Hillary Clinton and/or John Edwards a better perspective on the war. Years later, and in the heat of a primary campaign, it's a bit hard to look objectively at that issue. But if you look at the relevant section of this 2003 Judis/Ackerman joint on the manipulation of intelligence, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that they really should have read it.

We learn that Bob Graham "received a 25-page classified response reflecting the balanced view that had prevailed earlier among the intelligence agencies--noting, for example, that evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program or a link to Al Qaeda was inconclusive." It also seems that the Senate Intel Committee "received the DIA's classified analysis, which reflected the same cautious assessments." Graham and Dick Durbin had been demanding an NIE on Iraq "and toward the end of September, it was delivered. Like Tenet's earlier letter, the classified NIE was balanced in its assessments. Graham called on Tenet to produce a declassified version of the report that could guide members in voting on the resolution." But when the declassified version came out "Graham and Durbin were outraged to find that it omitted the qualifications and countervailing evidence that had characterized the classified version and played up the claims that strengthened the administration's case for war."

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