The history of how the NIE was developed provides an effective rebuke to those attacking it. Since late 2006, the White House has been aware that the NIE would not confirm the existence of an Iranian weapons program. In January 2007, John Negroponte resigned as director of national intelligence because he backed his analysts and refused to order the rewriting of the key judgments that appeared in the NIE draft. Vice President Dick Cheney’s office subsequently demanded several revisions and numerous reviews of the source material. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell is loyal to the president, but, like Negroponte, was unwilling to alter the conclusions for the White House, and the administration eventually became resigned to a final report that it knew would contradict policy.
Contrary to administration claims, when conclusive new intelligence demonstrating that the Iranians had cancelled their weapons program became available in early summer 2007, the White House was informed. It is no coincidence that President Bush and his aides soon began to downplay Iranian nukes and started to emphasize “they’re killing our soldiers” to make its case against Tehran. In November, McConnell, under pressure from Congress to finish the NIE, agreed to White House demands that it be kept classified, but when the report was finally completed a month later, an unclassified summary was prepared because of concerns that inevitable leaks by Democrats in Congress would make it appear that the administration was again deceiving the American people.
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