No Iraq Intelligence Update For You!
For weeks, analysts within the 16-agency U.S. intelligence community have been toiling to complete an assessment of the situation in Iraq. This morning, it finally went to the Hill: the Senate and House intelligence committees, and the leadership in both chambers, are the proud owners of an update to the August 23, 2007 National Intelligence Estimate. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee received a briefing on it. But you’ll never see it.
According to an administration official with knowledge of the intelligence process, this morning’s intelligence document isn’t itself a National Intelligence Estimate. “It’s not a formal report,” the official said, “it’s more or less an assessment memo, an update to policy makers.” August’s report covered political and security developments in Iraq and their prospects for improvement or deterioration. It found that “There have been measurable but uneven improvements in Iraq’s security situation” and that “Iraqi political leaders remain unable to govern effectively.”
On the eve of Gen. David Petraeus and Amb. Ryan Crocker’s Capitol Hill testimony next week, it would be helpful to know how the U.S. intelligence community measures progress/backsliding along the same metrics as it did nine months ago. But alas: the default policy set last fall by a put-upon Michael McConnell, the director of national intelligence, is to restrict the release of declassified intelligence summaries. The Iraq NIE-update is no exception. “Generally, the officials looked at it and did not see any type of overwhelming need to put this in the public domain,” the official said. After all, when a democracy goes to war, you wouldn’t want an informed citizenry or anything.