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Iran threat assessment won't be released, intelligence chief says

  • Story Highlights
  • National Intelligence Estimate looks at threat from Iran's nuclear program
  • Releasing assessment could expose U.S. intelligence assets, official says
  • Intelligence chief says he'll resign if administration cherry-picks results
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From Pam Benson
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The director of national intelligence said Tuesday he does not plan to make public any of the key findings of a soon-to-be-completed assessment on Iran's nuclear program.

Director of Intelligence Mike McConnell says he'd resign if the administration "cherry-picked" intelligence.

Mike McConnell said to do so could expose U.S. intelligence capabilities and enable Iran to change its practices.

The National Intelligence Estimate is intended to lay out the entire intelligence community's best estimate on the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program. The Bush administration maintains Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons, but the Iranians say the program is to meet the country's energy needs.

The long-awaited NIE was supposed to be completed by last spring, but was delayed by new information that needed to be sorted out, according to McConnell. He said analysts are attempting to finish the NIE by the end of this month.

NIEs examine current capabilities and vulnerabilities and, perhaps more importantly, consider future developments. Estimates are usually requested by policymakers, but can be initiated by the intelligence community itself.

The number of NIEs completed in any given year can range into the low hundreds.

McConnell also said Tuesday he would resign if he determined administration officials were cherry-picking intelligence to support their positions. Some members of Congress and other critics of the war in Iraq have accused the Bush administration of selectively making public intelligence that supported its case for invading Iraq.

McConnell said the "first mission" of the intelligence community is to "speak truth to power."

"If it were cherry-picked in an inappropriate way, then for me, that's a professional obligation to object, and I would submit my resignation," he said.

The controversy over what the intelligence community reported to policymakers about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in an October 2002 NIE just before the Iraq war prompted the Bush administration to release portions of that assessment in the summer of 2003.

Since then, the summaries of a number of NIEs have been released, including three this year: two on Iraq and one on threats to the homeland.

McConnell made his comments at a conference on analytical practices in Washington. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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