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More NIE

Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell took to the Sunday airwaves and Tim Russert asked him a rather pointed question, which I too noted the other day, about the seeming disparity between the current National Intelligence Estimate and the previous one. Timmeh asks, "What changed?"
McCONNELL: What's different? What changed? In Pakistan, where they're enjoying a safe haven, the government of Pakistan chose to try a political solution. The political solution meant a peace treaty with a region that's never been governed -- not governed from the outside, not governed by Pakistan. The opposite occurred. Instead of pushing al-Qaeda out, the people who live in the -- these federally- administered tribal areas, rather than pushing al-Qaeda out, they made a safe haven for training and recruiting.

Now this explanation would seem to make sense. Al-Qaeda was basically given free reign to bolster up there forces in a lawless region. But as former CIA analyst Larry Johnson noticed, the data that might back up this assertion is decidedly absent.
A careful reading of the NIE on The Terrorist Threat to the Homeland fails to reveal any empirical or intelligence data to justify the conclusions. For example, if we had intelligence that an increasing number of foreigners had crossed into Waziristan during the last three years, received training, and departed the area then there would be some legitimate basis for concern about a “regenerated” Al-Qa’ida. But no such evidence or facts are proffered to make such a case. That is odd. Even in unclassified key judgments one should expect some reference to the underlying data supporting the assessment that a capability has regenerated. But there is none.

All the more reason Congress should be asking questions. McConnell was also asked about his "serious reservations" regarding the Bush administration's use of intelligence in the run up to the war. If only he showed similar skepticism now.

(Filed at State of the Day)

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