Another 'Oops' from the Intelligence Community

(Olivier Douliery/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

The Achilles' heel of the American government is the intelligence community, known as the IC to its intimates. Not that it doesn't have first-rate people, many of whom have worked in its nooks and crannies around the world for decades. Our information-gathering capability remains first rate, our field agents largely superb in their savvy and bravery. The problem, however, comes when that information gets transmitted back to the home offices in and around Washington, D.C.  And there, depending in part on who's in power at the time, lies the rub.

The intelligence business has two sides: raw information, and analysis. One hundred percent accuracy in the first is one hundred percent useless should the latter be deficient. As it happens, the primus inter pares of the IC, the Central Intelligence Agency, is expressly designed to do both. As events from the fall of the Shah, the Iranian hostage crisis, the fall of the Soviet Union, and the events of 9/11 have shown, its track record is very spotty, and its failures attributable to analysis, not information. Seeing only what you want to see in information gathered by your colleagues, and then tailoring it for superiors who make political calculations first and informed judgments only second, is a recipe for disaster.

Comes now the news that -- surprise! -- the U.S. seriously underestimated the speed at which the rogue Communist state of North Korea has ramped up its nuclear program; a nuclear program that, let us not forget, was made possible by the Clinton administration:

And where did that "new round of talks" ultimately lead?

At the start of Donald Trumpโ€™s presidency, American intelligence agencies told the new administration that while North Korea had built the bomb, there was still ample time โ€” upward of four years โ€” to slow or stop its development of a missile capable of hitting an American city with a nuclear warhead.

The Northโ€™s young leader, Kim Jong-un, faced a range of troubles, they assured the new administration, giving Mr. Trump time to explore negotiations or pursue countermeasures. One official who participated in the early policy reviews said estimates suggested Mr. Kim would be unable to strike the continental United States until 2020, perhaps even 2022.

Mr. Kim tested eight intermediate-range missiles in 2016, but seven blew up on the pad or shattered in flight โ€” which some officials attributed partly to an American sabotage program accelerated by President Barack Obama. And while the North had carried out five underground atomic tests, the intelligence community estimated that it remained years away from developing a more powerful type of weapon known as a hydrogen bomb.

Within months, those comforting assessments looked wildly out of date.

Somehow, we all knew this was coming. Bill Clinton was, of course, bamboozled by the Norks -- mostly because he wanted to be, just as decades later, Barack Hussein Obama professed confidence in his own deal with the rogue Islamic state of Iran: