According to the article, Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) said he plans to introduce legislation next week to establish a commission modeled on a congressionally mandated group that probed a disputed 1995 intelligence estimate on the emerging missile threat to the United States over the next 15 years.
"Iran is one of the greatest threats in the world today. Getting the intelligence right is absolutely critical, not only on Iran's capability but its intent. So now there is a huge question raised, and instead of politicizing that report, let's have a fresh set of eyes -- objective, yes -- look at it," he said in an interview.
Ensign's proposal calls for Senate leaders to put an equal number of Republicans and Democrats on a panel to study the NIE and report back in six months, the post reports. "There are a lot of people out there who do question [the NIE]. There is a huge difference between the 2005 and 2007 estimates," he said. The 2005 intelligence estimate reported that Iran was still working on a clandestine military program, and the new assessment basically says the previous judgment was wrong on a key point.
"If it's inaccurate, it could result in very serious damage to legitimate American policy," said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). As recently as July, he noted, intelligence officials said in congressional testimony that they had a high degree of confidence that Iran was intent on developing the world's deadliest weapon. "We need to update our conclusions, but this is a substantial change," he said in an interview.
The Post article observes that critics of the NIE have seized on the fact that career government officials who had battled with conservatives earlier in the administration on policy issues have now migrated to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which coordinated the writing of the estimate.
"The problem is not the nature of the intelligence, it's the nature of the presentation. This NIE was presented with a clear intention to deceive and to redirect foreign policy," wrote Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy at the American Enterprise Institute, in an e-mail. "I have no doubt that these people believe they are protecting the nation from the President, but our constitution doesn't contemplate the non-proliferation center at the ODNI governing U.S. national security policy."
Meanwhile, the White House sought to tamp down accusations that Bush misled the public about when and how much he knew about the new intelligence. During his news conference this week, Bush said he was told in August by the director of national intelligence that there was new information about Iran, but not what the new information was.
Press secretary Dana Perino said yesterday that Bush meant he was told the gist of the new intelligence -- that Iran had had a covert nuclear weapons program but had suspended it -- but he was not given details, pending a deeper assessment of the data. "The president could have been more precise in that language," she said, "but the president was being truthful."