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Hastert uses federal tax dollars to turn $1.5 million profit for himself. Bush stymies Abramoff investigation by firing US Attorney handling the case. Pat Robertson calls for the assassination of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Hurricane Katrina strikes Gulf Coast; Bush administration response lackadaisical and incompetent.

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Hastert uses federal tax dollars to turn $1.5 million profit for himself

  • August 2: A newly released National Intelligence Estimate (NIE)concludes that Iran is about ten years away from being able to make nuclear weapons. The Bush administration has said that Iran is no more than five years from such capabilities, and Bush officials have frequently warned Americans of the threat represented by the supposedly imminent prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. Like all NIEs, this report represents a consensus of the entire US intelligence community. The NIE is cautious, saying that while the intelligence community is certain Iran's military is engaged in some sorts of clandestine activities, it cannot say that any of those activities are related to the creation of nuclear weapons. Still, a senior intelligence official familiar with the findings says that "it is the judgment of the intelligence community that, left to its own devices, Iran is determined to build nuclear weapons."
  • The White House has never used any intelligence assessments to back up its claims about an imminently nuclear Iran. Instead, it has pointed to years of Iranian concealment, and asked why Iran needs nuclear power plants considering the amount of oil it possesses.
  • This is the first NIE on Iran since 2001; more recent assessments produced during Bush's tenure were far more narrow in scope, and were sometimes rejected by hardliners unhappy with the intelligence community's previous findings. In 2002, then-deputy national security advisor Stephen Hadley commissioned an assessment of "regime change" in Iran. That assessment portrayed Iran as a nation slowly moving towards democracy, and cautioned that US interference would possibly derail that process. Many in the administration were not happy with those findings.
  • Until recently, Iran was judged, as exemplified by February 2005 testimony from Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, as being within five years of having the ability to make a nuclear weapon. But since 1995, the government has continually made that same five-year estimate. Now, according to the NIE, Iran will be unable to produce a sufficient quantity of enriched weapons-grade uranium before "early to mid-next decade," closer to the year 2015. The report does not say whether Iran would have a delivery system ready if and when it manufactures enough uranium.
  • And the ten-year estimate is a minimum, assuming that Iran will pursue a nuclear weapons program as quickly as possible. The report does not take into account that Iran has suspended much of its uranium-enrichment work as part of a tentative deal with Britain, France and Germany.
  • In January 2005, Dick Cheney suggested darkly that Iran was so close to having a nuclear weapon that Israel might be forced to launch a pre-emptive attack on that country. And in April 2004, John Bolton, then a State Department official responsible for the administration's position on weapons of mass destruction, and now US ambassador to the UN, said, "If we permit Iran's deception to go on much longer, it will be too late. Iran will have nuclear weapons." Those and other statements by Bush officials are directly contradicted by the new NIE. But, as later items demonstrate, the NIE will not restrain Bush, Cheney, and other officials from continuing to accuse Iran of being close to having a nuclear weapon, and warning that the US might have to take action to prevent such an acquisition. (Washington Post)