Debunking NIE

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," December 6, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I spoke with my team, who gave me a report on conversations that the secretary of state and our national security advisor have had over the last couple of days with their counterparts in the United Kingdom, in Germany, in France, and Russia. These countries understand that the Iranian nuclear issue is a problem.


ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Alright. That was President Bush yesterday reacting to the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's supposed nuclear program, a compilation of work from the intelligence community.

The NIE claims Iran halted its program back in 2003. The president was steadfast in his belief the report contained nothing more than a warning signal and that Iran will continue to work toward production of a nuclear arsenal.

With us now, the author of "Surrender is Not an Option," former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton.

You have a piece in the Washington Post today. A former CIA officer, Philip Girardi, told Gareth Porter of Inter Press News Service that the intelligence analysts have been fighting continually for the vice-president's office, that he was pressuring them on changing their views.

And this could have come out a year ago but for the pressure put by the administration on various intelligence agencies. They didn't like this report. It finally came out.

JOHN BOLTON, AUTHOR, "SURRENDER IS NOT AN OPTION": That's completely contrary to what I've heard. There was a huge fight about this among the different intelligence agencies it dragged it out for a long period of time.

But I want to make what I think is an important point here. If a policy maker asks questions of an intelligence analyst, questioning their judgment, questioning their facts, asking for backup, that's not putting pressure on, that's putting some intellectual rigor to the process. That's what policy makers should do.

COLMES: Well, what I don't understand is the president doesn't seem to be leveling with the American people, because he said one thing a couple of days ago. He said he was told there's a new report coming out.

Dana Perino says today he was warned that there could be some changes. And yet, in the interim — and back in August he was warned about that, which doesn't comport what he said two days ago. In the interim, he's making noises about World War III.

It seems once again the administration is not leveling with the American people about what they knew and when they knew it.

BOLTON: Well, I think it would be, really, assuming the president was colossally foolish, if he really knew what this was going to say, to be saying things like about World War III. I think he was as blindsided by this report as many members of Congress who were briefed by the intelligence community last week and not told about this so-called suspension.

COLMES: If he's told there's a new report coming out, we have potentially new information, why wouldn't he hold his fire until he knows, or ask questions? Is he incurious? Does he not want to know? Hey watch — doesn't he get daily briefings? Isn't he told what's going to...

BOLTON: I would say this. I think there's something wrong in the transmission belt of intelligence when the White House hears this just about the same time it goes public. There is something fundamentally wrong there.

COLMES: You say in your piece in the Washington Post today that you can't really rely on new information.

BOLTON: That's not what I say at all. That's not even close to what I say. What I say is within the State Department and the CIA there's a cultural overvaluation of the latest piece of information. And that that - - that sort of overvaluation is one of the several things I said was wrong about this...

COLMES: You said there's a bias towards — toward new information. You say they have a bias toward new information, which has a disproportionate effect on analysis.

BOLTON: That's right.

COLMES: So we shouldn't listen to new information?

BOLTON: No, no. What I'm saying is you've got a large body of evidence. A new piece comes in. I've seen it over and over again. People run in and say here's this latest piece of information that — that then obscures the body that's gone before it.

And that's why what has been missed here is the similarities between this most recent NIE and the last big one with technological capability in Iran, which is still most frightening.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Ambassador, good to see you. One of the things I was so glad that you pointed out in your piece here is that they have 140 pages, approximately, of analysis, reams of underlying intelligence, the vast majority of which remains classified.

BOLTON: Right. And I think that's appropriate. I think it should remain classified, because you don't want to compromise sensitive intelligence sources and methods. That's what's wrong with releasing just the headline judgments that don't contain the underlying reasoning.

HANNITY: One of the things that really stuck out and what you were writing here, talking about the mullahs in Iran. And you talk about it twice in the piece.

And that is that we have a problem interpreting what they are about and what their intentions really are, and you also say what their motives and objectives are.

BOLTON: That to me is the worst part of this intelligence estimate. They, they — It is policy masquerading as intelligence analysis, because they conclude if we just had more diplomatic engagement with the mullahs we would affect their behavior. There's no basis for that.

HANNITY: Also one of the things — I actually interpreted it far differently than others. And I think you and I would agree, based on some of your writing here, that you talk about internally contradictory and insufficient support.

It implies Iran was susceptible to diplomatic persuasion here, but you're saying the only persuasion that took place at the time was the fact that we invaded Iraq and we showed the world that we meant what we said?

BOLTON: That's exactly right. If there was a suspension in 2003, I can tell you, as Undersecretary for Arms Control at the time, we were not applying diplomatic pressure. It was military force that may have changed their mind.

HANNITY: I want our public and our viewing audience out there to understand something here, because you infer this very clearly in this piece here.

And that is the headlines that we're reading about the NIE are misleading, that it was meant for people to draw a certain conclusion, is that, quote, our intelligence got it wrong again, and they misread the facts, and they made a mistake just like on weapons of mass destruction. That is not the case.

BOLTON: Right. There's — there's a lot in these two or three pages, much of which I agree with. But the thing that has grabbed all the headlines is the suspension of the weapons program in 2003, very narrowly defined.

The report goes on to say Iran has been enriching uranium steadily since then. That's critical to a weapons program, just as it is to a civil program.

HANNITY: Because your knowledge here is so important. Because substantively you're pointing out that the NIE report in 2005 and the one in 2007 are basically the same. And you say, moreover, the distinction between military and civilian programs is highly artificial. Explain why that's the case.

BOLTON: To either get fuel to power reactors or to have nuclear weapons, you need enriched uranium. Different levels, but you need to enrich uranium. So every intelligence analyst would tell you, the long pole in the tent, in assessing how long it takes to get weapons, is enriching uranium...

HANNITY: And if they have that...

BOLTON: They're still doing it, building up an inventory.

HANNITY: Thank you.

COLMES: They're very clear. They halted their covert nuclear weapons program in 2003. It's very clear.

HANNITY: You see? He doesn't get it. He doesn't get it.

BOLTON: What part of the weapons program? The weaponization design. And this same judgment says we have only moderate confidence that that suspension is still in place.

COLMES: We've got to run.


COLMES: We thank you very much for being with us.

Watch "Hannity & Colmes" weeknights at 9 p.m. ET!

Copy: Content and Programming Copyright 2007 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. (, which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, LLC'S and Voxant, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.