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Context of 'January 11, 2001: National Security Committee Warns of ‘Space Pearl Harbor’'

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The “Team B” intelligence analysis exercise of 1975, which so disastrously overestimated the Soviet threat (see November 1976), returns in the form of the “Rumsfeld Commission,” which issues its report this month. Conservative commentators and former participants have called for a second “Team B”-style competitive intelligence analysis ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall (see 1990, 1994, and 1996). The “Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States” (see July 15, 1998), led by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, is packed with conservative and neoconservative hardliners much as the original Team B cadre was; it includes some former Team B members such as former Pentagon official Paul Wolfowitz. Like the original Team B, the Rumsfeld Commission challenges CIA estimates of foreign military threats; like the original Team B, the Rumsfeld Commission wildly overestimates the impending threat from countries such as Iran and North Korea, both of which it judges will be capable of striking the US with nuclear weapons in five years or perhaps less. The original Team B findings impelled thirty years of full-bore military spending by the US to counter a Soviet threat that was fading, not growing; the Rumsfeld Commission’s equally alarmist findings impels a new push for spending on the so-called “Star Wars” ballistic missile defense system (see March 23, 1983). Conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly will observe that the Rumsfeld Commission’s report “provided Congress with enough talking points to win the argument [on missile defense] both in the strategic arena and in the 20-second soundbite television debates.” Former State Department intelligence analyst Greg Thielmann will later observe, “time has proven Rumsfeld’s predictions dead wrong.” Author and professor Gordon R. Mitchell will write that the second “Team B” exercise shows “that by 1998, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz had honed the art of intelligence manipulation through use of competitive intelligence analysis. Retrospective assessments revealing serious flaws in the Team B work products came long after political officials had already converted the alarmist reports into political support for favored military policies.” [Quarterly Journal of Speech, 5/2006 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Strategic Defense Initiative, ’Team B’, Central Intelligence Agency, Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States, Donald Rumsfeld, Gordon R. Mitchell, Phyllis Schlafly, Paul Wolfowitz, Greg Thielmann

Timeline Tags: Neoconservative Influence

Congressional conservatives receive a second “alternative assessment” of the nuclear threat facing the US that is far more to their liking than previous assessments (see December 23, 1996). A second “Team B” panel (see November 1976), the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States, led by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and made up of neoconservatives such as Paul Wolfowitz and Stephen Cambone, finds that, contrary to earlier findings, the US faces a growing threat from rogue nations such as Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, who can, the panel finds, inflict “major destruction on the US within about five years of a decision.” This threat is “broader, more mature, and evolving more rapidly” than previously believed. The Rumsfeld report also implies that either Iran or North Korea, or perhaps both, have already made the decision to strike the US with nuclear weapons. Although Pakistan has recently tested nuclear weapons (see May 28, 1998), it is not on the list. Unfortunately for the integrity and believability of the report, its methodology is flawed in the same manner as the previous “Team B” reports (see November 1976); according to author J. Peter Scoblic, the report “assume[s] the worst about potential US enemies without actual evidence to support those assumptions.” Defense analyst John Pike is also displeased with the methodology of the report. Pike will later write: “Rather than basing policy on intelligence estimates of what will probably happen politically and economically and what the bad guys really want, it’s basing policy on that which is not physically impossible. This is really an extraordinary epistemological conceit, which is applied to no other realm of national policy, and if manifest in a single human being would be diagnosed as paranoia.” [Guardian, 10/13/2007; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 172-173] Iran, Iraq, and North Korea will be dubbed the “Axis of Evil” by George W. Bush in his 2002 State of the Union speech (see January 29, 2002).

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, J. Peter Scoblic, Paul Wolfowitz, Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States, Stephen A. Cambone, John Pike

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Donald Rumsfeld publishes a report as chairperson of the Rumsfeld Commission that makes proposals for the US Space Command. Rumsfeld is in the process of becoming defense secretary for the incoming Bush administration. His commission’s report says with respect to attacks in space: “The question is whether the US will be wise enough to act responsibly and soon enough to reduce US space vulnerabilities. Or whether, as in the past, a disabling attack against the country and its people—a ‘Space Pearl Harbor’—will be the only event able to galvanize the nation and cause the US government to act.” Author Peter Dale Scott will later note the similarity between this language and that of a Project for the New American Century (PNAC) think tank report published several months before, signed by Rumsfeld and others, that warned of impediments to overhauling the US military “absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor” (see September 2000). Scott will comment that such quotes indicate that the US oil industry and military had achieved a quiet consensus by this time that “America would need full-spectrum dominance to guarantee access to oil and other resources in the rest of the world. This program would require massive expenditures, perhaps as much as a trillion dollars, and this could not be expected from Congress—except in response to an attack as massive and frightening as Pearl Harbor.” [Scott, 2007, pp. 24]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, US Space Command, Peter Dale Scott

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization, chaired by Donald Rumsfeld, issues its report to Congress warning that the US military’s satellites are vulnerable to attack. The military has some 600 satellites that it depends on for photo reconnaissance, targeting, communications, weather forecasting, early warning and intelligence gathering. An attack on these satellites, or on those belonging to US businesses, would be disastrous for the US economy and military, the report says. The report argues that the US must establish a military presence in space to protect its assets from a “Space Pearl Harbor” and asserts that warfare in space is a “virtual certainty.” To counter this vulnerability, the commission recommends that the US develop “superior space capabilities,” including the ability to “negate the hostile use of space against US interests.” It must project power “in, from and through space,” the report says. The president should “have the option to deploy weapons in space to deter threats to and, if necessary, defend against attacks on US interests.” [Foreign Service Journal, 4/2001; MSNBC, 4/27/2001; Toronto Globe and Mail, 5/9/2001; US Congress, 11/11/2001; Agence France-Presse, 1/29/2004]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, US Congress, Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization

Timeline Tags: US Military

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