Although the U.S. intelligence community (IC) has been stung by failures relating to the Christmas terrorist attack, these failures are symptomatic of far larger problems. In analyzing the ongoing Iranian and North Korean nuclear weapons programs, both the IC and policy makers are guilty of politicizing intelligence, exactly the behavior harshly criticized during the Bush administration.
Now, however, the politicization threat dwells inside the IC, especially in the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) bureaucracy. Policy officials move in and out of intelligence jobs as if those jobs were interchangeable, carrying all their existing policy biases. Even worse, intelligence officers increasingly disdain to hide their philosophical proclivities, which have colored their intelligence analysis in years past. And, like generals refighting the last war to correct their mistakes, the IC is reacting against charges it overstated the threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction by understating the threat of Iranian and North Korean weapons programs. So much for the wall of separation between policy and intelligence.
Ill-concealed policy preferences dominated the now-discredited 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's nuclear weapons program. So eager were the NIE's drafters to forestall the use of force against Iran that they distorted the intelligence, ignored contrary evidence, and overstated their conclusions.
John R. Bolton is a senior fellow at AEI.