John Kerry’s presidential campaign last week challenged President Bush to say whether he had read the CIA’s 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq before deciding to invade that country in 2003. The ploy backfired.
A Reuters reporter asked the Kerry campaign if Kerry had read the NIE. The answer: No. This is all the more remarkable because the NIE was not written for President Bush, it was written for Kerry and his Senate colleagues. In the fall of 2002, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee requested that the CIA produce the document so that senators would have up-to-date intelligence on which to base their war votes. Kerry didn’t read the evidence, but he voted for the war. Later, the NIE became a principal subject of the Intelligence Committee’s investigation of the CIA’s pre-war performance. The committee’s report revealed that the NIE was deeply flawed. Flawed as it was, however, it was the best information the U.S. had at the time.