Intelligence Questioned in Talks with N. Korea, Iran

Daniel Schorr, senior news analyst for NPR, questions the intelligence behind new talks with North Korea and Iran.

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DANIEL SCHORR: I don't know why they call it intelligence because it's responsible for some of the most disastrous stupidities in our history.


NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: In 1976, I covered congressional investigations of intelligence mishaps like failing to see the launch of an Egyptian invasion of Israel, even when the tanks were already deployed in a desert. But the nuclear age presents an intelligence challenge of a wholly different order. And when President Bush designated Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an axis of evil, it was with the nuclear threat in mind.

The invasion of Iraq can be said to have been the result of a failure of intelligence, or perhaps, as a British memorandum put it, the fixing of intelligence to serve the buildup for invasion. Some thousands of lives, some billions of dollars later, the weapons of mass destruction have not yet been found.

So next stop, North Korea; supposed to have a half dozen or maybe it was 10 nuclear bombs, or so the intelligence community said. The story was that North Korea had gotten centrifuge technology from Pakistan, enabling it to enrich uranium and make bombs. So now comes the intelligence community on second thought, according to the New York Times, and says that come to think of it, maybe North Korea hasn't made as much progress as originally thought.

So now the Bush administration has invited a North Korean delegation to come to Washington and talk the whole thing over. Now there are questions about the Bush decision to confront North Korea in 2002 in the first place.

Next Iran, which says it is enriching uranium but only for peaceful purposes. Until now, the Bush administration has refused to believe that. The United Nations sanctions, not very drastic ones, are in place, and Vice President Cheney says that there are no plans to invade Iran but all options are still on the table. Of course the CIA will be looking at the latest National Intelligence estimate before making any drastic moves.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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