While debate continues over a newly disclosed National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism, work has begun on a second — and separate — estimate. This one is focused solely on Iraq.
And this one, too, is already proving controversial.
Work on the IRAQ N.I.E. began last month. It will be the first comprehensive U.S. intelligence report since July 2004 on Iraq's sectarian violence, the stability of its government, and the state of the insurgency.
The intelligence estimates are detailed assessments — they represent the views of all 16 U.S. spy agencies, and they normally take months to complete. The White House says this one won't be finished until early next year.
But Democrats say they hear otherwise. The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman, believes the Bush administration is stalling — motivated, she says, by a desire to withhold grim intelligence on Iraq until after the November elections.
There are only two precedents for declassifying even part of a current National Intelligence Estimate: This week, when officials released just a summary of the much-longer assessment on global terrorism. And three years ago, when a small part of the notorious 2002 N.I.E. on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction was made public.