NIE rapidly declassified - the antithesis of a coverup
President Bush held a 10am press conference this morning. As noted in an AP article:
Bush said Tuesday that he only learned of the new intelligence assessment last week. But he portrayed it as valuable ammunition against Tehran, not as a reason to lessen diplomatic pressure.
"To me, the NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) provides an opportunity for us to rally the international community—to continue to rally the community—to pressure the Iranian regime to suspend its program," the president said. "What's to say they couldn't start another covert nuclear weapons program."
He also asserted that the report means "nothing's changed," focusing on the previous existence of a weapons program and not addressing the discrepancy between his rhetoric and the disclosure that weapons program has been frozen for four years.
"I still feel strongly that Iran is a danger," he said. "I think the NIE makes it clear that Iran needs to be taken seriously as a threat to peace. My opinion hasn't changed."
As Byron York of NRO notes in The Corner:
At his news conference, President Bush just said that he didn't know the findings of the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran when he said, on October 17, "I believe they want to have the capacity, the knowledge, in order to make a nuclear weapon…So I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon." After the NIE was released yesterday, when reporters went back to the president's statements, his emphasis on "the knowledge" seemed to suggest that Bush must have known about the new intelligence and was tailoring his words to fit the new conclusions. But he says he did not.
Captain Ed exposes the fallacy that the NIE was delayed:
So why did it take from August to the end of November to finalize the NIE? The data seemed so at odds with the conclusion of previous NIEs -- all of which insisted that Iran continued to pursue nuclear weapons -- that the DNI assigned a "red team" to punch holes in the new information. While that process continued, the White House continued its pursuit of sanctions against Iran, but began lowering the profile of the effort while the EU attempted talks. As soon as the red team finished its work, the NIE was completed and presented on Wednesday to the administration.