I reported in May that despite the deteriorating situation in Iraq, no National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) has been produced on that country since the summer of 2004. ...
The situation has gotten even darker since my initial story—a United Nations report cited in Wednesday's New York Times found that an average of more than 100 Iraqi civilians were killed each day in June—and I've learned from two sources that some senior figures at the CIA, along with a number of Iraq analysts, have been pushing to produce a new NIE. They've been stonewalled, however, by John Negroponte, the administration's Director of National Intelligence, who knows that any honest take on the situation would produce an NIE even more pessimistic than the 2004 version. That could create problems on the Hill and, if it is leaked as the last one was, with the public as well.
"What do you call the situation in Iraq right now?" asked one person familiar with the situation. "The analysts know that it's a civil war, but there's a feeling at the top that [using that term] will complicate matters." Negroponte, said another source regarding the potential impact of a pessimistic assessment, "doesn't want the president to have to deal with that."
The sources said that forces at the CIA have been lobbying for the new NIE for about six months. Not only is one overdue, but there's also a fear that if the Democrats win control of at least one chamber of Congress this November, the agency is going to get hammered for not having produced an NIE for so long.
A third source, a former CIA officer who served in Iraq, said he had no direct knowledge of Negroponte blocking the NIE but that it jibed with past practice. "The NIE is a crucial document . . . that tells you how to tweak your policy," he said. "That's hard to do if you don't want to look at it." He said he had two recent conversations with people in Iraq, one an official at the Ministry of Interior who told him that as of two days ago there were 1,600 bodies piled up at the central morgue in Baghdad. The second conversation, he said, was with an Iraqi general officer who told him, "I never thought I would see my capital like this. It's on fire."
"[The administration] can call it whatever they want," said the former CIA officer. "There's a civil war going on in Iraq."