Report: NIEs have value, with limits


National Intelligence Estimates have value, but with limits, a congressional research report said.

The report by the Congressional Research Service, a highly respected government analytical organization, addressed a number of the recent collective estimates of the U.S. intelligence community. The report focused on the most controversial estimates, including the most recent, which reported that Iran halted a covert nuclear weapons program in 2003. Israel has discounted the arguments in that NIE.

“Few would argue that the conclusions drawn by the NIE should not have been brought to the attention of policymakers in the Executive Branch and Congress,” the CRS report said. “But a number of observers have argued that the key judgments overemphasized the importance of the nuclear weapon design and weaponization work at the expense of ongoing uranium conversion and enrichment efforts that would be essential to achieving nuclear weapons capabilities.”

The NIE had value, the research report said, as long as its limitations were understood.

“Policy builds upon the factual base that intelligence analysis provides but it is also built upon assessments of our own national interests that are beyond the mandate of the Intelligence Community,” the report stated. The CRS report, dated Dec. 14, was obtained by Secrecy News, a Federation of American Scientists publication. CRS reports, although unclassified, are often difficult to obtain.

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