National Intelligence Estimate
This weekend the New York Times published some key findings from the National Intelligence Estimate from April of 2006. This was a classified document that was leaked to the press and published a story entitled Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat (subscription required).
The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled â€œTrends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,â€™â€™ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.
An opening section of the report, â€œIndicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement,â€ cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.
The report â€œsays that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,â€ said one American intelligence official.
Putting aside the leak of the classified report to the New York Times, the article is fairly plain that the report makes two assumptions. First that Islamic radicalism is a greater threat now then before (though the before is somewhat vague). The second is that the war in Iraq is the primary cause of the growth in Islamic radicalism. Of course without seeing the NIE we have only the word of the reporter and his unnamed sources to go upon. That is until President Bush directed John Negroponte to declassify the key findings summary of the NIE.
Its only four pages and a quick read. You can read it at the government site http://www.dni.gov/press_releases/Declassified_NIE…
Just to contrast though with the start of the New York Time article however, here is the opening paragraph of the NIE key findings.
United States-led counterterrorism efforts have seriously damaged the leadership of al-Qaâ€™ida and disrupted its operations; however, we judge that al-Qaâ€™ida will continue to pose the greatest threat to the Homeland and US interests abroad by a single terrorist organization. We also assess that the global jihadist movementâ€”which includes al-Qaâ€™ida, affiliated and independent terrorist groups, and emerging networks and cellsâ€”is spreading and adapting to counterterrorism efforts.
That is quite a contrast from what the NYT portrayed the report to state. Granted that the key findings do state:
We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.
But at the same time it also states the following:
Four underlying factors are fueling the spread of the jihadist movement: (1) Entrenched grievances, such as corruption, injustice, and fear of Western domination, leading to anger, humiliation, and a sense of powerlessness; (2) the Iraq “jihad;” (3) the slow pace of real and sustained economic, social, and political reforms in many Muslim majority nations; and (4) pervasive anti-US sentiment among most MuslimsÂ—all of which jihadists exploit.
and then this as well:
If democratic reform efforts in Muslim majority nations progress over the next five years, political participation probably would drive a wedge between intransigent extremists and groups willing to use the political process to achieve their local objectives. Nonetheless, attendant reforms and potentially destabilizing transitions will create new opportunities for jihadists to exploit.
So while the New York Times is telling its readers that the Iraq War is causing jihadists to be created in droves and quotes an anonymous government official saying that the Iraq War has made the overall problem of terrorism worse, it fails to bring forth most of the key findings that undermine their goal. In short their “news article” is not news but opinion masquerading as news, and in the worst way it is unverifiable because the NIE was classified and only the New York Times reporter had seen a copy. Thus what they chose to reveal to us was all that we would ever get. Until the DNI released the full set of key findings we would have thought that the NIE only painted a picture of doom and gloom where it was apparent that had we just not gone into Iraq then the war on global terror might already be won! Thankfully we see that the report does not do that at all. Read it for yourself and draw your own conclusions. Most likely if you supported the war in Iraq before you still will, and if you opposed it you still will. But at least you will have a fuller picture then what the New York Times was planning for you to have.