From all appearances, only Fox News, CNS News, and a few Israel-based outlets and U.S.-based center-right blogs care about the fact, acknowledged by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, that Iran and Hezbollah, in the words of Fox's Greta Van Susteren, "are suddenly MIA from the U.S. terror threat list."
DNI apparently has no plans to change its report, having told CNS News that “This year’s Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. intelligence community report was simply a format change,” while contending that "There is no ‘softening’ of our position." DNI's excuse-making tacitly acknowledges the absence of Iran and Hezbollah from this year's terror threat list.
On March 16, the Times of Israel, apparently having obtained the classifed versions of this year's and last year's Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Communities, reported that DNI had "removed Iran and Hezbollah from its list of terrorism threats, after years in which they featured in similar reports." As I noted in a Friday column at another site, comparisons of the public versions of this year's and last year's assessment documents, neither of which contain the lists, nonetheless strongly supports the Times claim that DNI has indeed "softened" its stance on the two terrorist entities.
The Times of Israel report is likely what led Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to declare on the eve of Tuesday's election that he no longer supported Palestinian statehood, and that he now supports the building of “thousands of settler homes in Arab east Jerusalem to prevent future concessions to the Palestinians.” It certainly wasn't political opportunism, as there is no way Bibi could possibly have known how the Israeli electorate would receive his announcement.
As I wrote on Friday, "Delisting Hizballah as a terrorist entity means that it can’t be denied a potential role in any potential Palestinian state." Therefore, unless and until the list is formally and publicly changed, Netanyahu could not responsibly allow a Palestinian state's creation, as it would be a de facto next-door terrorist state.
On her Wednesday evening Fox show, Van Susteren interviewed Catherine Herridge, the network's chief intelligence correspondent, and former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, who characterized administration officials participating in this subterfuge as "lying weasels." Herridge also described how Iran is dangerously expanding its influence in South America as a potential "launching pad" (bolds are mine):
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, two terrorist groups Iran and Hezbollah are suddenly MIA from the U.S. terror threat list. You heard right. In its latest intel report the U.S. omitting both Iran and Hezbollah from its list of terror threat to U.S. interests. Fox News chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge joins us. So what happened to Iran and Hezbollah suddenly and what's this about?
CATHERINE HERRIDGE, FOX NEWS CHIEF INTELLIGENCE CORRESPONDENT: Well we've got the worldwide threat assessment. This is considered the most authoritative document that the intelligence community puts out. And this is 2015 and we did a comparison with 2014 and what we found in the terrorism section is that Iran and Hezbollah are missing in action. They are absent from the 2015.
VAN SUSTEREN: Totally, you mean they're invisible?
HERRIDGE: They're gone from the terrorism section.
VAN SUSTEREN: No fingerprints?
HERRIDGE: No fingerprints. Now, the director of national intelligence, their office said that this was a change in the sort of formatting or the graphics but this doesn't make sense.
VAN SUSTEREN: You mean like pagination and columns and fonts?
HERRIDGE: It's not what appears on the document. If that's the case, it means the graphic's change stripped out everything that was damaging to Iran. I know that when this report —
VAN SUSTEREN: Catherine.
VAN SUSTEREN: That's a little bit insane that they changed the format and suddenly the two worst terrorists, Iran and Hezbollah, magically disappear.
HERRIDGE: Well, I'm saying that when you review these documents, the explanation doesn't really add up. The other thing I would say is that when this story first broke, members of the IC current and a former -- I mean, my phone was lighting up because people felt this was really a way to test the waters, kind of a trial balloon to see if there was any tolerance for taking Iran off the list of state sponsors of terrorism in order to get this negotiated settlement over the nuclear arms.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. That's pretty outrageous. Let me ask you another question about what's going on in South America. I read a report that in Bolivia a heavily guarded facility in Bolivia is funded by Iran. What is this heavily guarded facility in Bolivia?
HERRIDGE: Well, there is congressional testimony this week, looking at the western hemisphere. We were able to obtain some photos first here at Fox News and some of this showed this facility in Bolivia that was set up in 2011 has Iranian backing and there are elements of that facility which is supposed to be some type of military academy, but is very heavily fortified. And the suspicion is that it's being used by Iran as a way to have a footprint in Bolivia. And when you start to look at a map —
HERRIDGE: That's correct, Bolivia, Venezuela, Argentina, what you see is that they have in effect -- they are creating a launching pad into North America. And what's so interesting to me about the 2015 assessment is that the documents, the photos, and congressional testimony show that Iran is really effectively expanding its influence into South America into our neighbor.
VAN SUSTEREN: Catherine, thank you.
HERRIDGE: You are welcome.
VAN SUSTEREN: So why and how could U.S. intelligence officials scrap both Iran and Hezbollah from the list of terror threats. Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton joins us. Ambassador, nice to see you. You don't believe this formatting excuse, do you? That's why Iran and Hezbollah is out of this list of terrorists.
JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.N. AMBASSADOR: It's a flat lie. The format of this year's report is exactly the same as last year's report. Don't believe me. Go look on the web. Compare the two of them. It's exactly the same.
VAN SUSTEREN: Did they think that we are that stupid?
VAN SUSTEREN: Believe it's format.
BOLTON: Yes. Look, the people who would say this is a format change are weasels. And so you ask yourself —
VAN SUSTEREN: Liars, lying weasels.
BOLTON: Lying weasels. You ask yourself how could this happen? And I think there is a pretty clear explanation. I think the Iranian negotiators told the American negotiators you have got to start going easy on us on this terrorism stuff because what they want is not simply to be freed from the sanctions that were imposed because of the nuclear program, they want to be freed from the sanctions that have been imposed 30-plus years because of their state sponsorship of terrorism. So what we're having now is Orwellian example of disappearing references to Iran and its proxy Hezbollah from the terrorism report.
VAN SUSTEREN: I think this is stunning. It's going to be an easier sell to the U.N. to lift the sanctions if they aren't on the state sponsored terrorism number one. Number two is I don't like it done behind our back. Number three, I don't like the lie that it's done for formatting. It's terrible. I mean, that's just absurd.
BOLTON: Yeah. Well, I think congressional committees should have John Brennan in front of them and just not let him go until he admits that he is going to withdraw the report and put the truth back in. But there's another aspect of this. This was a concession I think by the administration relating to the nuclear negotiations you will not find in the signed deal. How many other concessions has the administration made that are not in the deal that may not even be related to the nuclear program in this desperate effort to get a deal?
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Here is what else I don't like when I raised it to Catherine [Herridge]. In Bolivia, a heavily guarded facility in Bolivia funded by Iran. What in the world is in that heavily guarded facility?
BOLTON: Look, Iran has terrorist networks all over this hemisphere. Remember, three years ago the Justice Department indicted senior officials of the revolutionary guards corps for conspiring to kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States in Washington by infiltrating through the Mexican border. I think this is just another example of Iran's activities.
VAN SUSTEREN: I hate to be so wildly conspiratorial. But they buried their nuclear weapons program in a mountainside in Iran, and lied about it. Now, we find out that they have this heavily guarded thing in Bolivia. And Bolivia is not our friend. So naturally, I'm a bit suspicious.
BOLTON: Well, in Venezuela as well, which has the largest reserves of uranium outside of Canada ad the whole world, heavy Iranian presence.
VAN SUSTEREN: I hope I'm being wild. My imagination is running wild, I hope.
BOLTON: Maybe we could ask our intelligence services to see if they can find it.
VAN SUSTEREN: Anyway, ambassador, nice to see you, sir.
BOLTON: Thank you.
There is no defensible reason why these disturbing developments have not received wider media visibility.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.