Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Noises off

A little bureaucratic mystery may lie in this memo from the US Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell. The underlying issue is that George Bush and Dick Cheney (who has his own authority in such matters) have been declassifying the "Key Judgements" section of National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) on terrorism and Iraq. The declassifications are used to suppport whatever policy position Bush is implementing at that time. Which may not be the same policy he is pursuing a few months later.

So McConnell's memo says --

The declassification and release of unclassified versions of the Key Judgments (KJs) from some recent National Intelligence Estimates (NIE) does not portend that this is going to become a standard practice.

With regard to this matter, the following guidance is provided:

It is the policy of the Director of National Intelligence (DN) that KJs should not be declassified ... There is both a real and a perceived danger that analysts will adopt less bold approaches, or otherwise modify the way they characterize developments, and that the integrity of the NIE process could be harmed by expectations that all or portions of the NIE are likely to be declassified.

The possibility that the KJs or other positions of an estimate will be leaked is not a sufficient reason for preparing unclassified KJs.

One could read between the lines to interpret McConnell as saying that using the Key Judgements as White House talking points has hurt the analytical value of the process. Just another day of Kremlinology in the Bush Administration.

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