Nov 15, 2006

DNI Slow To Provide India Nuke Study

Congressional leaders requested a secret intelligence assessment of India's nuclear program and its government's ties to Iran in January amid concerns about a White House effort to provide nuclear technology to New Delhi. Ten months later, as the Senate prepares to vote on nuclear trade with India, the intelligence assessment has yet to be seen on Capitol Hill, congressional and intelligence sources say.

The pending nuclear deal with India would reverse years of U.S. policies aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. U.S. law forbids selling civilian nuclear technology to countries such as India that have refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Arms-control experts, concerned that the deal would have major ramifications for U.S. efforts to stop nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, said yesterday that the White House plan would allow India to rapidly increase its nuclear arsenal. ...

In a Jan. 23 letter to John D. Negroponte, director of national intelligence, the ranking chairmen of the House and Senate foreign relations panels asked for "an interagency assessment" of India's nuclear program, its record of proliferation and its ties to Iran. The letter was signed by Reps. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) and Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) and Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) and Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) -- all of whom have been generally supportive of the India deal but have raised concerns about the proliferation implications and about India's relations with Iran.

The four asked Negroponte to assess how India is implementing its nonproliferation commitments, the adequacy of its export controls and the movement into and out of India of materials to make weapons of mass destruction. ...

The letter asked the intelligence community to gauge the extent to which the deal "may enhance India's ability to produce fissile material for weapons." The senators also asked for a full assessment of India's positions on Iran. ...

Several congressional sources said that the National Intelligence Council provided two oral briefings, in March and April, that focused on the history of U.S.-India relations as well as the beginnings of India's nuclear program, but that the briefings did not address the specific information requested in the letter. "We expect a written intelligence product," one Republican said. Four other staff members -- two Democrats and two Republicans -- also said that they expected a complete intelligence assessment that responds point by point to the issues raised in the letter. All spoke on the condition of anonymity, fearing that public comment would put their congressional jobs at risk.

The terms of a U.S.-India accord, worked out in secret in 2005, took Congress by surprise. Congress must approve any final deal before it can be implemented. While both parties support a strategic alliance with India, some have voiced concerns about its strong ties to Iran.

Tehran and New Delhi signed an extensive agreement in 2003 and their military, scientific, political and economic ties are growing.

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