CIA’S NUCLEAR DENIAL
A former career intelligence officer last week criticized the CIA’s controversial 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, saying that a recent update also was skewed in stating that Iran halted all work on nuclear arms in 2003.
Fred Fleitz, a former CIA analyst and until recently a House Intelligence Committee staff member, wrote that U.S. intelligence analysts for the past several years remain “unwilling to conduct a proper assessment of the Iranian nuclear issue.”
The refusal puts them at odds with the White House, U.S. allies and even the United Nations, he said.
“Mounting evidence over the last few years has convinced most experts that Iran has an active program to develop and construct nuclear weapons,” Mr. Fleitz said in an op-ed column in the Wall Street Journal.
Despite the growing evidence of ongoing Iranian nuclear arms work, “U.S. intelligence officials are standing by their assessment,” he said.
“In February, the 17 agencies of the U.S. intelligence community issued a highly classified National Intelligence Estimate updating their 2007 assessment,” he stated. “That estimate had been politicized by several officials who feared how President George W. Bush might respond to a true account of the Iranian threat.”
Mr. Fleitz said the February 2011 Iran National Intelligence Estimate was “poorly written and little improvement over the 2007 version.”
He noted that criticism of the revised report was blocked from publication by CIA censors who reviewed his newspaper column, “including my serious concern that it manipulated intelligence evidence.”
“It is unacceptable that Iran is on the brink of testing a nuclear weapon while our intelligence analysts continue to deny that an Iranian nuclear weapons program exists,” he said.
A more detailed critique of the 2007 intelligence report can be found in this reporter’s 2008 book, “The Failure Factory.” is Evan S. Medeiros, a pro-China academic now well-placed to influence policy as White House National Security Council specialist on the Chinese military.
The policy dispute has brought Mr. Medeiros into several policy clashes with other Asia hands in the State Department, Pentagon and military and even the White House.
Republicans staff aides and a defense official told Inside the Ring that they believe Mr. Medeiros is behind efforts to block the release to Congress of the Pentagon’s annual report on the Chinese military, completed months ago and due to Capitol Hill on March 1. The report is being held back to avoid upsetting the Chinese, who routinely denounce the report.
Mr. Medeiros also is being blamed for preventing the U.S. sale of 66 advanced F-16 jets to Taiwan that is expected to anger Beijing and for holding up a new sale of equipment to upgrade Taiwan’s existing F-16s. And the sources say he has used bureaucratic delaying tactics to block the release of a second Pentagon report to Congress on the shifting air power balance in the Taiwan Strait.
One official said Mr. Medeiros also has tried to thwart a Pentagon task force from adopting a new military strategy toward China based on better coordination of U.S. air and naval forces.
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor declined requests from Inside the Ring to interview Mr. Medeiros. But Mr. Vietor said any assertion that Mr. Medeiros is behind the delays is “completely wrong and wildly uninformed.”
Other China specialists in the intelligence community say Mr. Medeiros advocates an ideological view that exaggerates Chinese sensitivities to any U.S. ef- fort to deal realistically with India, Japan and others in addressing the China threat.
Mr. Medeiros’ track record on China is available online in numerous writings on China’s military for more than a decade.
A reading of some his work shows he is an adherent of the diminishing view among academic analysts of China who assert that China’s military poses little or no threat, and that Beijing’s policies are generally benign, claims that have come under increasing skepticism.
A 2005 article he wrote criticized any U.S. effort to “hedge” against China’s rise by building forces to counter China’s military buildup.
Last year, while in his National Security Council post, Mr. Medeiros co-wrote a journal article in International Security on China’s nuclear forces that stated China has a small nuclear force that is not useful for warfighting and is mainly for deterrence and to prevent nuclear blackmail.
That analysis is questionable because U.S. officials have said China’s nuclear forces have expanded rapidly in recent years along with its large missile forces. Reports from Asia say China’s nuclear arsenal could be three to five times the size of its estimated 400 nuclear warheads, with as many as 2,300 warheads.
In 2009, Mr. Medeiros wrote that “China’s international behavior is not ideologically driven.” As a result, he clashed with U.S. Pacific Command officials.
Mr. Medeiros, in internal emails, sided with China when the U.S. Pacific Command criticized Beijing for backing Pyongyang over the findings of an international panel that said a North Korean submarine sank a South Korean warship.
Mr. Medeiros also has been criticized for writing that China is not seeking to displace the United States as the predominant global power, and, as he said in a Rand monograph, that China is not seeking to “confront the United States or expel it from the region.”
That assertion was shown to be false in 2009, when then-Pacific Command commander Adm. Tim Keating revealed how a Chinese admiral proposed dividing the Pacific into two spheres, western waters controlled by China and eastern seas under U.S. forces. The proposal was rejected.
In 2008, Mr. Medeiros cowrote a monograph stating that East Asia is not gradually falling under Chinese hegemony. Military leaders at the Pacific Command, however, have said China is quietly expanding its hegemony in the region.
Mr. Medeiros opposed U.S. diplomatic efforts to bolster Japan after threats from Beijing forced Tokyo to release a Chinese fishing boat captain arrested for illegally fishing in Japanese waters. He also backed the U.S. Navy’s caving in to pressure not to send an aircraft carrier to the Yellow Sea earlier this year amid Chinese threats.
Bill Gertz can be reached at insidether firstname.lastname@example.org.
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