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Thread: Are you now, or have you ever been, a card-carrying member of the State Department?

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    Default Are you now, or have you ever been, a card-carrying member of the State Department?

    Bolton: US intelligence has become politicized
    Jerusalem Post, Jan 21, 2008

    The 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate, as well as the skewed reporting around it, is a sign of the "illegitimate politicization" of the American intelligence establishment, according to former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton.
    I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds it more than a little ironic that its Bolton leveling charges of politicized intelligence. However, I was more perturbed by this:

    "I know the people who wrote this intelligence estimate," Bolton continued. "They are not from our intelligence community. They're from our State Department. It was a highly politicized document written by people who had a very clear policy objective."
    I assume he's speaking of Tom Fingar (NIC)--who, quite apart from having started his career as a linguist in military intelligence, served with distinction as both Deputy Secretary and Deputy Assistant Secretary (Analysis) at INR/State (last time I checked, part of the US intelligence community).

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    He's lagging behind his partisan bretheren with this particular accusation. That line was taken by one particular end of the political spectrum as soon as the NIE was released; and it was discussed a bit in the ME forum in the NIE: Iran: Nuclear Prospects and Capabilities thread.

    However, in this context I'll go ahead and throw out a piece I quoted and linked in that thread, since it touches more on the intel aspects of the NIE than it does on the Iranian issue:

    ....To state that a small number of people successfully manipulated the NIE because of a partisan political anti-Bush agenda is itself partisan nonsense.

    Mike Tanji over at Haft of the Spear lays it out fairly well:
    .....reports that the NIE was drafted by people with a known political agenda – or acute cases of Bush Derangement Syndrome – make for entertaining political hay, but it has been my experience that the principle drafters of such assessments come from one lead agency, not the executives at the top of the food chain. Anyone who can prove that partisan hacks cherry picked the intelligence information they wanted and then strong-armed the rest of the community to go along with their conclusions would have a bombshell on their hands. These executives do play an important role in the NIE process, which I’ll address later.

    Finally, building an NIE is not unlike any other bureaucratic exercise that involves multiple agencies of the government. Competing opinions are argued, disputes are mediated, and dissent noted. At the end of the day a deliverable is due – the rough draft – and the involved parties get to sit at their home offices for a period of time, ruminate on the work, and forward to the principle drafter their comments, edits, suggestions and recommendations. What follows are several rounds of review and edit sessions with increasingly more senior members of the agencies involved and the National Intelligence Council, until the final draft is ready for review, approval and dissemination.

    I spent almost 20 years in the intelligence community and I have absolutely no idea what the political affiliation or disposition of any of my colleagues or superiors were. No one talked politics; we talked data, methodology and analysis. The idea that a dozen-odd people would sit down for days at a time concocting a piece of work that was purely designed to thwart the efforts of a given administration is more than a little absurd. I have no doubt that I worked with people who did not agree with the Executive’s agenda (regardless of who the Executive was at any given time), but you show up to these things with data and arguments you can defend; you show up with political party talking points and you’re going to catch an intellectual beating.....

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    Council Member J Wolfsberger's Avatar
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    Unfortunately, this was pretty much guaranteed when the left started championing the report as proof that "Bush lied." A lot of members are very much aware of just how much guess work goes into intelligence analysis. We knew it isn't at all unusual for an estimate to change, sometimes dramatically, in light of new information, or even more time to think about the issue. When this one came out and Bush's opponents used it as an opportunity to attack him, the response was predictable.
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    Quote Originally Posted by J Wolfsberger
    Unfortunately, this was pretty much guaranteed when the left started championing the report as proof that "Bush lied." A lot of members are very much aware of just how much guess work goes into intelligence analysis. We knew it isn't at all unusual for an estimate to change, sometimes dramatically, in light of new information, or even more time to think about the issue. When this one came out and Bush's opponents used it as an opportunity to attack him, the response was predictable.
    With the vicious partisan climate that has existed in domestic politics over the past several years, the reactions of each side (or studied lack thereof) to a number of important NIEs and other national-level intelligence findings over that general time frame has been fairly predictable. This one has generated a bit more public fuss than usual, but the degree of predetermined backbiting among the politicos doesn't exceed the norm that much. It doesn't leave one with much respect for senior policymakers of any stripe.

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    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Mr. Chairman,

    I am offended by the question as to my acquaintainces in the state department. I may have been approached upon occasion to join the state department but at no point have I sworn an oath of allegiance or accepted any gifts or gratuities from them. As the chairman likely knows the state department has a wide footprint in the national infrastructure of our country that is absolutely shocking. To think from the smallest NGO to the very ARMY the state department may have infiltrated with their insidious ideologies the fabric or American morality and democracy. Should it be required I will name names of those I think are currently or previously associated with the state department.
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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    I personally have documentation found in a pumpkin patch that clearly shows selil wearing an ascot and eating finger sandwiches. If that is not proof of association with the State Department, what is?

    I'm with Rex, though--when members of this administration start whining about the politicization of intelligence or using it for partisan purposes, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Or both. One of the themes of the administration has been the deprecation of expertise, whether in the military, the State Department, or the intelligence community. Expertise is an impediment to ideology.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Heh - and that differs from

    any previous administration within our lifetimes how?

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    any previous administration within our lifetimes how?
    Point taken, but in my opinion, this administration has done it to a greater extent and to more disastrous results that their forebears.

    There were signs of the deprecation of expertise early on--this administration transformed many positions that had previously been reserved for experts into political appointments. Their mentality was that experts were a firebreak on their vision. Such a mentality does open the way for bold innovation. But it also increases the chances of major mistakes.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I can agree with that...

    Every Admin walks in determined to do nothing its predecessor did and to be 'bold and innovative...' Then they all reinvent wheels and fall into the same trap; this one was just more determined to reinvent than most. Unfortunately.

    Sigh.

    Egos...

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    Council Member ProfessorB's Avatar
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    Default Blowback?

    I suppose a logical follow-on question would look at whether or not this pattern -- intel report, partisan trumpeting, partisan undermining -- is going to be the rule rather than the exception. One can easily imagine "Hillary's" intelligence community or "Huckabee's" CIA or "Obama's" NIE getting the same treatment, so I wonder what the long-term implications are for public confidence in the Intelligence Community; the willingness of decision-makers to stand by professional analysis; etc. Or has the "Office of Special Plans" effectively doomed us to a recurring cycle of point-counterpoint?

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    Council Member MountainRunner's Avatar
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    Default Does history repeat?

    The title of this thread caught my eye as it reflects 1940's-era opinions of the State Department. A conservative Republican Congressman from South Dakota was one of many who felt State was filled with communists. Rep. Karl Mundt, later Senator Mundt, was a force behind the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 to address problems in part stemming from a lack of focus and initiative at State. More on that on the SWJ blog.

    I don't know if Rex intended to link sixty-year old history with Bolton's statement. I'm not. I'm just throwing this out there.

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    Registered User GWL II's Avatar
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    Default Professional vs. Competent

    I have to deal with State a great deal in my present job. Given a choice I would never rely on them for either advice or assistance regarding my or my employee's safety. I have also found the "background" briefings on trade missions and the like to be substantially less informative than Lonely Planet or a solid read of the FT.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default No but I did sleep in an embassy or two

    Are you now, or have you ever been, a card-carrying member of the State Department?
    Hmmm 6 embassies/missions, one wife, and a girlfriend

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default And you had...

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    Hmmm 6 embassies/missions, one wife, and a girlfriend
    A few decent NCOs...Right ?
    Last edited by Stan; 01-28-2008 at 09:33 PM. Reason: forgot the friggin question mark
    If you want to blend in, take the bus

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stan View Post
    A few decent NCOs...Right ?
    No

    I had two fantastic NCOs

    You were one of them

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    Default Dripping with irony

    Is it just me or does anyone else think that it's ironic that the neocons are accusing others of oliticizing the intel process?

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Eagle View Post
    Is it just me or does anyone else think that it's ironic that the neocons are accusing others of oliticizing the intel process?
    Irony would be one word choice

    It certainly reeks but I have come to expect it

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