Partially Declassified NIE
Bush became indignant on Tuesday during his news conference with Afghan President Karzai over the leaking of passages from the National Intelligence Estimate on trends in terrorism to the press. He said that in response he was going to have some of its key judgments declassified.
I want to make 4 basic points about this controversy, and also provide the declassified text in HTML at the end.
1) The real scandal is that the NIE was classified at all. This is the best judgment of the 16 intelligence units of the US government. Even senators and congressmen had been denied access to it by the secrecy-obsessed Bush administration. How can our democratic system work if the legislature cannot get access to such key documents? And, why shouldn’t the whole public have seen this estimate? Doesn’t terrorism affect us all?
Larry Johnson and Ray Close, retired CIA officers, make these points.
In fact, it is not enough that the key judgments have been declassified. They should do the whole thing.
2) The NIE clearly says that the Iraq War is now the main generator of terrorism against the US and its allies. It certainly caused the Madrid train bombings of March, 2004 and the London subway bombings of July 2005. The reaction against the US attack on and occupation of a major Arab Muslim country like Iraq has been anger throughout the Muslim world.
You can see the rise of anti-US sentiments under Bush most starkly in non-Arab countries such as Turkey and Indonesia which used to like us, believe it or not. In 2002, 52 percent of Turks had a favorable view of the US. In 2006, 12 percent of Turks have a favorable view of the US. In 2000, 75 percent of Indonesians had a favorable view of the US. In 2006, 30 percent of Indonesians have a favorable view of the US.
Even in major European countries such as France, Germany, Spain and the UK, Bush has cut the approval rating for the US in half or nearly so. Isn’t that a bad sign, when the publics in our NATO allies rethink their view of us so radically? Won’t we need the support of those publics at some point?
Bush by his Iraq misadventure has made us hated in much of the world, and especially in the Muslim world. Communist China is now widely viewed as mush less dangerous than the democratic United States. Don’t you think that might turn into actual consequences?
3) Critics have pointed out that although the NIE said that Bush’s Iraq War has generated more terror against the US and its allies, not less, it also does not urge an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Indeed, the text says hopefully that defeating the terrorists in Iraq would have a good effect in discouraging the movement worldwide.
But the NIE does not in fact urge “staying the course” as Bush and others imply. It says that the Salafi Jihadis in Iraq should ideally be defeated. Bush is not defeating them with his current policies. The Pentagon’s polling has revealed that between 2003 and summer 2006 the percentage of Sunni Arabs in Iraq who support attacks on US forces has gone from 14 percent to 70 percent. Bush’s policies are making things worse, not better. There is no early prospect that his imposition of search and destroy tactics on 5 million Sunni Arabs will reduce the amount of terrorism.
But the other thing to say is that if the NIE is implying that the foreign jihadi volunteers constitute the leading edge of the Iraq “insurgency,” then it is just wrong. The death of Zarqawi, which has been followed by continued bombings and killings, demonstrates that Zarqawi and his followers are just not generating most of the violence.
It is mostly local Iraqis fighting for the end of the foreign military occupation of their country. That isn’t international terrorism and it is highly unlikely to spill over on the US mainland in the short term. If the US went on doing what it is doing in Ramadi for several years, however, I am afraid that eventually the guerrillas will decide to try to pull off an operation against the US itself.
4) Bush repeated at the news conference his statement that the US was not in Iraq in the 1990s when the US embassies in Africa and the USS Cole were hit by al-Qaeda or in 2001 when al-Qaeda hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
This meme is so stupid and even Bush should be ashamed for trotting it out. First of all, al-Qaeda had other grievances at that time, including the US military presence in Saudi Arabia and the Israeli occupation of the Muslim holy city of Jerusalem and its mistreatment of Muslim Palestinians. They were also angry about the US propping up the governments they were trying to overthrow, including Egypt and Algeria.
But that al-Qaeda had these grievances does not mean that Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq cannot now generate more terrorism. If a few thousand Muslims were upset about the al-Qaeda grievances of 1996 through 2001, many millions of Muslims are upset about US actions in Iraq.
But the other thing to say is that the US was in fact “in Iraq” in the 1990s in some ways. The US had the presence in Saudi Arabia in part to fly surveillance and sometimes bombing raids on Iraq. And the US had gotten the UN to impose a n economic boycott on Iraq that excluded many medicines from the country. For a while they could not get chlorine for water purification. It is estimated that the US/UN sanctions killed 500,000 Iraqi children. This was something that radical Muslim terrorists of the late 1990s were definitely exercised about. They have revealed this in their interrogations.
So it isn’t true that the US wasn’t in Iraq during the earlier terror attacks nor is the implication true, that it doesn’t matter what the US does, the same number of terrorists will always be out their trying to cause the US harm. In fact, the number of those who want to do us harm fluctuates over time. If Bush hadn’t invaded Iraq, the number would have shrunk drastically after 2001. Instead, Bush has arranged for the number to expand considerably.
Larry Johnson writes,
‘ # 2004 marked the single, largest increase in terrorist activity ever recorded since the CIA started keeping records dating back to 1968.
# The four fold increase in significant terrorist incidents (attacks in which people were killed and wounded) was a direct consequence of the war in Iraq. All you have to do is look at the attacks recorded and the people killed and wounded in those attacks. Iraq and India were the big targets in 2004. ‘
I don’t like pdf format for most Web purposes, so I downloaded the declassified text and saved it as text. The result may have some punctuation and formatting problems, but I think it is readable enough.
‘Declassified Key Judgments of the National Intelligence Estimate “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States” dated April 2006
United States-led counterterrorism efforts have seriously damaged the leadership of al-Qa’ida and disrupted its operations; however, we judge that al-Qa’ida will continue to pose the greatest threat to the Homeland and US interests abroad by a single terrorist organization. We also assess that the global jihadist movement—which includes al- Qa’ida, affiliated and independent terrorist groups, and emerging networks and cells—is spreading and adapting to counterterrorism efforts.
• Although we cannot measure the extent of the spread with precision, a large body of all-source reporting indicates that activists identifying themselves as jihadists, although a small percentage of Muslims, are increasing in both number and geographic dispersion.
• If this trend continues, threats to US interests at home and abroad will become more diverse, leading to increasing attacks worldwide.
• Greater pluralism and more responsive political systems in Muslim majority nations would alleviate some of the grievances jihadists exploit. Over time, such progress, together with sustained, multifaceted programs targeting the vulnerabilities of the jihadist movement and continued pressure on al-Qa’ida, could erode support for the jihadists.
We assess that the global jihadist movement is decentralized, lacks a coherent global strategy, and is becoming more diffuse. New jihadist networks and cells, with anti- American agendas, are increasingly likely to emerge. The confluence of shared purpose and dispersed actors will make it harder to find and undermine jihadist groups.
• We assess that the operational threat from self-radicalized cells will grow in importance to US counterterrorism efforts, particularly abroad but also in the Homeland.
• The jihadists regard Europe as an important venue for attacking Western interests. Extremist networks inside the extensive Muslim diasporas in Europe facilitate recruitment and staging for urban attacks, as illustrated by the 2004 Madrid and 2005 London bombings.
We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.
• The Iraq conflict has become the cause celebre for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.
We assess that the underlying factors fueling the spread of the movement outweigh its vulnerabilities and are likely to do so for the duration of the timeframe of this Estimate.
• Four underlying factors are fueling the spread of the jihadist movement: (1) Entrenched grievances, such as corruption, injustice, and fear of Western domination, leading to anger, humiliation, and a sense of powerlessness; (2) the Iraq jihad; (3) the slow pace of real and sustained economic, social, and political reforms in many Muslim majority nations; and (4) pervasive anti-US sentiment among most Muslims, all of which jihadists exploit.
Concomitant vulnerabilities in the jihadist movement have emerged that, if fully exposed and exploited, could begin to slow the spread of the movement. They include dependence on the continuation of Muslim-related conflicts, the limited appeal of the jihadists. radical ideology, the emergence of respected voices of moderation, and criticism of the violent tactics employed against mostly Muslim citizens.
• The jihadists. greatest vulnerability is that their ultimate political solution.an ultra-conservative interpretation of shari.a-based governance spanning the Muslim world.is unpopular with the vast majority of Muslims. Exposing the religious and political straitjacket that is implied by the jihadists. propaganda would help to divide them from the audiences they seek to persuade.
• Recent condemnations of violence and extremist religious interpretations by a few notable Muslim clerics signal a trend that could facilitate the growth of a constructive alternative to jihadist ideology: peaceful political activism. This also could lead to the consistent and dynamic participation of broader Muslim communities in rejecting violence, reducing the ability of radicals to capitalize on passive community support. In this way, the Muslim mainstream emerges as the most powerful weapon in the war on terror.
• Countering the spread of the jihadist movement will require coordinated multilateral efforts that go well beyond operations to capture or kill terrorist leaders.
If democratic reform efforts in Muslim majority nations progress over the next five years, political participation probably would drive a wedge between intransigent extremists and groups willing to use the political process to achieve their local objectives. Nonetheless, attendant reforms and potentially destabilizing transitions will create new opportunities for jihadists to exploit.
Al-Qa’ida, now merged with Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi’s network, is exploiting the situation in Iraq to attract new recruits and donors and to maintain its leadership role.
• The loss of key leaders, particularly Usama Bin Ladin, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and al-Zarqawi, in rapid succession, probably would cause the group to fracture into smaller groups. Although like-minded individuals would endeavor to carry on the mission, the loss of these key leaders would exacerbate strains and disagreements. We assess that the resulting splinter groups would, at least for a time, pose a less serious threat to US interests than does al-Qa.ida.
• Should al-Zarqawi continue to evade capture and scale back attacks against Muslims, we assess he could broaden his popular appeal and present a global threat.
• The increased role of Iraqis in managing the operations of al-Qa.ida in Iraq might lead veteran foreign jihadists to focus their efforts on external operations. Other affiliated Sunni extremist organizations, such as Jemaah Islamiya, Ansar al- Sunnah, and several North African groups, unless countered, are likely to expand their reach and become more capable of multiple and/or mass-casualty attacks outside their traditional areas of operation.
• We assess that such groups pose less of a danger to the Homeland than does al- Qa.ida but will pose varying degrees of threat to our allies and to US interests abroad. The focus of their attacks is likely to ebb and flow between local regime targets and regional or global ones.
• We judge that most jihadist groups, both well-known and newly formed, will use improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks focused primarily on soft targets to implement their asymmetric warfare strategy, and that they will attempt to conduct sustained terrorist attacks in urban environments. Fighters with experience in Iraq are a potential source of leadership for jihadists pursuing these tactics.
• CBRN capabilities will continue to be sought by jihadist groups, While Iran, and to a lesser extent Syria, remain the most active state sponsors of terrorism, many other states will be unable to prevent territory or resources from being exploited by terrorists.
• Anti-US and anti-globalization sentiment is on the rise and fueling other radical ideologies. This could prompt some leftist, nationalist, or separatist groups to adopt terrorist methods to attack US interests. The radicalization process is occurring more quickly, more widely, and more anonymously in the Internet age, raising the likelihood of surprise attacks by unknown groups whose members and supporters may be difficult to pinpoint.
• We judge that groups of all stripes will increasingly use the Internet to communicate, propagandize, recruit, train, and obtain logistical and financial support. ‘