Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Syria's credible threats [UPDATED 27 DEC 2007]

Spain and the US are being threatened, and the threats are very credible, in my eyes and extend far beyond the immediate of Lebanon and Spain.

Cross-posted from Dumb Looks Still Free.

From Naharnet News Desk, Beirut, 24 DEC 2007 (link liable to change), with h/t to Across the Bay:

Syrian Intelligence Threatens Spanish Peacekeepers in Lebanon

Syria's secret service has threatened Spanish soldiers in Lebanon in a bid to block the extradition of suspected arms dealer Monzer Al-Kassar to the United States, the newspaper El Mundo reported Monday.

The Spanish intelligence service, according to a memo cited by the newspaper, fears that troops on U.N. deployment in south-east Lebanon could be targeted if the Spanish cabinet ratify a judicial verdict and send Kassar to the United States.

General Assef Shawkat, chief of Syrian military intelligence, wrote to his opposite number in Spain: "If you think we are going to ignore the affront inflicted by north-American henchmen on our brother (Kassar), you don't really know us and [you] are no friends of the Syrian people."

Dated end-July, the note also refers to Shawkat delivering a thinly-veiled threat during a discussion with Spain's Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.

Around 1,100 Spanish soldiers serve in the U.N. interim force in Lebanon deployed following the summer 2006 war between Israel and Hizbullah. Six Spanish soldiers were killed during a bombing there in June.

Syrian native Kassar, known colloquially as the "Prince of Marbella" where he has been based for the last decade, is wanted in the U.S. on suspicion of arranging arms deals for leftist FARC rebels in Colombia.(AFP)

Beirut, Updated 26 Dec 07, 04:17
This comes as no surprise, really, after recent events in Spain. This from the Times Online UK 01 NOV 2007:
November 1, 2007

191 dead, thousands of victims - but the ‘mastermind’ is cleared

Thomas Catan in Madrid
The accused mastermind of Europe’s worst Islamist terrorist attack was cleared of all charges along with six others yesterday in a shock judgment that angered victims.

Twenty-one others were convicted of playing a role in the 2004 Madrid train bombings, though many of them on much lesser charges than the prosecution had sought.

Family members of the 191 people killed and 1,800 injured expressed astonishment, branding the sentences as lenient and feeble, and vowing to appeal.

Pilar Manjón, who heads the largest association of victims, said: “I don’t like to see murderers walk free.” She lost her 20-year-old son when ten bombs packed into sports bags and detonated by mobile phone ripped through four commuter trains.

The court ordered victims of the bombings to be paid between €30,000 (£20,900) and €1.5 million (£1 million) in compensation.

One of the highest amounts will go to the family of Laura Vega, 29, who remains in a coma in a Madrid hospital. They will receive about €1 million to help to pay for her continuing care.

The atrocity was the world’s largest terrorist attack since September 11, 2001, and was the first European example of al-Qaeda-inspired terrorism on a large scale. But prosecutors failed to convince judges on the three-man panel of a direct al-Qaeda link. And the verdicts also failed to answer the question of who plotted the attack.

The accused mastermind, Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed, known as Mohammed the Egyptian, burst into tears of relief upon hearing the verdict, shouting “You see that I’m innocent?” according to his lawyer.

He is serving a ten-year sentence on unrelated terrorism charges in Italy, where police taped him bragging in a telephone call about his supposed plotting of the Madrid bombings.

Amid a heavy security operation that included armoured cars and police helicopters buzzing overhead, Judge Javier G�mez Bermúdez read out the verdict to a hushed courtroom. Three men - two Moroccans and a Spaniard - were given the toughest sentences in the complex six-month case.

Jamal Zougam, 34, a Moroccan who lived in Madrid, was convicted of mass murder, having placed one of the bombs packed with dynamite and nails aboard the trains. Police arrested him after finding that one of the mobile phones used in an unexploded bomb had been sold from his shop. Several witnesses also reported seeing him aboard one of the trains that morning.

Othman el-Gnaoui, 32, was also found to have had a direct role in the attack and was convicted of murder.

José Emilio Suárez Trashorras, 31, a Spanish miner with a history of mental illness, was convicted of being a “necessary collaborator” in the bombings after selling the dynamite used in the attack to the Madrid cell.

The three were each sentenced to between 35,000 and 43,000 years in prison - though under Spanish law they will serve a maximum 40 years.

Three other Spaniards were convicted of helping Trashorras to traffic the explosives stolen from his mine.
And who is left out?

In my article Monzer al-Kassar and Transnational Terrorism, I look at some of the evidence that has shown up in Spain. That would take me to Winds of Change's Joe Aguilar look at part of that plot and how it involved Monzer al-Kassar:
Well, we are approaching the culmination of this article, the Schwerpunkt, the point where the main forces of the investigators of 3/11 and the ones that want it covered-up are heading for a perhaps decisive confrontation. At the centre of it, there is a man of Syrian origin, a National Police officer named Ayman Maussili Kalaji.

Kalaji arrived to Spain in 1980 as a political refugee, fleeing from the Civil War in Syria. He had served in the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (FDLP) in Lebanon, and it appears that he reached the rank of second commander of a missile base there. He also took the anti-government side in Syria, during that country's repression of the Muslim Brotherhood, resulting in Kalaji knocking on Spanish Immigration's door in order to keep his head on his shoulders. What may be more interesting to us is that as a bright teenage, he had been well trained in terrorist techniques, including electronics, and intelligence operations, and might even have been trained in the Soviet Union.

Regarding his experience, he began to collaborate with the Spanish security forces. Among other duties, he controlled the communications of Monzer Al Kassar, an arms trafficker that supplied to Palestine terrorists the weapons used in the assault of the Achille Lauro. Al Kassar bought Spanish protection against any awkward Israeli attention by selling two SA-7 portable antiaircraft missiles equipped with a transmitter to ETA. He was also allegedly a friend of Secretary of the Interior Rafael Vera. Later, in 1989, Kalaji worked in an operation to arrest a Hizbullah cell in Valencia, the year in which he was finally admitted to the National Police corps.

What is his relation with the 3/11 plot? Well, he owns a mobile phone store where the mobile phones allegedly used in those attacks were unlocked, (manipulated their software so they can use SIM cards from any company) as he himself has recognized. However, that is not all; the Civil Guard unit that is investigating the plot sent a communication to Judge Del Olmo in which, due to (a) the short time frame (from March 4th and 8th to 11th) to manipulate the phones, (b) the knowledge of Kalaji about terrorists operations and electronics (those well soldered wires) and his relations with other Syrians involved in the attack, requested an arrest warrant against him. The Civil Guards suspect that he is the person that attached the wires to the vibrating units of the mobile phones used in 3/11.

That is, no Al Qaeda, no ETA, but a Police officer.
Then on to Barcepundit gives a 2005 review of events:
El Mundo explains how the police found out that one of their own was the owner of the store where the cell phones were programmed:
From the data obtained in the van, plus the data from the unexploded knapsack bomb, the cell phones that Jamal Ahmidam’s people bought at Bazar Top (the Indian store), and the following “release” [by which the cell phones were able to be operated from any source including calling cards] of those phones, Kalaji’s coworkers at the General Information office came to his store, Tecnología de Sistemas Telefónicos Ayman.

From that very moment, Maussili Kalaji began to fully cooperate with his ex-coworkers at the Information Office, and thanks to him, and to his having written down the IMEI identification numbers of the Bazar Top cell numbers he had been asked to “release” (i.e., program so they phones would allow calling cards from any company and in any modality, prepayment, or contract), the investigators were able to find the Leganés apartment where the terrorist leader of the 3/11 trains of death had taken shelter.
. . .
He was in charge of the Syrian Monzer Al-Kassar
Maussili Kalaji thoroughly knows the Syrian community in Spain, and additionally, was the Spanish agent in charge of listening to and translating all of the telephone conversations of Monzer Al-Kassar, allegad weapons trafficker that was charged by judge Baltasar Garzón for collaborating in the Achille Lauro hijacking

The ship’s hijacking took place in 1985, and in 1992 judge Garzón charged Al-Kassar -- Syrian resident of Marbella and representative of the Spanish government in some weapons sales to third countries – of allegedly belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (led by Abu Abbas [see link]), of murder, of belonging to an armed gang and terrorist organization, of attempted murder, illegal detention, and piracy.

Kalaji, as member of the Office of Information and by order of the judge, kept close match on Al-Kassar and his family; but eventually the Syrian friend of former Cesid director Alonso Manglano and ex-Secretary of the Interior Rafael Vera, was absolved of all charges of which judge Garzón had accused him.
Kalaji's Palestinian connections are strong and remain strong. El Mundo describes him as "Kalaji, who considers himself a defender of the Palestinian cause". My question is, is it wise of the Spanish intelligence services to have place in such sensitive jobs both Kalaji and members of his family?
Yes, Monzer al-Kassar, involved with the 3/11 Madrid train bombings. Syria wants him not to be extradited which comes down to a pretty blunt piece of work by Syria.

Here is what they are saying: Your soldiers in Lebanon are hostages of fortune, release Monzer al-Kassar... or else.

And Syria has delivered a message to the US on this, from Naharnet News, Beirut, 26 DEC 2007:
Syria Warns 'Resistance' Against Being Dragged into Civil War

Syria's ambassador to Washington, Imad Mustafa, has cautioned that a political failure could plunge Lebanon into civil war and warned Hizbullah against being dragged into the battle which could be a "great national disaster for Syria and victory for the enemies of the Lebanese resistance."

Mustafa also dubbed a possibility to elect a new Lebanese President by a simple majority vote an "explosive choice."

He hoped that Lebanon would get out of the presidential vacuum, adding, however, that there is a "strong possibility that an agreement could be finally reached" where the Lebanese would have a consensus President "who enjoys respect of all factions and that (person) is Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman."

Mustafa said the enemies of Lebanon were "those who wish that civil war break out in it," adding that the same foes "are instigating one Lebanese party against the other in the hopes that this would lead to an internal political strife; they are the ones who are turning Lebanon against its brethren and neighbors."

He believed that the Hizbullah-led opposition's aspirations were "Lebanese ambitions," stressing that there is nothing harmful in them.

Beirut, 26 Dec 07, 09:51
Couple that with the threat to Spain and what do you get?

Something like: Give up extraditing Monzer al-Kassar and looking into the assassinations in Lebanon, or things will go very badly in Lebanon and we will pin it on you.

This is the other shoe dropping on trying to get Monzer al-Kassar.

This is not over by a long shot.

UPDATE 27 DEC 2007
From Reform Party of Syria via wadinet

Assad Behind Bombs to Stop the Extradition of Kassar

RPS Press Release/ -- The Reform Party of Syria condemns the latest bombs, which exploded in Iraq killing at least 34 innocent Iraqis in two separate cities on one of the holiest days of the year and accuses Baschar al-Assad of carrying out a well calculated terror campaign against Iraq.

The cold killing comes on the heels of a court order in Spain to extradite the Syrian arms dealer Monzer al-Kassar, a close Assad operative, to the US who is suspected of selling arms to various anti-US groups and whose history of drug smuggling and other illegal activities mirrors the Assad regime qualitative purpose. The latest spate of killing in Iraq was intended to send a signal to the White House that unless the US vacates its request for the extradition of al-Kassar, the Assad regime will continue terrorizing Iraq and its innocent citizens. Al-Kassar can indict Assad directly in suspected killing of Americans, which explains the threats Assef Shawkat, Assad's brother-in-law and Chief of the Military Intelligence, made against Spanish UNIFIL troops in the south of Lebanon should the Spanish government comply with the US request.

Kassar is an important asset and when he points the finger at Baschar al-Assad and his immediate family, the US will be able to threaten the Assad family directly and much more impetuously than the parallel indictment expected from the UN international tribunal investigating the murder of Rafik al-Hariri. The cat and mouse game between the Assads and the international community is on high octane manifested by appeasing words from diplomats in the US and Israel while behind the scenes, tracts are pursued to clip Assad's wings once and for all.

We salute the Spanish government for its brave stand against terror and urge it to extradite Kassar expeditiously. We also urge the US administration to expedite its pursuit of the Thugs of Damascus as they continue disrupting Lebanon, killing innocent Iraqi civilians, and threatening the region with chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. The alternative to Assad are Syrian dissidents and patriotic politicians committed to democracy, freedom, and human rights.

© Reform Party of Syria
My thanks to Mark Eichenlaub for pointing to this material.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The understated implication of the NIE

As few have picked up on this, I sent an email to a few folks and decided to post it here. There are National policy and governmental security issues that the recent NIE on Iran has brought up and I find them troubling based on my works over the past couple of years.

From here on I repeat the letter:

The thing I have been trying to get across on the NIE is the point that zero people want to pay attention to:

We continue to assess with low confidence that Iran probably has imported at least some weapons-usable fissile material, but still judge with moderate-to-high confidence it has not obtained enough for a nuclear weapon.
This is not something I would ever expect to see on an unclassified report on Iran. The ability to import nuclear material through clandestine networks can only be assessed with 'low confidence'. Add that to the generally well known non-placement of CIA agents (or DIA for that fact) into transnational criminal organizations, and you get the following conclusion based on how sophisticated the Red Mafia is (and my recent article on same is lengthy and tough to get through as it is an extremely difficult subject):

1) Unknown amounts of nuclear material have gone unaccounted for since the fall of the USSR. This is not only 'yellowcake' but also refined material that was part of the nuclear disarmament agreement (START). The US, by not helping the cash strapped Russians to continue that program robustly had started to suffer security lapses. Unlike many alarmists I do not believe that any nuclear devices were taken from the inventory, but a high probability of warhead material (not just fissionables, but hardened electronics) has worked its way into criminal underground networks is something that cannot be discounted. Reports by various police and INTEL agencies across the globe point to something like this.

2) The Chorny brothers and other Red Mafia groups in the 'Heavy Metals' gang have been running factories under the Russian regime with little to no oversight of their activities. Heavy metals like lead and cadmium are essential components of nuclear reactors and warheads, along with other materials and, yes, electronics. Without proper safeguards we have seen in other areas of the Russian economy that goods (not just consumer goods, but weapons, vehicles and such) have been in the organized crime pipeline since the mid-1990's. Of note is that some of the old Nomenklatura apparatchiks moved into co-support of enterprises with organized crime, thus bringing contact lists with them for expertise.

3) The most sophisticated Red Mafia operator is part of the larger syndicate operating with the Chorny brothers, he is the 'Red Don' Semion Mogilevitch. He has an advanced degree in economics and I have not fully scoped out his criminal enterprises, but they stretched into Canada, US, parts of S. America, throughout Europe and all the way to China and the Golden Triangle. He also has an operation in Marbella Spain and that is the home of the Syrian narcotics/arms/money laundering 'Prince of Marbella' Monzer al-Kassar. Of him I have done scads of research (a few articles here, here, here) and his contacts reach deep into Syria, Iran, Argentina, the narcotics syndicates in S. America, Hezbollah and in the weeks leading up to 9/11 he and Mogilevich were scheduled to meet up with Osama bin Laden's bagman who died in a plane crash heading to Marbella. Additionally al-Kassar is on the 'Most Wanted' list of Iraq... not by the US, but by the Iraqi government.

4) Iran has been using Syria for major weapons purchases, not only for itself but for its Foreign Legion called Hezbollah. Additionally Iran has a base of support in the Balkans which is a major hub for E. European organized crime and trans-ship point with Africa and South America. That also fits in with the Hezbollah organization set up in S. America by al-Kassar and Imad Mugniyah, thus allowing Iran to have the ability to stage indirect purchases in the West through trusted intermediaries. Syria, itself, has NoKo contacts as seen not only via its purchases of NoDong missile technology used to help advance their own SCUD program, but through the supernote trade showing up in the drug trade areas of the Bekaa and outwards from there. The al-Kassar family is in charge of that trade and has been for three generations.

5) The narcotics trade, itself, brings in money laundering and, beyond the penetration of the Bank of NY system in the 1990's, there are simpler systems for doing such work, which tend to be ethnic community oriented. The most sophisticated are those that operate so much in the 'white world' that they cannot be easily tracked or traced, like the Black Market Peso Exchange system, but other Middle Eastern systems (such as the hawala system). Do note that the Red Mafia by working on 'both sides of the street' via partial industrial ownership in Russia is a perfect set-up for money laundering in and of itself... before skilled individuals start running so many companies that no one can find them all even knowing they are there. That individual is back out on the streets: Simon Reuben who was part of the Chorny business... he famously ran 300 companies spanning from Cypress, Bahamas, Grand Caymans, Abu Dhabi and Switzerland with 200 people and even set up three companies to take care of his rent, all in his head not written down or in a computer.

6) In the USSR/Russia one remaining problem that remains unsolved is that of the compromising of the KGB (now FSB) by a death cult. That was something I was a bit startled to run across looking at how al Qaeda borrowed operational ideas from another terror organization. That cult was Aum Shinrikyo, famous for the sarin gas attack in Tokyo and also having devised the proper method for dispersing anthrax, save they got an animal specific strain not a human specific one. As part of their expansion in the late 1980's, they went into the USSR and started buying plans and equipments from the Soviets. The KGB sent agents to watch them, but some of those agents apparently shifted allegiance and when the cult went down after the sarin attacks, these agents slipped out of view by the KGB. During the turmoil of the USSR ending no one bothered to keep track of them so there is no way to know exactly who, how many or what they are doing. It is not a heartwarming thought to have individuals looking to 'purify humanity' by ending it roaming around in Russia with large numbers of contacts in Russian industry which is, now, compromised by organized crime. While actually a low probability that such individuals are still around in Russia and doing something, it cannot be discounted, and these individuals would also have sufficient contacts in Japan to work out deals... like getting Mitutoyo nuclear separators into the black market. Someone had to do that and it isn't normal Yakuza work (from what I've read about them) that would leave Chinese Triads or the Red Mafia, or anyone with sufficiently good connections and motivations to set things up. Someone had to set up the connections to the AQ Khan network with Mitutoyo and we still, to this day, have no handle on that. Just like someone had to make the commercial/Triad connections to buy the CV Varyag for China.

It is for those things that admitting we have 'low confidence' in understanding of how Iran can import goods via such networks that is troubling. Frankly, you could drive nuclear devices through that with the right connections and the right connections *are* available and *in* the network.

That is our blind-spot because we want so much 'free trade' and commerce that we want no oversight on it. And so we devote little in the way of resources to penetrate those networks... that will come back to bite us.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The NIE on Iran's Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has released its 2007 summary of Iran's Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities with regard to weapons. I have previously reviewed NIEs on terrorism here and here.

I will draw on the intro of that second to help orient the reader on what an NIE is and what it does:

First and foremost it is a bland cross-agency summary of where the INTEL Community thinks things were as of MAR 2006. And as it is a set of Judgments on that intelligence information, it is summary in nature and an overview of the material.

Secondly, this is a high-level summary for an Executive and so must be short and easy to read. The President has daily IC briefings with his Cabinet officers and can get the daily work and updates as necessary. Every so often, probably quarterly, the IC does a summation of their work and then tells what is going on. Thus there will be little to NO backing evidence in the actual summation, but an overview of what the actual information hold.

Third, while it tries to be predictive, it is done so cautiously and must gain adherence from the Agencies involved. Further, Federal Agencies have a large amount of CYA involved, and so try not to 'make waves' or put forth partisan views, but offer the best analysis on the facts.

Fourth and finally, INTEL in all of its forms (HUMINT, ELINT, SIGINT, IMINT, MASINT, etc.) is never, ever certain and has a probability of being correct attached to it or likelihood of certainty. Thus any analysis, even one that is apparently 'slam dunk' is only in the 85-90% certainty range and is seen as conclusive as nothing else fits the overviews when pieced together. The whole of the information shows up much more than the pieces by themselves do. This is 'connecting the dots' to form the larger picture, so that a bunch of unconnected dots have inter-relationships and form a coherent whole.

This does mean that things can get cast into a view that is NOT as it appears due to unexpected connectedness, lack of connectivity or causality that is not there, but apparently *is* there. The art of INTEL analysis is to cast worst and best case scenarios and see what the outgrowths of those are and how well each fits with new and incoming data. These models of how relationships form, work and reach outwards are then reviewed and adjusted to take new facts into account. Often entire structures need to be removed and rethought because facts fully contradictory to the existing models and with a very high degree of reliability come to light which invalidates previous worst and best case scenarios.
Before going on to the actual analysis, there also needs to be something stated about the DNI and the Intelligence Community (IC), which I have looked at here in regards to the problems of the IC, and here with regard to the turf wars, which I will draw on for this understanding of bureaucracy in government:
We do not see this in politics today as it is harsh, results-oriented, extremely basic and makes good sense. Plus it endangers pet projects by Congress, who are loathe to give up same. Until such time as that can be done, trying to reform the system from the *inside* is a non-starter and any added 'oversight' organization immediately looks to create its own, sinecured fiefdom, put in further blocks to actually producing work products, and increase the overall overhead of the entire affair in time, money and wasted man hours. Process reform from bureaucracies and those empowering them do not work, as the Federal Government has demonstrated for decades. If it did then the Dept. of Education could tout 100% reading for all Citizens and that overall reading comprehension rate is above that of the 5th grade. Unfortunately those exact same problems remain just where they were in 1958 when Johnny couldn't read. Putting in a Director of National Intelligence hasn't seemed to have made the flow of INTEL any faster and, in point of fact, is allowing Agencies to further propagate their *own* outlook on things contrary to that of the President. More oversight is leading to less accountability. The Dept. of Agriculture, originally set up to research better ways to actually manage crops and to have a goodly sized fund to support farmers in case of emergency, now has that portion of its budget as the smallest part of it and over 20 times that amount going to crop subsidies and paying farmers not to farm. Somehow I can imagine better uses for those funds and skills in Afghanistan than in paying for crop subsidies here.
Thus the DNI will increase regularity, increase oversight and decrease accountability across the IC. This NIE is a product of that regularization process and is most soothing to the reader, as it is regularized, bland, and with large amounts of CYA by the IC and its component organizations. In no way is it a 'fraud', but folks do need to understand what is going on to render such documents and to not dress up a pig to be Cinderella.

The opening paragraph is a statement of the DNI and what it does and that it is, indeed, following the mandates of Congress. The ODNI does no INTEL work on its own, and is a coordinating office amongst the IC components and our International partners in the INTEL field. That is the 'depth' it brings: coordination, not original product.

From there the ODNI clearly states that it is added above the National Intelligence Council, which had been the previous body to help coordinate cross-IC NIEs. The ODNI is, thus, a coordinater and manager of the NIC and getting the rest of the IC to play together to form cross-IC documents and products. ODNI is an added procedural office, then, with its own goals and outlooks separate from the IC components, although given authority over their budgets and line items. Notice that in no way does ODNI have any responsibility for removing governmental pork: it is only an oversight and management organization and extra procedural step for vetting cross-IC needs, not put in charge of removing time wasting Congressional projects or re-purposing them to better fit National Intelligence needs.

To regularize the NIE process and familiarize the reader, the second page goes over that. It is of note that the procedure is one that adds bias into the NIE at the start of the process, this taken from the second paragraph:
The NIEs are typically requested by senior civilian and military policymakers, Congressional leaders and at times are initiated by the National Intelligence Council (NIC). Before a NIE is drafted, the relevant NIO is responsible for producing a concept paper or terms of reference (TOR) and circulates it throughout the Intelligence Community for comment. The TOR defines the key estimative questions, determines drafting responsibilities, and sets the drafting and publication schedule. One or more IC analysts are usually assigned to produce the initial text.
Stepping an outsider through this on a high level, we see the following on page 3:

1) Request from proper source for INTEL product, in this case the NIE, which goes through the NIC for approval - There is minimal bias in this step, as it is an attempt to look at things cross-IC. The only bias is in the *originating* request, which can be damned biased for the originator, but the NIC examines the request and then tries to remove the initial bias as best it can.

2) The request is handed to a component of the IC (National Intelligence Organization) - Notice that all other acronyms in this paper are spelled out, but NIO is not. An NIO is something we call an 'Agency' or 'Department' with CIA, NSA, DIA, NGA and others being NIOs. At this point, although there is specialization to INTEL collection type generally assigned to these NIOs, each has its own bureaucracy and outlook. An NIE gains bias at two points here: first, in selecting which NIO(s) get to draft the structure of the NIE and the internal NIO bias of each component organization. The ODNI is set up to try and minimize this, but its function has inherent bias in its set-up: if the ODNI wants a confrontational document, one NIO may be preferred over another, if a more soothing document is wished, a less confrontative and more bureaucratic organization is chosen.

3) The NIO creates the Terms of Reference (TOR) - The TOR is an outline of what the stated area of INTEL is and how it will be looked at based on the TOR language. TOR language typically has a 'shelf life' depending on the 'product' and its 'importance', so that stolid forms of INTEL will rarely change basic TOR terminology and meaning, while those that are fluid will often have single-document specific TOR language. Which NIO and individuals within NIOs that choose this scope of mission language is a source of bias, also, this reaching down to the mid-executive or high civil service staff level.

4) Cross-IC gathering of information is then performed by the guiding group for the document involved - This becomes a major area of deconfliction for assessment and is part of the 'blandifying process'. Different organizations with different specialties have their own way of viewing such things as 'risk' and level of confidence on sources. The most troubling from this is the final vetting of source and *who* gets to do that, as seen here at the end of paragraph 2 on page 3:
Working with their Agencies, reps also assign the level of confidence they have in each key judgment. IC reps discuss the quality of sources with collectors, and the National Clandestine Service vets the sources used to ensure the draft does not include any that have been recalled or otherwise seriously questioned.
This is, because it is handed to the clandestine side of the house, directed at CIA and parts of DIA (especially the field Military Intelligence staff). These are the 'keys to the Kingdom' as an NIO that has multi-source reliable information may have it invalidated due to a single source seen as unreliable, or have the reliability so pushed down as to not be considered as part of the NIE. In theory this is made to remove questionable materials and increase reliability, but in practice this can be utilized as a major way to remove information that the clandestine services, particularly CIA, find to be counter to anything it is looking at.

If one remembers back to the 1980's, it was the clandestine services that confidently predicted the continuation of the USSR up to 2030. INTEL on terrorist groups and Saddam's operations have both demonstrated that the clandestine services have decade long problems, actually going well past two decades if the USSR outlooks are included, plus not realizing how close India and Pakistan were to gaining nuclear power status. These organizations are now the 'gatekeepers' to getting views into the NIE. Instead of an all-source reliability assessment, including open source, this reliability and authenticity gatekeeping position has been, basically, handed to the CIA.

5) The draft NIE is sent to the National Intelligence Board for review, rework, re-draft, until the document can be finalized. That is a long process.

6) The summation is to demonstrate, again, what the ODNI has done so that it can justify its next budget.

That is *not* a humorous jab at ODNI, but an actual reason and rationale to put such language into such documents: if the ODNI were TRANSPARENT to the process, it might find its budget getting squeezed in the next budget cycle. By putting in such verbiage throughout the document, ODNI justifies its staff, funding and any and all increases it is looking for to Congress and the Executive.

That is a 'Turf War' game.

Page 4 hands us the TOR scope of the document. Funny its not called that.

That scope statement is part CYA, part process justification and some of it is 'real', meaning that at some point in the staff process (not the analyst process, but the high level NIC/NIB/ODNI staff) a decision is made to say: if we remove all our previous NIEs and positions from our vies, what does this stuff say to us now?

Good and critical analysis of product evaluation (product being the reports from analysts as filtered through Agency staff and then filtered through, again, to executive staff) is vital as well as trying to divorce oneself from past documents and give a fresh review on things. This has been a problem for previous NIEs as NIOs are more wedded to previous views than is the executive staff. And the NIOs also have a better handle on their own source material than the executive staff, which can be troublesome if another NIO, CIA say, invalidates some or all of a view from its perspective and does not take into account the originator's suite of sources for a view. At the highest level of the NIE the ability of analysts to actually get critical information through the multiple levels of 'oversight' is diminished to near nothing.

With all of that said, the proviso of not examining Iranian 'intention' but its 'capability' becomes clear: is Iran capable of processing nuclear material through to a finished device? I will address that problem later, after the examination of the conclusions, such as they are.

Page 5 is one of the very, very few times I have ever seen the IC come forward with its direct view on 'level of confidence' (LOC)! Frame it as a first of its kind. It is given as the 'estimates of likelihood' but is a good shading of LOC and follows the same concept for the same reason: they both measure uncertainty. Estimates of likelihood are based on original analysis which has an LOC and then combined with other products, which change the estimate and then the overall thing is given a final, very fuzzy LOC.

One of the huge sticking points inside the IC is varying LOC based on INTEL type. SIGINT, on the one hand, is very direct: the signal from a given point was interecepted, decrypted and reviewed. That has a high LOC to it. Interpreting who sent it and to whom has its own LOC which starts to move it from 'certain' into shades of gray. Add in other possible sources for sending such messages and LOC goes down, yet again. Throw in analyst knowledge of source type, use, and analyst background and the LOC gets moderated, but usually downward. This works by the concept of multiplication of percentages: two items that relate to each other at 90% LOC yield a sub 90% likelihood (although not exactly 81%) and that, combined with other documents with other likelihood estimates will then moderate downwards from the 81% (if it is the highest) until a final and synthetic LOC is formed.

Now put a 'gatekeeper' on vetting other NIO's LOCs and you get an idea of how the CIA can bolster or reduce the overall LOC for any given view, without, itself, being a primary shareholder in an INTEL area.

That brings us to page 6 and the actual assessments!

What are they saying, given ALL of the above?

1) Iran had been persuing nuclear weapons technology up to the fall of 2003.

2) A generalized halt in the nuclear weapons program started in Iran and lasted for many years.

3) Iran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007 and we cannot tell its intentions past that point.

4) Iran does not now have a nuclear weapon (as opposed to radiological).

5) The assessment is that Iran has stopped its work directly on devices and nuclear weapons since mid-2005 and attributes this to international pressure.

Those are the 'moderate to moderately high' estimates of likelihood, save the last which is bureaucratic interpretation not linked to NIO analysis as it has NO estimate on it. Yes, all of point 5 is internal view *only* backed by high level summation from multiple organizations, but lacking an estimate of likelihood it becomes something else.

A guess.

The few 'low to moderate' points are telling about what we are missing in our IC:
We continue to assess with low confidence that Iran probably has imported at least some weapons-usable fissile material, but still judge with moderate-to-high confidence it has not obtained enough for a nuclear weapon.
We have no idea if Iran has been importing processed fissionable materials from other countries, like North Korea, say, via clandestine means.

That is extremely painful to read and points out the paucity of HUMINT and reliable cross-INT analysis on the third party arrangements that would indicate an AQ Khan similar (only in type, not personnel or outlook) network for fissionable material. In doing research for an article on the Red Mafia, the number of hints given to organized crime having access to such material in Russia is worrying, particularly as many firms are owned by state permission, invested in by organized crime and white industrial organizations and then have a portion of their output filter into underground networks. It is highly damning to the IC to admit this failure: we cannot even figure out if *anyone* has been *capable* of supplying such material in a clandestine way.

This is not good.

The next point on Iran, internally, getting enriched Uranium to the amounts necessary for a device cannot happen before 2009.

After that Iran is seen as working on generalized high level nuclear capacity that can be 'dual-purpose' in scope. Intention unknown. That intention unknown also goes to all internal workings of the IRGC in the nuclear area, although I would say with so many captures of 'Secret Cells' leaders tied to the IRGC, that we are getting a good look at the overall organizational structure of the IRGC.

Point F on the last page examines that Iran doesn't have enough internally produced HEU to produce a Uranium bomb, and that, in point G, a Plutonium device is off in the 2015 timeframe.

Their point about Iran being able to produce a nuclear device with time and commitment is well taken, but, as they haven't bothered to address intentions, that leaves us a bit out of luck on figuring out what, exactly, they are up to and *why*.

What has been left out?

Pretty obvious, really: Syria.

Iran is not alone in this endeavor and, as I have documented before, Syria has expertise on basic enrichment and processing, plus long term skill in working with scientific groups. As reported in the Jerusalem Post, the site bombed by Israel was most likely *not* a nuclear reactor site but a nuclear device construction site or research site into how to make nuclear weapons. The first report of this site was given to us by Ray Robison last year, before the bombing, with a report in a Kuwaiti newspaper that has been generally reliable on reports from Syria:
A Syrian nuclear program managed by Iraqi and Iranian scientists in the Al Haska area.

Brussels- From Hamid Geriafi

European intelligence sources based at the headquarters of the European Union in Brussels released information yesterday about the “presence of an active Syrian nuclear program in a secret location Northeast of the country, being supervised by nuclear scientists from Iraq, Iran and some scientists of the previous Muslim Soviet Republics, and it seems that the program has reached the stage of medium activity”.

The information, which Al seyassah got from British security sources in Brussels, revealed that “the brother of the Syrian president, Major Maher Al Assad -in charge of the Republican Guard brigade- along with his maternal cousin of the Makhlouf clan are supervising this program since the end of 2004 in the Northeastern district of Al Haskah situated next to the Iraqi and Turkish borders and which has a Kurdish majority”.

The information - of which the British security sources hinted that it might be coming from the German intelligence which is active in some Middle Eastern countries- revealed that “the Syrian nuclear program is relying on equipment and materials that the sons of the deposed Iraqi leader, Udai and Qusai supervised their transfer to Syria by using dozens of civilian trucks and trains, before and after the US-British invasion in March 2003”. Therefore according to those sources, the international inspection teams or the British and US intelligence could not find one “nuclear needle” in Iraq even though everybody knew about the existence of a huge program since the end of the seventies, before the Israeli planes struck and destroyed its main reactor in the Tuwaitha area near Baghdad in 1981.

The British security sources in Brussels assure Al Seyassah that “Iranian nuclear scientists are cooperating with their expertise, equipment and materials in addition to approximately 60 Iraqi nuclear scientists” that had found refuge in Syria after the onset of the war in Iraq and around 20 scientists that had moved from the former Soviet republics at the beginning of the nineties after the collapse of the Soviet Union and after the first government of Gorbatchev pulled out its nuclear weapons from those new republics”.

The sources said that “the Iranians are supporting the Syrian nuclear program, which was originally built on the remains of the Iraqi program after it was wholly transferred to Syria, with materials, equipment and expertise which are more advanced than it originally was. The Iranian could have brought up an advanced plant to enrich Uranium, of which the West is totally unaware.”
Add that to the missing Mitutoyo separators from the AQ Khan network, that I found via TMC net (although the link is probably dead by now):
31 AUG 2006 - Mitutoyo exported 10,000 devices since 1995, most of them illegally+

(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) TOKYO, Aug. 31_(Kyodo) _ Mitutoyo Corp., a precision instrument maker at the center of an export scam linked to weapons of mass destruction, has exported some 10,000 precision measuring devices, most of them illegally, since around 1995, investigative sources said Thursday.

The Metropolitan Police Department's Public Safety Division is investigating the possibility that some of these instruments were exported to North Korea and other nations suspected of developing nuclear weapons via a nuclear black market formerly run by Pakistani nuclear physicist Abdul Qadeer Khan, the sources said.

In addition, the police are investigating suspicions that a Mitutoyo-made precision measuring machine of a different type from the firm's three-dimensional measuring machine that went to Libya via Khan's smuggling network was exported to an Iranian firm suspected of links to Iran's nuclear development program, they said.

On Aug. 25, the police arrested Mitutoyo Vice Chairman Norio Takatsuji, President Kazusaku Tezuka, and three other executives on suspicion of illegally exporting two high-tech measuring devices convertible for use in the manufacture of nuclear weapons to Malaysia in 2001.

One of the two 3-D measuring machines was found in a nuclear research facility in Libya by International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors during their 2003-2004 checks.

The machines can be used to make centrifuge machines to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons by determining their dimensions and minimizing shape distortions with high accuracy. Their export is subject to restrictions under the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law and the Export Trade Control Ordinance.

The police found that Mitutoyo's two other precision measuring instruments -- a form tracer for measuring the roughness of the surface of products and a roundness tester -- were handed over to Scomi Precision Engineering Sdn. Bhd. of Malaysia, suspected of being at the core of Khan's network, the sources said.

The police are investigating fresh suspicions that the two devices were exported to Libya as a "three-item set" with one of Mitutoyo's two 3-D measuring machines, which had been found to have been shipped via Dubai to Libya on an Iranian-registered vessel, they said.

The sources knowledgeable about investigations at the Public Safety Division said the Mitutoyo management decided to expand exports in the first half of the 1990s when its sales dived.

Then its project team developed computer software to make its precision measuring machines appear less accurate than they are to bypass Japan's export regulations on high-tech products convertible for the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction, the sources said.

Although some Mitutoyo employees alerted the management to the illegality of exporting high-performance machines using the software, referred to with an in-house code name of "COCOM," Takatsuji and others silenced the critics, telling them such exports have been decided as "a company policy," they said.

In addition to disguising the precision machines as devices with lower capabilities than they actually have, Mitutoyo filed export permit applications with customs, in which they falsely said their overseas arms were the final destinations of the machines to bypass the regulations on exports to countries and firms suspected of developing weapons of mass destruction, they said.

Mitutoyo, based in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, is a leading maker of high-tech precision measuring machines and runs a network of subsidiaries, research institutes and factories in more than 20 countries, including the United States, Europe and Asia.

Takatsuji and Tezuka acknowledged the allegations related to the exports to Malaysia for which they had been arrested, informed sources said, adding the two executives have denied that the management ordered employees to bypass the export regulations.

But a senior official at the Public Safety Division said they believe the management issued such orders, adding Mitutoyo "has placed priority on just boosting sales and I cannot find any sense of ethics in them as a company."

Copyright 2006 Kyodo News International, Inc.
And that Iran only has 3,000 separators and, by all reports, Libya having less than 1,500, and we have a major problem of missing high tech nuclear separators roaming around the planet.

Yes, indeed, Iran, internally has sufficient capacity to do this work, but, no, we don't think they are.

And we have no good handle on clandestine networks on the criminal side going into and out of Iran.

We have no mention of Syria in the NIE, yet Israel was sufficiently worried to have Syria come out as an up and coming threat that needed to be addressed with a bombing raid.

It is always fascinating what the NIE does say... even more fascinating in how the bias of what is chosen to be looked at, how it is looked at and the blandness of the conclusions seem to arrive at odd times.

Iran, alone, is not acting in a manner to demonstrate its ability to create nuclear devices.

Iran and Syria?

Well this paper doesn't address that, now, does it?