According to a former senior intelligence official I met with recently, Defense Secretary Bob Gates, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, and CIA Director Michael Hayden were all in the intel game when the Jonathan Pollard case came to light. They all felt “gamed by Israeli intelligence” back then, according to my source.
This is one of several reasons that this Intel Triumvirate (since Gates is holding DoD’s intel portfolio close to himself) has been skeptical of Israeli conclusions that Syria was on a nuclear weapons track. According to my source, “all of them were chastened by the Jonathan Pollard affair” and thus have some “healthy resistence” to intel that is circumstantial rather than definitive.
Hadn’t heard this before, but it is heartening to know that top Bush administration intelligence officials still get heartburn about Pollard. That must be frustrating for former Clinton administration CIA Chief James Woolsey who has been working hard to secure a commutation of Pollard’s life sentence.
Another bit of the Israel-Syria story that is very interesting is that while Israeli intelligence may have a more robust assessment of what Syria may have been up to than our intelligence analysts were willing to accept, Israel was not calling for an all-out war with Syria — and not trying to prompt American action in this case.
What’s weird about this incident is that the Office of the Vice President and fellow travelers like John Bolton actually took the incident and what little they had and raised up the hyperventilation a lot of notches — mostly to undermine a successful outcome of the Six Party Talks.
So the assessments ladder was like a triple-layer cake — with the Cheney Gang assumptions the worst; then Israel next; and then the State-DoD-Intel crowd.
Interestingly, Bush sided with Rice and Gates and against Cheney’s team on this one. That’s how we got the deal with North Korea.
— Steve Clemons