Deception

Title:                  Deception

Author:                Edward Jay Epstein

Epstein, Edward Jay (1991). Deception: The Invisible War Between the KGB & the CIA. New York: Random House

LCCN:       89004075

JK468.I6 E67 1989

Date Updated:      January 18, 2017

Epstein (Legend: The Secret World of Lee Harvey Oswald ) delves deep into the wheels-within-wheels of superpower intelligence and counterintelligence, showing ways in which the CIA and the KGB have been “provoked, seduced, lured into false trails, blinded, and turned into unwitting agents.” Readers will find information here on a multitude of subjects: programs involving CIA-written books published under defectors’ names; the story of Yuri Nosenko, a KGB officer who defected in 1963 and was “at the heart of everything that happened at the CIA for a decade”; and the theories of James Angleton, the former CIA chief of counterintelligence, on the hidden motives of KGB super-mole Kim Philby. The book concludes with an ominously plausible argument that Gorbachev’s glasnost was merely the sixth phase in a grand strategy of Soviet deception conceived soon after the Bolshevik Revolution.

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal (Edward Jay Epstein, “How the CIA Got It Wrong on Iran’s Nukes,” The Wall Street Journal, July 20, 2010), p. A13, posits the following:

In a stunning departure from a decade of assessments, the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran declared: “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program,” including “nuclear weapon design and weaponization work” and covert uranium enrichment.

Further, Epstein makes the following assumption:

There were high-level people in the newly reorganized U.S. intelligence community who wanted to believe Iran was ending its quest for the bomb, and messages to the CIA from agents inside the country that diplomatic pressure was accomplishing this task fell on receptive ears.

Epstein further states:

Unfortunately, as the Obama administration has now acknowledged, the NIE’s conclusion was dead wrong, costing us precious time in dealing with a serious threat.

The assumptions Epstein makes:

There were high-level people in the newly reorganized U.S. intelligence community who wanted to believe Iran was ending its quest for the bomb, and messages to the CIA from agents inside the country that diplomatic pressure was accomplishing this task fell on receptive ears.

are not supported by the NIE, which states:

This NIE does not assume that Iran intends to acquire nuclear weapons. Rather, it examines the intelligence to assess Iran’s capability and intent (or lack thereof) to acquire nuclear weapons, taking full account of Iran’s dual-use uranium fuel cycle and those nuclear activities that are at least partly civil in nature.

Another crucially misleading statement Epstein makes is that the CIA got it wrong. Surely he must know the CIA does not write the NIE. The NIE[1] is prepared under the auspices of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence:

The Director of National Intelligence serves as the head of the Intelligence Community (IC), overseeing and directing the implementation of the National Intelligence Program and acting as the principal advisor to the President, the National Security Council, and the Homeland Security Council for intelligence matters.

The Director of National Intelligence coordinates the reporting of analyzed intelligence, with input from all intelligence sources in the Intelligence Community. To state that the CIA produces the NIE is to show lack of understanding of how national intelligence is produced and reported.

And finally, the NIE does not report what Epstein says it does. The 2007 version was updated in 2009 and the findings are much more complex that he suggests. The following is a direct quote.

  1. The NIE judges, with high confidence, that Iran ended its nuclear weapons program in 2003, but kept its options open for restarting at a later date. In 2007 the program was judged not to have restarted…but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons. The NIE judges that in 2007 Iran did not have a nuclear weapon and that its desire to do so had decreased since 2005.
  2. 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.
  3. We assess centrifuge enrichment is how Iran probably could first produce enough fissile material for a weapon, if it decides to do so.
  4. Iranian entities are continuing to develop a range of technical capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision is made to do so.
  5. We do not have sufficient intelligence to judge confidently whether Tehran is willing to maintain the halt of its nuclear weapons program indefinitely while it weighs its options, or whether it will or already has set specific deadlines or criteria that will prompt it to restart the program.
  6. We assess with moderate confidence that Iran probably would use covert facilities – rather than its declared nuclear sites – for the production of highly enriched uranium for a weapon.
  7. We judge with high confidence that Iran will not be technically capable of producing and reprocessing enough plutonium for a weapon before about 2015.
  8. We assess with high confidence that Iran has the scientific, technical and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons if it decides to do so.

Epstein’s suggestions that we know something quite different about Iran today (and perhaps even when the NIE was written) and that the “CIA got it wrong,” is not supported by the facts. Epstein states,

Unfortunately, as the Obama administration has now acknowledged, the NIE’s conclusion was dead wrong, costing us precious time in dealing with a serious threat.

The Obama Administration has made public statements quite different from what Epstein suggests, and those statements are in accord with the 2007 NIE.

Epstein has been riding a hobbyhorse on Iran for years. In fact the Wall Street Journal article has appeared in several publications, virtually identical to the one referred to here, most of them in June and July of 2007. He is convinced that, “Taken together [his evidence]…these efforts added up an inescapable conclusion: Iran was going nuclear.”

We do have evidence of Iran’s nuclear energy program proceeding. Tehran has made claims, some of them outrageous (such that it will have fusion energy within a few years) but what is the likelihood of a nuclear weapons program being viable.

There has never been any scientific “secret” to the atomic bomb, except the crucial secret, revealed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that such a weapon would work.

There were engineering and industrial secrets, of course – how to manufacture filters that would efficiently separate the [uranium isotopes], for example; how to separate <em>plutonium</em> chemically from irradiated uranium; how to compose and shape explosive lenses – and these secrets continue quite properly to be protected.

The above quote is from Richard Rhodes, “Introduction” (1992).to Robert Serber(1943.) The Los Alamos Primer (Berkeley, CA: The University of California Press, p. xii. )

Fareed Zakaria, on his program GPS (“Sanctions”. Fareed Zakaria, August 8, 2010, CNN GPS) argues that

Two months ago, the UN security council imposed what President Obama called “the toughest sanctions ever faced by Iran. But are those sanctions working?

Not according to Iranian President Ahmadinejad.

But then why are countries, including some of Iran’s trading partners, following America’s lead and tightening the screws on Iran? And what effect will that have?

[http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2010/08/08/gps.what.in.the.world.8.08.cnn]

Producing intelligence is not the same as investigative reporting. Many sources are tapped to gather data (not information. They are different.) Professionals with years of pertinent experience, assemble the data and perform analyses for policymakers. Finally the compiled intelligence is disseminated to consumers (the policymakers) who will, undoubtedly cherry-pick conclusions that agree with agendas and current perceptions. I know this is true. It has happened to me.

The costs in resources, facilities, and brainpower to develop nuclear weapons is enormous. Even with a set of plans handed over personally from Pakistan, Iran would find it very difficult to construct a working nuclear weapon. But other resources, also expensive and quite detectable, are required, such as a means of delivery of a weapon. These efforts can be detected far earlier than the detection of a nuclear arsenal.

It is in Israel’s interest that the U.S. policy assumes that Iran is hell-bent on developing a credible nuclear threat. It would follow that the U.S. would be the “deep pockets” of resources to eradicate such a threat. But Israeli policymakers are no less intelligent that American ones. Why would Israel be so concerned about such a program.

No country can afford to ignore a threat of even low credibility. No country can afford to ignore the threat of a threat. At the very least by announcing a nuclear program Iran gets a better chance at a place at the table. Its threats are not totally empty. Should Iran acquire even a very-low efficiency weapon then no city could afford to ignore an Iranian threat. It’s leverage. And in the world of geopolitics leverage may be even more important that possession of a working bomb.

Epstein has published this article in at least 5 different publications . He is an investigative reporter, still riding his hobbyhorse on the Warren commission Report. The article contains a number of misstatements and idiosyncratic presumptions and conclusions.

Producing intelligence is not the same as investigative reporting. Many sources are tapped to gather data (not information. They are different.) Professionals with years of pertinent experience, assemble the data and perform analyses for policymakers. Finally the compiled intelligence is disseminated to consumers (the policymakers) who will, undoubtedly cherry-pick conclusions that agree with agendas and current perceptions. I know this is true. It has happened to me.

In a further discussion of the NIE Dany Shoham and Raphael Ofek call the 2007 US NIE on Iran’s Nuclear Program a “Colossal Failure[2].” A caveat: both authors are part of the Israeli intelligence community. It would not be surprising to find them in disagreement with the NIE. However their claim that “…it [NIE] was deliberately twisting and manipulative, conceptualized and indoctrinating, and was initially shaped – to a considerable degree, though quite elegantly – with the bias that an attack on Iran ought not to be carried out until at least the end of President George W. Bush’s term of office.”

These authors hold that the Iranian nuclear program “…unambiguously reflects the regime’s unchangeable, one-way doctrine that aims to procure nuclear weapons.” The entire article is a jeremiad against the entire NIE as well as the process by which it was produced. Clearly, so far as they represent the official Israeli position, they believe that Israel is directly threatened by the Iranian nuclear program, and that the NIE was deliberately twisted to avoid the US’s becoming involved in any program to limit Iran’s development, particularly militarily.[3]

They say in conclusion, “While some of the Iranian claims admittedly make sense on the surface, they were, unfortunately, much more influential on senior U.S. IC assessors. But Iran’s suspicious activities, incriminatory activities, and post factum justifications do not hold up to scrutiny. Therefore, the logical explanation is that the Iranian nuclear program is, and has always been, for military use, including those activities carried out in the period from 2004 to mid-2007 addressed by the controversial 2007 NIE>

The 2007 NIE and the 2011 NIE apparently colossally failed to meet the DNI’s core commitments, let alone the geostrategic implications of a militarily nuclear Iran. The November 2011 IAEA Report[4], in contrast, markedly illustrated Iran’s actual and persistent progress in developing nuclear weaponry.”


[1] National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities, Published November 2007

[2] Dany Shoham and Raphael Ofek. “The 2007 U.S. NIE on Iran’s Nuclear Program: A Colossal Failure,” International Jouranl of Intelligence and Counterintelligence (Vol. 25, no. 2, Summer 2012)

[3] For more discussion on the Iran NIE, specifically regarding the probabilistic language which gives rise to most of complaints by Shoham and Ofek, see Kristan J. Wheaton, “The Revolution Begins on Page Five: The Changing Nature of NIEs,” International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence (Vol. 25, no. 2, Summer 2012, pp. 330-349) and summarized in this blog at Strategic Intelligence for American National Security

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